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.
Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, seemed to have a political rivalry in the Republican Party even though ideologically they were pretty close. They were both basically Progressive Republicans. Certainly Governor Rockefeller was, but Rockefeller and Nixon were very similar on economic policy and probably foreign policy as well. They were both cold warrior anti-Communists who believed in a strong national defense and protecting America from Communist Russia with a strong national defense. They both supported the civil rights laws of the 1960s and the environmental protections of the 1970s.
And yet the way that the media back then would talk about Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, you would think they both came from different ideologically wings of the GOP. As if one was a Conservative and the other was a Moderate or Liberal. When the fact was both were basically Progressive Republicans in the classical and real sense. Not the stereotypical big government socialistic sense that Progressives especially in the Democratic Party today get labeled as. It was Senator Barry Goldwater who was a Conservative-Libertarian Republican who strongly differed from the Rockefeller’s and Nixon’s in the Republican Party ideologically.
But when Meet The Press interviewed Governor Rockefeller in 1960, they were asking him questions implying that Rockefeller and then Vice President Nixon, were different ideologically. And that Rockefeller wasn’t sold on the candidacy of Vice President Nixon and wasn’t sure if he was going to support Vice President Nixon against Senator John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. But the fact is Rockefeller and Nixon, were both essentially Progressive Republicans at least on economic and foreign policy, as well as social issues, who politically at least could’ve been strong running mates for a presidential election.