Our illustrious and caffeinated leader, Shane Vander Hart, has correctly pointed out that Mitt Romney appears to be ready for a lurch to the left. But I say, who can blame him? In 2008, Romney tried to cater to social conservatives and where did it get him? He lost to Mike Huckabee by a large margin in Iowa, and went on to finish third. This time around, he moved to the center of the GOP, barely lost Iowa (34 votes!), then fended off or outlasted many conservatives and is now running away with the delegate count. Since the New Hampshire Primary, he has only had to look back at chasers, never ahead to another front-runner. In other words, since he will have won the GOP nomination without conservatives, why should he change strategies when there are fewer conservatives by percentage in the general electorate than in the primaries? It is not gonna happen.
There are two possible explanations for Romney’s success:
1. Conservatives don’t make up as great percentage of the GOP as we thought.
2. “Conservatives” aren’t really that conservative.
I think principled social conservatives actually make up a minority of the Republican party. Winning the nomination is not proof enough that our numbers are small, for I grant that social conservatives did not coalesce around a single alternative to Romney, but there is no guarantee Santorum, for example, would win even in a two-man race from the start. Romney has won nearly half the delegates even though the party is supposedly conservative. This “split-vote” theory also doesn’t tell us why conservatives are now gathering around Romney so quickly, not even playing hard to get.
Many of them have admitted that he is “not the best candidate”, but a few have pledged to no longer speak of his flaws for the sake of beating Obama. Soon they will be touting him as the next Ronald Reagan, even as he will continue to move to the left, especially on abortion and the protection of marriage. And those without moorings and without Christ at their helm will continue to drift leftward, right along with him.
In my book, With Christ in the Voting Booth, I lament the advance of Libertarian social philosophy on the Republican party and wrote:
“Are we so desperate for conservative icons and economic freedom that we don’t care what poison we have to accept in the mixture?” (p. 84)