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Friday, February 07, 2020

Romney for Vice President?

I have said many times that we are in the fourth great crisis of our national life, parallel in its own way to the periods 1774-94, 1860-68, and 1929-45.  Because the George W. Bush Administration squandered the feeling of national unity after 9/11 in disastrous, useless wars, and because the Republican party remains determined to undo the domestic order we inherited from the last crisis, this one has been marked by an increasing erosion of our political traditions and a disintegration of our political order.  A serial bankrupt and reality tv star now occupies the White House and rules the Republican Party with an iron hand, and he has survived his impeachment for perverting foreign policy to promote false allegations against a political rival.  We also face tremendous economic and environmental problems, but I am beginning to think that we will not really be able to address them without a major change in our political climate.  We need something dramatic to restore a sense of civic virtue to the nation.  A bipartisan government might do it.

Both Lincoln and FDR used this tactic in our last two great crises.  Three members of his wartime cabinet--Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair--came from the opposition Democratic Party.  In 1864, facing what looked like a difficult re-election campaign, Lincoln replaced his first Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, with Tennessee Demorat Andrew Johnson, the only Senator from the Confederacy to remain in his seat and support the war for the Union after secession.  That selection, of course, turned out disastrously after Lincoln's assassination, when Johnson moved to allow the South to restore white supremacy without slavery, but it did help re-elect Lincoln and make victory possible.  FDR also drew on progressive Republicans from the beginning of his Administration, including Harold Ickes, his Secretary of the Interior and head of the Public Works Administration.  He took another critical move in June 1940, when the fall of France and the threatened defeat of Britain had forced him to make serious preparations for war.

In that  month, Roosevelt replaced his Secretaries of War and of the Navy with two very prominent Republicans.  His fellow New Yorker Henry M. Stimson had already served as Secretary of War under Taft and Secretary of State  under Herbert Hoover, and he was now a key figure in efforts to sanction Japan for its war on China, and an advocate of a peacetime military draft.  Roosevelt's selection of him confirmed his own interest in a sudden, vast increase in the US Army.   Even more interesting was his choice of Chicago newspaper publisher Frank Knox as Secretary of the Navy.  Knox, who had served in both the Spanish-American and First World Wars, had run for Vice President on the Republican ticket in 1936, violently attacking the whole New Deal in general and the new Social Security Act in particular.  Two years later, he had published an anti-New Deal Polemic, We Planned it that Way,  "Without fully recognizing it," he wrote, "Mr. Roosevelt has taken us far along the path of socialism.  This path leads straight into Communism, Nazism, Fascism,  or whatever 'ism' the fancy of the moment dictates it be called."  But Knox also believed in a strong US Navy, and he and Roosevelt had maintained friendly relations.  About 8 months earlier, in the fall of 1939, Roosevelt had offered him the Navy Department, but Knox had declined so as not to anger his fellow Republicans. Now he accepted.  Senior Republicans blasted both men of joining the hated New Deal Administration, but Roosevelt won another smashing election victory in November 1940, and Stimson and Knox remained at their posts through all or most of the war.   Meanwhile, Britain had moved in the same direction.  Winston Churchill took office as Prime Minister in May 1940 partly because Britain obviously needed a truly national government in its time of trial, and the leaders of the Labor and Liberal Parties would not serve with Neville Chamberlain.  Ministers from those parties sat in the Cabinet all the way through the war.

This year's Democratic candidate, whoever it turns out to be, might take a comparable step by selecting Mitt Romney as his vice presidential candidate.  Since his decision to vote to convict President Trump of abusing his powers, Romney has become a symbol--almost our only one--of nonpartisan commitment to our fundamental civic values.  He decided that the fate of the country was more important than his standing with his fellow Republicans--and the Democrats' chances in November depend to some extent on convincing Republican voters of the same thing.  His policy stances in 2012 were those of a mainstream 21st century Republican and there were few if any of them that I agreed with, but he showed a lot of political flexibility as governor of Massachusetts, and he need not have any great influence upon policy in a Democratic administration in any event.  Alas, one aspect of the current situation militates against such a choice.  538.com now lists Bernie Sanders as a narrow favorite to win the most delegates (although not necessarily to win a majority before the convention.)  Sanders will turn 79 this year and recently had a heart attack, and many Democrats would oppose the risk of Romney succeeding him should he become the candidate.  Vice President Biden is nearly as old, although his chances have taken a big hit and may well take another next Tuesday in New Hampshire.  The process of selecting a presidential nominee threatens to be long and difficult.  Whoever wins, the party and the nation might benefit from a selection clearly designed to foster greater national unity.

