It’s still about Mitt Romney, and we’re not stupid.
After his primary wins on Tuesday, Mitt Romney delivered a nice speech with some punchy lines, and the pundits jumped and flipped like a troupe from Cirque du Soleil.
But it was all about framing an argument. It was tactical.
I don’t give two cents about tactics at the moment. I prefer to keep my eyes squarely trained on the issues and where the parties and their candidates have either demonstrated or indicated that they plan to take the country.
That reveals their values. That reveals a contrast so stark that no theatrical triumph or failure can disguise or ameliorate it.
Romney is still Romney and he’s still running as the head of a party that has spent the last few years pursuing a profoundly regressive agenda.
Romney tried Tuesday night to frame the debate largely around economic issues, but as the 2010 midterm elections showed, economic issues are something of a Trojan horse for the right.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Times are tough. But most people are smart enough to know that these tough times were long in the making and will be long in the fixing. There are no magic words or silver bullets or emerging bubbles that will quickly and easily return us to a pre-recession, pre-collapse sense of prosperity.
That is because we were all complicit in a lie. The government spent too much (on tax cuts and wars), many banks gambled too much and many people borrowed too much. That was the economy. All that money swirling around lulled us into a false sense of security.
When it all fell apart, an overextended government had to help overextended banks and overextended borrowers. The money stopped swirling. Jobs that flourished during the boom became scarce.
The debt grew and the economy shrank.
The government underestimated the crisis and underfinanced the stimulus package aimed at fixing it. So things got worse before they slowly began to get better. And structural economic issues, like the deflation in the housing market, remain.
In an oversimplified nutshell, that is what happened: a complex mix of poor choices and inadequate responses. Now we have to ask ourselves if things have fundamentally changed forever.
The president tried to help fix a mess that he didn’t make, but the fixing has come slowly. Is that failure? Romney and the Republicans say yes. Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, at a primary night rally in Manchester, N.H. on April 24.Dominick Reuter/ReutersMitt Romney and his wife, Ann, at a primary night rally in Manchester, N.H. on April 24.
And, if they can keep framing it as a failure, they can push for, and maybe even push through, their brutal budgets, which cut programs that help the poor and struggling and benefit the rich.
And while they push their budgets, they make savage attacks on a broad range of issues: voting rights, women’s rights, gay rights, immigration, etc.
This is the trick: Run on fiscal conservatism; bring social conservatism along for the ride. The Trojan horse platform.
Mitt Romney has made clear during this primary season that he was willing to be neither moderate nor independent — but rather “severely conservative” — in seeking the Republican nomination. He was willing to court the far right wing of his party and advance its agenda — a frightening fiscal agenda and an even more frightening social agenda.
Yes, this election is about the economy. Every election is to some degree. But it is also about priorities and values and the social direction of this country. This is about the uniquely different visions of our country as presented by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and about which man is most likely to be effective and fair.
No number of tactical speeches will make us forget that. We are not stupid.
Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”