An interesting aspect of the Republican nomination for President has been the idea that Mitt Romney is not a conservative candidate, or at least not conservative enough. This has been the drumbeat of the mainstream media, as the non-Romney candidates have been rotated through the media spotlight. First it was Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum. The justification for Romney not being the obvious choice around which Republicans are to rally is that Romney does not really mean what he says or he was too liberal when he was governor of Massachusetts.
The idea that Mr. Romney flip-flops on issues and therefore is not to be trusted is an argument that galls me. Ludwig von Mises, in his 1927 book, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, explained that the West could be defended only by winning the battle of ideas. He called upon those who believe that market capitalism is the only system capable of creating wealth for the masses to convince others of the importance and truth of such beliefs.
If we are to engage in persuading other people to change their minds about issues, ought we then to chastise them if they come to believe us and call them flip-floppers and state that we can never believe anything they say in the future because they have been persuaded by us?
I am more than willing to believe that Mr. Romney is firmly pro-life, for example, despite the fact that at one time he was pro-choice. The priest at our Catholic church in Hillsdale began studying for the Lutheran ministry when he felt called to become a Catholic priest. I have not heard anyone in our parish call him a flip-flopper.
There are a number of issues in which Mr. Romney has shown his conservative principles, including his strong defense of the 10th amendment, his turning a billion dollar deficit in Massachusetts into a $2 billion rainy day fund when he was governor, and his reining in of an activist legislature by vetoing more than 800 bills. His tax proposal, the highpoint of which is a 20% reduction in all marginal tax rates, shows he understands that incentives matter in people’s willingness to produce, work hard and innovate. Romney’s plan does not attempt to use government tax policy to favor one set of industries over another, but lets the market decide what will be successful.
The fact that the Democratic Party in Michigan has given its members freedom to vote for Mr. Romney’s chief opponent in tomorrow’s Republican primary and return to the Democratic party for its caucus voting gives a hint that it is Mr. Romney that is likely to be the strongest threat to President Obama in November. The longer the media can give the impression that Republicans cannot be happy with Romney the more expensive and divisive the Republican nominating process will be.
Those who wish to end the Obama march towards further government intervention in the economy and the rest of our lives should not be confused by the media hype that the strongest candidate in the Republican field is somehow not conservative enough or not principled enough. There may be reasons that Republican voters may choose among the various candidates, but no one should be deterred from voting for Romney because of the picture of him painted by the mainstream media.