A Few Thoughts about the Convention So Far

by Kevin D. Williamson

1. There is a significant disconnect between the rank-and-file and the punditocracy (surprise). The delegates and general convention-goers are much more confident about both Romney’s chances and the Republicans’ congressional prospects. It is impossible to know whether this is evidence of naivety or evidence of superior knowledge of local conditions on the part of the optimists, but it has been striking.

2. The name “Akin” is a byword for disgust and anger, nowhere more than among pro-lifers, who have been fighting a 30-year campaign against both the perception of yokelism in the ranks and yokelism itself. There is no getting around the fact that Akin has set back both Republican Senate prospects and, more important, the pro-life movement itself.

3. Speaking of which, I have found a pleasantly surprising level of concurrence with my argument that there is no such thing as “the social issues” — there is abortion, and then there are the gays, and those two issues are not very much alike. The self-proclaimed sophisticates deride “litmus test” issues, but if you believe what pro-lifers believe about abortion, then how can it not be a litmus-test issue? A great many conservatives who very strongly oppose redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships nonetheless either endorse or are open to any number of other measures enabling gay couples to arrange their personal affairs as they see fit. No similar avenue of compromise is available on the question of abortion. In any case, the eternal claim that there exists a substantial chasm between social and fiscal conservatives remains without much evidence at the rank-and-file level.

4. Also about which: Many social conservatives think of Romney as probably soft on these issues but believe (correctly) that the next several years will be about fiscal reform and related economic concerns. To the extent that a Romney administration would have a great deal of influence on questions such as abortion, it would be through appointing judges and executive-branch personnel, and Romney is likely to be reliable when making those decisions, if only because he would not be able to afford an insurrection on the right in the mold of the Harriet Miers fiasco.

5. On the other hand, conservatives’ hopes that Paul Ryan would exercise a kind of veto power over any moderating tendencies in a Romney administration probably constitute wishful thinking.

6. Serious people with local knowledge and far better election-forecasting records than I can boast of believe that Republicans have a real shot at picking up Senate seats in Hawaii and Connecticut. The canard that the GOP is a Southern Evangelical franchise was never very credible, but adding a Connecticut senator and a Hawaii senator to the caucus could have a powerful signaling effect in areas in which Republicans long struggled. (That is also part of my case for why conservatives should support Republican Kevin James in his bid for the mayoralty of Los Angeles.) 

7. State and local officials are under a tremendous amount of fiscal stress back home. The extent of the state-level and municipal fiscal emergency does not seem to be entirely appreciated at the national level. There is a very good chance that one of the first questions facing a Romney administration is going to be what to do when a major U.S. city or state starts bouncing checks. Conservatives will (rightly) be inclined to let California and Illinois sink under the weight of their own ineptitude and corruption, but doing so will have many deep consequences that will not be lost on the thinking of a man such as Mitt Romney. Everybody is praying for a robust recovery that will help paper over some of these underlying issues, but that recovery may not come, or may not be as strong as hoped for. Indeed, there is a pretty good chance that a Romney administration would enter office at the unwelcome dawn of a new recession.

8. Exactly one person has without prompting brought up with me the Middle East, terrorism, or related issues. Everybody seems more afraid of the national debt than of al-Qaeda . . .

9.  . . . with the exception of the event organizers, who have turned friendly little Tampa into something very unpleasantly resembling a prison camp, complete with rooftop patrols, combat gear, gunboats with weapons mounted on monopods, Green Zone–style barriers — the whole works. It is all very un-republican, though it has been conducted with a great deal more professionalism and courtesy than one experiences at the hands of the TSA. Still, it is kind of gross: Either this sort of thing is necessary or it is unnecessary, and neither possibility says anything good about the state of our republic.

10. Mia Love is a rock star.