Why I’m Voting for Mitt Romney

I’m planning on voting for Mitt Romney in November.  If by some very strange fluke he is not the Republican nominee, I will probably vote for whoever is the Republican nominee.  But that appears extremely unlikely.

I often hear people say that they are not willing to vote for the “lesser of two evils” and therefore will not vote for Romney.  People say we should vote for principle, not party.  Sometimes the complaint is that Romney is “socialist-lite”, not really conservative, and not worthy of our vote.  Sometimes people refuse to vote for him because he is a Mormon.  I’ll address that later on.

Romney is not a movement conservative; I don’t think anyone confuses him for one.  He has taken positions I was not fond of.  I had other first choices.  But the party has settled on Romney.  If I thought Romney was likely to do the country harm, then I would not vote for him, party loyalty notwithstanding.  But I believe he will do the country good.

What we need right now, more than anything, is to get the economy going again.  To do this I believe the government primarily needs to remove disincentives to investment and risk-taking.  I do not believe the government can or should do a great deal to make the economy strong, but it can do a great deal to make the economy weak.  Excessive regulations, punitive and complex tax policy, and direct investment by the government in the economy all work to hamper a truly free and vibrant market, and we are doing all those things in spades.  The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) greatly increases the burdens on employers- it increases their costs and increases their regulatory burden, both making it harder for them to hire new employees.  The direct investment by the government in various industries (Solyndra being the most notorious example) is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is also a disincentive to investment.  When economic success in an industry becomes tied to who is politically connected enough to get favorable government deals, private investment becomes paralyzed.  There is just too much risk of being in the position of betting against the government.

Bain Capital
Romney worked for many years at Bain Capital.  That company invested in struggling companies to try to turn them around.  Some of the complaints against Bain have to do with outsourcing jobs or laying off workers.  But any successful businessman knows that hard choices sometimes have to be made in order to help a business succeed.  His job at Bain was to maximize shareholder profits, not to preserve everyone’s job.  But as president, his job would be different- his job would be to foster conditions that would make business success most likely.  His experience at Bain makes him very well suited to know what those conditions are; what conditions encourage businesses to succeed and what makes them more likely to fail.  As the president, he will not have control over all of those conditions.  But he will have control over many of them.  He will know why CEOs have to make tough choices to lay people off or offshore jobs.  He will know that CEOs don’t make such choices because they want to, but because they have to.  As president, he will be uniquely well-suited to changing the conditions so that CEOs don’t have to make those hard choices quite as much.

He was also the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.  He did much good there, reining in spending and balancing the budget.  He also passed a controversial piece of legislation often called “Romneycare”, which is similar in some respects to Obamacare.  Many conservatives will not vote for Romney because of this piece of legislation.  The differences however are profound.  Romneycare includes a mandate that people buy insurance or pay tax penalties; it also provides means-tested subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance.  These are the two major similarities.  Romneycare however does not create a huge new regulatory structure, does not effectively take over the health care industry, does not require thousands of new bureaucrats.  Romneycare was an 80-page bill; Obamacare is over 2000 pages long.  The individual mandate, as offensive as it is to many conservatives (including me), is really only the least of the problems that Obamacare brings.

Even where there are similarities, however, major differences must be kept in mind.

First, Romneycare is constitutional.  The states can do things like impose mandates on their citizens.  Whether it’s a good idea or not is a different question.  Obamacare is a federal law, and therefore violates the constitution.  The requirement to buy insurance was passed as a mandate, and a majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that as a mandate it violates the constitution.  It would violate the constitution whether the Supreme court said it did or not.

Secondly, and this I think is the key point:  The context is completely different.  Massachusetts is a liberal state that had already passed a number of provisions making insurance very expensive.  They had passed a requirement that people be covered regardless of preexisting conditions, and had many expensive coverage mandates, things like infertility treatments and substance abuse counseling.  The insurance market in Massachusetts was already broken.  These measures were politically popular, however.  Given this situation, the most conservative, free-market approach to fixing the existing problem, Romney and his advisers thought, was to require people to buy insurance and not simply to wait until they got sick to do it.

Obamacare, on the other hand, imposes both the coverage requirement regardless of preexisting conditions, and the mandate to buy insurance.  Romneycare was trying to fix a broken system in Massachusetts.  Obamacare breaks the national system even more than it is before trying to fix it.  Obamacare not only imposes the individual mandate that Romneycare had, it also imposes all the expensive, system-breaking rules that made the individual mandate necessary in Massachusetts.  These differences are really key.  Even given these differences, I think Romneycare was a bad idea, and I think subsequent history bears this out, but it was an attempt to fix a broken system, and given the preferences of a very liberal state, it was a good try.  Romney has repeatedly said that what might have been a good option for Massachusetts would be a very bad option for the whole country.

