"The cleverest lies, Jones, are those we're already inclined to believe" —DCI Tom Barnaby, Midsomer Murders
I don't know who the darling woman to the right of Mr. Romney is, but I'm pretty sure she and I feel exactly the same way about this election. I'd really like to sit down with her for a bite of pie. She looks like a character from the British TV Mystery series I've recently become addicted to starring the eminently talented and beautifully understated John Nettles. The series focuses around the fictional idyllic English county of Midsomer. Underneath it all, however, it has to be one of the most murderous places on planet earth. In a lot of ways, just like politics. This week, while doing laundry, the line regarding the cleverest lies above caught my attention. And made me think about this election through a completely different set of criteria.
Over the course of this primary season, I have been challenged numerous times to enumerate why, when Hermain Caine was drummed out of the race, I switched my allegiance back to Mitt. I say back to Mitt, because I was left with him last time we faced this situation. And the fact I find myself here again makes me a little...grumpy to be perfectly genteel about it. I'm not kidding when I say this lady and I are sourpuss soul sisters.
So, if I'm so grumpy about Mitt, why am I supporting him instead of Newt or Rick? Well, I actually do have reasons. Well thought through and researched reasons. I am convinced, at this juncture, that Mitt is the best man available for the job. And I'd like to dispel a few lies about us that support him. Lies that despite my best efforts, there is even part of me that believes them.
Lie #1: I just think he can win. Not now, nor do I ever, voted for someone just because I think he or she can win. I have, however, voted against people I'm pretty sure can't win. Perhaps that is a distinction without a difference, but the majority of us in the rank and file who support Mitt are not basing our decision on his ability to win.
I believe that when you are running against an incumbent President it is his to lose or win. If the President loses, it will be because people think he is doing a horrible job...not because they think the incoming guy will do a great job. If they are dissatisfied, they will vote in the challenger. If they suddenly decide that President Obama is doing everything they can and they decide to entrust him for another four years...he will win. It's as simple as that.
That said, I am not convinced that either Santorum or Newt can escape the baggage they have. Both are saddled with intense legislative records that have diminished the trust within the public realm. Because they are not currently front runners, those things have faded into the background. But they have histories that do not actually support their own claims of being the "true conservatives." Therefore, I will always lean towards a candidate with executive experience when I find very little difference in their actual past behavior.
Lie #2: The elite have told me to. Voting for a candidate because Ann Coulter or Karl Rove tell me to would be a lot less time consuming. Unfortunately, as a conservative surrounded by not only liberal, but leftist friends, peer pressure of any sort is pretty much lost on me. I may shut up...but I rarely change my mind. If one of my closest friends of thirty years hasn't done it yet, some Washington blathermouth isn't going to do it. Besides, I've learned to do my own research, make my own decisions and be prepared to back them up. The same holds true for peer pressure from the grass roots. I make up my own mind...and when we agree, we agree. When we don't we don't.
Lie #3: I am bamboozled by his negative ads. I'll be honest--I am not offended by negative ads and I don't understand why people get so bent out of shape about them. Negative ads do little to change people's minds who are not predisposed to believing in the first place. (See quote above.) They are probably thinking that before it is even articulated. The biggest impact negative ads have is to energize and entertain your own supporters. In that sense they work. This is especially true in the primaries where you have fewer undecided voters. They have always been part of the political landscape and always will. And they are as impactful as celebrity and politician endorsements. Which is to say you cheer when they support your point of view and boo when they don't.
Lie #4: He is just running for his own ego. I'll be honest. To some extent, this is probably true. But you can't tell me that it isn't also true of Santorum and Newt. I mean...come on, who would want this job? That said, his plan seems to me to be as well thought out in detail as any. There have been a lot of philosophical discussions and debates, but we are usually short on how to get from here to there. Mitt actually shows how he would envision that process. I have concerns about some of it, but at least he's thought about that part of the process and gotten the plans in place.
Lie #5: I haven't thought about what will happen after he is elected. I actually have thought about this most of all. One of the toughest parts about this job is going to be tackling the enormous systemic problems this country has. I believe that Mitt will do a couple of things the other candidates won't. First, he will bring in advisors and listen to competing ideas. As much as I love some of the philosophical things Newt says, it's hard for me to see him listening to anyone else. He would be a pretty rigid executive. Mitt on the other hand tends to listen with a "how can we get there from here" approach. That is a constructive way to approach this job.
Second, Mitt has a track record of making things happen within very liberal contexts. Having said that, he will be beholden to the right flank of his own party. This provides critical balance. I believe he has proven that he can build the necessary organization and infrastructure to actually get the job done. Mitt isn't all talk. He acts. I haven't always agreed with his decisions, but he knows how to get it done. It might not be flashy or approachable. But he is competent in meeting goals under difficult circumstances, and I find the other candidates less so.
So then the question becomes, why SUPPORT him? There are five major reasons why I support Mitt over other available candidates.
Reason #1: While he does not connect with regular people the way I wish he did, he has served as an executive. Being in the executive branch is to understand that you are president of BOTH sides of the aisle and to behave in that way. Your job is to set a plan in motion using all of the tools at your disposal. I actually think Mitt will be surprisingly good at this for several reasons. We have seen him improve with experience and he isn't starting from zero. He is not intimidated by tough challenges, and he can make solid practical decisions that can get the job done. You see this in the way he has run his campaign.
Reason #2: He speaks positively of the country and appeals to it's better angels. Despite his trouble connecting, he really is doing a very good job of speaking in a way that makes one feel there is hope. While he has been distracted in the past with the mundane political operations of delegate counts and the like, the minute he saw it was dragging his team down they changed rhetoric for the better. I don't believe the government will ever make this country better. I believe the American people will make this country better if they have a sense of hope. On ALL sides of the political spectrum. His team's light on its feet strategic communication change is something that is hard to achieve. It's tough not to get bogged down in the press. He's learning and that gives me great hope. And I think, with some practice, it could be leveraged into giving the country great hope...the first step in getting us back on our feet.
Reason #3: He is focused on the economy, judges and foreign affairs. His campaign has done a pretty good job of not getting off message when it comes to things like the recent contraceptive issue. (Etch-a-sketch stupidity aside.) He's managed to keep that problem focused on the religious liberty issue, rather than delving too far into social issues. It's not so much that those don't matter to people in this country...because they actually do, and those issues can contribute positively for us...as long as they don't become the single focus of a campaign. That takes a fair amount of discipline and focus. Romney has become much more comfortable in this arena.
Reason #4: He exhibits leadership temperament. He is not easily ruffled. He does not portray himself as a victim, but rather a person who has benefitted from great blessings made possible by this country and wants those for others. He does not lay blame elsewhere for mistakes, does not back down from things that are unpopular and learns from the outcomes of his decisions. He is not hyper partisan. He listens amazingly well for a politician. He doesn't rely on the teleprompter to help him answer basic questions. In general, he owns the space he is in. Is he the next Ronald Reagan? Nope. But he is the most centered, even and calm of the lot. All are Presidential qualities that I value.
Reason #5: He values commitments, especially those he made to his wife. I know. I know. A lot of people just shrug their shoulders at this one, after all I did vote for McCain in the last election. But not in the primary. I do not trust people who do not keep their commitment openly and honestly to their families. If a person can not keep the most basic of promises in their most intimate relationship, why should I trust them outside of that? To me, this matters more than I can possibly say. It is the single biggest thing that knocked Newt out of contention for me. Serial adultery is a character problem, and character matters to me. At the end of the day, boring old Mitt Romney has decent character. He honors his commitments to God and his family. In a day and age when I wish more of us still valued the idea that actions speak louder than words...this one still does in my book.
So, you might ask, where is your discussion of conservative philosophy, of smaller government, of Obamacare and Romenycare? It's not here, which is the same place I put Newt's Global Warming ads, Santorum's big-government-take-one-for-the-team votes, and other unfortunate decisions from the past. Since the perfect amalgamation of the three candidates is not available (with added charisma and popularity), we are left with three guys with dodgy past decisions (how human!) two of which are trying to be the "real conservatives in the race."
At the end of the day, they would probably all govern very similarly. They would appoint similar judges. So I look at the race, and I look for the guy who isn't yelling "It's me, it's me" the loudest. The steady, building, getting it done guy with the great infrastructure and the on the ground organization and I think "You know, a lot less talkin' and a lot more action." And I know which way I'm heading.
Sadly, Mitt will probably never send a shiver down my leg, or inspire me to buy "The Romneys in the White House" coffee table book. I've been wrong before, but I sort of doubt it. But I DO know, that I will not end up embarrassed or frightened by him. Given our choices, I'm satisfied with that.
Wishing us all a united convention and a united country next November. Whichever administration we get...let's pray it is not the one we have now. And God bless this idyllic little village.