Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Robert Reich

Sorry, Romney, it's no longer an Etch A Sketch world

Throughout his political career, Mitt Romney has relied on the ability to ignore past platforms and start fresh from campaign to campaign. But in the video age, the past is harder to erase.

By Guest blogger / March 22, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses an audience during a campaign stop at an American Legion post in Arbutus, Md., Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

Steven Senne/AP/File

Enlarge

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom couldn’t have said it better – or worse. When asked by CNN Wednesday morning whether Mitt was being pushed so far to the right by Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich that he’d be handicapped in the general election, Fehrnstrom said “you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Skip to next paragraph

Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Recent posts

An Etch-A-Sketch, for those of you under twenty, is a thick flat gray screen that comes in a plastic frame with two knobs on the front in the lower corners – one left, one right. Twisting the knobs changes the aluminum powder on the back of the screen, creating completely new images. If you twist the left knob, you alter the powder horizontially; twist the right nob, and you alter it vertically.

Remind you of anyone?

When Mitt ran for governor of Massachusetts he twisted the left knob, moving horizontally to the left. (I know first hand because I ran in the Democratic primary that year.) He became a social liberal, tolerant of abortion and willing to entertain the idea that gays and lesbians should be able to form civil unions. He was also an economic moderate interested in seeking ways to expand health-care coverage.

But ever since Mitt left the governor’s office, he’s been twisting the right nob, moving downward into the muck of regressive Republicanism in pursuit of the Republican nomination.

Etch-A-Sketch was introduced in 1959 near the peak of the baby boom. (It was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2003 the Toy Industry Association named it one of the hundred most memorable toys of the twentieth century.)

But Etch-A-Sketch has been replaced by digital toys that have the capacity to play and replay videos. These new video toys aren’t just for kids. Almost every voting adult has one, or has easy access to one.

Get it? It won’t be nearly as easy for Mitt to “shake it up and start all over again” for the general election of 2012, should he get the nomination. Try as he might, Romney won’t be able to twist the knobs and create a brand new picture.

There will be too many videos of him during the primary saying things that were designed to appeal to increasingly far-right, far-out GOP primary voters – but will strike most Americans as bizarre if not despicable.

America has always been the kind of place where people can reinvent themselves, escaping from their pasts by turning the knobs on their own virtual Etch-A-Sketch identities. But the ubiquity of video technology has made this much, much harder to do. Videos have a way of reminding everyone who you are — and were.

If he makes it to the general election, Mitt won’t be able to hide his primary self.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!