It turns out Mitt Romney’s personal hero, his father, George Romney, was the kind of Republican that doesn’t exist anymore: a liberal.
(We learned this reading The Real Romney, a deeply reported and informative book by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. You should read if want to know about the guy whom half the country wants to be our next president. Pre-order the up-coming, updated, paperback version here. Or buy the Kindle edition.)
George Romney was elected three times to be Michigan’s Republican governor. He ran for President as a Republican. He served in Richard Nixon’s cabinet. Why do we say George Romney he was a liberal?
Kranish and Helman sum it up nicely in a few sentences…
He charged out of the 1964 Republican National Convention over the party’s foot-dragging on civil rights. He ensured the end of his presidential hopes in 1968 with an honest outburst about Vietnam. And he infuriated Richard Nixon while serving in Nixon’s cabinet, by pushing hard on behalf of racially integrated housing, a cause dear to his heart.
But here’s a few more things George Romney did and believed that no Republican candidate would be allowed to in this day and age…
He demanded fuel efficiency. According to Kranish and Helman, Romney turned around American Motors producing “a fuel-efficient car, predicting that Americans would choose it over the ‘gas-guzzling dinosaurs’ produced by larger automakers.”
He raised taxes. Elected three times, Kranish and Helman say Romney “eventually gained enough clout to win passage of the state’s first income tax.” Grover Norquist, who makes all Republican candidates sign a pledge to never raise taxes, wouldn’t be happy about that.
He pushed for mandated racial integration. George Romney was known for saying things like: “We’ve got to put an end to the idea of moving to suburban areas and living only among people of the same economic and social class.” Kranish and Helman say Romney’s push for integrated housing cost his wife, Lenore, her shot at a senate seat in 1970.
He was anti-states rights. Many Republicans in the 1960s opposed civil rights legislation on the grounds of states rights. George Romney didn’t buy it. He said, “As far as I am concerned, states have no rights. Only people have rights . . . obstructionism masquerading as states’ rights is the height of folly.”
He was anti-war. After initially supporting the Vietnam War after visiting the country and American military leaders, Romney eventually changed his mind about the cause. He said:
“When I came back from Vietnam, I had just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get. Not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there. They do a very thorough job. Since returning from Vietnam, I’ve gone into the history of Vietnam all the way back into World War II and before. And, as a result, I have changed my mind in that particular. I no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia . . . and I’ve indicated that it was tragic that we became involved in the conflict.”
The conservative base of the Republican party is not excited about Mitt Romney’s campaign. Maybe its because those people don’t like how Romney once supported gay rights, opposed abstinence-only sex education, supported liberal abortion laws, and passed Romneycare. Or maybe it’s because those people, older veterans of the culture wars, have a long memory.
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