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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Mitt vs. Dad

In his Tapped post “The English Major Defense,” Mark Schmitt hones in on the most salient point about Mitt Romney’s claim that “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.” It’s not so much that Mitt, well, stretched the truth about what he actually saw, to put it charitably. Looking at the larger picture, his father really was an extraordinarily-progressive Republican, as Schmitt points out, along with a few others of his era, including Senators Jacob Javits and Lowell Weicker. Schmitt asks a more relevant question:

Is there the slightest reason to believe that in the same position as his father, as it was becoming clear that the Republicans’ path to the presidency ran through the South (Goldwater secured the nomination in 1964 in part by opposing the Civil Rights Act, and Strom Thurmond switched parties that year), he would have shown similar courage?

Schmitt cites Romney the younger’s “shape-shifting adaptation to whatever the Republican prejudice of the moment is (anti-immigration rhetoric, or denouncing the kind of health plan he enacted as “socialized medicine”),” in stark contrast to his father’s principled stand for racial justice. The strategy of drawing broad distinctions between the GOP of an earlier era — when a few of its leaders actually demonstrated a concern for social justice — and the Republican Party of today is more rewarding than simply pointing a finger and saying a particular candidate lied.

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