A broomstick isn't enough

Sunday November 11, 2012


A majority of voters fin ally dispelled George Washington’s fear that the advent of political parties would mean that if a party "set up a broomstick" as its candidate to suit its purpose, it would command the votes of future Americans. Mitt Romney was that quintessential candidate and he lost. Hopefully this will deter future presidential candidates and campaigns of the same ilk and save voters in the future from having to deal with such hollow candidates becoming the norm. A Romney win would have lowered the electioneering bar to this level.

As I noted in a recent column, Grover Norquist, the Republican no-tax pledge political guru, made it clear that Romney was that broomstick-like candidate. In a speech sponsored by Ameri cans for Progress, a conservative front group reportedly started by the Koch brothers to work against Democrats, la bor unions, health care re form, government economic stimulus legislation and the like, Norquist said: " We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know which direction to go. We just need a president to sign this stuff. Š Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president. Š His job is Što sign the legislation that has already been passed." David Frum, a political commentator, reinforced this view of Romney being such a candidate by saying: "The problem is that Romney hasn’t shown backbone to stick with his positions."


A number of political commentators categorized Rom ney’s campaign as unique in American history. They noted that they did not recall any other candidate who campaigned without any core beliefs. Rudy Giuliani said this about Romney: "I’ve never seen a guy change positions so many times, so fast, on a dime." Even more telling was the public comment made by Eric Fehrnstrom, a top Rom ney political adviser, that their campaign strategy in moving from the Republican Party primary to the general election was "like Etch A Sketch," a child’s toy where whatever is drawn by the child is simply erased by a shake of the toy. In other words, we do not believe that permanency is necessary by a candidate in his beliefs as he campaigns for office.

If Romney won with this kind of campaign strategy, there is no question that future candidates and political consultants would have resorted to the same technique. They study old campaigns and pick out strategies that resulted in wins. While it is bad enough that American voters have come to accept a certain amount of misstatements, lying and promises that cannot be kept by candidates, at least up until now they had some core beliefs that they stood by. But this was not the case with Romney. He not only changed positions like a revolving door, but he asked voters to trust him into waiting until after he was elected to furnish details of his plan to govern as president. If such a strategy prevailed in electing Romney, it would have been exploited by candidates and their consultants to even a greater degree than in this election to the detriment of voters knowledge about what to think and to expect from their future presidential candidates.


Another aspect to this broomstick-like metaphor for a Romney-like candidate, is the complete and unquestioning support of party members of such a candidate to support a party’s purpose even if it is detrimental to the public’s welfare.

Norquist prefaced his speech about only needing a president who could sign his name by saying: "All we have to do is replace Obama." Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated this by saying that his overriding goal in the Senate was to see that Obama was a one-term president. McConnell then proceeded to use the filibuster in an unprecedented way to prevent any legislation that was intended to address economic problems in Ameri ca lest President Obama would get credit for it. Now that the pursuit of this Re publican Party objective is gone with the re-election of the president, one would ex pect that another salutary consequence will be that Mc Con nell and other Repub lican members of Congress will finally do what they were elected to do, namely, work at lawmaking for the good of Americans by working with congressional Democrats and the president.


The loss by Romney also has a moral to it of an old and familiar value in a civilized society, to wit, it does not pay to lie. Romney got away with doing this in his latest presidential primary. Mike Hucka bee, one of Romney’s past GOP primary opponents, said this about him: "Šdo people want to elect a president who has been dishonest in order to get the job and said things about his opponents that simply aren’t true?" In this recent general election, Romney did resort to lying about President Obama’s measures from health care reform to the auto industry bailout.

Responsible journalists wrung their hands in despair that they were not doing enough to call out these lies in the recent campaign. Some wondered if we had regressed to a point of there no longer being any accountability for lying. This election demonstrated that there still is a majority of voters who will hold a politician accountable for his lies at least in a presidential election.

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz, a Pittsfield lawyer, is a regular Eagle contributor.


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