Mitt Romney might have been a victim of D.C. gridlock, too

Updated: 2014-02-03T23:08:43Z


The Kansas City Star

Over the weekend, I watched “Mitt,” the new behind-the-scenes documentary about Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. It’s pretty good.

The reaction to the movie has been pretty interesting, too. Republicans say the documentary humanizes the candidate — we see him with his grandkids, picking up trash in a hotel room, sleeping on the floor of a rental car.

Had we seen more of this side of Romney, they argue, he might have beaten Barack Obama.

Well, maybe. Voters know an awful lot about presidential candidates these days, so it’s difficult to believe family man Romney would have performed markedly better than populist Romney or businessman Romney.

But as a fun thought experiment, let’s assume voters had liked human Mitt enough to elect him in 2012. Would the state of the nation be much different from what it is today?

President Romney would have proposed repealing Obamacare. He would have offered a tax cut, probably. Maybe he would have added troops in Afghanistan.

But it isn’t clear that any of Romney’s proposals would have had a chance of becoming law. In fact, there are lots of reasons to believe he wouldn’t have been any better at dissolving Washington gridlock than Obama has been.

The fantasy of a President Romney — a fantasy implicitly endorsed in the new film — is that Democrats would somehow have been willing to accept GOP policy views after the election. Yet the last five years teaches the opposite lesson: The job of the out-of-power party is to fight everything, reject compromise and stand for principle, not politics.

Had Romney won, that lesson would have been reinforced.

Republican leaders met on inauguration night in 2009 to discuss unceasing opposition to all things Obama. Had Romney taken the oath of office, Democrats probably would have held a similar session on Jan. 20, 2013.

The only way back to the White House, they would have concluded, is to fight the guy who’s in it.

Breaking this cycle of dysfunctional bad faith will be extraordinarily hard. It’s possible, of course. Bob Dylan appeared in a car commercial Sunday, so anything can happen.

But it isn’t likely until all sides agree the damage is too great. And there’s little evidence policymakers are at that point.

Republicans are critical of Obama for relying on executive orders this year. If they win the White House in 2016, though, they may reach the decision he has — unilateral action is preferable to stalemate.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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