Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Don't Be Deceived by the Myth of Mitt Romney's Moderation

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Don't Be Deceived by the Myth of Mitt Romney's Moderation

Article excerpt

With the refusal of New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, to join the fray and the Texas governor. Rick Perry, imploding in slow motion, Mitt Romney is odds-on favourite to win the Republican presidential nomination and face off against Barack Obama in November next year. The US news website Real Clear Politics has a compilation of polls that puts the former Massachusetts governor and Ken doll lookalike 5.5 per cent ahead of his nearest rival. That his nearest rival happens to be Herman Cain, the bombastic former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza, speaks volumes about the weird and wacky line-up of GOP candidates jostling for the 2012 Republican nomination.

So, who is Romney? What does he stand for? Much has been made of his Mormonism, which could cost him votes in both the primaries and the general election. Despite a steep decline in hostility towards female. Catholic, Jewish and, of course, black presidential candidates in the United States over the past 50 years, one in five Americans continue to tell pollsters that they would be reluctant to vote for a Mormon. In evangelical Republican circles, anti-Mormon bigotry is rife: the influential Baptist pastor and Rick Perry ally Robert Jeffress hit the headlines on 7 October when he described Mormonism as a "cult" and urged voters to "support a Christian over a non-Christian".

The funds guy

However, it isn't Romney's faith that should disturb ordinary Americans; it's his political views. In a crowded field of far-right candidates, Romney is often portrayed as an old-fashioned, pro -business Republican moderate. But, in the context of modern American politics, "moderate" is a term that has been emptied of all meaning,

Romney is the moderate who wants to double the size of Guantanamo Bay and is opposed to having Muslims serve in his cabinet. He backs Arizona's immigration law, which encourages racial profiling. He would have allowed the US to default on its debts in early August, such was the intensity of his opposition to raising the so-called debt ceiling. And his moderation didn't prevent him from signing up to the anti-tax pledge promoted by the ultra-conservative Americans for Tax Reform, which argues for no new taxes. Ever.

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The lazy logic of the Washington press corps seems to be: he isn't Michele Bachmann, ergo, he's a moderate. The Republicans - backed by their fanatically anti-government Tea Party outriders and the Fox News network - have succeeded in shifting the political centre of gravity so far to the right that Romney comes across as sober and mainstream.

It is an image that he and his advisers have been cultivating assiduously in recent months. Romney tried running as a social conservative in 2008, having backed abortion and gay rights during his gubernatorial days in Massachusetts, only to be rejected for his brazen opportunism and - the deadliest charge in US presidential politics - "flip -flopping". …

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