“I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” Mitt Romney told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2012.
Really, who says such a thing? The answer: The same kind of person who says, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” The same kind of person who says, “We’re the party of people who want to get rich.” The same kind of person who says, “Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect…. So my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
These appear to be the words of somebody who doesn’t understand American conservatism and its relationship to the American idea. Conservatives don’t believe in economic determinism. Conservatives know–and explain why–their economic policies will help the poor, as well as senior citizens, working families, and our troops who pay no income taxes. Conservatives realize that the Republican party is not the party of people who want to be rich, it’s the party of people who want to be free.
The reason such remarks keep slipping out of Mitt Romney’s mouth is not that Romney wants to wage a class war against lower-income Americans. The likely problem is that Mitt Romney is not a conservative–or at least wasn’t a conservative until late in life–but he is running for president as the nominee of the conservative party on a conservative platform. So he has trouble defending conservative ideas. And when he sells himself to conservatives, he sometimes comes across as a right-wing caricature.