Last week, Mitt Romney faded into Belmont Massachusetts having given up his multi million dollar quest for the presidency. On the face of it, one would expect he was the perfect candidate: a wealthy, handsome, fifty something, a moderate governor with a photogenic family. But instead he was unable to command a good showing except in Michigan where he was born and his dad was a three time governor.
The demise of Mitt is a good lesson in this campaign year. First, some people insist that Romney lost votes because of his religion, Mormonism. Many Republican fundamentalists do not regard Mormons as Christian, since they do not acknowledge the divinity of Christ. But neither do Unitarians, a New England religion which embraced some of the founding fathers in the eighteenth century. Advisors wanted Romney to make a speech on religious tolerance similar to John F. Kennedy's famous address to the Houston Ministers Conference. In that latter statement, Kennedy insisted that he was not a captive of the Vatican and would vote his conscience as he had done in Congress. He opposed federal aid to parochial schools, opposed naming an ambassador to the Holy See, and opposed passing his views on church and state to the hierarchy. Kennedy reaffirms the primacy of the individual's moral judgment, a view the Catholic Church did not accept until several years later in Vatican II. Most importantly, he placed the burden on the Protestants who were intolerant of him and his religion. It was a magnificent tour de force and showed the young senator at his very best. Some Catholics, fundamentalists especially, and clergy were uncomfortable with Kennedy's declaration of independence, but for many lay people it became a classic statement of freedom from clerical intrusion .
Instead of following Kennedy's tone, Romney decided to insist that freedom was founded on religion and that the great enemy was not intolerance but that bogeyman, secularism. Secularism is the new code word for modernism, commercialism, and promiscuity, but it is hard to get a secularist on television. There are of course atheists, but they are not secularists. Romney's problem was that he wanted people to stop worrying about the their perceived oddness of Mormonism and instead to see him as a fellow quasi Christian who is fighting the liberal secularist tides symbolized by the Democrats.
His dilemma was that he wasneverseenasarealconservativeby fundamentalists; they saved that distinction for a weary Fred Thompson andlater forReverend Huckabee. Huckis the realthingfor Christian fundamentalists; he even quotes the Scriptures and makes all sorts of allusions to the Gospels. Romney lost any credentials he had built up among the moderates when, justbeforerunningfor elections, he moved right. In Massachusetts, he had argued that he was more pro-gay than Teddy Kennedy. He claimed that he was supportive of abortion and some sort of universal medical care. Ironically, the early Ronald Reagan celebrated as the paragon of conservative orthodoxy, signed the most liberal abortion law in the nation when he was governor, was tolerant of gays in Hollywood and on his staff, was a nonobservant as a church goer, had a mixed family life, and spent public money like a drunken sailor. Now he is a role model for conservative Repbluclians.
Romney never had a committed base, except what his fortune would buy. He tried to make his business experience a real plus, especially as the stock market declined, but he just did not catch on. Lastly, Romney had what was called a transparency problem, that is, people did not believe him to be a man of integrity the way they believe McCain and Huckabee to be men of integrity. Romney seemed to bend, not with the wind but with the zephyr. He tried to support Bush in the long war effort, but seemed to support some timetables for withdrawal, or so McCain claimed. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?