Mitt Romney: Tea Party When Tea Party Wasn't Cool
"Mitt Romney...is awesome."
You could hear the screams from around the room. In the conservative and evangelical circles in which I travel, that pronouncement has the same effect as professing a hidden fantasy to enter into same-sex marriage with Harry Reid. Bonkers, stark-raving bonkers! And yet, after spending the last two weeks digging deep, looking at Mitt Romney without Conventional Wisdom filters, it's become evident that Mitt was Tea Party when Tea Party wasn't cool.
The stereotypical portrait of Mitt Romney by the elites -- from elite media to elite evangelicals -- is simply wrongheaded. And who would know better than an evangelical who maintained that we "don't need no stinking moderates" like Romney? Or so I said -- and was in part wrong. True that we, in the Age of Obama, "don't need no stinking moderates." But Mitt Romney is not moderate. Both his talk and walk are located squarely in the conservative middle, his spine steeled by what talk radio host and conservative blogger Erik Erickson calls" the individualist DNA Americans have in them." Mitt Romney is conservative. Period. And certainly worthy of the support of all who wish to stop the slide into Democrat Detroit of this great nation.
"Nooooooooo," came the screams. How can you say you admire Romney? After all, every conservative worth his or her Springfield XD Subcompact knows, really knows that Mitt is anything but conservative. Rather, he is what American Thinker writer J. Robert Smith describes as "mushy," a conventional politician who -- according to the narrative pushed by the mainstream elites -- may not sell his soul (already owned by that fire-and-brimstone-guy because of the Mormon thing), but certainly his grandmother for a vote.
Ah, but that's what They want you to believe. And that's what I believed, until I looked and found -- a Tea Partier! Big Business, Ivy League, Silver-Spoon -- all part of the stereotypical narrative, all ignoring the reality of Mitt Romney. Yes, Harvard is the ultimate in taking Big Ideas and turning them into elitist policy that produces small-and-mean for the 99 percent; witness the work of the Ivy League elites gathered in Obama's Washington. But Mitt took the insights created by his Harvard Business School training and used them to launch an astonishingly fruitful business career, creating tens, arguably hundreds of thousands of jobs. Entrepreneurial private-sector success -- does it get any more Tea Party than that, when even the Washington Post is forced to admit that Mitt's success at growing jobs is "a Great American success story"?
It does. Mitt's private-sector success is suspect to the big-government political class, both Democrat and Republican. And while many Republican insiders embrace him, many -- the more Beltway-driven especially -- do not. Newt Gingrich, for example, channeling Barack Obama and offering a glimpse of his progressive soul, attacked Mitt for the crime, as columnist George will put it, of "committing acts of capitalism." Mitt has pointed out what every red-blooded conservative knows is true: that "the people in Washington care more about power than they do about the American people." In fact, the deeper you go into Mitt Romney, the more you realize that so much of what he has said over the years could be ripped from Tea Party headlines: freeing this nation from the "peril of foreign oil," battling the "radical jihad and terror ... threat," stopping an entrenched government class -- who is that masked man?
Look hard at him, cut through the media fog, and you'll see why some inside the Beltway so fear a Romney presidency: cross Michele Bachmann with Rick Perry; subtract the resulting sexual confusion; add the business acumen of Jack Welch, the legendary executive who transformed General Electric, and you have Mitt. Romney instinctively celebrates the individual in his policy pronouncements; is deeply respectful of traditional American values and Judeo-Christian origins; has a heart for Joe the Plumber, as seen by his willingness to fight stifling government bureaucracies; and has a private and public track record of making stuff work. He was able to accomplish the impossible in Massachusetts, slowing the decay of a state where the political class combines the morality of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy with the real-world acumen of the Harvard faculty.
"But he was for abortion!" someone cried.
Not really, I replied. He simply thought that women should be able to choose for themselves. An understandable stance, one held by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom I revere for his other and conservative ways. And so Mitt -- like Rudy on the problems of New York -- focused what one participant called an impressive "clarity of mind and sincerity of heart," studied the issues involved, and decided that traditional East-Coast liberal thinking is wrong, that government has no business promoting and enabling the abortion industry...and changed his mind. This while governor of Massachusetts, a state that has made Planned Parenthood its fifth branch of government! That makes him, uh...impressively reasonable, impressively principled, and a not-politician.
Yes but "he's a Mormon -- he's in a cult," another spat, echoing at least one Baptist leader who urged evangelical Christians not to vote for Romney "because he's a Mormon[.]" Ah, but doing and being make for worship in a way that words and song only begin to express, which makes Mitt Romney as evangelical in walk as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. Which means this: Evangelicals have three dogs in this hunt. And Mitt, because of his experience and integrity and faith, his potential to lift a nation economically and emotionally reeling from a Democrat-led descent into the leftist swamps -- well, that dog'll hunt!
Mitt Romney, like Perry and Bachmann, lives and breathes faith in a life so authentic that it automatically makes him a political outsider, the real deal in a political world where love and loyalty are measured in nanoseconds. Who is Mitt Romney? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answered that simply, telling Iowa primary voters of an enduring and intimate love for his family, a love so un-Beltway that it shines in "a guy who is a father and a husband and loves his wife and his kids."
Mitt Romney not part of the faith-based conservative traditions that power a culture built by American exceptionalism? In the words popularized by that great Catholic theologian, Bing Crosby, "'Tain't so, honey, 'tain't so..." Mitt Romney, in public and private, demonstrates biblical values in walk and talk, in battling an entrenched Beltway class that includes Obama and Newt Gingrich and, he says, is "gutting" a great nation with "[s]low growth, out-of-control regulation, and chronic uncertainty."
And so it doesn't really matter whether Mitt is Christian, Mormon, atheist, or Pescatarian. What does matter is that he is not Barack Obama, that he is not a Beltway insider, and that he does not answer every question with the words "more government."
So what's a good conservative evangelical Tea Partier to do? Well, all things considered: I'll take the Mormon from Massachusetts for $2,500, Alex.
Stuart Schwartz, a former media and consumer merchandising executive, is on the faculty of Liberty University in Virginia.