When running against Ted Kennedy for a Senate seat in Massachusetts, Romney was a Rockefeller Republican, bragging that unlike his opponent, who had criticized Roe v. Wade at the time it was decided and for many years afterward, he was a consistent champion of abortion. In his successful race for governor, he maintained this socially liberal posture and passed health-care legislation that in almost every particular anticipated the Affordable Care Act. Then when it was time for him to seek the Republican presidential nomination, the second time successfully, he railed against “the 47 percent,” ignored his own health-care record, and affirmed his newfound opposition to abortion. Upon joining the Senate, he voted with Trump’s legislative agenda 80 percent of the time, far more frequently than Rand Paul, for example, who was routinely considered an administration stooge. Contradictory as all of these views might appear together, they make sense taken individually as a series of coherent responses to actual political conditions on the ground…

What Romney is proposing is exactly the kind of pro-family populist economic policy that we are told other members of his party have been getting behind. (In practice, their break with Republican orthodoxy seems to mean complaining about Big Tech’s “cancel culture.” Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have dismissed the Romney plan on the bizarre grounds that “it is not tax relief for working families; it is welfare assistance”: duh.) It is similar to schemes that have been tried with success in a number of European countries, including ones like Hungary with right-wing governments. (How about stealing the Hungarian program that exempts women with four or more children from income tax for life?) It is just about possible to imagine an American family that would not welcome such assistance, but there cannot be enough of them to make this an electoral loser.