Bill Clinton 2.0

If Obama loses to Mitt Romney this November, all is not lost

Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, our media and news services will quickly pivot into their tradition of horse-race, he-said, she-said coverage, and all early indications suggest that this will be a closer contest than 2008.

Of course, they also said it would be a close contest in 2008…

So, for those of us who keep up with politics and follow elections closely, the season of worry and speculation has arrived.  While I remain confident that Obama will be re-elected, there is a small, dark voice in the back of my head that asks the fatal question, “what if Romney wins?”

With my internet malfunctioning and a few hours to think that one through, I arrived at a surprising answer:

It really won’t be so bad.

Now, let me briefly lay my political proclivities on the table, so you will understand where I’m coming from:  I’m a moderate Democrat, fiercely liberal on social issues, moderate-to-conservative on economic issues, and in a pinch I will vote my social issues.  I believe in universal, single-payer health care, gay marriage, and student loan forgiveness.

In other words, I’m a mainstream Democrat, with a few issues in the minority; I don’t change my mind on important issues if I learn that 60% of poll respondents disagree.

And THAT is precisely why I don’t fear a Romney presidency.  If elected, he will govern from the exact center on every important issue, and if something he believes strongly is opposed by 51% of us, he will decide to believe something else.

In many ways, Mitt Romney is Bill Clinton 2.0.  Clinton was rightfully criticized for triangulation; he would stake his claim to policy issues by finding that sweet spot, where a solid majority would be with him in most cases.  However, his was a static triangulation; when his majority support collapsed over health care, he still pursued it, and did not change his views to reflect the new majority.  He was a gambler, and he usually won, though he sometimes lost.

Romney has taken this approach to issues one step further.  On many issues that matter, he has changed his views depending on the electorate he faced, or the majority he sought to persuade.  Like Clinton, he does not display the strong leadership characteristics of Reagan or Bush II: he leads from behind, and like a presidential cab driver he will take the American people wherever it is they tell him to go.

It is hard to fault Romney for this approach, as it is the only way he could navigate the political path his ambition compels him to follow.  Running for governor in Massachusetts, he had to be a liberal, or he would have been trounced at the polls.  At the time he described himself as a progressive.  As a Republican primary candidate in 2008 and 2012, he switched sharply to the right, describing himself as “severely conservative.”    Now, as we enter a general election in which a moderate president faces a moderate electorate, one can predict that Romney will re-define himself with an Etch-a-Sketch shake towards the middle.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still strongly supporting Obama, and believe he will be even more effective in his second term.  I am also confident that he will win.  However, it is somewhat reassuring to know that the alternative is not another Bush, but another Clinton.


Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment