If there is anything that sums up the difference between President Obama and his presumptive Republican challenger it is probably this: On a family trip years ago Mitt Romney strapped his dog in its carrier to the roof of his car while Obama, living in Indonesia as a child, ate dog meat.
Unless canines are extended the franchise before November it's hard to tell why these incidents should merit any notice. Both are ancient history as far as 2012 politics is concerned and the story may already be waning.
On the one hand, it may merely be a humorous diversion from the passions of an election. On the other hand, it may be a preview of what is to come: an unserious, personality-driven election.
For the better part of a year conservatives derided Romney as a RINO and "Obama-lite," presumably because his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts was signing into law a state-wide health insurance mandate that looks suspiciously like the grossly unpopular ObamaCare that passed in 2010. In a party that values ideas and principles this should have grounded Romney's campaign. Instead, it looks within his grasp.
When Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, conservatives moaned far and wide that the establishment won, forcing (another) candidate onto the party that the base did not want. This outrage might have looked like little other than sour grapes were they not jumping on the Romney bandwagon and making an issue of Obama's boyhood cuisine.
The problem on display here is only a smaller version of what is wrong with today's mass movement of conservatism.
It's been observed that when liberalism advances (women's rights, gay rights, entitlements) conservatives, instead of holding to its historic stance, will adopt the original liberal position.
For example, conservatives like Barry Goldwater opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act because he felt its public accommodations provision violated property rights. Today no conservative will utter a syllable of opposition, conceding that 1964's liberals were right and the Civil Rights Act is holy and infallible. Not only that but every year, right around Martin Luther King Day, official conservative organs like National Review publish articles describing how Republicans were the real Civil Rights leaders and King himself was a conservative.
A more recent example involves the recent passage of ObamaCare. Although every Republican officeholder voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, after its passage Republicans praised the bill's inclusion to cover people with pre-existing conditions - an entitlement by any other name. It may not take Kreskin to predict that if ObamaCare is upheld by the courts that Republicans will be among those trying to protect it when the latest entitlement becomes insolvent.
What does this have to do with conservatives supporting Romney?
It was the conservatives who were fighting to oppose the Romney nomination. It was the party establishment, pragmatists, and less ideological voters who propelled Romney to the top. Now that the latter have succeeded, the party's conservatives are toeing the line they once opposed. What was once unacceptable in a candidate (RomneyCare, historic moderate social views, global warming) is now a tolerable Republican agenda.
The question should be, were Romney's flaws really so bad after all? The answer appears to be no.
Which begs another questions, what if Romney wins?
Both candidates are in agreement on most things from government health care to global warming taxes and stimulus but also foreign policy. Romney chides Obama today regarding the foreign arena but when it comes to escalation in Afghanistan, removing Gaddafi, and the president's right to be judge, jury, and executioner, they are both on the same page. If Romney can get away with all this during a campaign against conservative challengers, how much worse off will conservatism be when President Romney nominates the next David Souter to the Supreme Court cementing his, and probably also Obama's leftward agendas?
The problem is not that conservatives are stupid. The problem is that conservatives either do not understand their own philosophy or they adhere to a philosophy which cannot exist. By failing to understand the rudiments of governing philosophy it is easy to see why they cannot hold the original conservative position.
And by forsaking their alleged principles for Romney, conservatives are assisting the leftward march of their country.