Voting on a Prayer


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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54 Responses

  1. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Newspapers endorsing Romney? Stands to reason. Conservative oldsters are the only people still reading the dead tree edition of their product.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:


      I still get the Weekend issues of the Saturday and Sunday times on paper.

      Reading the Sunday Times at Brunch is a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

      Granted I have been described as an old-soul.Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Eh, I’m no fan of Romney, but this “only people who are far dumber than me could possibly support Romney or believe he’s not a dyed-in-the-wool-tea-partier” schtick is getting tiresome.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:


      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Eh, if you say so, but I’m going to blame your delivery. This sounds a hell of a lot like liberal defensiveness. At your best you’re an excellent writer of political analysis, but too often–in my opinion–you choose not to rise above the level of partisanship. And this one reads to me an awful lot like “how dare they!”

        (Excellent choice to respond with just the picture, though. That’s pretty awesome.)Report

    • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      As I said in the Time Capsule thread:

      Romney is a train wreck, a miserable failure as a leader (even moreso than Bush, which is hard to believe). He’s a liar, an opportunist, he should have crashed and burned months ago. His two latest gaffes — pissing off the Red Cross and the CEOs of two auto companies — ought to have been enough to finish the job.

      [He’s] made a career of killing small businesses and destroying jobs and he’s still at 50%.

      Why on earth WOULD you vote for this a**hole?Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        Then let’s consider his flip-flops on FEMA.

        He wants to eliminate it from the budget — entirely. Then, Sandy hits and he thinks it’s great. Until he’s confronted with his flip-flops and a spokesperson says he’s against it again. Now he says that disaster relief will come from “somewhere”.

        Probably the same magic pixie dust that allows him to reduce taxes on the middle class, increase defense spending AND reduce the deficit.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Judging by his actions, disaster relief will be entirely handled by campaigning politicians sending 5k in stuff they bought at Walmart to a disaster area.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    In that godawful last sentence (I know that’s bitchy — but as GOB Bluth would say, c’mon) the editors, whether they know it or not, are staking the near-entirety of their Romney endorsement on one thing Romney did as governor.

    Eh, much of my “he won’t be *THAT* bad” intuitions come from many of the things he was more than happy to say when he was running for the job in the first place (yay women’s rights! yay gay people! yay money!) and the handful of token gestures he made to demonstrate that he wasn’t a *SCARY* republican once he was actually in office (see, for example, the things he had to disavow when “real” republicans found out about them).

    All of the stuff that was pointed out to Republicans early in the primary season for why they shouldn’t vote for Mitt (including Romneycare) is much of the reason that he’s not seen as *THAT* threatening by newspaper editorial types.

    Yay women’s rights. Yay gay people. Yay money.Report

    • Avatar Morzer says:

      I’d love to hear one conservative explain why Romney should be trusted to stand up to the rabid teabaggers in the House. I don’t believe Felonious Mittflop has ever been genuinely moderate unless forced to be a good boy by electoral circumstances or a Democratic majority – as in Massachusetts.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I’d love to hear one conservative explain why Romney should be trusted to stand up to the rabid teabaggers in the House.

        Funny. The teabaggers I know waffle about whether Romney can be trusted to stand up to the Democrats… because when has Romney ever been genuinely Conservative? All they can point to is how “Moderate” he was when he was in Massachusetts.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          If there was a Dem majority in the House I think this arguement would hold water. But since there’s virtually no chance that the Dems will take the house I think this falls a bit flat.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            My opinion of teabaggers tends to be much higher than most who use that term (then again, I still tend to associate them with fiscal issues and social agnosticism) and I look at the house and I don’t see any even close to a teabagger majority. The establishment still has a lock on the joint.

            When I see Romney, I see Four More Years.

            Edit: I should point out that Obama is better on social issues than I thought he’d be (though nowhere near as good as I’d hoped he’d be. If there’s a significant difference, it’s there. Romney and Ryan have said that they’d leave the repeal of DADT alone but… I can see how that would not be of particular interest to people who care about equality).Report

            • Avatar Dan Miller says:

              The House passed the Ryan budget (without a single Dem vote). Seems pretty tea-friendly to me.Report

            • Avatar Kimsie says:

              Yup. Those teabaggers in the house who were ready to discard sanity in favor of what their church leaders said would be a good idea.Report

              • Avatar Morzer says:

                If the teabaggers care about fiscal responsibility, they have a very strange way of showing it. Not that their economic ignorance is particularly surprising. Let’s remember that they were perfectly happy to damage the faith and credit of the United States just to score ideological points, that they are in thrall to Grover Norquist’s kooky pledges, that they have no concept of investing for the future, and that their only real plan – which they take great care not to acknowledge too publicly – is tax cuts for the rich and screw America’s future. These are not people who deserve any respect or trust, to put it charitably.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Oh well I don’t associate them that way much anymore. They strike me as just rebranded Republicans. They inveigle over social issues and talk out of both sides of their mouths on spending just like the rest of the party does.Report

  4. Avatar MBunge says:

    “is much of the reason that he’s not seen as *THAT* threatening by newspaper editorial types.”

    No. The reason he’s not seen as threatening is because he’s a rich white man who is considered a part of the political establishment. Do you think the media would allow an unknown from someplace like Wyoming or Iowa to get away with what Romney has? Do you think someone like, say, Howard Dean could have walked into a foreign policy debate and completely abandoned his stated position on the war in Afghanistan without justification or explanation?

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the media like Romney. But they do view him as “one of us” and give him a benefit of the doubt that does not get extended to those seen as outsiders.


    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      And that’s enough to push him past Obama? In newspapers that haven’t endorsed the Republican since Nixon?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Who knows? But I gotta agree — endorsing a guy based on what amounts to admitted mind-reading is, well, a unique approach.

        “Ignore what he’s said, we’ve seen his soul and this is what he’ll do”.

        I must applaud Romney. He has managed to achieve perfection — he is the Generic Republican, upon which anyone can project their ideal version the GOP.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Is it *THAT* crazy to look at what he did the last time he was elected into an Executive role in government?

          Or merely irrelevant to this time because, seriously, you’ve seen his soul?Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Well, here’s the thing: Do we judge him by what he does? Or what he says he’s going to do? What he did a decade ago?

            I know what he did in Mass. I know what he did during the primaries. I know what he said then. I know what he said now. They all contradict each other.

            I’d say “he changed his mind”, but well, nobody changes their mind that often between the start of the primaries and now.

            So yeah, in this case? Kinda crazy to base your endorsement on what he did a decade ago — ignoring what he’s done and said in the last two years entirely. I mean, he’s repudiated virtually everything he did in Mass.

            I gotta tell you — I know three things about Mitt Romney. Know for *certain*. One, he really wants to cut his own taxes. Like REALLY BAD. That’s the one, unvarying cosntant of his candidacy. The one thing he’s never really gone back on.

            Two, he wants to be President.

            Three, he tells people what they want to hear, even if it’s the opposite of what he told people last week.

            That last part kinda makes it hard to judge his agenda.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Three, he tells people what they want to hear, even if it’s the opposite of what he told people last week.

              That last part kinda makes it hard to judge his agenda.

              Agreed. 100%.

              However, given the opinion polls, I think that it’s closer to safe to say that people want to hear mainstream middle of the road stuff rather than teabaggery. *THAT* is why I suspect that the folks leading Romney around by the nose will be The People rather than The Teabaggers.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Adding to this, let’s keep in mind that a Romney elected to the White House would immediately become concerned with reelection to the White House, and the same political calculus that led him to move toward the center for the general election would likely tell him to not move too far to the right in his governing style. Even if it was Massachusetts politics that kept him moderate as a governor, he’s shown he can work with that, and he’s never looked comfortable when spouting the more conservative line.

                I think those claiming he’s best understood as pure establishment are in the right of it, and while I think he’s enough of a windsock to lean more to the moderate side if Dems hold Congress and lean more to the conservative side if the Repubs hold Congress, he’ll never do more than lean–the guy’s not about to march off to one side or the other.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I think you’re generally right, but there’s one big gap in your evidence here: Nothing Romney did in Massachusetts can serve as strong evidence for what he’d do on foreign policy.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s not like we’re saying he’d deserve a Peace Prize or anything but what are you afraid of? Him starting wars in Middle Eastern countries? Him sending drones into Pakistan? Him killing American citizens overseas without so much as a show trial?Report

              • Avatar Morzer says:

                Doubling Guantanamo, bringing back torture, war with Iran – all things that Romney has shown an appetite for. If you think Romney is going to make matters better, you’ve a talent for self-delusion that is alarmingly impressive.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Zandi was all gungho for war with Iran.
                Why shouldn’t we take RYAN at his word on his Keynesianism?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Robert–I’ll grant you that. And it’s one (although not the only) reason I won’t be voting for him.

                Jaybird–We’re not at war with Iran….yet. Or perhaps more to the point in Romney’s case, we’re not at war with London…yet.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

                So your endorsement boils down to:

                “Romney is a weak vacillating hood ornament who will bend whichever way the political winds lean.
                So vote for him, and pray for a moderate sensible cabal of advisors backed by a reasonable centrist Congress.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                We have done worse. 😉Report

              • Avatar Morzer says:

                I would love to know where the teabaggers have been hiding this “reasonable centrist Congress” for the last two years.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                Hi James –

                You’re something of a presidential scholar if I recall. Has there ever been another candidate for POTUS that has run so overtly as a windsock? Romney hasn’t really made any effort to hide his willingness to say whatever people want him to say in any given moment. And considering how close the election is, he hasn’t paid any price for that either.

                Is there precedent for this kind of campaign or would a Romney win set precedent?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Only a pseudo-professional professional scholar. I teach a presidency course every couple of years (and don’t really enjoy doing so). And I know more about presidential administration than about campaigning.

                But in thinking about this, I can’t think of a president. To begin, modern presidential campaigns are at most about a century old–before that it was considered unseemly to aggressively campaign. FDR’s 1932 campaign might reasonably be called the start of the modern presidential campaign.

                On top of that, the modern presidential campaign has changed as the primary process became solidified, which really only happened in 1968-1972. Before that party bigwigsstill held the key to the election. Because primary voters tend to be the party faithful, the primaries skew more left and more right than the general electorate, so that led to the phenomenon of running to the left/right in the primary then back to the center in the general election. But if we think of the candidates in the immediate post ’68-72 era–Carter, Ford, Reagan, Mondale, Bush, Dukakis, Clinton–I don’t think we see any that didn’t have a relatively more focused set of political positions.

                And then we have the great shift in party dynamics, which began as a consequence of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and became finalized when Republicans took over the House in the ’94 elections (which led the remaining conservative southern Dems–the Boll Weevils–to finally switch to the Republican Party), that unbalanced both parties. The Dems lost their conservative wing and their center moved left (although not as far left as our League progressives would like). The GOP then became more and more dominated by the southern-style conservatives, as the South became it’s great population base. Initially this didn’t stop a Bob Dole from being nominated, and while he didn’t stand for much more than more farm subsidies, at least he wasn’t a total windsock (and I don’t really do him credit, but I kind of like Dole). Bush managed to unite both the business and the southern-style conservative wings of the parties in a fairly coherent and consistent way. McCain tried to, especially with the selection of Palin as his running mate, but didn’t really succeed, and that exposed the real cracks in the party.

                Which brings us to Romney. With those cracks in the GOP so exposed, he felt he had to play the right winger if he was ever going to win the nomination. Despite the staunch backing he got from the establishment, he might have been right about that, and he still might have lost if the conservatives could have found a non-screwup candidate to rally around. But the party has become too unbalanced to have general election appeal. Despite the continued presence of the establishment types, the GOP has really lost moderates hand over fist since 1994. (I personally know a surprisingly large number of former Republicans, all moderates who feel the party shifted way to the right of them.) Romney knows this, and knows that he has to try to be more moderate in the general election. The etch-a-sketch comment by his aide was just political reality.

                Now Romney possibly has been able to do this as well as he has because he really does lack much of a center. But maybe it’s just that he has a center and it’s just not such an ideologically fervent position that he’s willing to (politically) die for it. My take is he seems himself as a very non-ideological, pragmatic, managerial type–rather than go to the wall for a particular political position he’ll work with the possibilities given him and see what he can make out of them. Someone less like that might not have gotten to where he is–both managing to win the primaries and managing to be within shot of winning the general election.

                So the answer, at my best guess, is no, we probably haven’t seen anyone campaign like this before, but it’s probably the political circumstances as much or more than the person that is the cause of it.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                Thanks for the history, James. That is my sense of it as well. Romney is well-suited for the chameleon act and a willing player, but circumstances have dictated a good deal of it.

                Which is why my concern with a Romney win has somewhat less to do with him than with what he represents. He may be the first Etch-a-Sketch candidate, but if he wins, he certainly won’t be the last.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the playwright [1], was also an MP. His son Tom, who had no strong Party views, once told him ”If I were in Parliament, I would write upon my forehead ”To Let”, to which his father replied ”Add ‘unfurnished”’.

