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The Romney half-century?

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Not a very good Fourth for The Donald. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), a candidate for president in 2016, stated it plainly: “He’s running to be president of all of us. It takes a level of maturity and thoughtfulness and demeanor that’s not being exhibited here.”

{mosads}But this episode might be seen in hindsight as a definitive and serendipitous moment in the American chronicles. Because Donald Trump angered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, has become a commanding voice of moral leadership in the Republican Party.

“I think he made a severe error in saying what he did about Mexican-Americans,” said Romney. “And it’s unfortunate.”

The language — “severe error” — resonated with nuance. Subtle and understated, it brought to my mind a scene from “The Godfather”: Don Corleone at the head of the table, cat dozing on his lap, about to make a fateful pronouncement.

Trump is now a casualty of the campaign. He can play along or he can go home. But did he really think he would be elected president?

The quiet authority of Romney rises today above the others and it is authentic, but it is new. It may be instructive that the first thing to rise from the benighted sea of unconsciousness that is the blogosphere when FIFA was seen to be rife with corruption was that that could be a job for Romney. It is what he does, no? Fix things that are broken. The question could not be far away: Then maybe he could fix us, no?

We have come to appreciate Romney and grant him this moral authority because of how we have come to know him. As we see him, it would not occur to him or his wife and family to advance with treachery, duplicity or deception. Because they are inherently honest. Because they are inscrutably moral and have a distinct, historical, American work ethic.

The Romneys are all the things today so many of us used to be so long ago and it all seems to come so naturally to them; as if they were a holdout from our past — or a vision of our future. And that is why we think of them in an emergency like FIFA; to fix the things that are broken — that we broke — in a world that is always breaking. Almost as a child would call on a parent.

And status rises today for presidential hopefuls like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) or anyone else invited to his retreat in Wolfeboro, N.H., as these two were this Fourth of July weekend.

His authority is palpable. When he tweeted, “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol,” it was a done deal.

If America today ever suggests a time, it might be the early and mid 1800s, when it could be fairly said that America had become unhinged. Possibly we are unhinged again today. Constitutionally protected freedom of religion was taken to heart shortly after the Revolution. Bronson Alcott and Mary Moody Emerson were teaching the Vedas to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and they in turn to New England’s Transcendentalist preachers and poets. New religious movements were rising spontaneously across Vermont and western New York, bringing radical new sexual mores and marriage models with them, as in religious cults in which all members were married one to the other.

But it flipped almost overnight under the influence of British evangelicals and moral crusaders like William Lloyd Garrison, who virtually rebooted America as a fighting force against slavery. This might be considered a classical collective reaction. The Sixties’ stunning new awakenings brought moral and personal chaos in its wake as well. But President Reagan would soon return America to a tradition of public responsibility when he carried 49 states in his 1984 election.

If again we flip back to order in 2016, as we have done in these past eras, I’ve no doubt to whom we will return: Romney or the lucky chosen ones the Godfather cultivates on our behalf in his New Hampshire visits and Western soirees like the E2 Summit in Deer Valley, Utah, which Romney hosted this June, described as an opportunity for “‘influential business, political and global policy leaders'” to talk about the country’s future.

History runs in epic periods; from Jefferson’s colonials to Andrew Jackson roughnecks, from Victoria on to the Roosevelts and then to what political analyst Larry Sabato correctly called the “Kennedy half-century.”

The “Kennedy half-century” is now passing. President Obama might be figuratively seen as the “last Kennedy.” We face a new half-century now rising. It could be Mitt Romney’s.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at

Tags 2016 presidential election 2016 Republican primary Chris Christie Donald Trump E2 Summit Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Mitt Romney New Hampshire Republican Party Utah
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