Nice piece on George Romney in the Post yesterday that, more than anything, was a dramatic illustration of just how far to the right the Republican party has moved (and no the Democratic party has not moved left by anything near the equivalent amount). I was listening to something last week (can’t remember, a podcast, NPR?) and it was mentioned that, of course, George Romney simply would not be a Republican today. Here’s a little bit about a man who was running for the Republican nomination in 1964:
George Romney inhabited a different world. His executive career took place within a single company, American Motors Corp. There, his success rested on the pursuit of more fuel-efficient cars to compete with the gas-guzzling “dinosaurs” (in Romney’s words) of AMC’s larger competitors. Like Bain, AMC was emblematic of its time. Rooted in the industrial Midwest, its corporate philosophy recognized the connections among workers, managers, shareholders and communities. Romney the elder dismissed the “rugged individualism” touted by conservatives as “nothing but a political banner to cover up greed.” [emphasis mine] Entrepreneurship was vital, but prosperity was not an individual product; it was generated within a community, through bargaining and compromises…
But the elder Romney also saw government as a powerful tool for generating broad-based prosperity. Elected governor in 1962 after helping lead a commission that updated Michigan’s Constitution to reduce gridlock, he broke with conservative Republicans and worked across party lines to establish a minimum wage, introduce the income tax, grant collective bargaining rights to public employees, significantly increase state education spending and develop more generous programs for the poor and the unemployed.
Ah, George, where are you now? Of course, politicians like George Romney are still out there– we call them moderate or “business-friendly” Democrats. And, as for today’s Republican party:
The biggest reason that the bipartisan political world of George Romney has vanished is the long-term movement of the Republican Party to the right.
The legacies are everywhere. When a prominent GOP senator describes President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package as the worst economic legislation since the creation of the income tax; when every Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney, scorns a budget deal with a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases; when the Republican House leader channelsAyn Rand in declaring that America’s “job creators are on strike”; when Romney dismisses concerns about growing inequality and the behavior of Wall Street as “envy”; the distance between contemporary Republican ideals and the vision of George Romney becomes plain.
Then again, it is entirely possible that, like George Romney, I am just an envious socialist who wants to punish rich people.