With former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum bowing out, the last of Mitt Romney’s major opponents has fallen in what has proven to be one of the most contentious GOP nominations in contemporary U.S. politics. The general election race to the White House has unofficially begun.
The rise of the Tea Party, Evangelical Christians and neoconservatives who together form the modern conservative coalition in America successfully returned the battered Republican Party to power during the congressional elections of 2010 after the failure of the Bush presidency.
Rather than learn from their past endorsement of far-right-wing politicians, in the two years since the midterms, these forces have tried to double down on their strategy and push the Republican Party to new fringes.
Previously settled national debates were reopened in an attempt to establish a litmus test of purity bordering on what was thought at one point to be political suicide. Child labor, public vaccinations, contraceptive rights and judicial review all resurfaced as serious political issues for the Republican candidates vying for their party’s nomination.
The notion that America has two political parties, one on the center-left and another on the center-right, is false. Political moderates in America today draw a false dichotomy between the Republican and Democratic Parties to the detriment of our nation’s political discourse. When these “third way” triangulating political commentators make such characterizations, they foster the false illusion that both political parties are of equal sanity and soundness.
Republican party politics preach a gospel of credulity that denies the science of climate change, rejects the enormous potential of stem cells on religiously dogmatic grounds and questions the role of women in the workplace and outside the kitchen.
GOP politicians pay fealty to the arch-conservative Super PACs that demand the privatization of social security, voucherization of Medicare and abolition of federal departments in education, health and environmental protection.
Dwight D. Eisenhower once wrote of political extremism in American politics that “should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things … Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
The former Republican president, who refused to cut taxes when the top marginal income tax rate was over 90 percent because it would bring the federal budget out of balance, would turn over in his grave if he could see the way the radical right has transformed his party today.
Romney’s victory has left him with a long legacy of radical policy proposals he has been forced to endorse, chief among them the draconian budget drafted by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, that he will now no doubt attempt to distance himself from.
In March, Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s chief political adviser, went on record saying that after the primary season, “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign; everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
Although it was originally Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich who assaulted Romney for his staffer’s gaffe, it will be liberals who remember this quote.
The policy positions that he has taken to prove his worth will make their way into the federal register and tax code should he be elected, despite the disingenuous political pivot to the “center” he will surely make in the months to come.
American voters will ultimately be left to decide on Election Day if Romney’s previous statements and endorsements are forgivable or not.
They must remember, though, that what is past will surely become prologue; the promise of Romney’s platform will become policy should he become president.