Mitt Romney's Conservative Initiation

Matt Lewis
Posted: Feb 09, 2008 10:42 AM

I've tried to make this point in previous blog posts, but I don't think I have effectively -- or eloquently -- expressed my rationale for why I believe Mitt Romney's future is brighter than ever.  I'll try to do so here...

Ironically, by graciously withdrawing from the race, Mitt Romney was able to do accomplish something he could not do by staying in the race; finally fully establish his conservative bona fides.  (It's kind of a Catch-22).  Let me explain ...

It's fairly obvious that too many conservatives never fully trusted Mitt Romney -- and for legitimate reasons:  Just a few years ago, he was a liberal Republican governor from Massachusetts.  To many, it appeared that he essentially "re-cast" himself as a conservative, in order to run for president this year.  What is more, his polished style helped cement the narrative that he was "casting" himself as a conservative.  For those who value authenticity, Romney was viewed with suspicion.

(It is understandable why many conservatives felt this way, after all, we have been misled a few too many times in the past.)

Now, let me explain why I believe Romney has finally cleared the conservative hurdle...  Most institutions, such as fraternities, for example, have sort of tribal rituals that one must complete before becoming a full-fledged member (Fraternities are overt about their rituals, while most organizations are not.  For example, it might be known that you don't get to park in the front row of your office parking lot until you've worked there for a year).

Similarly, I believe that, by running for president as a conservative in 2008, and by so graciously stepping aside for the good of the party, Mitt Romney has sort of "paid his dues."  Think of this as his "initiation" into the conservative movement.  The hazing is over!

In four -- or eight years -- assuming Romney remains conservative -- he will have held his conservative views for about a decade.  I think that's a respectable amount of time to assume that he is sincere in his views.

By stepping down at CPAC, Romney demonstrated that he is willing to sacrifice his own personal glory for the good of the cause.  I believe that, at that moment, he became a real conservative in the eyes of his skeptics. 

Now, he has the chance to either be a conservative voice in the Administration, the "loyal opposition" to a moderate Republican  Administration, or, should a Democrat win, possibly the leader of the conservative movement -- and the conservative heir apparent.