Their political philosophies were not shaped by a passion for ideas as much as a desire to serve and an ambition to climb higher than their revered fathers. Pragmatism trumps ideology; survival trumps conviction. Both men, to the manner born in Greenwich and Bloomfield Hills, adapted uncomfortably to the fundamentalist tent meeting mood of the modern G.O.P., knowing their futures depended on Faustian deals with the right.
Poppy went from denouncing “voodoo economics” to embracing it as Reagan’s vice president. “He understands,” a friend explained, “that you have to do politically prudent things to get in a position to do what’s right.”
Worried that a platform of mere civic duty would not suffice to stir the emotions of voters, Poppy and Mitt waved the flag and demonized opponents with ethnic names as less American. Bush senior toured a flag factory and said the Pledge of Allegiance at every campaign stop; Romney parses patriotic songs and his advisers refer to Mormonism as “the most American of religions.” Just as the Ivy League Poppy mocked Michael Dukakis for being a member of the “Harvard boutique,” so Harvard grad Romney makes fun of President Obama as an elitist from “the Harvard faculty lounge.” It’s like watching little boys in Topsiders act all gangsta.