E.J. Dionne makes the excellent case that Rick Santorum’s reckless social extremism is giving Mitt Romney cover for Romney’s own (even worse) reckless economic extremism. Just because Romney isn’t running around spouting brimstone doesn’t mean he’s any less dangerous for the country, either.
And the candidate who says that he’ll eliminate the deficit does not let on, as a new Tax Policy Center report noted Wednesday, that his tax giveaway would add more than $3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Romney talks vaguely about closing loopholes to recoup some revenue, but aren’t “moderates” supposed to see deficit reduction as urgent?
There is a terrible bias in the mainstream media that judges “moderation” almost entirely in relation to positions on social issues such as abortion or gay marriage. The media love these issues because they often involve sex, which everyone likes to read about, and do not demand elaborate explanations, charts or tables.
Go right on social issues, and the extremist charge can’t be far behind. But the media rarely peg an extreme economic conservative as “extreme” because doing so requires tedious math-laden paragraphs. Besides, people in pinstriped suits who are driven by money don’t seem “extreme.”
So here’s a counterintuitive argument: These primaries have damaged the Republican candidates’ images in the short run. But in the long run, they may yet help Romney — if he prevails — because by comparison with Santorum and Newt Gingrich, he seems “moderate,” and his supporters are more “moderate” than the voters backing the other guys. And Romney has been on so many sides of so many issues that pundits can arbitrarily imagine their own Romney.
Shorter E.J.: If it takes more than 140 characters and doesn’t include a crotch shot, Shiny Object Villagers get bored with it. Besides, how can econ nerds be extremists? You know, besides that shrill Krugman guy.
The larger issue is that Romney doesn’t have to pivot at all from his current far right positions as long as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are saying “He’s not a real conservative!” Voila! If he’s not a real conservative, he must be a centrist. Q.E.D. and all. As long as Marquis de Mittens here can keep from saying social stuff worse than “Those inner city kids should work as janitors!” and “That baby your rapist left you with is a gift, ladies!” then he can happily continue the work of transferring that slice of the pie the one percent doesn’t have right on up the line.
Not that the Village would complain much about that, either. Eventually, they’ll just toss his “slide to the right” into the wormhole and say “How could Mitt Romney be an extremist?” Worked for Bush. Twice.