Will Mitt Romney be the first Tea Party President?

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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31 Responses

  1. MFarmer says:

    If Romney wins and the economy improves without any major changes regarding limits on government power, it will do more to advance statism than the Left can ever do, unless the public really has learned something in the last decade.Report

  2. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Good post, Mr. I., fair & lucid.

    Reagan redefined the center to center-right from LBJ-Nixon-Carter’s center-left, despite never controlling Congress.  The next presidents remained there more or less [hardly any difference between Bush41 and Clinton).  However, BHO quite purposefully and explicitly set out to be “transformative” like Reagan, and this was to shift us back to center-left.

    He has likely failed for reasons that make for another debate, but at this point he has: losing his party’s total control in 2010 for starters.  Interesting in yesterday’s Ohio votes was that although Kasich overreached [and lost] on public unions, swing state Ohio exempted itself from BHO’s signature achievement, the healthcare thing.

    As for Romney, I think he comes from what they called Bush41’s “Tory” mentality: public service, noblesse oblige, that sort of thing rather than being “transformative.”  You do what you can around the edges, but you serve the people first.

    I find Romneycare perfectly defensible in the federalism context: Massachusetts, the state that went for megalosers McGovern and Mondale, wanted government healthcare program, and Romney did his level best to give the people what they [I assume, by strong consensus] asked for.  Leadership is not autocracy: we admire sticking to your principles, but at some point it becomes mere stubbornness, ideology, and autocracy, and we despise that.

    I will accuse BHO of some of that here, but mostly in contrast with Romney: Ironically, or perhaps not, I think a Romney presidency will be more likely to “get something done” in that he’ll accept the reality of [likely] not controlling Congress, and will work with it in a way that BHO declines or refuses to do.  [The Libya thing is a clean example.]

    Completing the circle back to Reagan—although he had the Senate for 6 of his years, he never had the House, yet still was “transformative,” as even BHO hisself has acknowledged.  I’ve been amused by the claims recently that “Reagan raised taxes” several times.  Reagan didn’t, Tip O’Neill did; Reagan traded the tax hikes for other things he wanted.

    This is called “working with Congress,” and I expect, based on his record and comportment, that Romney will do the same.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Minnesota went for Mondale. Massachusetts went for Reagan in ’84.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      “This is called “working with Congress,” and I expect, based on his record and comportment, that Romney will do the same.”

      And this is why we’ll be screwed for good. I appreciate the ideas of moderation and pragmatism, but we’ve got structural/systemic problems in government that require radical changes. The status quo can snicker at the idea we’re like Greece, but that doesn’t change the reality of our debt and unfunded liablities. Young people should be in DC everyday screaming at the big buildings and the profligate power-mongers inside for selling their future.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to MFarmer says:

        Not that I disagree, Mr. Farmer, but you gotta have consensus in this here democratic republic.  As we saw, even the “transformative” Reagan had to settle for half-a-loaf, which by most reckonings, is still better than none.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

           “but you gotta have consensus in this here democratic republic”

          I know all this, Tom. The lack of seriousness regarding our problems is amazing. This isn’t the time of Reagan — this is 2011, and we’re ending something that will negatively affect generations to come, and I for one am concerned about the end. Consensus will be built for us by reality if we don’t fight to stop the decline. If I didn’t know better, I would say I’m being patronized here.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to MFarmer says:

            Not atall, Mr. Farmer: I was thinking more of John Kasich’s overreach the other day.  I adore Kasich, probably the only pol for decades.  But he screwed up, too much too soon, and a bit of sloppiness: had his proposition exempted cops & firemen and split the union opposition, he might have got his half loaf.  Instead, he set himself and his reforms back.

            In fact, he should be on any VP short list, but his popularity polls in Ohio are still in the red, and the GOP certainly can’t afford a VP who’ll be a negative in his own home state, one that they must win.

            I think Walker in Wisconsin has probably screwed the pooch, too, and in CA, Schwarzenegger spent all his political capital with the people on some failed initiatives very early on.  Even though I think Kasich and Walker and Arnold were trying to do what needed to be done, I’m writing here more for our diverse audience @ the LOOG, and attempting arm’s-length analysis.

            I’m big on this consensus thing, not only as a practical matter since strong-arming doesn’t hold, but because it’s good governance.  I think Reagan is the perfect example—he didn’t win Congress for his party, he won Congress over.  You don’t govern with the Congress you want, but with the one you have.  Reaganism held all the way up to 2006, then the coup de grace in 2008.  Not bad.

            What will or must happen next, I don’t know, although Walker and Kasich are on the right track.  Europe has known for awhile now, but move too quickly and instead of a few ratty #Campers, you have a couple million Frenchmen in the streets.


