What happened to the steadfastness of Tea Party backed Republican Senators? We are all too familiar with how Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) ditched that state’s Tea Party shortly after getting elected in 2010 and since then has been pretty reliably one of the few moderate Republicans left in the Senate. This morning Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson appeared on “Meet the Press” to endorse Mitt Romney over the other ”born again” conservatives who have been parroting conservative talking points in an effort to appear to be genuine conservatives. Likewise Marco Rubio (R-FL) another newly minted Republican, who also drew support from the Tea Party movement, has thrown his support behind Romney.
So what happened to these senators and their commitment to smaller government, less government intrusion in our lives and conservative orthodoxy? Have they fallen for the rhetoric of this season’s Republican contenders and forgotten the particulars of their personal political track records? Apparently that seems to be the case as Romney is the architect of Obamacare, and in the words of Tom Friedman, who also appeared on “Meet the Press”,” Romney is running against everything he has stood for in his entire life.” Conservative commentators have said repeatedly that when the G.O.P. nominates moderates and strays from conservative orthodoxy they lose. Thus in throwing their support behind a moderate in conservative clothing aren’t Senators Johnson and Rubio following the exact same course that has led to conservative failure in the past? Moreover, in making an argument against Obamacare’s central principle, the individual mandate, today’s conservatives are standing against a principle that was championed by the Republican Party fifteen years ago and was endorsed by Mitt Romney in a 2009 health care debate.
That there is a degree of ideological confusion within the ranks of the Republican Party is beyond denying. But one thing is for sure and that is that the desperation among conservatives to see that Barack Obama is a one term president has led conservatives like Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio to abandon solid conservative positions and throw their support behind a bona fide moderate in the person of Mitt Romney. In doing that, Johnson, Rubio and others may be setting up the Republican Party for further internal conflict as Romney will have to tack back to the political center in order to be attract moderates and independents in the general election. That movement back to the center will only serve to further anger the far right of the G.O.P. If Romney loses in November the old complaint about nominating moderates as a formula for defeat will once again be a topic of discussion in the post mortems on the right. If he wins its unlikely that he will lurch back to the far right if he wants to have a successful presidency. Mitt Romney already has a blueprint for using and abandoning the far right, that would be the political strategy of Scott Brown. Either way you dice it, for Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio and others like them the die is cast and their claims to be staunch conservatives are now more than a little suspect.