After today’s speech to the National Rifle Association, there should be no speculation about Mitt Romney’s ideological positioning in the general election. More than running as a conservative, Romney has positioned himself as an absolutely stalwart defender of conservative values, and his rhetoric leaves room for an abrupt move to the center. As John Whitehouse joked on Twitter, the former Massachusetts governor “appears to be running for the Continental Congress.”
On the question of economic freedom, he believes that the American people have been the “victim[s] of unbounded government appetite – and so is economic growth, job growth, and wage growth.” The only way to improve the economy, according to Romney, is to drastically reduce the size of government.
On the question of religious freedom, Romney portrays the Obama administration as a crew of secular sectarians out to quash the freedom of believers (read: conservative Christians) to worship as they please:
In all of America, there is no larger private provider of healthcare for women and their babies than the Catholic Church. But that’s not enough for the Obamacare bureaucrats. No, they want Catholics to fall in line and violate the tenets of their faith.
Beyond this, says Romney, the Obama administration has gone as far as to conduct an attack on the Second Amendment rights of Americans:
This administration’s attack on freedom extends even to rights explicitly guaranteed by our Constitution. The right to bear arms is so plainly stated, so unambiguous, that liberals have a hard time challenging it directly. Instead, they’ve been employing every imaginable ploy to restrict it.
This has no basis in fact—gun control has been off of the Democratic agenda for years, and President Obama has been the most gun-friendly Democrat in decades. But Romney knows that his audience believes fervently in a liberal war against firearms, and he’s happy to encourage it. Besides, at this point—with his constant (and false) claim that Obama has “apologized for America”—we should expect a mendacious disregard for truth from the former Massachusetts governor.
If there’s one thing in this speech that should stick out to liberals, it’s Romney’s clear devotion to the conservative judicial agenda. Romney knows the stakes of this election; if he wins, he can solidify the Right’s hold on the Supreme Court for a generation. By contrast, if Obama serves another term—and can further shape the Court—then the conservative push to rollback the welfare state hits a huge stumbling block:
In his first term, we’ve seen the president try to browbeat the Supreme Court. In a second term, he would remake it. Our freedoms would be in the hands of an Obama Court, not just for four years, but for the next 40. That must not happen.
At the beginning of this speech, Romney declared that he would offer a clear choice of direction to the American people. He has. His rhetoric is conservative, his policies are conservative, and his allies are strongly wedded to the right-wing of the Republican Party. There is no secret centrism or hidden core of moderation; this is the real Mitt Romney. He has claimed the conservative standard, and he intends to run with it.