                1. If you haven’t read The Rivals and The School for Scandal, you have no one to blame but yourself. And the people who brought up and claimed to have educated you.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                My issue with Mitt is that he is a windsock. You can say that that’d lead him to be led by “The People” but I see it differently. Mitt’s victory will affirm to him two things:
                -That if he swears fealty to the base enough they’ll support him.
                -That “The People” are low info, not paying attention and that he can lie his way past them.

                As President he’ll be 100% interested in being re-elected. What will that mean for him having been elected with these things in mind? It’ll mean
                – He cannot, must not whatever he does piss off his base because he’ll desperately need them and he won’t have a loathed (by his base) Obama to run against in his next election.
                – Whatever he does that annoys the center he can try and obfuscate his way past just like he just did in his current election.

                So what does that mean policy wise? It means he’ll be a rubber stamp for a GOP controlled Congress which he’ll undoubtedly have for at least 2 years. It means he’ll probably go along with much of what his (Bush II warmed over neocon) foreign advisors ask for.

                So from where I sit I see either continuing huge deficits or else an austerity induced recession (depending on if the GOP reverts to form and doesn’t care about the debt once their guy is in office or not) , socially conservative social policies and war with Iran.

                And it also means an utter repudiation of Obamaism which means the Dems are gonna have a very foul taste in their mouth any time someone talks about bipartisanship.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                North –

                This is why I asked about precedent for this kind of behavior from a candidate.

                If a Romney win represents a repudiation of Obama-style pragmatic bipartisanship, it also represents a vindication of blatant opportunism. As a believer in practical governance driven by empiricism, I can’t think of a worse outcome.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I’d say we’re on the same page Scott (Fields) me lad.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    But that’s a tall order, choosing the president on the basis of one single decision.

    Well, that was Obama’s biggest advantage last time – we got a chance to pick a president who had made no decisions over one that had made some poor ones.

    Now, of course, he has a record, and there are some good decisions, and some bad ones, but he’s lucky (as he’s almost always been) with who was selected as his opponent.Report

    • Avatar Morzer says:

      You know, you don’t get lucky in your opponents so consistently without doing quite a few things right. I suspect Obama’s greatest political talent is picking people who know how to win. Romney, on the other hand, has a team of bungling babblers who have served him pretty poorly for the last year. That says something fairly significant about a key area of their executive performance.Report

  6. Avatar George Turner says:

    To be consistent, quite a few newspapers would have to flip, depending on why they’d endorsed Obama last time. If it had been to lower the deficits and get Americans back to work, then they’d have trouble supporting Obama based on his record and would shift to Romney. If they endorsed Obama to close Gitmo and implement single-payer healthcare, they’re still screwed but wouldn’t flip.Report

    • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      They’re endorsing the guy who made his career killing small businesses and destroying jobs. Yet we’re supposed to believe that he would do something different as President. Pardon me if I don’t believe it.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        No person in the last 50 years has killed more jobs than Obama, so that doesn’t really fly in the editorial room.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Sparrows are singing…
          As you take your Great Leap Forward.Report

        • Avatar Morzer says:

          George W Bush brought this depression on us, George. I think you need to revisit your claim and adjust the color setting on your spectacles.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Last I checked isn’t unemployment back where it was when Obama came into office? So wouldn’t that mean then that if Obama has killed more jobs in the last 50 years then he’s also created more jobs in the last 50 years than any other person as well? Maybe that Nobel peace prize was prescient after all.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            “Workforce Participation” is one of those numbers that was considered vitally important during the Bush years that had unemployment fairly low.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Indeed but if we’re playing in lala land where it’s the Presidents fault that the recession smoked a bajillion jobs I want to get my stabs in with the gumdrop saber.Report

  7. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    Take note of the Register’s sly characterization of Romney’s Massachusetts health care bill as nonpartisan concern for the middle class. Obama moved to the middle by adopting a pretty conservative health care bill, but history’s being rewritten to paint Romney as nonpartisan because he pushed through a bill borne out of the Heritage Foundation. Unbelievable.Report

  8. Avatar Katherine says:

    What Romney did in a blue state with a Democratic legislature does not seem like a strong predictor for what he would do as president with a Republican congress.

    For myself, I can’t see any rationality or morality in voting for or endorsing someone who has advocated bringing back torture and expanding Guantanamo, who warmongers against Iran at every chance, who supports the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians, and who regards offending other nations as a goal in and of itself.Report