Imagining President Romney

July 8th, 2014

Among the interesting tidbits in last week’s Quinnipiac Poll is the view of 45% of Americans polled that we’d be better off today if Mitt Romney was president.

While this isn’t a complete surprise given the fact that we’re a very polarized nation and the percentage of people holding this view coincides roughly with the percentage of people who voted for Romney in 2012, it is interesting that given the mess we’re in right now the number isn’t higher.

Granted, Romney didn’t acquit himself all that well during the 2012 campaign.  He came across as stiff and out of touch with average voters which forever rubbed certain people the wrong way.  Still, he clearly was much more qualified for the job of president than the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue., and thus far he appears to be right on the mark on all the foreign policy questions addressed during the 2012 campaign. Between his successful business background and his correct stands on these issues, it’s fairly easy to argue objectively that he would have done a better job as president.

One thing that strikes me as interesting in all of this is the simple fact that the election of 2012 proves once again that when it comes to electing presidents, we don’t always collectively make the right decision.  The best person for the job doesn’t always win.

In fact, you don’t have to go back too far in history to see evidence of that fact.

For example, Gerald Ford wasn’t the most thrilling president in memory, but he did prove through his pardon of Richard Nixon that he could make tough and even unpopular decisions. By contrast, his opponent in the 1976 election and the ultimate victor, Jimmy Carter, was waffling, weak, and ineffective. That doesn’t mean Ford was a reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln.  He simply would have been better than Carter.

That begs the question.  If there had been no disastrous Carter administration, would Ronald Reagan (regarded in this same poll as the best president since World War II) have been elected president in 1980?

Many historians believe Thomas E. Dewey was far more qualified to be president than Harry Truman.  Even during and shortly after Truman’s elected term to office, the public at large felt Dewey would have been better.  About fifty years and with it some historic perspective has changed minds.  Now Truman is regarded as having been a good president.

In just a couple of weeks, the public will be privy to the love letters of another man who should never have been elected president, Warren G. Harding.  Written to one of his mistresses, Harding’s letters would probably be the most interesting thing about him if not for the Teapot Dome Scandal during his administration and his sudden death while in office. Some historians believe Mrs. Harding poisoned him.  Reading just a few of the excerpts of those letters released to the public yesterday, and there may be more reason to believe that theory than before.

Harding’s opponent in the 1920 election, James M. Cox, was a very successful Ohio governor. Running with him for vice-president was none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  That raises another interesting “what if” question.  Had Roosevelt been Cox’s vice president, would he ever have become president?  If he had, would he have been president when the stock market crashed in 1929 instead of Herbert Hoover?  Would he have been a four term president?  Would the United States have entered World War II earlier without Roosevelt in the White House?

If you enjoy studying history and contemplating such things then looking at what might have happened if the American people actually voted for the more qualified person could lead to some pretty interesting cocktail conversation.

Some have started speculating that Romney will run again in 2016.  I doubt it, but that’s the current storyline out of Washington this week. Whether he does or not, it’s at least interesting to imagine what might have been.  One thing is fairly certain.  Everything likely would have been better.  It couldn’t possibly be much worse.

 



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