By: Caleb Herrin
Gridlock. Stalemate. Indolence.
These words characterize the current state of congressional politics. In a hyper-partisan, ultra-polarized America, politicians refuse to compromise and the country stagnates as a result. The moment is ripe for a leader who can push both sides to find common ground and bring productivity back to Capitol Hill. We need a new Henry Clay.
Mitt Romney could be that leader.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once said that it is hard to find someone who is good at both policy and politicking. Romney has these talents. He also has significant experience in the private sector, a major boon for a party that prides itself on supporting employers and corporations. Recent reports say that the former Massachusetts Governor is considering a run for Senate in Utah, should Sen. Orrin Hatch retire. The Republican Party, indeed the country, is in desperate need of a centrist compromiser like Romney.
His bonafides as a politician are equally impressive. As Governor of Massachusetts, he turned a $3 billion deficit into a surplus. His roll out of ‘Romneycare’ was a major policy success and a model for future national legislation. His time leading the bluest state in the nation could prove invaluable in our hyper-partisan atmosphere. To top it off, he has the highest ratings of any Utah politician.
Assuming he wins, ‘Senator Romney’ could be the next Great Compromiser, a moniker most commonly attributed to 19th century politico-extraordinaire from Kentucky , Henry Clay. For those who do not know who Clay is, or for those who think it is just the name of a cigar, a brief history lesson is in order.
Clay first gained national prominence when he ascended to Speaker of the House in 1812 and then later as a Senator for his home state of Kentucky. Yet before this fame, he garnered a reputation in Congress for being politically savvy and a brilliant broker of deals. Clay negotiated the Ghent peace conference (ending the War of 1812), played a role in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Tariff Compromise of 1833, and also the Compromise of 1850. Clay also ran for president multiple times, though he never won. That in particular should ring some bells. He also served as Secretary of State, a position Romney was considered for before Rex Tillerson was chosen.
While the United States no longer debates adding new states like Missouri or limiting slavery in the expansion of America, there are still problems that Congress has failed to solve. Those problems include budget issues, dealing with immigration policy, the FAA Reauthorization Act, and many, many more.
It is no secret that gridlock has intensified in the last decade. Whether you blame that on Republicans or Obama, it still is a problem that has yet to be resolved by our “Non-politician President Trump” or by leadership of either party in Congress.
For too long, political extremism has held the government captive and idle. The current Administration and its counterparts in Congress have only exacerbated this phenomenon. The American public is sick and tired of it, and seeking conservatives who can cut deals and advance our noble cause. The environment is ripe for someone like Romney.
As a senator, Romney would have the luxury of being backed by a constituency that basically mirrors his own views and goals. This pledge of confidence will give him the necessary political capital and leeway to tackle broader issues, speak his mind, and pursue compromises without worrying about the political repercussions. Even mainstays on the Hill like McConnell can only dream of Romney’s polling numbers .
At 70 years old, he would have limited time to repair the divide. Yet this could make him a ‘rogue senator’ in the vein of Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake; not worrying about reelection means not being beholden to special interests or a polarized electorate. This high approval rating could be a sign that conservatives are slowly moving away from a negative and fiery brand towards positive messaging. For this, Romney is the perfect champion. His track record advancing fiscal conservatism in deep blue territory speaks for itself.
Conservatives must realize that political purism does not make for good policy. Supporting tea-party candidates and “populist conservatives” only fosters more gridlock, as we learned in recent years. The time has come for the return of the Great Compromiser.