Blame the Crazies in the GOP When Romney Loses

Conor Friedersdorf is pre-slamming the GOP masterminds who have focused on birtherism, Herman Cain, and other distracting wastes of time.

Birtherism wasn’t the only time-suck of a theory. Months that could’ve been spent developing an effective foreign-policy critique were squandered on idiocy like the notion that Obama’s actions abroad are best explained by an ideological Kenyan anti-colonialism that guides all his actions. Or the notion that he’s allied himself with our Islamist enemy in a Grand Jihad against America. I am not referencing blog posts. Those theories were laid out at book length and given feature-length treatment in prominent right-leaning magazines. One even became a successful movie!

I haven’t yet mentioned the most lunatic conspiracy theorist of them all. How many hours of Glenn Beck’s chalkboard nonsense did Fox News broadcast during the Obama Administration?

Little wonder that, while the Romney campaign has been prepared with reasonably powerful critiques of the Obama economic record and an alternative domestic agenda (parts of the Tea Party movement proved worthwhile), it ends there. Its standard bearer was reduced in the foreign-policy debate to saying that he’d do all the same things as Obama, just better somehow. Even in Libya, where Obama launched a war without congressional approval, destabilizing a neighboring country and empowering Islamists, Romney couldn’t land an effective blow.

The final mystery: Given that Romney ultimately moderated his rhetoric and positions, sounding like his old Massachusetts self during the three debates, why did he waste so much time getting there? Alternatively, why did the base insist that he sell himself as a “severe” conservative even after the primaries were over if they’d eventually relent? Demanding an ideologically pure nominee makes a lot more sense than demanding it just long enough to prevent him from maximizing his appeal, only to cave during the final weeks of the election. The base now has a standard bearer with the wiggle room of a moderate if he wins, but with a lesser chance of winning than if he’d tried on that strategy earlier on. I don’t know if the timing was driven by Team Romney, the conservative base, or both, but it could prove the difference in the race.


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