Home/Daniel Larison/Movement Conservatives Conveniently Forget Their Role in Making Romney Viable

Movement Conservatives Conveniently Forget Their Role in Making Romney Viable

Erick Erickson seems proud of the fact that movement conservative activists have been rallying to Romney as he has become a more damaged candidate:

The staggering irony is that those of us who did not want Romney are now the ones defending him to the hilt while the elitist jerks are distancing themselves from Romney as quickly as possible — both upset at what their media friends tell them is to come and upset that Mitt Romney might not actually listen to their sweet whispers as much as they originally presumed.

One could call this irony, or one could cite it as another piece of evidence that movement conservative activists will support just about any Republican nominee regardless of his weaknesses and flaws. There’s nothing ironic in the depressingly predictable move of ideological activists to become cheerleaders for their party’s nominee. I’m not sure why movement conservatives want to draw attention to the fact that they are rallying to Romney’s side at the moment when his failings as a candidate and his lack of understanding of conservative ideas are most obvious. Michael addresses a similar argument here. Erickson wants to make this into an occasion for complaining about party elites, which ignores that Romney’s prominent critics are simply acknowledging what everyone else already sees: Romney made major mistakes and demonstrated his ineptitude as a candidate. It doesn’t say much for movement conservatives that they are rushing to Romney’s defense when he has been at his worst.

There’s also some convenient forgetting at work here. How was Romney able to position himself as the next in line for the nomination in this election? He did it by carefully cultivating movement conservatives and building himself up into the acceptable alternative to McCain in 2007-08. Had so many movement conservatives not embraced Romney then, he likely never would have been in a position to win the nomination this year. Activists would love to treat Romney’s candidacy as something that party elites foisted on them, but those elites were generally unenthusiastic about Romney this time as well. Romney prevailed this time in no small part because movement conservatives in 2008 helped make him a viable contender for the nomination. Many activists allowed themselves to be taken in four years ago, and now they’re stuck with the candidate they helped create. Romney’s candidacy this year is a monument to the conservative movement’s short-sightedness and lack of imagination, and naturally they want to deny their part in this.

Update: Conor Friedersdorf rounds up some of the glowing 2008 Romney endorsements from movement conservatives and prominent talk show hosts.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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