A Noble Effort from Mitt Romney Will Backfire

I’m about to say something I didn’t think I’d say about any politician. Ever. I agree with every single word Mitt Romney said today. Every. Single. Word.

The gravity of the Trumpublican threat is so great that this week alone we have seen John Oliver and Mitt Romney make the same political argument. I never imagined that the crowning bipartisan achievement of 2016 would be a former GOP presidential candidate and a liberal HBO comedian teaming up to take swings at a reality TV personality.

Fans of Last Week Tonight were never likely to vote for Trump, someone like Romney had a much better chance of impacting the race. Sadly, tragically, the effect of Romney’s speech will be nearly zero for three reasons.

  1. The extremely wealthy and successful Romney is embodiment of the anger that fuels the Trump voter. During the last 30 years of globalization middle class workers have seen their earnings freeze, and in many cases, drop, while the incomes in the developing world have doubled, and the rich in our country have been the beneficiary. American workers have worked harder and longer, and received less in the last few decades. Romney struck out with Trump voters before he even stepped up to the plate simply because of who he is.
  2. For the last seven years we have heard the cries of conservative blogs and talk radio, that the Republican party lost in 2012 because it is not conservative enough. A bona fide conservative would rally a silent majority and once and for all do away with Democrats in DC. The rightward shift of the Republican base has been so swift and strong Ronald Reagan would fare about as well as John Kasich in this year’s primary. Republicans can blame no one but themselves for this. The party has demonized the media in favor of conservative outlets which have objectively been found to be the worst at informing their viewers of the facts. It has been so bad that when Ted Cruz spoke up at a debate, demanding that journalists stop asking questions about the holes in candidate’s policy proposals, it played better than any statement ever measured at a Republican debate. Campaigns threatened to pull out of future debates over questions about sketchy math in tax proposals, or asking a candidate what they really believe when they have taken both sides of one issue. The message was clear; all future questions should play right into Donald Trump’s hand, and leave any substantive discussion aside, or the goose that is a presidential debate would stop laying golden eggs. The media disdain is so profound that nobody in the Republican base blinked when Trump mused that it would be a good idea to go after the freedom of the press. Now, because of the media bed conservatives made for themselves, all the media criticism of Trump falls on deaf ears; so much so that a former GOP presidential candidate felt it necessary to make an unprecedented speech against the current GOP presidential front runner.
  3. Romney articulated a near perfect argument against the threat of The Donald, but articulation means little against someone whose entire campaign is predicated on insults and hatred. Identifying the policy shortcomings of someone whose primary policy proposal is to make Mexico pay for a wall on the border is a hopeless endeavor. Policy does not appeal to the Trump voter; demagoguery does. It is not a coincidence that Trump was nowhere near the top of the polls until he called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers. For a brief time Ben Carson shot up into contention contention by disparaging Muslims, but the David Duke crowd of the Republican Party would never support a black candidate, so Trump never fell too far. After just a few days Trump one upped Carson, saying he would ban all Muslims. That played so well with his base that he went on to say he would not only kill terrorists, but their entire families also. Trump’s lead has never been in question since then. As convincing as Romney was, economics and public policy are Trumped by racism.

While comparisons between Hitler and Trump are a stretch (though not as far a stretch as we may like it to be) the lessons from history are bearing out in Trump. If enough anger, frustration, and racism can be channeled into an election, people are willing to give up their freedoms for a candidate. Despite seven years of conservative pundits warning us of this threat from President Obama, Americans still have their religion, their free speech, and their guns; Texas still exists after Jade Helm; the Muslim Brotherhood has not taken over the country; and the Constitution has not been disbanded. But before even becoming the party nominee, Trump has already taken aim at the First Amendment.

The rest of the world holds a stereotype of Americans that is personified by The Donald. Mitt Romney, the rest of the Republican party, and everyone in the world has every right to fear Donald Trump.

Despite little chance of him ever becoming president — it is likely both Clinton and Sanders would beat him easily — the reality that he was ever a viable option is a mistake history will not be kind to, nor should it. Trump was a cake baked by current conservative sentiments, with all the ingredients provided by the Republican Party. Noble as Romney’s attempt to scorch it in the oven may have been, it is more likely his speech is just the icing. Criticism from someone like Romney will likely reinforce, not dismantle, the base that has been built. Trump will likely head into Cleveland with a huge delegate lead, and, unless there is one unified push against him, the nomination. Sadly, “unity” has been noticeably absent from the GOP lexicon for years. And a conspiracy at convention to overthrow Trump, no matter how necessary, will only fracture it even more. Here’s to hoping Romney leads the charge anyway.