In my cover story for The American Prospect last month, I argued that Mitt Romney’s actual beliefs are less important than those of the Republican Party writ large. The modern GOP has transformed into a parliamentary-style party with rigid discipline and broad adherence to a single “program” of ideas and policies. Romney may have a more temperate personal style than other Republican politicians, but if elected president, he will work to implement the GOP’s program.
Evidence for this dynamic is everywhere. For example, in today’s Wall Street Journal, Janet Hook reports that Romney has moved closer to congressional Republicans since officially winning the Republican presidential nomination:
Mr. Romney has taken other steps to move closer to congressional Republicans. He has hired two senior policy advisers from the staff of Mr. Ryan’s budget committee, and the campaign has named a point man to coordinate with Capitol Hill Republicans. […]
…Mr. Romney is identifying himself with Mr. Ryan’s plans to rein in the size and scope of government—and he appears to be shrugging off the political risks of embracing its measures to curb the growth of Medicare and other safety-net programs.
Given the extent to which Obama is running against Congress in this election, it’s tempting to treat this as a horse race story, but the truth is that this move has profound implications for policymaking. It’s another clear sign that Romney intends to follow the GOP program, as developed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. In practical terms, what this that a President Romney would support large tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans—including a sharp cut to capital gains—and moves to dramatically reduce the size of the welfare state. And while Romney refuses to give specifics on what he would cut and what he would keep, the goals of the Ryan budget–as well as Romney’s own proposals–require deep cuts to most social services.
This, to me, is a grim vision of public policy, and I think that’s true for most Americans. Fortunately for Romney, he’s been able to avoid any substantive discussion of his policies, which fits into his—thus successful—strategy of channeling voter discontent with broad platitudes and vague hand-waving.