“Romney and Equality”
16 April 2012
Will Mitt Romney follow in his father’s footsteps? Two generations ago, George Romney was one of the leading voices of the Republican Party. His path was the traditional Republicanism that characterized the party from its origins in the mid-nineteenth century. He supported manufacturing as the Governor of Michigan and balanced budgets, while being one of the leading proponents of the Civil Rights Movement — against the momentum of his colleagues. While George Wallace and Strom Thurmond combined to transform the South from the birthplace of the Democratic Party to the stronghold of conservative Republicanism by 1968, George Romney was the voice of reason who lost to eventual nominee and (almost) two-term President, Richard Nixon. Nixon’s formula of small government initiatives in domestic policy, aggressive foreign diplomacy during the Cold War, and the benign neglect of de facto segregation molded the template that Ronald Reagan used successfully in 1980. George Romney’s courageous leadership in opening the doors to full equality for all Americans was abandoned.
Now, his son, Mitt, indicates that he would eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as dramatically reduce the role of the Department of Education, if he were to win the election this year. At a time when our global competitiveness relies on precisely these two cabinet offices, Mitt Romney promises to betray his father’s vision of an American dream for all people. Cutting the Department of Education will expand the educational divide and worsen the conditions in areas like Norristown. Destroying the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which his father led more effectively than any Republican over the last forty years, would condemn Montgomery County to surging poverty, crime, and unemployment rates for the foreseeable future. Governor Romney, Jr. knows the stakes of the efforts to pursue freedom and equality in the United States because his father embodied these lessons in both his rhetoric and policy. Unless he transforms the Republican Party by bringing it back to the roots his father represented, his campaign will only expand the economic inequalities that Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes created.
Dr. Walter Greason is a Visiting Scholar at James Madison University. He is also the author of The Path to Freedomand the forthcoming book, Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey.