Earlier today, while promoting his book “No Apology: The Case For American Greatness” at the National Press Club, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) staked out a stance against a brand of populism which he describes as scapegoating, or looking for someone to blame for the fundamental problems that face the U.S. — specifically immigrants:
There’s another branch of the word populism which I’m referring to when I say these words, and that is that there are some people who are scapegoating — who look for someone to blame for more fundamental problems that we have as a society. It may be a politician, it may be a Wall Street banker, it may be immigrants, it may be a certain ethnic group…
You’ll see people take on immigrants and suggest that immigration is the source of America’s challenges. Our problems are more significant than that and that kind of scapegoating in my view doesn’t make sense. And I would note that it exists.
Romney, who ran smear ads in 2008 portraying fellow presidential contenders as soft on immigration, appears to be in the process of changing his position on the issue yet again. In his book, Romney echoes today’s remarks, writing “populism sometimes takes the form of being anti-immigrant, and appearing anti-immigrant, and that likewise is destructive to a nation which has built its economy through the innovation and hard work and creativity of people who have come here from foreign shores.” With his eyes on a 2012 presidential run, Romney is amongst a growing number of Republicans who have recognize the need to adjust their immigration rhetoric and regain the trust of a growing Latino demographic that might otherwise be voting Republican.
Ironically, back in 2008 Romney embraced the powerfully symbolic political backing of anti-immigrant hysteric, former Rep. Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is currently under investigation for racial profiling and civil rights allegations related to his immigration policing efforts. Perhaps Romney himself succumbed to the “temptations of populism” he discusses in his new book when he enthusiastically accepted the endorsements of two public figures who have essentially built their careers on the kind of nativist populism that Romney warns against.
Despite his disdain for the politics of scapegoating, Romney still described the tea party movement as “an encouraging development” at today’s Press Club appearance.