Friday, November 9, 2012

An open letter to Mitt Romney

Dear Governor Romney,

As a foreign observer who, like many outside of your country, followed this year’s presidential election with great trepidation, let me offer my condolences to you. I regret that you weren’t born 20 years earlier or 20 years later, because you came to power in a Republican party that wasn’t prepared to govern in any serious way. The result, as you saw on Tuesday, was that your country rejected your platform - and yourself, atop it. But don’t despair, for I do not necessarily think this has everything to do with you, Governor. It has to do with the politics of losing.
It’s been a long time since the GOP has seriously had to consider the ramifications of a loss that can’t blamed on a poor incumbent, like in 2008, 1992, and 1976. The last time the Republicans lost a presidential election where they didn’t have a weak current president to blame was 1996, and before that, 1964, so I imagine that you don’t feel great right now, Governor. And I’m going to be frank with you, Governor Romney: this is somewhat your fault, too. Not everything, but a bit, and I think we should start there.

You refused to stand up to your party. As Governor of Massachusetts, you didn’t always get it right, but you were willing to stand up, from time to time, to the Republicans in your state. In this election, and the previous one, you seemed more of a puppet doing whatever he was told he should do. Governor, I think you’re a smart man - indeed, you seem to be a very smart man, with a history of smart business and capability in his past, and you’re probably very aware that somewhere along the line you lied about what you truly believe. I have my suspicions as to what you believe on things like gay rights, abortion, taxes, and the like, but the problem is that I can’t put my finger on it. If you had wanted Americans to stand for you, I think you should have stood for something, even if you think a lot of people would disagree with it.

Governor Romney, you’re a politician and I understand that - but what makes me really sad is that your party forced you to go in a direction I don’t think you wanted to embrace. The three debates with President Obama showed a man who, when questioned under pressure, came back to the middle of the road, who’s centrist statements were quickly spun to the right by his aides and surrogates to explain away anything that might offend the delicate right-wing coalition currently dominating the Republicans. Perhaps you’d never have made it as far as you did in the primaries if you had stood for those things, much like Governor Huntsman of Utah did, but you also had greater expectations going in. Perhaps you would have, and I think it would have benefited you to try.

Finally, your brand in general was weighed down by the people who dominate it at lower levels. You chose Congressman Ryan as your Vice President. I don’t believe this was as damning as Senator McCain’s selection of Governor Palin, but it indicated to the world that you felt you would win the race on the right, not in the centre. Beyond Paul Ryan, you had to deal with some simply terrible candidates, like Mourdock, Akin, Walsh, et. al, not to mention those you primaried against, including Representative Bachmann and Speaker Gingrich, who said simply unexplainable things, bearing on your name. It was clear you weren’t welcome to cut people like this loose, Governor, and I know you cannot deny the will of the state primaries who nominate these candidates, but as the head of the ticket, you could have (and indeed, still can) use your influence to fight against those parts of the party. Imagine where the Republicans would be today if they hadn’t nominated Akin, Mourdock, Angle, or O’Connell? Imagine if the increasingly extreme views of the Tea Party hadn’t convinced Olympia Snowe to retire? Imagine if Governors Kasich, Scott, and Walker hadn’t mobilized the Democrats in 2010 and later? You may very well be President-Elect right now, rather than the defeated candidate.

I am not an American citizen, but I am a citizen of the world who believes a stable, economically viable United States is of the utmost importance for continued global peace and prosperity, and I think you should be challenged to stand up with those ideals. Prove to the world that Republicans can work alongside a President they opposed and that despite the bitterness of politics, despite any personal dislikes you might have of President Obama, his staff, or the people around him, you should find it within your character, a character that I find strength within from my foreign evaluation, to join the man, offer him the opposing point of view, and indeed, to bring your considerable, proven, strong organization and management abilities to the Government of the United States if you are asked to do so. Governor Romney, it seems you will not get a chance to do what only 43 men have done, and be President of the United States. A different path is open to you, perhaps one that only a brave and honourable man can truly take - to put aside quarrels and work for a greater, better world, and to set an example that any can follow.

If you think President Obama is, at all, a man you can work with, I encourage you to embrace any role the President offers you - be it cabinet, or a position in one of the executive offices, or an unofficial position. I also encourage you to bring this back to your party. Republicans are capable of providing valuable ideas when their brand isn’t thoroughly damaged by the people dominating the right, and when they aren’t trying to constantly obstruct. As a former nominee for the office of President, Governor, you have taken the role in your party similar to that taken by Jimmy Carter after his defeat to President Reagan - you have the ability to be an elder statesman, to direct the party forward.

Within the Republicans, you should look, honestly, at why you lost your election. You should look outside of the party’s usual sources of information for answers, though. I do not believe people like Karl Rove will give you good feedback, nor do I think the conservative media can answer it for you. Ask questions to people you wouldn’t usually ask, Governor. Empower someone to issue a report for you, someone from the other side (or someone who has no sides). But in your heart, I think you already know that you should have won this election from the centre, but the right pulled you away from it. In my view you are the object lesson as to why the Republicans must reject the Tea Party. You governed the most liberal state in the Union for four years, successfully, and as a result should have been a perfectly appealing candidate to Reagan Democrats. You weren’t, and it’s because your allies shouted unappealing phrases louder than you ever imagined. Encourage your party to excise their hatreds and embrace the new American demographics that President Obama used to defeat you, or the GOP may be left forever behind.

I wish you luck in your future endeavours, Governor Romney, whatever they may be, and I hope that you use your good name to create a Republican party that is more interested in co-operation and combining ideas than obstruction and dominance. You can choose to be a failed presidential candidate, or the man who helped save the Grand Old Party. I hope you choose wisely.

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