Mitt Romney's child benefit is a challenge to both parties

The surprising proposal is consistent with the rest of his political career

Mitt Romney.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

There are a lot of things that Willard Romney is not, and I don't just mean capable of winning a presidential election. He is not woke. He is certainly not above the race-baiting he has decided to criticize in the third act of his political life. He is not especially interested in the long-term fortunes of his party (as opposed to his own). Nor is his grandstanding opposition to Donald Trump, under whom he dreamed of serving as secretary of state, especially praiseworthy. But it is this mercurial quality that makes the junior senator from Utah a reliable weather vane in American politics. If there were no constituency for what he is doing, he would not be behind it.

When running against Ted Kennedy for a Senate seat in Massachusetts, Romney was a Rockefeller Republican, bragging that unlike his opponent, who had criticized Roe v. Wade at the time it was decided and for many years afterward, he was a consistent champion of abortion. In his successful race for governor, he maintained this socially liberal posture and passed health-care legislation that in almost every particular anticipated the Affordable Care Act. Then when it was time for him to seek the Republican presidential nomination, the second time successfully, he railed against "the 47 percent," ignored his own health-care record, and affirmed his newfound opposition to abortion. Upon joining the Senate, he voted with Trump's legislative agenda 80 percent of the time, far more frequently than Rand Paul, for example, who was routinely considered an administration stooge. Contradictory as all of these views might appear together, they make sense taken individually as a series of coherent responses to actual political conditions on the ground.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.