In Defense of Romney, the Alleged Flip-Flopper
Mitt Romney's greatest liability is said to be the role he played in enacting a health care mandate in Massachusetts. His plan is said by various analysts to have benefited the state greatly, and conversely, that it has made sick people travel to New Hampshire in order to receive adequate treatment. Whatever the merits of his plan in Massachusetts, Romney has made it abundantly clear that he does not favor a universal health care plan at the federal level; therefore, his health care legislation in Massachusetts is irrelevant.
Shakespeare said the past is prologue, and under other circumstances that would be true. We would look at politicians' past decisions and expect them to make similar decisions in the future. But in this case, it is inconceivable that Romney would become president and then do an about-face by becoming a vehement defender of "ObamaCare" (or its official name, which has a vastly more positive connotation, "The Affordable Health Care Act"). It wouldn't make sense politically for him to do so. In fact, we can count on Romney not to change his mind about anything in the future, simply because he abhors to be called a "flip flopper." Despite how paradoxical this sounds: his past record of inconsistency augers a future of unusual consistency.
Some pundits complain that Romney is "too boring." Of course, this assertion is used alternately with the criticism that his attacks on Obama are hyperbolic and irresponsible (saying "he's failed." or that "he's the worst president ever.") So which is it? Is he boring, or is he a dangerous demagogue? If I were to believe everything I read and hear, I would have Romney pegged as a moderate, dangerous, boring, demagogic politician.
Back to the charge that Romney is a "flip flopper." Let's face it: Romney probably doesn't feel too passionate about abortion one way or the other. He just has to deal with the constituency that he aims to please, be it Massachusetts voters, or Republican primary voters. So he's not Teddy Roosevelt in terms of integrity. But he is practical, reasonable, and intelligent. Furthermore, who doesn't have to adapt to some extent in order to survive a social or professional environment? Be it the complex labyrinth of office politics, or broaching political topics at the dinner table, you have to modify the expression of your true viewpoints in order to navigate through the social reality of existing dogmas and prejudices.
An example of what may be considered a pleasing and surprising "flip-flop" is Romney's recent admission that there is in fact man-made global warming (gasp!). It is confusing as to why global warming has ever become a partisan issue. A global warming denying Romney was never plausible; it just does not appear to be a worldview which could emanate from a man of his intelligence. In his last campaign in 2008, Romney quipped: "it's not called 'America Warming"; his point being that it shouldn't be just America that has to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the expense of our economy, while other emerging economies such as China do nothing to reduce this pollutant. He was right in 2008, it isn't "America Warming", but that doesn't mean it isn't America's problem or responsibility. Why would we look to other irresponsible behavior as a model for our own policy, or as an excuse for inaction? And what does being a conservative have to do with disbelieving in a phenomenon which is generally agreed to exist by scientists (who aren't being paid off by certain lobbies)? It is less upsetting that Romney seems to have modified his view on how hazardous greenhouse gasses are, than it would be if he indicated he had no intention to do anything about it if elected. Another paradox: Romney's policy modification (doesn't that sound better than flip-flop?) on global warming indicates his commitment to being a non-flip flopper. By staking out what is apparently an unpopular opinion with Republican primary voters, he eschews right-wing dogma and demonstrates his willingness to stick to his guns rather than pander to the electorate. Incidentally, most Republicans also wish to limit greenhouse gasses, according to recent polls. This signals a sea change from his last campaign; an indication that Romney is more interested in maintaining honest positions and letting the cards fall where they may.
Romney is the most appealing Republican candidate at this juncture. He exudes competence when he discusses complex issues. While President Obama is reputed to be a brilliant orator, Romney is at least as fluent and thoughtful. Whereas Obama lectures at us in a way that often times comes off as presumptuous, Romney has a confident timber to his voice which suggests finality and certitude, while his ability to grasp nuance ensures that he will not adhere to any particular dogma to the detriment of the best interests of the country. Furthermore, Romney seems to have a greater ability to speak extemporaneously than the president -- he can go off script. The ridicule which he seems to inspire amongst some pundits is simply evidence that he poses a formidable threat to the current President. Rather than being viewed as a 'flip-flopper', Romney should be viewed as a three dimensional human being who has evolved since his last campaign into a stronger candidate with stronger convictions.