Mitt Romney was also instrumental in turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.  The Olympics were on their way to being a disorganized mess.  But Romney stepped in and turned it around, and it went on to be a glowing success.

A Record of Execution
These three examples- Bain Capital, the Salt Lake Olympics, and his governorship of Massachusetts, all show Mitt Romney to be a problem-solver.  He has made a career out of stepping into very difficult situations and finding solutions.  Most of the time he has succeeded.  He is a believer in free markets, limited government, personal accountability and freedom, and his history has shown this.  His pick of Paul Ryan as vice president shows a commitment to conservative principles as well.

On other issues of concern to Christians, he is solid.  He is anti-abortion, supporting exceptions only in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother.  He is opposed to gay marriage, though supporting some limited domestic benefits.  He is not perfect, but still would be a huge improvement from where we are now.

Of all the candidates that ran for this office on the Republican side this year, none brought more of exactly the kind of experience we need in this situation than Mitt Romney.  Some candidates brought more red meat for the Republican base.  Some had more of the “correct” opinions.  But being a good president is about more than having the right views.  It is about the ability to get things done.  He is the chief executive; he must execute.  Romney has shown an ability to execute far beyond any other Republican candidate.  His very well-run campaign is proof of his ability to execute; that ability is why he is winning the nomination.  He has shown great personal discipline, one of the major reasons he has defeated many of his erratic and scandal-plagued opponents.

Romney is surrounded with highly influential and very conservative advisers.  Men like John Bolton (foreign policy) and Robert Bork (judicial appointments) have been on board the Romney campaign from early on.  The Ryan pick solidifies that- Paul Ryan has the most conservative, most tangible plan to actually rein in entitlements, cut the budget and balance the books.  The Ryan budget is not perfect but it’s a whole lot better than anything else that has been seriously proposed.

So I’m not voting for the “lesser of two evils”, except from the perspective that Romney isn’t perfect.  If that’s what is meant then we’re always voting for the lesser of two evils, unless Jesus is on the ballot.  I’m voting for Romney because I believe he has the plan and the experience to do a great deal of good for the country right now.  I’m not just voting against Obama; I am voting for Romney.  Romney is not well-suited to do all the things that need done, but no president ever gets a chance to do more than three or four important things.  If we don’t get the economy going, rein in spending and begin to limit government’s reach into our lives, nothing else is going to even be possible anyway.  Romney is patching up the gunshot wound before we attend to long-term care.

I’ll address the Mormon issue in a future post.  (UPDATE:  Here it is.)

9 thoughts on “Why I’m Voting for Mitt Romney

  1. Anonymous says:

    Matt –

    Curious to know what New Testament passages you would rely on to support this level/degree of involvement by the elect of God in the politics of this world.

    One could say that the Democrats are the modern Sadducees and the Republicans are the modern Pharisees … and we certainly know that Jesus (and the apostles after him) showed no interest in throwing in with them — or with any of the other religious/political factions of the day or the days that followed.


  2. Anonymous-
    Jesus tells us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's- and I would think that in a democratic society, that would indicate participation in that process, without putting one's faith in the political process. He also tells us to love our neighbor, which I would apply to mean we should do the best we can to provide for a just and equitable government, insofar as we have the ability to do so. The right obligations of government are talked about in a few different passages like Romans 13, and as we learn to live out our Christian faith in all areas of our lives, that will mean applying the truths of the Christian faith to our role as citizens.

    Do you have a problem with Christians being involved in the political process?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Matt –

      That's a pretty thin reed of support – and certainly not one that Jesus or the apostles ever grasped as a reason to engage themselves in the world of politics & public policy. And although forms of government have changed with time, politics (the battle for supremacy and control – whether intellectual or physical – of this world and its goods) has always been with us.

      I would posit that there are many other passages in the NT which counsel us to the contrary. More to follow on this.

      So what role for modern Christians in the politics of this society? I'd say boring and some small degree of private discourse on the topic, but not public engagement. I don't see the public engagement doing much more than opening us up to allegations of hypocrisy and badly blurring the distinction between us and the world (destroying the antithesis).

  3. Doesn't feel too thin to me. That's a matter of opinion I guess. Christians are called to be obedient to God in every aspect of our lives. The political aspect is certainly one of the aspect of our lives. Politics affects our lives in countless ways. I don't think it's a thin reed at all to say that we're called to love our neighbor and therefore ought to support and advocate for political systems that are true to God's principles for what political systems ought to be, that will in turn provide justice and equity for our neighbors.

