Romney and Institutional Power

recommends David Brooks' thoughts on Mitt Romney: "The leaders of the Republican coalition know Romney will lose. But some would rather remain in control of a party that loses than lose control of a party that wins. Others haven’t yet suffered the agony of defeat, and so are not yet emotionally ready for the trauma of transformation. Others still simply don’t know which way to turn." That seems about right. In the progressive blogosphere, this idea circulates under the heading "iron law of institutions" which posits that institutional leaders care more about their own power within the institution than about the institution's power in the world.

It strikes me as a largely accurate characterization of the choice.

That said, to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, one thing I can say about him is that there's some indication he might make an okay president. He ran a successful business. He managed the Olympics well. He took over a state that enjoyed a high standard of living and during his years of governor it continued to enjoy a high standard of living and he never tried to do anything crazy. He's taken a lot of repugnant stands in the campaign, but that's clearly because he's telling people what he thinks they want to hear. When he thoughts his constituents wanted to hear about gay equality and a women's right to choose he said that stuff, too. He's a giant phony. But also a technocrat with some record of competence -- basically a risk-averse guy who knows what he's doing and understands how to color between the lines. It's impossible to imagine him being a great president, but it's relatively easy to imagine him being an okay president.

The others in the field, not so much. Who knows what wars Rudy Giuliani or John McCain would start? And Mike Huckabee can't even fake knowing what he's talking about for fifteen minutes.