David Frum

11.04.12

Why I'm for Mitt

The next president, be it a reelected Barack Obama or a newly elected Mitt Romney, will face a Republican House and a Democratic Senate. And unless Dean Chambers and his loony bin crew over at UnskewedPolls.com are correct, the odds of the new president being anyone but Barack Obama are fading by the day.

But if you have yet to decide which man to vote for, remember the first sentence of this article, because the realities of Congress will dominate the next two years. No matter which man is inaugurated on January 20, there will be deadlock -- and I'd presume it will be of an unprecedented variety. If you don't believe me, ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who described the idea of working with Romney as "laughable" in a statement late last week. (And we know what House Republicans think of working with the current president.)

So what could possibly be accomplished during the next two years, let alone the entire term? (Republicans are likely to pick up seats in the Senate in a very favorable 2014 election map.)

Here's what I'd like to see:

The Affordable Care Act will need trimming and reform. Without a legislative majority in the Senate, the ACA will live. It's as simple as that. There will be no reconciliation to destroy it. In fact, I'd suggest that Harry Reid might be interested in cleaning it up if improving the law helps protect his vulnerable members in 2014. GOP governors also lose their straw man if a Republican is president, and this would have substantial impact on seeing the ACA to fruition. Having a real opportunity to get the statewide exchanges fully implemented, working on ways to ease the pain of what look to be substantial cuts to Medicaid in red states, and continuing to push for broader market reforms to improve the ACA are important goals -- and they stand a better chance under Romney than Obama.

The economy is -- despite oft overheated rhetoric suggesting otherwise from my side of the aisle -- improving. This improvement, however slow and faltering, is good news. I was 19 years old when it felt like the bottom fell out from the American economy, and young people should never again experience such fear and despair in an otherwise prosperous and powerful nation. We badly needed stimulus and monetary easing, and we got both (although frequently, too little and too late, but I don't blame the POTUS for either.) Over the next term, however, we'll need to move forward.

One major challenge will be the task of restoring some semblance of normalcy to our federal government.

For his faults as a campaigner, there is no man better suited to the managerial task of revitalizing our government's core functions than Willard Mitt Romney. As Ezra Klein acknowledged, Mitt is a marvelously talented -- if so pragmatic he infuriates ideologues -- manager. And, contra Ezra, I believe we know exactly what he kind of Congress he'll face.

Romney won't be riding a Republican wave into power. He also won't be facing a unified Democratic Congress. As a result, there will be no "Massachusetts" or "Moderate" Mitt. We'll probably see about what you could expect from such a term: general gridlock, with occasional efforts to pass modest reforms. That's not exactly inspiring, but it's what we need.

Finally, a reason I wish neither candidate would win on Tuesday: the creeping, persistant, flippant attitude toward constitutional rights and basic American decency. I supported President Obama during the last election. (And yes, my Facebook profile picture for some time was the merged picture of George Bush and John McCain -- it creeps me out to this day).

Contra many within my party, I do not believe the president needs more wartime powers, broader leeway in his role as commander in chief, and less scrutiny and oversight from bureaucracy and Congress. But aside from ending the use of torture (and that is a big but), President Obama has been more of the same. David is correct to note that presidential foreign policy is usually a continuation (with minor tweaks) from the policy of previous administrations. That's true, albeit disappointing.

But people who care about civil liberties should have representation in the halls of power. Those people have been shut out during this administration. A cynic such as myself would be dishonest not to anticipate that an out-of-power Democratic Party would return to the anti-war, pro civil liberty stance it held until January 20, 2009.

And that would be a good thing.

So yes, a less than inspiring endorsement for a less than inspiring man. But these are not times when we need to be uplifted and showered with haughty rhetoric. This is a moment when we need a skilled managerial touch to consolidate reforms and prepare our nation for an uncertain future. This is a time when the realities of Washington, D.C. call for someone as cynical and pragmatic as this city. This is Mitt Romney's moment, and he is someone who can get it done.