    Opening us up to charges of hypocrisy happens whenever we advocate for anything at all. Charges of hypocrisy are just one way the world tries to force Christians not to advocate for their faith in public. If we're not perfect, they say, we have no right to call anything sin.

    John the Baptist engaged with the political system- he said Herod was wrong to marry his brother's wife. The Old Testament prophets engaged in politics all the time, telling kings they were being wicked in their policies. But you said NT passages- so I guess I'd ask, what NT passages would you cite to prove that OT examples are irrelevant? I agree we have to recognize the difference between Israel and the church, but it's a far cry from there to say that OT examples can't be referred to at all.

    I'm curious, since you're posting anonymously- what theological tradition are you coming from here? I'm coming from the Reformed tradition which has a long history of recognizing the right and even the duty of Christians to engage in political discussions publicly. I know the Anabaptist tradition (Amish, Mennonite, etc) downplays or denies that. I'd note that were it not for Christians very publicly engaging in politics, you and I might not have the legal right to have this conversation right now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    "Boring" in the last post should have been "voting" … auto-finish gremlins. 🙂

    I guess the challenge I see in relying on the "love thy neighbor" passage to justify political engagement is that it can just as well be used to justify all manner of engagement with both the world and all those who call themselves Christians – and who are not; such that (a) our testimony of truth (as distinguished from the lie) is completely lost, and (b) we are not seen as having any other hope than that which we have in common with their neighbors (the hope that the next election will go our way).

    Regarding my theology, I am Reformed. However, I an not a fan of Kuyper or his formulation of "common grace," which I think may be the issue here (?).

    Matt, I think the bottom line problem with political engagement (even in defense of liberty and good government and whatnot) is that it draws us into the mentality of the world. Trust me, I'm quick to want to go there, too. What I'm referring to is the desire for freedom from anyone telling me what to do; self-sovereignty; and, at bottom, self-righteousness.

    This is why I ask about NT support for your position, as all that I see from Christ and His apostles is humility, respect for the governing authorities (and all other authorities), and self-sacrifice … and a general lack of concern for the ins and outs of the politics and policies of the rulers of the time.

  5. I'm not sure why engaging with the world on a broad range of issues would be a bad thing, especially when done from a motivation of love. I don't think compromising the truth is at all necessary when engaging with the world. But what are the concerns? Should I do business with the world? Engage in charitable acts together with the world? Can I appreciate the entertainment and art of the world, as long as it's not itself promoting immorality or something, like Beethoven for example?

    If I work hard to make a living, does that mean I risk people thinking I put my hope in money? Maybe, but we're still supposed to work hard to make a living. I think we can speak up for truth and lies with regard to the political sector without advocating a blind hope in government. Actually, I think that's exactly what we need to say- if we're engaging in politics correctly, we will directly be attacking the false god of government, maybe the chief false god of our age. We will be telling people to stop expecting the government to save us, to get them out of our lives, and to trust in Christ instead. I'm not sure why that's a bad thing. I think Christians should be publicly advocating for trust in Christ by voting for the candidate and party of limited government.

    I'm no Kuyperian either, though I don't totally reject the idea of common grace.

    Jesus and the disciples had specific jobs, and were in specific political environments as well. I don't see the Apostles talking a whole lot about business either, but that doesn't mean business is irrelevant. It just means that it wasn't their specific calling. But they do talk about rendering our whole lives as living sacrifices, of bringing every thought into conformity with the truth of God's word, and our political lives are a real and important part of our lives.

    I would add that the only reason I think that any Christian can afford to be relatively blase about the political process is merely because an awful lot of other Christians weren't, and aren't. Would it matter to you if you were forced to pay for abortions, or were prohibited from preaching against Islam or homosexuality? We're perilously close to those things already.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Engagement with the world is not a bad thing – certainly, we must & should participate in business and commerce, and there is nothing wrong with the arts and certain entertainment. My concern relates to what we engage the world with — as we talk to and relate with our neighbors. If we are not engaging them with the gospel (and the full counsel/truth of God) and its implications, then we are not loving them.

    In the political sector, the problem is not that people have a blind hope in government. The problem is that people (wherever they sit on the political spectrum) are self-righteous rebels against God and any other authority that gets in their way. This is the Arminian, and this is the American. And the god to whom they ultimately bow (as it has been since the garden) is liberty and self-sovereignty.