            Reagan’s solutions for stagflation just can’t be plugged into 2012: tax cuts ain’t gonna get it done, in fact, tax hikes are a bargaining chip that like Reagan, the GOP will have to surrender at some point in the next months or years.  The arm’s-length observer from the other side should allow that it cannot be surrendered cheaply, or as negotiations stand now, for nothing atall.Report

            • MFarmer in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              What we’ll come to realize is that the battles lost, like Kasich’s battle to adopt systemic changes, are not victories for the other side — they are a loss for us all. Kasich wasn’t humbled, he was disappointed, and, as he said — there will be no bailout — we’re out of money. The politics and what’s politically feasible don’t concern me — what concerns me is the steady decline. We’ll turn it around. We have to.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to MFarmer says:

                Again, I personally don’t disagree on the issues, Mr. Farmer, but I’m not exactly writing about them, exactly.  I leave the partisan grenade-tossing to those who can do nothing else, and attempt to write for and to the entire LOOG, which is fairly representative of the diversity of American viewpoints, albeit not in representative proportion.  Which is A-OK.  A man can hear himself think around here, and sometimes other people can hear him too.  What more could a blogosphere denizen ask????

                The point being that Kasich hurt himself and his proposed reforms by overreaching, a mistake Reagan seldom if ever made. You can lead a horticulture.

              • MFarmer in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “I leave the partisan grenade-tossing”

                You don’t understand, but this is good diversion, except it’s a little trite.Report

            • Koz in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              “I’m big on this consensus thing, not only as a practical matter since strong-arming doesn’t hold, but because it’s good governance.”

              Great point. Let me note a great piece Jay Cost wrote in the Weekly Standard today, and make a point.


              Jay cites a six tier process to get to be the nominee. The bottom two don’t count because they’re too far away to matter, but the other four are very illuminating. I have a quibble that his framework of “Elite class” pols is too narrow and the winnowing from there to “Presidential timber” is isn’t aggressive enough.

              Nonetheless, this process describes a “real” candidate, ie, a candidate who can campaign on a plausible hope to win the nomination and then the election. The other candidates are insurgents (not to be confused with the same word meaning terrorist). These candidates are hoping to catch some big wave of momentum or enthusiasm, or are trying to get a message out, or quasi-running for a lower job.

              I think people sort of intuit this already, but most of the time we don’t think through the reasons too hard. The reason is, imo, the need for consensus, as TVD likes. As this relates to Herman Cain, I don’t care as much about the sexual harrassment angle. But it is clear that as a result of these allegations that Mr. Cain essentially has no campaign.

              The public square already has a substantial memory of Paul Ryan, or General Petraeus, or the governor of Florida, or a Senator from New Jersey. The new information that comes to light about such people is placed in relation to that. We really have no understanding of Mr. Cain except for his interactions with Tea Party audiences. Therefore something like this comes along and inevitably stops Mr. Cain cold in his tracks.

              The antagonism for Mitt Romney, especially from within the GOP, is getting less rational by the day.Report

          • Mike in reply to MFarmer says:

            “This isn’t the time of Reagan — this is 2011, and we’re ending something that will negatively affect generations to come, and I for one am concerned about the end.”

            And it’s a damn pity that you and yours didn’t think like that in the 1980s and 1990s, when you were screwing the current generation hard.

            I speak of the various “deregulation” measures that served to eliminate the reforms keeping a wall of separation between big banking and wall street; the “devil’s bargain” that was the Reagan Amnesty  and the broken promises of border control coming home to roost in recent years in the form of an un-solvable problem of illegal immigration today (where, sadly, people are now being told they must “accept” another amnesty because there are “too many” illegals in the country to do anything but grant one), the entering into of ridiculously tilted “free trade” agreements that did nothing so much as ruin manufacturing and production jobs in the country, and of course the relentless march of tax cuts targeted for the rich at the expense of the poor.Report

  3. Robert Cheeks says:

    Obamny Care hangs about Mitt’s neck like a stinking albatross. I, for one, could care less what the commies in Taxechewssetts wanted. If Mitt prostituted himself in delivering state sponsored healthcare, all the more reason to dump this Neocon slut. I’d vote for any of the GOP hopefuls, except ‘global warming-commie care’ Mitt.Report

    • Mike in reply to Robert Cheeks says:


      You’d take Herman “pervy old man” Cain? Rick “Seig Heil Homophobe” Santorum? Michele “Hey Look Fake Conservative Boobies” Bachmann?

      Jon “Nobody knows why I’m even here” Huntsman? Gary “Woohoo Pot Legalization” Johnson? Ron “Tinfoil Hat” Paul?

      Or even Newt “But it was supposed to be my turn waah” Gingrich?

      I mean, wow. I knew conservatives were hard up for candidates and short on brainpower but seriously… just… wow.

