The Romneys still don’t get it

Published 6:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2016

By Steve Vassallo

For all of those who call themselves “conservatives,” here’s a flashback to the 1964 Republican convention in San Francisco’s Cow Palace.

Sen. Barry Goldwater, now recognized as the father of modern U.S. conservatism, won the battle for the nomination fair and square. With every bleeding heart liberal in the Republican Party opposing him, the senator from Arizona still prevailed. One of those outspoken liberals was Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney from Michigan.

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Romney was so opposed to Goldwater’s nomination, he was quoted (according to Independent Sentinel) that Goldwater’s selection by the GOP would “lead to the suicidal destruction of the Republican Party.” Goldwater’s general election opponent, President Lyndon B. Johnson, used Romney’s own words in an ad against the GOP nominee. Fast forward to 2016 … does the situation sound familiar?

The harsh reality of the matter, the Romneys have never been conservative. The family’s left wing views are as apparent today as they were 52 years ago. It’s true, Donald Trump is no Goldwater conservative, but it’s also true, he’s no Jeb Bush moderate either. Following Goldwater’s nomination, George Romney never appeared with the Republican nominee. Other liberals within the party referred to Goldwater as a “crazed extremist.” He was anything but.

Now in late spring of 2016, the apparent GOP nominee, Donald J. Trump, is having to deal with criticism, not only from the Democrats, but also from another Romney voice within his own party, criticizing the non-release of Trump’s tax records. Four years ago at this same time, Trump was hosting fundraising events for Romney (at Romney’s request) at Trump Tower in NYC. So much for party loyalty! Mitt Romney ran one of the worst presidential campaigns in modern American history. He received bad advice and accepted it. The end result, he lost a clearly winnable election against one of the weakest incumbents of all time.

All too often campaign rhetoric is far from factual. Again, flashing back to 1964, LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. predicted that a Goldwater presidency would lead the nation into violence and rioting. They were partially correct, as LBJ’s presidency led the nation into one of its most violent eras since the Civil War. Once the riots started, critics like Romney and others could not be heard even with a microphone.

Mitt Romney’s opinion four years following his disastrous defeat is about as relevant as those who mischaracterized Goldwater intentionally many decades ago. Barry Goldwater’s famous quote that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” rallied conservatives of the day in their commitment in opposing communism. Goldwater’s positive record on civil rights for all Americans has withstood the test of time. His mercy missions (Goldwater was an accomplished pilot) to the Navaho reservations received little if any recognition primarily because Goldwater did not seek it.

When the smoke clears following this election cycle, Mitt Romney will join his other family member by making the wrong decision at the wrong time. Goldwater did not defeat the incumbent president, however his candidacy ultimately paved the way for 16 years of conservative rule via Nixon and Reagan. George Romney then disappeared into obscurity. Hopefully the same fate will be awarded his son.

Steve Vassallo is a contributing columnist and Oxford resident. He can be reached at