HEART AND SOUL….Matt Yglesias says he doesn’t understand why anyone cares that Mitt Romney has obviously flip-flopped on abortion for purely political reasons:
What’s the specific concern about Romney’s evident lack of genuine principles on these issues? He seems to me to be eminently willing to govern as a pro-lifer in terms of his judicial appointments which seems to me to be 90 percent of what’s at stake here. It’s true that his explanation of his position doesn’t make a ton of sense, but these constitutional amendments and so forth aren’t going to be enacted anyway so who really cares?
I think this misreads the situation pretty badly. Sure, Matt doesn’t care about this stuff because he doesn’t care about Romney’s pro life bona fides in the first place. But for “values voters,” the whole point of these issues is that they demonstrate your values. Even if they convince themselves that Romney will govern as a hardline pro-lifer (something that’s a bit of a stretch in the first place since he’s so obviously willing to compromise his principles when he’s under political pressure), his position clearly shows that he’s not really one of them. Not really.
Oddly enough, this also accounts for Rudy Giuliani’s curious popularity among evangelicals. Rudy is also claiming he’ll nominate strict constructionist judges and therefore govern as a pro-lifer — just like Romney — but in addition to that his whole persona is based on a contempt for modern liberal culture. For the values voter, this makes his promise more credible than Romney’s because even though he’s on the wrong side of the abortion issue, it’s pretty clear that he is one of them.
Obviously both men would be better off if they were fervent, longtime abortion foes. But lacking that, who would you vote for if you had the choice? Someone who’s technically on your side but whose heart isn’t in it, or someone who’s technically on the other side but whose heart is plainly in the right place? Probably the latter. It’s the reason so many lefties supported Howard Dean in 2003 even though, the war aside, his policies were actually pretty centrist. His heart was in the right place, and that made all the difference.