Monday, February 11, 2008

Where does Romney go from here?

Bryan at Hot Air has some good recommendations:

But we also shouldn’t drown ourselves in sorrow and settle for less for all time. We have to settle for less this year, but I mean for the future, we shouldn’t just assume that crossover acts like McCain will own the party forever. They won’t, unless we let them, and the end states of two triangulators in a row — Clinton and Bush 43 — show that while such politics may benefit those who practice them, they tend to destroy political parties and movements. The next successful conservative movement president, the next Reagan if there is to be one, won’t be a triangulator. So where and how can Mitt Romney figure into all of this?

The good news for him is that he has a few years in which the conservative mantle is up for grabs. No one owns it or has earned it. It could be his if he chooses to earn it. Reagan changed his positions on some issues over time, so it’s not the case that an honest change of mind is permanent political poison. It’s not. But Romney has to prove that where he is now is where he will always be and that he’s a studied and worthy leader.

Depending on the outcome this fall, Romney either has 4 or 8 years to prove that he is in his ideological home for good. To do that, we’ll need to hear from him through the years. Reagan didn’t go away after 1976. He stayed active and kept ready for 1980.

He can and probably will hold summits with fellow conservatives, maybe his own version of Restoration Weekend or even a kind of CPAC, but he should also stay active in events and groups like that that already exist.

As a late convert to the conservative cause, he may be in the best position of any prominent Republican to make the case that conservative ideas on national security and the jihadist threat, sound economics and conservative social policies are the way to go. Converts are more likely than lifelong believers to become zealots and advocates in the best sense, by exuding the passion and explaining the ideas that persuaded them to switch. Ronald Reagan, whom we all regard as the uber Republican now, started out his political life as a Democrat. He became the most effective Republican against Democrats, in part because he loved conservative ideas, and in part because he could explain those idea better than anyone else, and in part because as a former Democrat Reagan knew what made them tick. He might not have won in 1980 without the “Reagan Democrats,” and he certainly wouldn’t have been as effective without peeling natural conservatives away from the increasingly leftist Democrat party.

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