I was an Etch-a-Sketch kid. It is a fun and pragmatic toy. It teaches dexterity, creativity, problem solving (drawing a perfect circle isn’t very easy) and if you mess up, it is real easy to erase and try again. It was good on the environment because it doesn’t create waste. I spent hours not being an artist, but enjoying the challenge of controlling that little scratcher and making something at least interesting.
Much has been made by the comment of one of Romney’s staffers that once primary season is over that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will reset his positions as easily as shaking an etch a sketch. I am inclined to think that this comment is part of the Romney strategy to prepare Republicans for the inevitable swerve to the middle which Romney will make once he wins the Republican nomination for President.
Seasoned observers of presidential elections will recognize that Romney is not breaking new ground with this strategy, but practicing what has been done before by other presidential nominees. Regardless of party it is necessary to cater to the base during the primaries in order to raise the money and get the votes to move on to the general election. The party base mostly resides at the most extreme, far end of the political spectrum and yet are often the most powerful faction within each of the two major parties. The base is comprised of the true believers that the opposing party uses to make fun of, and to demonstrate the extreme, out of touch positions of their opponent.
This state of affairs was the impetus for the staffer’s comment. Responding to a question over the danger of politicking too far to the right and alienating moderate voters ahead of the presidential run off, Romney’s staffer, Fehrnstrom said:
“Well, I think you hit the reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch.”
Many are laughing at Romney for his portrayal as a flip-flopper and now an etch-a-sketch, but just as Romney has always laughed his way all the way to the bank in his business career, he will laugh his way all the way to the nomination in his political career. If Romney knows anything, it is how to win. He seems less concerned with how he wins, than with winning itself. Much to the chagrin of the true believers, Romney knows that the true believers don’t fare well in the general election, only the pragmatic have a shot at winning once the opposing party is allowed to cast votes.
I do not believe that Romney is a dishonest person. If one listens closely to his statements they are crafted well enough to give wiggle room for future positions. In other words, he says things in a way that those listening use their own strongly held ideologies to identify with his words, yet he will be able to modify his wording with a general election electorate and not change the essential policy position. That won’t stop the true believers on either side from claiming he has flip-flopped, but that is due to their own interpretation of his words.
There is one area where Romney will not have to change; in his untiring criticisms of President Obama. One area that he won’t shake the etch-a-sketch is in saying that everything Obama does is wrong on one level or the other. The accuracy of his statements in that area is a topic for a different discussion, but is understandable in light of Romney’s drive to win the election.
The Etch-A-Sketch comment has prepared the general electorate, moderates especially that perhaps Romney is only catering to the extreme right to win the nomination, but that his true heart felt policies are much more to the center politically and more palatable to the rest of nation who are not die hard Republicans. For some of us, pragmatism in politics overrules unbending ideology.