I admit it. I underestimated Mitt Romney.
Knowing that Republican businessmen Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush were the worst presidents of the last century, I was pleased when the personification of America’s hubristic financial sector shambled through the last year as the worst national candidate I’d seen in my lifetime.
Mitt mocked his base, alienated allies and picked a running mate who was only famous for his desire to turn Medicare into an episode of Extreme Couponing. His policies grew increasingly extreme and repulsive, and his convention was an inside joke that nobody but people who would vote for him no matter what got.
Then, after confirming every bias America has against bumbling plutocrats for months and months, Mitt Romney’s first debate performance was remarkable in its disregard for facts.
In a fury of words and indignation, Romney used lies and half-truths to present himself as a moderate father figure who understands the economy and cares about families.
It was a strategic wonder. In one night, the one-term governor of Massachusetts turned a year of seeming unelectability into an asset, casting doubt not only on the president, but the media that had reported his constant blunders as… constant blunders.
Romney shot up in the polls, making the race a dead heat nationally, though the president still maintains slim leads in his “firewall states” Ohio, Iowa and Nevada.
But then in the second debate, America got a more honest glance at Mitt Romney.
After he blamed gun violence on single mothers, and after he said he’d actively sought “binders full of women” that were actually brought to him unrequested, Romney said something about women so remarkably out of touch and archaic that I was shocked my TV didn’t suddenly turn black and white:
“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible.”
Forget that this was a question about equal pay for women. Forget that Romney never said what he’d do to improve the pay inequity women suffer and still hasn’t said if he would have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which makes significant strides in giving women the right to sue when they’ve been paid unfairly. Forget all that.
Mitt Romney didn’t even accept that women in the workplace are a foregone conclusion. Maybe this is because he didn’t have any female partners at Bain Capital, an issue Ted Kennedy hammered him on in their race for the Senate in 1994. Or maybe being able to afford the luxury of his wife never having needed to work has clouded his perspective, the same way that being able to have his blind trust front his son $10 million has clouded his view of college affordability.
After stewing over what I saw as the most offensive answer to a debate question not spoken by Todd Akin for days, I was amazed to find that women didn’t seem to be offended as I was. Women are the key demographic fueling Romney’s rise—despite the fact that he’s further to the right on choice and women’s health than George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. And I don’t get it.
In too many ways and on too many issues, Mitt Romney wants this country to give up the progress we’ve made.
On taxes and military policy, he wants to take us back to the worst of George W. Bush. It’s not that Mitt hired the guys who advised George W. Bush. It’s that they’re giving him the SAME EXACT ideas they gave Bush. Their theories boil down to: Tax cuts and wars always pay for themselves. And if they don’t pay for themselves? What a perfect excuse to start cutting things that help working families.
On women’s issues, Mitt’s vision of a workplace that may not have women belongs in the 50s. His desire to defund Planned Parenthood and let employers decide if a women’s insurance covers birth control is straight out of the early 60s—before women were able to function with the same freedom and opportunity as men. Mitt’s desire to overturn Roe v. Wade brings us back to the early 70s, when poor women needlessly died from illegal abortions. And his unwillingness to take a stand on equal pay brings us back to before the Obama administration, when the right for women to receive equal compensation for equal work was not protected by the law.
“We should not be fighting about equal pay in 2012,” Elizabeth Warren said at recent debate with her opponent Scott Brown (R-MA). “This was an issue that was settled years ago, until the Republicans brought it back.”
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to vote Republican. If Mitt Romney is allowed to erase his record, you can be sure that all the issues we thought had been settled years ago will be back to haunt us.
Photo credit: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci