One of the things I like to keep in mind is Ross Douthat’s observation that “There are multiple rights and lefts, and multiple middles as well.” One thing sort of irked about the observations that Romney had gone to the center in his debate with Obama. There was some truth to that (I don’t remember him emphasizing that his tax cut plan would be revenue neutral in the primaries), but Romney performance was actually quite conservative and post-partisan. Imagine if Romney had chomped down on an Alka-Seltzer tablet, pronounced Obama a socialist community organizer who wanted to bring down America, damned every government economic policy since Calvin Coolidge left office, and then offered nothing but a return to the pre-Obama status quo. The story would have been how Romney had gone off the ideological and partisan deep end. But would he have? On policy proposals, that hostile, imaginary Romney would have been to the left of the Romney we saw last night. The real Romney managed a mostly articulate defense of premium support Medicare, which would be the most “conservative” policy reform since… well I don’t know when. I think a lot of what we think off as ideological politics is actually drawing lines between politically engaged teams. Mocking Obama, threatening to torture Obamacare to death on your first day in office and constantly complaining about socialism are all forms of showing what team you are on. They are also partisan in the sense that the “teams” tend to think of themselves as ideological first and party members second. So when Romney (or Ryan) explains how a policy will benefit the general public, it doesn’t seem especially ideological or partisan – even if the policy proposal is a much bigger change than merely undoing the works of the Obama administration.
Sunday, October 7, 2012, 7:30 PM