Conservatives have been uncomfortable with Romney from the start, partly because of flip-flops in positions. So they've been latching on to the conservative flavor-of-the-month: first Bachmann, than Perry, then Cain and now Gingrich. None seems to survive more than a month's scrutiny.
Meaning there may be no authentic and electable conservative in the race. Echoing William Faulkner's evocation of the equipoise before Pickett's Charge (in Intruder in the Dust), Kristol implicitly concedes the point:
For every American conservative, not once but whenever he wants it, it’s always the evening of November 4, 1980, the instant when we knew Ronald Reagan, the man who gave the speech in the lost cause of 1964, leader of the movement since 1966, derided by liberal elites and despised by the Republican establishment, the moment when we knew--he’d won, we’d won, the impossible dream was possible, the desperate gamble of modern conservatism might pay off, conservatism had a chance, America had a chance. And then, a decade later--the Cold War won, the economy revived, America led out of the abyss, we’d come so far with so much at stake--conservatism vindicated, America restored, a desperate and unbelievable victory for the cast made so many years ago against such odds.Though Kristol never uses the "R word," he plainly is pleading for popularity over purity. Romney may be the most electable candidate running. And, even a once-and-perhaps-future RINO is better than the current incumbent, says Kristol:
But that was then, and this is now. Now is 2012, and it seems clear that 2012 isn’t going to be another 1980. The reality seems to be that we’re not going to have a chance to replay that election, with (at least in the hazy glow of retrospect) a compelling conservative leader of long standing but ever youthful, a man who stood tall and spoke for us and for America, riding gracefully to victory over the GOP establishment in the primaries and over decadent liberalism in the general election. Assuming the presidential field stays as it is, 2012 won’t be a repeat of 1980.
Reversing Obama’s weakness abroad, repealing Obamacare, restoring solvency and prosperity and limiting government at home, these are tasks too important not to be achieved because of our nostalgic disappointment that we will not, in 2012, replay a moment that is not to be again--and that perhaps never truly was.Kristol's clear aim is to give cover to neo-cons, like me, to back Romney.
I respect Kristol. And think he's right about the un-electability of the other candidates (though Gingrich is making a strong comeback). Further, winning the White House next year requires regaining the support of young and independents who voted for Obama in '08. Purity has its pluses, but might be pointless absent political power.
Is this enough for conservatives to sign on, however reluctantly, to a flawed, but plausible, Romney bandwagon? Should polls top policy?