In the first couple minutes of this interview George Romney sounds like someone from the Christian-Right arguing that the problem with America is our culture, lifestyle, way of life. That Americans weren’t living a moral life or to it bluntly what someone on the Christian-Right would call a Christian way of life. Americans having sex before they’re married, women giving birth out-of-wedlock And then he gets into another problem that he believed America having to do with too much poverty in our inner cities and not enough education for them and the country as a whole. The second part I agree with Governor Romney on.
This interview was done in 1992 and back then America had a large deficit and was just starting to get out of the recession that it was in in 1990-91. Not that different to where America was in 2009 especially in the summer and fall of 09. And he was arguing that the reason why Congress and the White House, couldn’t deal with the deficit was because of special interest groups and members of Congress not wanting to cut their own pork and spending for their districts and states in order to deal with the deficit. He was right about that back then and even more so 26 years later. Our campaign finance system is really a topic for another piece.
The last part having to do with the growth and size of the Federal Government, is really up Governor Romney’s ally being that he was a former Governor obviously ( Governor of Michigan ) and was also both a Progressive but a Federalist as well. He believed government could play a positive role in solving problems in the country, but when it came to economic and social problems that the best government was the closest government to the problems. And Governor Romney believed a lot of these Federal programs having to do with Welfare and poverty in general should be run by the states. Instead of the Federal Government trying to manage social welfare programs for the entire country and all fifty states.
As I mentioned before George Romney represents a Republican Party from another era. A Republican Party that was about problem solving and governing, instead of fighting political battles and trying to destroy Democrats, the Democratic Party, and trying to consolidate so much power with Republican Party. Romney represents a Republican Party that wasn’t interested in one’s religion or personal lifestyle, but the personal and professional qualifications of the people and would they be able to do a good job or not. Not if they’re Protestant or not, or what part of the country they’re from, what they think about sexuality and so-forth. Issues that the modern Republican is consumed by now instead of qualifications and public policy positions.
Governor George Romney not only telling Lou Gordon that he was against America’s involvement in the Vietnam War in 1968, but that he had been brainwashed. Which is a very interesting point and for these reasons. Prior to Watergate and the Vietnam War, Americans tended to trust what their government was telling them until they saw real information that contradicted that. The Silent Generation is probably the last generation that tended to believe what their government was telling them.
The Vietnam War and Watergate, go up to the Iran Contra in the 1980s, and Bill Clinton scandals minor and major, real and fake, from the 1990s and of course that started to change. If Americans were to believe what their government was telling them, they need real hard information and facts first before they believe what their Representative or Senator, or President is saying. Americans today are more inclined to believe that their politicians are lying to them when they’re attempting to sound factual, than they’re simply just wrong or actually telling the truth.
But why do Americans tend to believe their government is lying to them, or at least not telling them the truth? Go back to the mid and late 1960s with President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War, where President Johnson and his National Security Council were saying how great the Vietnam War was going and that we were winning that the Communist Vietnamese were close to surrendering. When the fact any solider or marine on the ground in Vietnam fighting for America and to free Vietnam from communism, knew the opposite was true. The Americans won the battles but the Communists were winning the war and holding their territory with Americans taking a lot of causalities and injuries.
What Governor Romney was telling journalist Lou Gordon in 1968 about his trip to Vietnam and what he personally saw there as far as the war there, was that America wasn’t wining this war even though that is what the American military and foreign affairs officers were telling Governor Romney is that America was winning. So Romney thought he was being brainwashed by his government officials there which is why he came out against America’s involvement in the Vietnam War after supporting it before.
I love this George Romney speech because this is exactly what the Republican Party was once about at least, with a solid conservative-libertarian faction led by Senator Barry Goldwater and others. If this was the GOP today, I might be a Republican myself. And this coming from a JFK Liberal Democrat.
Just listen to this video of Governor Romney’s speech. He was talking about progressive solutions to real problems in America like Welfare and poverty, as well as fiscal situation in the country and the need for fiscal responsibility, but calling for progressive federalist solutions to these problems. He and Richard Nixon sound very similar on these issues because they were both part of that old progressive center-right wing of the Republican Party. Republicans who believed that progress could be made with government, but that it had to be limited and the states and localities had to be part of the solutions. Instead of setting up big Federal programs run by Big Government to serve every state especially the people who live in those states. Which was also a problem for Governor Romney because he and the GOP frontrunner Richard Nixon, sounded very similar on economic policy.
Governor Romney arguing for Welfare reform and federalism in 1968. President Richard Nixon in 1969 proposed Welfare reform and what he called a New Federalism. Which was about ( to use a Washington term ) block granting the New Deal and Great Society safety net and antipoverty programs over to the states and allowing for the states to run them. Which was the middle position between the George McGovern McGovermite Democratic Socialists in the Democratic Party who believed that not only should the Federal Government continue to run these programs, but that they should be expanded and that new programs should be created on top of the New Deal and Great Society and that taxes should be raised on everyone to pay for them. And the Conservative Libertarians in the GOP led by Barry Goldwater, arguing that these programs shouldn’t exist at all.
The only real difference that George Romney had with Richard Nixon, had to do with the Vietnam War. Romney arguing that the war was a failure and that it was time for America to get out of it. And there just wasn’t enough Republican voters back then to line up and vote for Romney on that issue. If anything Republicans back then believed the war need to be fought better and that we should go harder in Vietnam. But George Romney represents the old Progressive-Federalist wing of the Republican Party along with Nelson Rockefeller who also ran for President in 1968, at a time when that faction of the party was starting to get smaller.
What I get from this short five minute vision of Michigan Governor George Romney speaking at the 1964 Republican National Convention, is that he wasn’t necessarily against Senator Barry Goldwater and his presidential campaign. But he was worried about the Republican Party moving right and even Far-Right.
From 1964-68, the GOP was moving in transition from a center-right moderate conservative party with a solid progressive Northeastern base that Governor Romney was part of, to expanding the base of the party and moving south as well as west. Bringing in Christian-Conservatives from the South and Conservative-Libertarians from the West. Barry Goldwater was one of those Western Conservative-Libertarians.
Governor Romney and Governor Nelson Rockefeller and other Progressive Republicans, were worried that America wasn’t ready for this hardcore what was called back then conservative message, but what today would be a conservative-libertarian message as far as Goldwater that was about individual freedom both economic and personal, as well as limited government and personal responsibility, as well as federalist when it came to government. And as a result the GOP would get wiped out in the 1964 general elections which was exactly what happened. And they were worried that the GOP couldn’t compete with just a small percentage of the electorate.
What Rockefeller and Romney got wrong, was that they were only correct in the short-term. Millions of Southern Democrats who voted for President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, voted for Richard Nixon for President in 1968. Congressional Republicans had a big comeback in 1966 by winning in the South in the House and Senate and winning out west. Richard Nixon was part of the Progressive Republican base in California and New York, but being the great politician that he was, was also able to communicate with Goldwater Conservatives and Christian-Conservatives in the South, while retaining his Northeastern Republican Progressive base, to win the presidency in 1968 and win going way reelection in 1972. But the remaking and renovation of the modern GOP that we see today started in 1964. Romney and Rockefeller, were wrong about the long-term affects that moving right would have on the GOP.