Alana Goodman offers a window into Republican and movement conservative dissatisfaction with Romney’s “vagueness”:
Conservatives had hoped this would be an election about ideas. Small government versus the nanny state; prosperity versus debt and deterioration; the choice of American decline. But unlike the soaring but empty vision that Obama offered Democrats in 2008, conservatives also want to hear specifics.
According to the description Goodman gives here, the contrast that movement conservatives actually wanted was one based on empty rhetoric and false promises. What many movement conservatives hoped for was to have a candidate offering his own “soaring but empty vision.” As Dan McCarthy says on the main blog, any small government ideas that a Republican nominee seems to embrace during the campaign don’t change how Republicans behave when they are in power:
The GOP campaigns on a get-government-off-our-backs platform because Democrats are ideologically resistant to taking that line, but in practice both parties are the party of big government. You cannot look at their governing records and come to any other conclusion.
That’s true. This is one reason why I found the phenomenon of Ryanmania over the last two years to be so fascinating. Paul Ryan is a good example of the government-expanding, fiscally irresponsible behavior of most Republican legislators when their party controls Congress and the White House, which then changes overnight when that control is lost. Ryanmania is the enthusiastic belief that the Republican Party as a whole and Paul Ryan in particular did not just spend the better part of the last decade wrecking the government’s fiscal health while adding the largest new entitlement since the 1960s, but that Ryan is a bold fiscal conservative and the GOP has committed itself to fiscal responsibility from now on.
Many movement activists and pundits seemed desperate to get Ryan into the presidential race, and many are still eager to have him on the 2012 ticket. Ryan’s presence on the ticket is supposed to show that this election represents a major clash between opposing visions of the role and size of government. If only that were the case. In theory, choosing Ryan as VP would indicate that Romney will campaign on bold, ambitious policy proposals, and it would clearly set Romney apart and prove that his election would represent a significant change from Obama’s policies. In practice, choosing Ryan would likely represent changing the campaign strategy from “playing it safe” to “going down in flames.” In the event that a Romney-Ryan ticket prevailed, there is every reason to expect that they would revert back to Bush-era fiscal policy of borrow-and-spend.