Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ranting On...Mitt Romney's #NeverTrump Movement

Mitt Romney's increasingly one-man band against Donald Trump has become a fascinating, if admittedly pointless affair.  After all, most Republican leaders in the party have coalesced around Donald Trump in his bid to become the president.  Mitch McConnell backed him very quickly, and it appears likely that Paul Ryan is more waiting to try and make a big moment for the nominee, rather than staving off an endorsement for moral reasons at this point.  Most of Congress (save a few stragglers like Ben Sasse and Ted Cruz), have gotten behind the New York businessman, as have people like Marco Rubio and John McCain who have been belittled on the campaign trail by the nominee.  The Bush Family, pretty much untouchable by the Republican establishment and even by Donald Trump due to their three national victories, have stayed above the fray and likely will continue to do so, but the Bush Family can get away with that-at this point they are more the Kennedy's of the Republican Party, all former glory and the third generation is young enough that they can brush off 2016 in the future.  Plus, they are showing little leadership other than abstention, so that sword has fallen to Mitt Romney, who is still insistent that Donald Trump should not be president.

Personally, I'm a little shocked by Mitt Romney taking such a hard, principled stand against Donald Trump because my opinion of Romney is not one of hardened principles.  While their demeanor could not be more different (Trump being loud, boisterous, and profane, Romney being subdued, prim, and deeply religious), they aren't that far apart in terms of personal biography or political beliefs.  Both were the sons of wealthy men, who grew up to go to illustrious Ivy-covered schools, who had controversial success in the business world, and then went into politics trying to gain favor based on that business success.  Both tried to hide their tax returns on the campaign trail (side note: anyone else's hypocrisy meter going off the charts over Mitt Romney being the one demanding that Trump release his tax returns?), and both have made conversations about income equality that were pounced on by the Democrats (47% vs. housing crisis, anyone?).  Plus, Romney made a big deal four years ago about gaining Donald Trump's endorsement, despite Trump saying just as controversial and racially-charged things then (it still gets me that people don't think of the birth certificate ridiculousness as being deeply racist).  All-in-all, Mitt Romney in many ways caused Donald Trump on the Republican Party's freight-train-how is it that he should be the one standing against him?

Perhaps it's because Mitt Romney is frightened about Donald Trump being his legacy?  Let's not forget that Trump probably wouldn't be in the place he is now were it not for Romney elevating him in 2012.  I will admit right up-front to having a relatively low opinion of Mitt Romney, but I do think of him as a man of pride and a man who is likely concerned about things such as legacy.  The thought of a devout Mormon with an idyllic marriage handing off his party to a twice-divorced boor who changes his opinion every twenty minutes on major issues and could destroy the party and country, that might be too much to bare.  Romney may not be much, but if he's at least self-interested, he has to realize that Trump will in some ways will be laid at his feet unless he largely protests his candidacy.

However, it's hard not to see that Romney either needs to put his money where his mouth is or risk being seen as opportunistic once again.  After all, his quest to have a third party candidate run in the presidential election in order to give the conservatives and establishment Republicans a shot at clinging to someone other than Trump is hardly going anywhere, and was never destined to be much of a solution.  The reason for this is the only person who could have translated that candidacy into something real, something that might actually win the White House, would be Romney himself.  After all, there is no better candidate suited for a national race than Mitt Romney.  He just ran, he has universal name recognition, has a campaign apparatus that could easily be reassembled and knows donors who would bend over backward for him.  While I initially thought that Romney was simply making waves to try and be an alternative at the convention, he should have gotten his team out, flooded Texas by grabbing his most ardent supporters' signatures, and then run himself.  Ben Sasse or the like would be a fine vice presidential nominee, but he's not famous enough to start a movement.  The fact that Mitt Romney, who has twice run for the White House and most definitely still has that itch, didn't run shows he isn't as serious about stopping Trump as he says he is.  He could have taken the presidency away from Trump, humiliating him and while likely handing the White House over to Hillary Clinton, accomplished his goal.

There is, of course, still the possibility that Romney could do that.  While running a winning campaign is probably out of the picture (Texas being off the table for a conservative pretty much guarantees that he can't win the electoral college), he could put his name in states that he was likely going to over-perform (Mormon-rich states like Utah, Idaho, and Nevada seem like the best contenders), or try and 'Ralph Nader' Trump by running in Florida and Ohio.  He also could put his money where his mouth is and endorse Hillary Clinton (let's be honest here-you have to bet some of the Bush Family is secretly going to cast the ballot for her, despite what you hear them pronouncing publicly).  It would be the noble thing to do, giving some of his supporters (particularly, again, the Mormon populations in states like Nevada and Utah), cover when they abandon their Republican roots for a cycle, but that would require a lot of will that Romney has not utilized in his career.  It would be extremely noble, and would improve my estimation of him immensely.  However, his current stand of simply #NeverTrump without offering either himself or Hillary Clinton as an alternative, is not gaining him any points.

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