Michael Barbaro’s article, “Romney Easing, Says Health Law Isn’t All Bad,” in this Sunday’s New York Times nearly made me jump out of my seat! In addressing Governor Romney’s most recent political flip flop regarding Obamacare, Barbaro signals one of the most unflattering elements of electoral politics today; that is, a lack of candidate accountability in campaigns.
Either in the interest of partisan politics or as a result of a need to attract independent voters, it seems as though candidates will say and do almost anything to win a presidential ticket. But what intrigues me most about Romney’s positive comments towards the PPACA’s pre-existing condition clause is not the fact that he made “repealing and replacing Obamacare” quite clear during his speech at the GOP nominating convention, but rather the timing of his newfound perception.
Conventions have often been the subject of scrutiny by analysts and scholars alike; but it’s clear that nominating conventions, and definitely pre-convention processes, create meaningless rhetoric that distorts candidate ideals before the election even starts. In other words, Romney’s appeal to conservative voters and ideologues pre-convention, characterized by “harsh and openly partisan critiques of the president;” stands in stark contrast to, as Barbaro points out, recent attempts to reign in independent voters by adopting a “different tenor” on health care.
What does this tell us about electoral politics? Well, for starters, it further underscores the notion that party nominating conventions serve a truly partisan, ideological versus political purpose in hindsight. But also, it signals-in my opinion-an interesting relationship between candidates and parties in terms of accountability. Is a candidate beholden to her party during elections? How do disparities between candidates and their party translate into fundraising mechanisms and other forms of contributions by, what we would assume to be, ideological supporters? How do we hold candidates responsible for varied positions and issue inconsistencies? Or, is that the nature of the beast?
Joshua D. Wodka
P.S. For a look at Romney’s appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, look here.