I recently saw a fascinating commentary where a right-wing pundit, while discussing the purported strengths of Mitt Romney, indicated that Romney had no strongly held beliefs. He went on to say that contrary to other candidates who have been described as flip-floppers, Romney did not change from one strong view to another strong view. He never had a strong view in the beginning.
My mouth dropped. I could not believe that this right-winger was trying to portray the fact that Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, essentially believed in nothing – this was a good thing. This has turned the Republican primary race, which had been described as a "circle of clowns," into a stand-up comedy routine. Can they possibly be serious that the candidacy of someone who believes in nothing should be supported by the electorate?
On one level, this should not surprise any of us. Romney has been lusting for the nomination and clearly has been willing to say or do anything in order to secure it. This has to be linked with the manner in which both ignorance and irrationality are being celebrated by the Republican Party's staunchest supporters. Attacks on President Obama for suggesting that it would be great for U.S. children to attend college matched with continual denial of climate change (have you checked the weather recently?) all points toward an enhanced cynicism that has entered the electoral realm.
Political leaders, particularly on the right, will appeal to the worst instincts within the electorate and play on fears or prejudices in order to win. And if that means shifting one's opinions, so be it. It just helps, I suppose, when shifting one's opinion is not particularly painful since one's original ideas were not that important in the first place.
The November elections hold many potential perils. Disappointment with what Obama has not done disagreement with some of what his administration has done, and unease over our economic situations, all of which could lead many voters who would otherwise vote in a liberal or progressive direction to sit out the election. This could mean not only that someone as vacuous as Romney could be elected, but in some ways, more importantly, it could mean that very bad and bankrupt right-wing politicians at the Congressional and local levels could also win. For this reason, while you may be tempted to laugh at Romney and his emptiness, you do so at your own peril.
While I am certainly one who has had significant disagreements with the Obama administration, the question I keep asking is: What would a Romney administration look like? I am not as comfortable as former President Jimmy Carter who recently suggested that he could be content with a Romney presidency. It seems to me that a rich man who has no significant or strongly held views is the equivalent of a cartoon character. In this case a cartoon character waiting for someone from corporate America to prepare his script. We have too much to lose to let that happen.