2012 is a long ways away, but that hasn’t stopped speculators from gaming the Presidential race on the Republican side, where there is no definitive frontrunner.  Partly what makes the Republican party so intriguing these days is the lack of ideological unity on the one hand, and a lack of a defining on the other.

And by ‘intriguing’ I mean a mess.  Like a train wreck.

And I simply Can’t. Stop. Staring.

Of course, one of the surest signs that someone is thinking about a run for the president is that they publish a book. Mike Huckabee has his, as does (of course) Sarah Palin.

The latest Republican presidential wannabe (he’s not saying it, but we all know it) to publish a book is Mitt Romney.  And apparently, he’s reinventing himself.  Again.

Or rather, getting back to the real Mitt.  Which is, apparently, the Mitt that doesn’t care about social issues after all.

As a result, the new Romney is now de-emphasizing social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and illegal immigration. He has made no public comment, for instance, about last week’s announcement that top military leaders intend to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, has scrupulously avoided association with the Tea Party movement, and has refrained from backing conservatives that other presidential hopefuls have endorsed, such as Doug Hoffman in New York or Marco Rubio in Florida.

And:

Interestingly, this latest incarnation is probably the closest we have seen to the “real” Mitt Romney — who close observers believe doesn’t care much about social issues, isn’t very ideological, and revels in applying management skills to large organizations to help them achieve their goals and functions.

Several Republicans, including some who know Romney well, say that, if he runs in 2012, it will be much more as his true self than what he presented in 2008.

But some of those same people concede that, as a political strategy, there are two big potential hazards to “letting Mitt be Mitt.” First, Romney’s previous reinventions — as a fairly liberal US Senate candidate, a moderate gubernatorial candidate, and then as a conservative presidential candidate — have already strained his credibility beyond the breaking point. Any further change — even to become the real, authentic Romney — will be viewed with suspicion, if not derision.

The quotes around “real” are not mine, though I’d feel impelled to put them there too.  I try hard to avoid cynicism, especially in politics.  But in this case, it seems unavoidable.

Here’s my point:  the distrust between social conservatives and Mitt Romney was real, but it was not–as even the article points out–about religion.

It was precisely because of this problem, namely, Romney has so bought into the media age that he feels obligated to follow whatever way the wind is blowing simply to get elected.  Say what you want about Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin–and plenty could be said–but at the end of the day, they haven’t adjusted themselves to the prevailing political winds, even when those winds turned against them.  Huckabee still talks like a Southern Baptist preacher because he was one, and he hasn’t changed that even though it cost him the nomination (with the media, at least–the ground game is a separate issue).

I don’t know who I’m going to support in 2010, and I could still end up supporting Romney.  But a candid and thorough admission that and how he fabricated his political identity would go a long ways toward helping me believe that Mitt Romney 2010 is actually the Mitt Romney his wife and children know.

But the irony is that it may be too late.  Romney’s identity as “Mr. Fix It” is compelling only as long as the perception remains that the economy is broken.  But before he gets there, “Mr. Fix It” needs to turn his attention to the cynicism and distrust this latest iteration will inevitably reinforce.

And that may prove his toughest task to date.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

0 Comments

  1. yeah it should have been an "R" rating I do HOPE by the grace of the tw-gods that Bel Ami is an "R" rated movie!

    This comment was originally posted on Eclipse Movie

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  2. I cannot stand Mitt Romney. Palin is manipulating populist outrage to her political benefit. Of the three politicians mentioned, Huckabee is the only one for whom I have some slight respect.

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  3. Romney’s “Mr. Fix-It” reputation could be easy fodder, though. It was, at least in part, Romney’s failed health care system in Massachusetts that helped turn that state against Obama’s health care system, electing a Republican to the US Senate. Romney’s record, outside of Wall Street, is full of holes, flip flops, and failures. He might have the money to overcome that, but I doubt it.

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  4. I think some people are amazed and do not understand how a person can reinvent themselves and not suffer moral qualms about it or even be embarrassed about it.

    Romney believes and belongs to a church that has had to reinvent itself several times in order to survive.

    I can think of 2 and one half major reinventions that his church has done to survive.

    First and foremost was ditching the eternal principle of achieving an earthly celestial marriage necessary for salvation (Polygamy). The church is now quite diligent at exommunicating anyone found practicing polygamy even though it is still in the scriptures.

    Secondly all the racism necessary to believe that blacks were not worthy to hold the priesthood evaporated overnight when this ban was overturned due to intense political pressure. In the course of one day people went from believing that blacks were inferior to now let us bring as many of these precious souls into the church.

    The next principle that is beginning to fall is the belief that the American Indians were descendants of Jewish immigrants to the Americas over a period of hundreds of years. (DNA does not support this)

    Romney is a pragmatist. He is comfortable with the need to change as needed; just like his church.

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  5. […] Mere Orthodoxy: Romney Reinventing Himself… Again […]

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  6. Hmmm… I might agree with you Matt, but I might not. I definitely don’t agree with the article you quoted from. At least admit this: that article was a hit piece, and not even a clever one.

    1. the only actual evidence that Mitt is going soft on family-values stuff is his failure to comment on DADT which, if I’m not mistaken, is now a done deal. I don’t support homosexuals in the military, and would prefer DADT to stay, but there isn’t a fight to be had there. Plus, NOBODY is commenting publicly on this topic because nobody knows what to do. Maybe Huckabee said something but I didn’t hear about it, Newt hasn’t said anything about it, etc. Construing from silence that someone is re-inventing himself seems a bit of a stretch.

    2. “Several republicans say” that MItt is going to run as his “true self”? Seriously? This is just ridiculous. If I cite several sources from “inside Biola” (which I could) that Mitt is going to run as the “real Mitt” and embrace the pro-life, pro-family, pro-Christian, candidate I still haven’t proven anything about the actual guy.

    3. I know that it’s hard for lots of people to trust a Mormon – fine, I get that. But voting for a politician is not like voting for a new senior pastor. In Church you vote for the best person God has called to be your leader. In politics you vote for the least-bad person who has presented themselves to be your Federal President. America could do a lot worse than electing an old-fashioned, Kinkade loving, stays home on Monday night and eats boring desserts with his family, Mormon guy. But I digress…

    p.s. backing Rubio might is only a good idea if you support him. Maybe Romney like Charlie Crist – I have several conservative friends that worked for the guy and love him. Right now if Romney came out in support of Rubio I would take that as “caving” to the chattering masses. But even so, this wouldn’t show that Romney is trying to “re-invent”” himself, it would just show that he supports 1 of 2 fairly strong Republican candidates for Senate.

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    1. Christof,

      These are all good points in response. But I would say that Mitt’s history of making politically calculated moves and the direction and tenor of his new book make me think there’s more to the report than you clearly do.

      Besides, Mitt has stayed out of the health care debate entirely (for obvious reasons), but he could have won himself some points by driving home the pro-life position on it. But he’s stayed out of that completely, contra….Sarah Palin. I’m no Palinista, but the difference between her (and Huck!) and Romney on that issue is pretty stark.

      But the Mormon point is besides the point, I think. Regardless of his religion, it’s pretty clear he’s making a calculated move to try to win the White House. I will say that I talked with a friend who is deep in the Democratic party and he said they are salivating over a Romney presidency as they’ll be able to “John Kerry” him without any problems. This latest version (are we on 3.0?) will do nothing to help him avoid that.

      Matt

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