Voltaire, the 18th-century French writer and philosopher, once said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
I’m often reminded of this saying, no more so than at the start of a new school year. After a summer of travel and fun with the kids, many of my friends look forward to the start of the school year as a chance to finally get things done around the house. Unfortunately, reality intrudes and instead of major improvements in household clutter, we find ourselves drowning in a sea of sporting events, back-to-school nights, doctors appointments, school committee meetings and charity events.
In trying to do everything, we find it difficult to really enjoy anything. I find “the perfect is the enemy of the good” a great comfort when that happens. Moms don’t have to be perfect; we don’t have to sign up for everything or have ourselves and our children perfectly turned out at all times. Sometimes it’s OK to say “no” to a request. Sometimes it’s all right for a child to miss a game or lesson. It’s OK to cut ourselves some slack.
As we live in the shadow of Washington — and therefore all things are political — this phrase resonates also in the presidential election cycle. Democrats have the luxury of an incumbent who, while far from perfect, is a perfectly good Democratic candidate. He embodies the basic tenets of liberalism and Democrats should rally around him. If they don’t unite, they will lose.
Republicans, on the other hand, are in the midst of a protracted primary race in which primary voters, who tend to be more conservative than general election voters, have turned their noses up at the various candidates. Republicans seem to be waiting for the perfect candidate to show up. Dissatisfaction with the field, which at various times has consisted of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Hermain Cain, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, led to enormous pressure on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to enter the race. He did, got a big bump and is now sliding quickly as voters get a closer look at him.
Republicans have focused far more on who is not in the race than who is, as infatuations with Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Rudy Guiliani and, of course, Chris Christie have consumed enormous time and energy. In today’s environment, it might be difficult for even Ronald Reagan, who raised taxes as governor of California, to get the nomination.
Republicans need to get beyond the notion that a perfect candidate exists and rally behind the very good, and very electable, candidate in their midst: Mitt Romney. Does Romney have flaws? Of course he does. His flip-flopping on issues, particularly abortion, is a liability as is his enactment of universal health care in Massachusetts and his unfortunate claim that Obamacare was modeled after the Massachusetts plan. His personal wealth could be a turnoff to Americans who are struggling financially. And his Mormon faith is a negative to some on the right, though it shouldn’t be.
But Romney’s strengths far outweigh those concerns. He was a popular Republican governor in a Democratic state. He is a successful businessman who personally understands how our economy works. He has more credibility than anyone on either side on the issue of economics and job creation. His health care plan actually differs from the Obama administration’s plan. His family’s political pedigree (father George was governor of Michigan) doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact this is his second run at the presidency and he learned from his mistakes the first go around. He’s also a genuinely nice guy (I’ve met him).
Rather than waiting for the perfect candidate, who doesn’t exist, Republicans should embrace the very good candidate in their midst. Instead of Reagan, the actor turned president, they have Romney, the candidate who’s good-looking enough to be an actor.
– Denise Dunbar
The writer is editorial page editor of the Alexandria Times.