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Mitt Romney Is Not Your Friend

Mitt Romney and a host of anti-Trump Republicans are rebranding themselves. But don’t be fooled by the rhetoric — they still hate the poor and working class as much as ever.

Former governor Mitt Romney speaking at CPAC in Orlando, Florida, in 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore

In case you haven’t noticed, Mitt Romney has undergone a makeover.

He’s been spotted sparring with President Donald Trump, decrying corruption and abuses of power, and even at a Black Lives Matter protest. This is Romney 2.0, the statesman, the uniter.

But it’s worth remembering who Mitt Romney really is.

If Romney were elected in 2012, he would have pursued tax cuts and an economic policy similar to Trump’s. He complained to wealthy donors about 47 percent of Americans who “are dependent upon government” — who have the temerity to believe that the government should provide “health care,” “food,” and “housing.” He complained about those who paid no federal income taxes, and he wasn’t talking about Amazon or other profitable corporations.

Romney would have appointed justices to the Supreme Court that would have pursued the same conservative agenda as Brett Kavanaugh.

Romney would, of course, be less likely to get on Twitter and engage in insane racist diatribes, but in that 2012 election, he not only waged class war on behalf of the rich, he talked about creating an environment in which life in America became so intolerable for immigrants they would engage in “self-deportation.”

A few righteous positions eight years later doesn’t change that, nor has he apologized for his part in a decades-long offensive on working people.

Yet a coterie of Never Trumpers and a few liberal fellow travelers think that it’s time we say “I’m sorry” to the Utah senator.

Jonah Goldberg wrote in his syndicated column last week that those who opposed Romney’s presidential ambitions now owe him an apology. According to Goldberg, our punishment for aggressively opposing Romney, a sensible Republican, was the election of Donald Trump. One could look at this column as yet another piece of absurdity from Goldberg, who previously penned a book claiming fascism was a historically liberal ideology — except something deeper is taking root.

Centrist mythology would like us to believe that Trump’s ideology is an aberration, and that if only it is defeated, we can all go back to our nice, normal republic.

The Never Trump Republicans, including Mitt Romney, opposed every attempt to make our health care system more humane at the federal level. They are, for the most part, climate deniers who challenge the most basic of action to confront an existential threat to our planet. They fight any and all Pentagon cuts while trying to starve existing limited social programs. And they would like to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade and continue to shift wealth and power to large corporations.

Romney is not alone. Rick Wilson, head of the Lincoln Project, a group of Never Trump Republicans whose ads have received millions of views on YouTube and earned a place in the cable news highlight reels, has a track record of statements that are . . . Trumpian. In 2008, he declared that Barack Obama could not have “authentic black image” and “keep all his safe, suburban Obamacans in line” as he declared he would “eat . . . up like cake” race-baiting attacks revolving around Reverend Jeremiah Wright. This was prior to 2014, when he referred to President Obama as a “simpering emo kid.”

Trump is cruder, mentally deranged, and more corrupt than your average Republican politican. But what he represents from an ideological perspective is simply the id of conservatism.

The threat Donald Trump poses to these Never Trumpers is often that he exposes the fundamental result of their ideology, refusing to let them hide behind platitudes and poll-tested niceties.

Many of these same Never Trumpers were happy enough during the Obama years to cheer on the excesses of the Tea Party and Fox News when they were in support of Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney. And they would be happily supporting a parade of horrors in the name of a Jeb Bush administration.

There will be those liberals who say, “So what?” The enemy of my enemy can at least be my ally. The fight against Trump is existential and therefore should not turn away potential transpartisan partnership. But the fact is the support of Never Trumpers is not free.

In 1997, conservatives created the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project with the express intent on naming three thousand public spaces, beginning with Washington National Airport, after the fortieth president. The goal was to put a nonpartisan sheen on Reagan and his conservative ideology. In Grover Norquist’s words, “The big goal is to generate 100,000 conversations where parents talk to their kids, neighbors talk to each other as they fly into Reagan airport, and the kid says, ‘Who is Reagan?’”

Goldberg’s request that liberals apologize to Romney for campaigning against him is a similar form of ideological warfare. With the DC media’s tendency to fetishize bipartisanship, the ultimate goal following his administration is to separate the sins of Trump from the broader conservative movement that, while they like to believe that they comport themselves with a different temperament, for the most part shares the same ideology.

What’s more, these Never Trumpers are media savvy enough to inflate their importance and insert themselves into the policy formulations of the Joe Biden administration. They will insist their support was critical to victory in 2020 and will therefore hold it above any attempt by the Biden White House to produce progressive policy as a threat as Democrats look toward 2024. It will become a centrist excuse for inaction and worse on crucial issues.

Leftists understand that Mitt Romney, Jonah Goldberg, and the Lincoln Project are our ideological enemies. It’s time liberals do the same.