Both sides, in our current political struggle, cherish the fantasy that it can end with a complete victory of the competing ideas of either Republicans or Democrats.  I do not believe that it can.  We need more of a consensus and we may need to build it upon genuine respect for our institutions, rather than specific policy outcomes.  This week, Mitt Romney did his part to contribute to that process.

8 comments:

Bozon said...

Professor
This is a colorful reprise of your perspective.

Interesting, the cross party theme.

I think Mitt Thurston Howell III Romney committed wanton political suicide voting against Trump's acquittal.

It is hard to imagine Thurston Howell taking the stage with the Communist Sanders; or Buttigieg, for other reasons.

I doubt Biden would touch him, or him Biden, after Biden and Hunter's Trumplike carrot and stick escapades in Ukraine. Romney would look, calling Trump guilty but the Bidens innocent, like a Simon Says clown, an issue Biden would stay away from for all the right reasons.

Warren would be the only electable one who might have him, but I very seriously doubt it.

All the best

Unknown said...

I admire Romney's dissenting vote more than I can say. I worry, however, that nominating him would alienate both progressives and black voters.

Unknown said...

Mitt Romney did recognize the gross amorality and immorality of Donald Trump in his speech in April 2016. Regrettably it was Democrats who heeded it. Republicans hoped for the best with Trump probably having the only chance of winning the Presidency and promoting a cheap-labor, religion-huckstering, militaristic, science-bashing, monopoly-promoting agenda. Trump has done all of what he was expected to do except to eviscerate labor unions. Union contracts are better than Leftist-led strikes that promote as much Socialist revolution as better wages and working conditions. Labor peace is a virtue worthy of living wages.

I look at a Crisis Era as one of weeding out fraudulent, failed, and counterproductive solutions. Maybe we need a spectacular failure like Trump to establish valid alternatives to spectacular failure. We will need to revitalize places that have been nuked economically so that people do not have to go to New York City or Silicon Valley to make an adequate living. I look at the successful black bourgeoisie, middle-class Hispanics, Asians (although I do not want to lump people as disparate as Pakistanis, Filipinos, and Koreans), Jews, and Arab-Americans and I see patterns that could will fit people abandoned to the ruin of such places as the Mountain and Deep South. What Trump offers is failure that soothes hurt feelings. That is not enough; it can solve nothing.

Steve Clark said...

To put it in S&H terms, as the unraveling tipped into crisis on 9/11 (when iidealist-lnitiated, terrorist rebellion shocked the global economy and its staid, neoliberal order), the firist American Boomers positioned to attain, possibly, gray champion status were Bush and the neocons. That current ran out of steam in Iraq as Americans turned against the neocon fantasy and its war. Obama, idealist if ever there was one, tried to remake the neoliberal order to work better, but nothing changed, and Americans said no to more of the same (Clinton). At home and abroad, three Boomer idealistic trends (neoliberalism, neoconism and terrorism) have died on the vine, and one wonders if the global boom generation has real gray champions or not. Yet, of course, we do; hence, our ongoing, worldwide search which, now and critically, is centered in the US Presidential election. Because Millennials must be the foot soldiers in this turning, its vision must look to their future. Obviously, tackling the world's socioecological catastrophe (in all its critical dimensions) is crucial to their generation's future and must be the centerpiece of the program of any potential gray champion. It seems to me that Sanders understands this; has a visionary program (Green New Deal and Medicare for All) that is necessary and possible; and seems to be best-positioned to "step it up a level." As we approach the peak (tipping point) of this Fourth Turning, Sanders can be our Gray Champion. I think he's worthy of the role, and I urge other generational analysts to consider him for this vital role in effective fourth turnings.

Energyflow said...

OTOH Tulsi Gabbard abstained in the house as sole Democrat, making her suitable as a Trump VP. I see renewal of the country in terms of eliminating Ike's so called Military industrial complex which has become a praetorian guard. Democracy is dead under such a regime. A female, minority peacenik with combat experience is vry traditional Democrat. The party has swerved far right.

Shelterdog said...

Perhaps the best example of FDR's was his appointment of Wendell Willkie as his personal representative dealing with a number of foreign governments (shortly after FDR defeated Willkie in the 1940 election).

Bozon said...

Professor
See Bannon, re Bloomberg/Clinton.
Fascinating, regardless of one's position:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKFKz1c11SU

Bozon said...

Professor
With Utah now going (white male dominated) polygamous, Romney, as a Mormon, is now looking like the double Tar Baby that he is, not just because he is also Mr Thurston Howell III exposed in Boca open mike!
One can argue one's way all around it, but no real way out of that double whammy.And why fight with a Tar Baby, anyway?
All the best