MATTHEW BOOSE: Romney’s attack on Trump is the swamp lashing out

January 4, 2019

MATTHEW BOOSE: Romney’s attack on Trump is the swamp lashing out

Mitt Romney’s attack on Trump is confusing. Who is Romney speaking for? Certainly not the Republican Party.

The response from Republicans over Romney’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post has been swift and unified: any presidential ambitions Romney has will hurt, not help, the party. Republicans including once-Trump critic Lindsey Graham and Romney’s niece Ronna McDaniel rebuked what looked like a Never-Trump campaign teaser.

Romney’s op-ed draws from much of the same puddle-deep rhetoric about unity that was, until recently, the province of Jeff Flake. He writes about “mutual respect” as if he were not himself the victim of the left’s vicious black-balling in 2012:

A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable.

Romney seems to think that throwing ten-dollar words around will make the nation whole again. It won’t. The country is in the middle of a culture war between one side that believes in national heritage and sovereignty and another that doesn’t. And then in the middle is Romney, bent over like The Thinker in deep reflection on the Enlightenment.

This reflective pose is supposed to be impressive, inspiring, and righteous, but it’s not. It’s out of touch, tone-deaf, and counter-productive. Rand Paul called it “virtue signaling.” Bingo.

Either Romney is a willfully destructive Beltway actor, or he’s been asleep for the past two years. By attacking Trump, he’s working against the Republican Party, the president, and the people who chose Trump to lead the country.

Whenever a Republican declares their “independence” from Trump, they inevitably earn plaudits from the left. But the Republican Party is Trump’s party now. Until the party finds somebody with the same independent wealth and guts to attack the status quo like Trump has done, it’s not even a close competition.

The power that Trump wields over the GOP has been called cult-ish, but Republicans back Trump with such fervor because what came before him — the Republican Party of politicians like Romney — was feckless, unresponsive to the interests and concerns of normal people, and ultimately, not much different from the Democrats.

Part of Romney’s op-ed was an empty posture, a petty attack on Trump’s character. But it wasn’t so muddle-headed as all that. Beneath all the high-minded cliches, it expressed the same anxiety that appeared when Trump said that he would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Syria, prompting the establishment to lash out like a cankerous monster in self-defense.

Romney’s piece expresses the concern of an establishment coming to grips with fading legitimacy, if not yet waning power. He frets about America’s commitments to foreign interventions while dismissing the claim that America has been a “sucker” to other nations, calling it “thoughtless.”

Romney speaks for a status quo that does not work for the people. Trump won by channeling the resentment of those who felt let down by their leaders, but Romney, tellingly, is confused by this resentment. He critiques Trump for “exploiting” the “politics of anger and fear,” but doesn’t acknowledge the responsibility of the ruling class in creating that resentment.

Tucker Carlson addressed Romney’s op-ed in a brilliant monologue that may be one of his best. In it, Carlson cuts right to the heart of what Romney’s message is really about: Romney’s piece is a “window into how the people in charge, in both parties, see our country.” This ruling class “feel[s] no long-term obligation to the people they rule,” having long abandoned the country to economic and social devastation with selfish, irresponsible governance, Carlson says.

Simply put, Romney’s “mainstream” conservative views — namely, an embrace of unregulated free markets at the expense of all other social considerations and internationalist foreign policy, hollowed out the middle class — destroyed families and left the country a broken ruin.

In his op-ed, Romney shows plenty of concern for attracting “the best innovators to America’s economy” and staying involved in foreign wars, but doesn’t utter a word about people struggling to get married, raise children, and live decent lives. There is a great deal of self-interest in Romney’s moralizing, as Carlson notes; Romney offers sparing praise for Trump’s corporate tax cuts, which Romney benefited from.

Carlson’s monologue also hits on something that wasn’t so obvious until Trump came along: the elites of both parties are more similar than they are different. Both pursued with reckless abandon a project of globalization and cultural transformation that worked to their advantage at the cost of their countrymen. 

Both supported knocking down barriers to capital and immigration, driving down wages and killing jobs while the ruling class got richer. Corporate interests and gender zealots both sought and welcomed the destruction of the family. The market-oriented morality of libertarianism, where desire and voluntary transactions to satisfy appetite define what is good instead of traditions and community, dovetailed with the left’s socially liberal agenda with a push to pacify the public with drugs.

Once everything was reduced to the GDP, there was no reason to reject any social agenda that could be shown to have superficial economic benefits, even if the long-range effects would be socially devastating. Communities were destroyed as jobs left the country, and the devastation was compounded by the dysfunction created by the elites’ social engineering.

The more broken America became, the more advantageous a position for the ruling class. Corporate interests happily obliged the left to replace native labor with foreign.

Romney’s op-ed excoriates Trump’s failed leadership but ignores the failures of the leaders who preceded him and whose influence still lives on in Washington. The piece is another example of the ruling class lashing out at the people they failed to govern fairly and responsibly.

Americans elected Trump to clean up the mess that Republicans like Romney created.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.