In the case of Mitt Romney, when it comes to civil rights issues, he is not his father’s son.
His dad was a good guy—as Michigan’s governor, he marched for civil rights, embraced women’s rights and helped labor unions to obtain fairer treatment at the bargaining table in Michigan—and it was always reasonable to hope that the kid would inherit at least some honorable qualities.
But Mitt Romney’s response to President Obama’s announcement of support for marriage equality has been so tone deaf and exploitive that I suspect even George Romney would be disappointed in the kid. The presumptive Republican nominee for president says: "I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name." And his campaign has indicated that it intends to make a big deal about the president’s shift in stance. Romney’s senior adviser, Ed Gillespie, says the Romney camp is prepared to campaign on the issue of enacting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
So one of the wealthiest and most elite men ever to seek the presidency of the United States will campaign on a promise to use the constitution of the United States to bar equal protection under the law.
This is not the way Romneys used to respond to the march of social progress.
When President John Kennedy clearly and unequivocally embraced the civil rights cause—by very publicly inviting the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to the White House—George Romney was the rising star of the Republican Party and a potential rival to Kennedy. Yet, he hailed the president for doing the right thing. Indeed, he prodded Kennedy to do a bit more.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, seems to be in the "If Obama’s fer it, I’m agin’ it" camp. And there are no signs that he will try to guide his Republican Party toward a moderate stance on what remains a hot-button social issue. Which, of course, explains why President Obama is likely to win the 2012 election over the lesser Romney.
Obama’s embrace of marriage equality, while typically tortured and over-cautious, was entirely appropriate morally.