Todd Adkins' remark about "legitimate rape" rocked the Republican Party on the eve of its convention. Cries arose among the legion of well-paid consultants who masquerade as the "conscience of the party" and called for his head. Faux indignation abounded concerning Akins' words, claiming that he did not represent the party, only himself.
The problem, however, is that Akins' positions on abortion, women's health and everything but the bodily analysis are in the GOP platform. They cobbled together perhaps the most right-wing document seen in American history. Theocracy, nativism, patriarchy came through almost every sentence. Add to that militarism and the obligatory saber rattling, and you had a far-right manifesto rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic.
Rence Priebius, that most artful of dodgers, brushed the platform as one that did not necessarily reflect the views of Mitt Romney. It must be remembered Romney is the GOP nominee for president who has gone so far to the right that his original supporters can scarcely recognize him. In an odd way, Priebius was suggesting that it would be good to support Romney explicitly because he would not keep his promises if elected. Considering that he has changed positions faster than he changes his shirts, not keeping his word is a distinct possibility.
Which leaves us with the great riddle that has bedeviled the electorate, "What does Romney believe in, if anything?" Huey Long commented about an opponent, "Sometimes deafness passes for honesty," while sometimes opportunism is confused with pragmatism. With the anti-Obama voters firmly entrenched, Romney thinks he literally can say anything and get away with it. Outside of his family, it is hard to see what Romney has in the way of a political foundation or social vision. His beliefs are intensely personal and maybe just a tad bit eccentric.
So the nominee perhaps will not endorse his party's platform or he could be its most enthusiastic advocate. For the voter, it is a gamble, for if he does believe in it, Romney has flung himself fully into the arms of his party's extreme elements. Given the wrecking tactics of the GOP in Congress, if Romney is elected he could not govern unless he followed the lead of the bomb throwers. And besides, unlike Eisenhower, he has no heroic past to draw on. One liberated Europe, the other fattened his wallet. By the style and manner of his campaign, Romney would come in a divider, not a uniter.
Not since Wendell Willkie in 1940 has a candidate been selected who is out of step with his party's rank and file prior to the nominating process. Willkie, who later became quite close to Franklin Roosevelt, mouthed the shibboleths of antidiluvian conservatives. But Willkie did not go over the deep end, and, to their credit, the party leaders did not force him to. The tea party is not a radical conservative force, it is a radical right-wing movement. It defines freedom only as it relates to making money. Everything else is secondary. Romney, whose faith in hustling is almost spiritual, probably agrees, although he would say it differently.
A potential presidency as intellectually vacuous as Romney's can be shaped not by him but by others. Will it be Grover Norquist or maybe Rush Limbaugh calling the shots? No one knows. Can Romney summon up the "better angels of our nature" or find wisdom by plumbing the lower depths of the American right? The election might yield an answer, being the infamous door No. 3. If Romney wins, the radicalism of Tampa might be behind it.