“Your first time in a political campaign?” the Senator said. “You poor bastard.” He had his sympathy, however, firmly under control. And properly so, since professors of politics – Woodrow Wilson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan aside – rarely take the knocks associated with the subject they study. The Senator probably considered, and rightly, some bruises, welts and scars a salutary experience for an academic.
The Romney campaign was indeed the first time I had thrown myself into a political campaign. Having voted for Democrats as well as Republicans in the past, and suffering the pangs of buyer’s remorse almost every time, I had held myself aloof. For years, even while serving in the Bush Administration, I had been an independent, proudly disenfranchising myself from the primaries of the blue state in which I live.
Being an independent reflected partly my political beliefs, which recoil from orthodoxies on both sides; partly my profession as a teacher (I would rather keep students guessing, and loathe professors who confuse instruction with indoctrination); partly an orneriness that, studied or not, one is entitled to in late middle age. Having concluded, however, that the irritating or ridiculous orthodoxies on the Democratic side outweigh those on the Republican side; realizing that having served in George W. Bush’s State Department my students would tag me as a Republican no matter what; and recognizing that the balance of enlightened opinion has declared the Party of Lincoln isolated, out-of-touch, nutty and probably doomed – I took the plunge.
When Governor Romney’s team called and asked me to sign up as one of more than a score of special advisers, I did so happily. I had met him, and liked him. Of all the candidates he struck me as the ablest and most likely to win. I continue to believe that he would have made a very good President. Moreover, although my expertise lies in foreign policy and defense, my deepest fear for some time has been that our government’s economic fecklessness – its inability to put the national finances on a sound footing – augurs a constricted future for my children and grandchildren, and I believed Romney would do something about it. Or as one twenty-something of my acquaintance put it: “If Romney is elected my generation may still be screwed. If the President is re-elected, I’m afraid we’re almost certainly screwed.”
I will leave it to others to describe how the boomers (to which group, technically, I belong) have clung fast to their unsustainable entitlements, how public unions have driven local governments to bankruptcy, or how improbable it is to think that beyond a reasonable investment in infrastructure government can drive economic growth....