    So, needless to say, wading into this morass to promote one side over the other (rather than simply declaring the Truth) does not, in my view, promote or advance the kingdom of God. To the contrary, it turns God's people into just another group concerned about defending their "rights" (or, to put it as charitably as possible, the rights of others (out of love)) — as if God promised that we could expect a certain minimum level of respect or dignity in this life.

    I'd point you to I Peter 2:11-25 for a good picture of how we ought to view and treat this life — and those in authority over us. See especially Calvin's commentary on vss. 13-17. See also Calvin's Institutes @ book 4, chapter 20, paras 25-29.

    There have been bad governments spending the taxes of God's people on evil things/projects for thousands of years – including during Paul's lifetime. And did Paul say about it? Fear God. Honor the king. We are pilgrims and strangers . If we truly believe that, we should act like it.

  7. OK, I see the issue now. You simply disagree that political liberty is a worthy or Biblical goal. I think it is.

    If the government is doing something sinful and a large number of people have an opportunity to put a stop to it, I think they should do so. I think the government is doing something very sinful- stealing the property of some individuals and transferring it to others, merely to increase their own political power. In the process, they encourage sloth and immorality and greed. That's just one on a long list of things I think the government does.

    Peter's letter was written to the believers in a time when a tiny minority of the Roman Empire was Christian. His statements are totally valid today, of course, but must be applied in context. You can't take Peter's command to slaves and apply it to yourself when you're the master.

    If a majority, or close to it, of the Roman Empire's population was Christian, and could vote, I tend to think Peter would have called on them to use the power God gave them to protect the poor and weak from exploitation, to promote justice and equity, to promote truth, and the like. In the Old Testament, when addressing those who did have political power, this is exactly what God called kings and people in authority to do. The responsibility of a master and of a slave are entirely different. Their position was like that of a slave in those days. But Christians today have political power, and they need to use it, not just pretend it doesn't exist.

    The ideal government that God Himself set up was one of tremendous liberty- under the Judges. There was no central government at all, no five-year plans, no central bank. People were free. Central government existed only when it was needed to repel foreign invaders. The people refused to rule themselves and instead demanded a king. God interpreted that as a rejection of Him.

    So liberty is good- not liberty from God's laws, but liberty from arbitrary human power. And by God's grace and by the spread of Christian principles, we have it in this country (or did). I intend to fight for it. All too many Christians are willing to give that liberty up in exchange for being ruled like the nations round about.

    And no, America isn't Israel. But the principles still apply. A people who governs themselves by God's law with only minimal central government is the best we can hope for in this life, and we used to have something close to that.

    Preaching the gospel is essential. But as the Apostles show, preaching the gospel also involves showing how the gospel transforms our lives, and how lives under the power of the gospel are far better than lives under the lies of the world. Political conservatism- meaning limited government, personal responsibility, rule of law- that is, in my view, the best understanding of politics under the influence of the gospel. Political conservatism, and the principles of government on which our nation was founded, while not perfect, would never have been possible without Christianity.

    You mention Calvin- the history of Calvin in Geneva should tell you that Calvin was very interested in politics, and how to promote godly government. Read the rest of that chapter of the Institutes- Calvin talks a great deal about what governments ought to do. If we have the ability (and we do in this country), we should promote what governments ought to do.

    Christians do have the right to speak out in this country, to run for office, to organize to promote more Biblical forms of government. You're saying we shouldn't. I don't understand that at all, unless you think there is no such thing as godly government even possible in this life.

    In your view, does the gospel imply anything at all about whether one kind of political system is more just than another?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Took me awhile to get back to this … couple of thoughts: (1) Sure, liberty is preferred to tyranny; but, what does liberty look like with respect to all of the many thousands of decisions/edicts the government issues on myriad topics every day? Where does the fight ever end? And that said, I still don't see any New Testament support for the proposition that God's people (by which I refer to the invisible church) have a warrant to (or should have any desire to) dive into and actively participate in this world's politics. Yes, the Reformers (including Calvin) took us down that path, but I would say that this was their biggest mistake. I think that Satan has long since co-opted the entire effort … as, in my view, it falls in line with the pride and rebellion (and love of this world) that he promotes. I referenced the few passages from Calvin's Institutes b/c I see at least an appropriate restraint in his writings — vis-a-vis submitting to all authorities.

    (2) The bigger issue for me is the joining in with the ungodly that is an invariable result of the foray in to politics. Who makes up this large number to which you refer? I suspect that very few are truly God's people. And the vast majority are serving as slaves to Satan and are a part of his "Babylon." So, who's ends are we truly pursuing when we join forces with so many of the ungodly (many of them who call themselves Christians but are not) in the political realm? Where is the antithesis?

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