Walter Russell Mead pinpoints why Mitt Romney’s performance last night was a good one and, simultaneously, why I’m uneasy about a Romney presidency:
This was not just about optics. Romney chose last night as his moment to shift toward this high center ground in American politics. He is not an austerity president or a penny pincher where causes dear to Jacksonian hearts are involved. He wants to be an education president and hopes we hire lots of new teachers, he incorporated his Massachusetts health care plan into his narrative and attacked Dodd-Frank from the left as a sell-out to big banks — and an assault on the right of Americans to get cheap mortgages. He pledged to make sure the share of the tax load paid by the rich would not decrease on his watch and he promised no tax cuts that would increase the deficit. This may not be libertarian, small government orthodoxy, but it is mainstream Jacksonianism. Romney is attempting to brand himself as a red-blooded American rather than as a doctrinaire conservative in the race. He wants to run against Barack Obama like John Wayne versus Barney Fife — or Ronald Reagan versus Jimmy Carter.
It was a shift; his enemies might well call it a flip flop. It was also well timed and well calibrated; the right of his party has been mollified by the Paul Ryan selection and now in the heat of the race, GOP conservatives will stand by their man. The Republicans want to win, and they will applaud Romney’s ingenuity rather than complain about his doctrinal deviations as he embraces the pro-defense, pro-middle class, anti-elite rhetoric of Jacksonian democracy.
Today’s Wilsonians are either neo-conservatives, intent on bringing democracy to benighted countries at the point of a gun, or, if of the left, armed with even greater weapons of mass destruction—educating women and birth control. Today’s Hamiltonians, optimistic realists and mostly business-oriented, undoubtedly consider Mitt Romney one of their own.
What few Jeffersonians there are today have largely been without influence in the national discourse for a generation or more. Jacksonians, ironically and of somewhat different stripes, form the backbone of both political parties. If Mitt Romney is trying to position himself as a Jacksonian, it’s a shrewd move.