The Romney machine is rolling now. After barely surviving that eight-vote squeaker in Iowa, the Mittster rebounded by throttling the competition in New Hampshire. The man with the granite jaw won the Granite State with a convincing 40 percent of the vote — equal to second- and third-place finishers Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman combined.
Sure, Ron Paul won the independent vote, while Huntsman snagged the “anti-Tea Party” vote. But the Romney campaign gained an aura of inevitability with the whopping 17-point margin of victory last night. It would take an act of God or a gaffe of Herman Cain proportions to keep him from wrapping up the GOP nomination now. And Romney just isn’t the gaffe-prone type.
He’s not perfect, of course — despite all the evidence to the contrary. The Republican front-runner can flip-flop like a Clinton if it’s to his advantage. He can be testy with his inquisitors in the press and even the public. With all his millions, you’d think he could afford a more convincing dye job. But these aren’t exactly fatal flaws.
In fact, Romney could probably benefit from revealing his fallible human side now and then. His appearance of flawlessness is probably his greatest liability. He seems artificial, bloodless, programmed — our first cybercandidate.
Just as a shark is essentially an eating machine, Romney comes across as a winning machine. His smile, though engaging enough when he decides to flash it, seems automatic and unconvincing. The man lives to clinch. That’s how he’s constructed: to clinch deals, money, victories, success.
Romney is almost a caricature of the lean-and-mean alpha male. One can’t imagine such a straight arrow relaxing in front of the TV for a W. C. Fields movie marathon, or reading Dickens for pleasure. Can you picture him as a college student, stretched out on the rug with his friends, growing giddy from a silly conversation or a whiff of weed? I can’t, either. No, it hardly seems possible that Mitt lived through the 1960s with the rest of us Boomers. But here he is anyway.
So why (you might ask) am I bashing the most moderate and least ideology-bound candidate on the Republican roster? Shouldn’t I be grateful that one of the kooks from the rabid right didn’t grab the golden ring?
Good questions, both of them. To answer the second question first — yes, it would have been more worrisome to see a fringe candidate start piling up the victories. At least we know the Tea Party won’t be choosing the next president. But that leads me back to the first question: shouldn’t we be relieved that the Republicans will soon be entrusting their party’s fortunes to a moderate?
In Romney’s case, we should probably put boldface quotes around the word “moderate.“ (There, I just did.) Mitt gives the appearance of being a moderate, but that’s only because he’s an utter pragmatist. He focuses on what works, which isn’t necessarily a fault — especially at a time when nothing seems to work. But mere pragmatism overlooks the more important issue of what’s right. A good moderate should operate upon a solid foundation of principles — the most important of which is to strive for a fair and appropriate balance between the rights of the successful and the needs of everyone else.
The times call for a leader who can empathize with a middle class whose fortunes have dwindled and whose optimism has been crushed. Is Mitt Romney that leader? Can a man who made a fortune deconstructing and remodeling companies for profit identify with the individual Joes and Janes who worked for those companies?
The Tea Partiers, for all their arrogance and borderline lunacy, at least recognized that Americans are growing furious with the unsavory alliance between government and big money. Will Romney, whose “SuperPAC” raised gargantuan quantities of campaign cash, be the man to break that alliance if he makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
Don’t bet on it.
What’s sad is that President Obama — elected over three years ago as a savior of the people — won’t break that alliance, either. Regardless of who wins the 2012 presidential race, we’re destined to be stuck with government-as-usual — at least until 2017. Lobbyists, Wall Street, big corporations and career politicians can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Third party, anyone?