One of the more galling facets of the 2012 Presidential campaign was watching Mitt Romney taking flak from the social right, the Rick Santorum crowd, on having been marginally impure on social issues, while at the same time getting beaten up from the fiscal purists (egged on by the left) for Romneycare, and the Libertarians for having been insufficiently pro-Liberty, whatever that meant.
Of course, the key difference was that Mitt Romney had been in office, governor of not only a large state, but a toxically left-leaning one, in which he had few legislative allies. To get anything useful done as governor of Massachusetts – and he did – he had to compromise. “Romneycare”, bad as it may be, was a better compromise than what the Massachusetts Democrats would have spawned.
The lesson, of course, is that rock-solid principle is easy, when your job never involves having to engage on a daily basis with your opponents to get anything done. US Congresspeople do that only on the most symbolic and ritual level.
Governors? It’s part of their daily job.
And so while the likes of Govenors Romney, Pawlenty, Walker and others may have great black marks against them in the great book of princples in the sky, those marks are given by people who’ve never had to negotiate with a recalcitrant state employee union, or horse-trade with a hostile legislative majority.
Fact is – as I say all the time – politics is a marathon, not a sprint. Things get done over time, not overnight. It’s work for the obsessively patient.
Society get changed not by the people who have the coolest slogan – “Repeal Now!” or “War on Womyn!” or “TRU LBRT!” or whatever it is that sends a tingle up one’s true believers’ legs – but by the people who not only show up, but keep showing up.
Which is Kevin Williamson’s point in this NRO piece, which you should read in its entirety, and which concludes:
The Democrats did not build the welfare state all at once in 1965, and Republicans didn’t have an honest shot at repealing it all at once in 1995. Everybody has a big plan, and Washington is full of magic bullets: leash the Fed, enact the Fair Tax, seal the borders. But what’s needed — what might actually result in a stronger American order — is a thirty years’ war of attrition against the welfare state and entrenched incompetency. Federal crimes and misdemeanors ranging from the IRS scandal to the fumbling response to Ebola suggest very strongly that we have management and oversight problems as well as ideological ones, but holding oversight hearings long after (one hopes) Ebola is out of domestic headlines provides very little juice for a presidential candidate facing a restive base all hopped up on Hannity. Being the guy who gets up and demands the repeal of Obamacare might get you elected president; being the guy who fixes the damned thing simply makes you a target for talk-radio guys who have never run for nor held an elected office but who will nonetheless micturate upon your efforts from a great height.
Everybody wants to run for president. But somebody has to save the country.
Read the whole thing.
And hold the sloganeering.