Mitt Romney did Mitt Romney things yesterday, sitting for an interview with former Obama hitman David Axelrod. The interview was exactly what you’d expect, with Axelrod professing his new found respect for Romney while Romney himself sings the praises of his political adversaries as lovers of the country.
In other words, it’s exactly how you got Trump.
Worshipping at the altar of bipartisanship, Mitt Romney sits for an interview with a political operative who lied relentlessly about him during a presidential campaign. https://t.co/IahwEeqFmC
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) November 25, 2020
How very convenient that Axelrod only came to “admire” Romney after he relentlessly lied about him on the 2012 campaign trail. Recall that the Obama campaign accused Romney of everything from giving a woman cancer to wanting to re-enslave black Americans. In fact, that election is often cited as the moment our politics broke irreparably. The left were absolutely vicious, and because they were able to accuse someone as milquetoast as Romney of such horrors, the right finally threw their hands up and said they are done being suckers. That’s how you got a billionaire playboy who was willing to actually fight as the nominee in 2016. It’s also how he eventually became president. Had Trump run in 2008, I doubt he’d have won. But people like Axelrod so thoroughly destroyed our politics that it took a bull in a china shop to reset the deck.
And what’s Romney’s response? To go on Axelrod’s podcast and pretend as if none of that happened. This is why much of the Republican party can’t stand him. It’s not because they are turned off by his “fundamental decency,” nor do they expect him to be as brash as Donald Trump. What they do expect is for the representatives of their party to understand their woes and respond to them. Instead, Romney is one of the first politicians I’ve ever seen who was an outsider and specifically went to D.C. just so he could join the cocktail circuit and receive faint praise from CNN flacks.
To be frank, even if you don’t like Trump’s style, there was always a middle ground. Figures like Ron DeSantis populate it with relative ease and have bright futures because of it. Romney has no interest in that though. He’d always rather attack his own side while fluffing his opponents because it makes him feel morally superior. It also happens to be an extremely easy thing to do as a Republican in Washington. Doing what Trump did, standing up to the left in so many areas, takes actual fortitude. Meanwhile, Romney can only be counted to release a statement of disapproval of anything when he’s attacking another Republican.
As we forge into the next four years of what looks to be a Joe Biden administration, Republicans are going to have to make a choice. Do they pursue the politics of the past in vain, or do they recognize that the party has moved past the pointless virtue signaling of 2008 and 2012? Republican voters want a fighter who is going to prioritize them over getting backslaps from people like David Axelrod.
(Please follow me on Twitter! @bonchieredstate)