Mitt Romney, a Potentially Good President Working for a Terrible Political Party.

sfard on September 11 2012

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Mitt Romney
Romney regretting shaking hands with all those old people

For all the political spin going around painting Mitt Romney as a capricious opportunist lacking a moral compass, the fact is, it's more spin than truth. Not to imply that Romney doesn't have a smeared record of flip-flopping on issues like Obama cough Romney cough care, abortion, or gun control, but there's another way to look at all this: he is pragmatic.

Yes, pragmatic. As in, not an ideologue. The reason I believe this above all else is that Mitt was a management consultant and everything about him from his overly-practiced public speaking to his starched blue oxford khaki combo still screams management consultant.

I worked at McKinsey & Company, one of Bain's chief competitors, and have several friends who worked at Bain Consulting (and Bain Capital for that matter). What I know about places like Bain and McKinsey is that Management Consultants can be remarkably homogenous: insecure overachieving A-types with a penchant for problem solving and details. Details! A management consultant's job is to take a business problem (and growingly-so, social and policy problems) and come up with implementable solutions that fit the specifics of what they're working with.

From my experience, consultants, while probably split red and blue, for the most part fall in the economically-conservative, environmentally-conscious, socially-liberal camp. Take this generalization with a grain of salt as you would any generalization, but they believe in free markets and less red tape balanced with market-based solutions to environmental problems. They are above-all, fact based. While I did encounter one republican colleague who denied man-caused global warming, he was not only well-read on the topic, but also more of an exception than a rule. In fact, McKinsey is one of the leading organizations in the world working on the climate change problem, and has developed one of the most detailed and pragmatic carbon abatement plans to date.

So if Romney is anything like the stereotype of a consultant I've outlined, he sees the ends justifying the means. He built his stake in the more moderate republican party of years past, before it was hijacked by the neocons and then the tea party, and now finds himself either giving in to the nutjobs around him or kissing his chances at a presidency goodbye. How much do you think he likes pandering to evangelical audiences who dislike him based on his mormonism alone yet begrudgingly nominated him? So he does what he sees as the pragmatic thing and sells out in the short term, to do what he imagines will be better things as President.

I'm not saying opportunism is a favorable characteristic, but it sadly has become politically necessary. And despite the fervor that character and moral compunction are prerequisites for a president, there is absolutely not evidence to suggest that is the case. Clinton, Kennedy, Roosevelt, all cheated on their wives and are perhaps three of the most effective presidents of the 20th century.

What is important is a commitment to solve long-term issues. We have this unhealthy and as David Simon, creator of The Wire, described it, "toxic", obsession with four-year presidential cycles when evidence suggests actual policy of prosperity takes decades to bare fruit. It takes years for companies to fully benefit from trade agreements, decades for better-educated primary school kids to enter the work force, and entire generations for roads to fully pave the path (pun intended) to improved domestic productivity.

I am not debating whether Romney will make a better president than Obama. My only point is that at least by politician standards, he might actually be a pragmatic enough guy to do some good. The question, and justifiable worry in a lot of people's minds, is whether he can distance his policy from the entrenched ideologies of his party, particularly in a first term when re-election campaigning seems to start from day one on the job.


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AlbertMeyburgh | reply
Yo dawg I heard you like being a soothsayer
sfard | reply
Thanks man, I couldn't have found a more relevant video for this article >:(

brodieboland | reply
I like anything that has a carbon abatement curve, a David Simon quote, and the term 'moral compunction' in the same post.

As for your position, I agree that what we're seeing is political pragmatism as opposed to some inherent immorality. However a) unlike marital fidelity, the characteristic of rapidly and unpredictably changing fundamental views on important policy is directly related to performance as a President and b) the President is in part an active force, but I think in large part a symbol of a large group of individuals and organizations that are brought into office to perceive, advise, decide, implement policy. So these are material issues, not just politicized distractions.

Definitely agree with you on the long-term view point and the consequences of a focus on election cycles. There is a fundamental incongruity between the structure of our political system demands our environment places upon it.
sfard | reply
Thanks for the thoughts, Brodilator. Good points. You're right that infidelity is different than consistency on issues, but I think at least in the case of Romneycare in Mass vs. Obamacare in the US, there is an argument for why state policy is different than federal policy. Not saying I'm against Obamacare, but that the Romney camp is doing a bad job of articulating the reasons for their position. Which might go to the point that his inconsistency is not as bad as people think - or at least not much worse than other politicians.