      And do I even have to mention what a monkey Perry made of himself tonight?Report

    • Koz in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      “Obamny Care hangs about Mitt’s neck like a stinking albatross….”

      No, if Mitt Romney is the next POTUS, as I expect him to be, it’ll be substantially better than we deserve (we as America and we as GOP both).

      I gotta channel my inner Jaybird for a minute. We (and very likely you personally as well) supported GWB, Tom DeLay, Mike DeWine, Conrad Burns and rest of the usual gang of idiots. That’s got consequences and we’ve got to deal with those.

      Without getting too blamehappy I think at the very least we can say this for the time the GOP was in power: they did not accomplish anything to reduce the incomprehensible opaque clusterfkkk of United States governance. In fact they made it worse. That changes things in a particular way that most conservatives or Republicans haven’t appreciated.

      Assuming that a Republican is elected President next November, we’ve got to update our understanding of who our adversaries are likely to be. Speaker Pelosi, Henry Waxman and Chuck Schumer will still be there but the new Prez will also have to deal with people like the General Counsel for HHS, the executive director of some lib think tank, or the Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the Clinton Administration. We need a Prez with the intelligence, the intent and the perseverance to handle this environment. We are especially fortunate that Mitt Romney has these things.Report

  4. Mike says:

    Are there two copies of this post somehow?Report

  5. Burt Likko says:

    I think saying Reagan governed towards the center despite his rhetoric is at least defensible.

    • Abortion rights were approximately the same in 1989 as they were in 1980, despite all the sound and fury.
    • Chrysler was bailed out on Reagan’s watch primarily to save the jobs of UAW workers.
    • Reagan approved of amnesty for illegal aliens.
    • Took half a loaf on the 1981 tax cuts and less than half a loaf on the 1986 tax reform.
    • Signed health insurance portability and taxes on substandard employer health plans into law.
    • WARN act approved of by Reagan.
    • Gave reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during WWII (thus “apologizing for America”).
    • Reauthorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 despite pressure from his right wing not to do so.
    • Pushed for the first multi-program Federal welfare program aimed at assisting the homeless in a meaningful way.
    • Of three Justices to the Supreme Court he wound up nominated, two (O’Connor and Kennedy) were then and even more so now are seen as moderates. 

    I’m hardly going to say the man was a progressive. But by today’s standards — and even by the standards of the day — I think it’s fair to say that the legend is further to the right than the historical reality.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Burt, I agree Reagan is mythologized as a “Rightist.”  But by the Right, or is it by the Left?  My core argument is that he captured the center, afterall.


      Nothing there you couldn’t see Romney being OK with.  But many things missing off yr selective list that would be unthinkable for BHO.


      • Burt Likko in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Re: the list being selective — of course it is, that’s sort of the point. Reagan did plenty of rather conservative things too: built up the military, nominated Robert Bork to SCOTUS, fired PATCO, used “welfare queens” as political whipping boys, etc. But Reagan could also sit down and trade horses with Tip O’Neill and Teddy K without losing face with his right wing or giving away the farm to the other team.

        Re: whose myth is it? Everyone’s, kind of. The right looks to Reagan as an avatar of conservatism; the left looks to Reagan as the personification of the Bad Old Days. Neither legend is accurate. Reagan was a President, a politician, and a human being. Not the devil, not an archangel.Report

    • Mike in reply to Burt Likko says:


      That pretty much says it all. I’ve yet to meet a single Tea Tardier who could actually name any of Reagan’s accomplishments or accurately describe anything of his 8 years in office other than “he cut taxes in 1981” (conveniently ignoring that he started raising them again a scant three months later).Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko says:

      And worked with Gorbachev om arms control , with the right wing insisting this was national suicide.Report

  6. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Mr. Schilling, Reagan led his right wing; he was the right wing.  Unlike BHO with his left: he cannot lead and that is his problem and failing.  Reagan never had to worry about his right flank, and never had to change policy to accommodate it.  He accommodated the Democrats instead, as that’s what being president requires.

    And your factoid assertion is imprecise: first, Reagan walked out on Gorbechev in Reykjavik. That is the point, and that was Ronald Reagan.


    Then he got his deal.  Please, man, you can be better than this, you’re a smart guy.  Don’t be what you hate.Report

    • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Your history is bit off Tom. There were plenty of people to Reagan’s right who attacked him for amnesty and raising taxes. He was pushed to not say the word AIDS and to keep backing up South Africa. There were people who thought any deal with Gorby was leading us to doom. Pat Buchanan and the religious right were around then and had plenty of power.

      I know this is pointless to point out , but the D’s worked with Reagan, they did not obstruct everything with cloture motions and filibusters. You can say the words that they worked together but can only see what your ideology allows. Reagan would not get the R nomination today with the polices he put in place.Report