The pending presidential conventions -- Republicans open theirs this week; Democrats, next week -- will not get the level of attention they received four years ago. Network television coverage of the conventions, for example, will be limited most nights to one hour, on the grounds that most viewers will be searching for other fare. That doesn't mean there is scant difference between the parties and the policies their minions would advocate in Congress, and push on the White House. In fact, there is a wide gulf.
Regardless, Mitt Romney will not be endorsing many of the planks of the GOP platform that Republican committee members adopted with little debate last week. They go so far to the extreme right that they fall well outside of traditional centrist Republican values. Giving his approval to such a harsh platform would bind Romney to the most regressive elements of his party, and alienate him from the majority of American voters.
Among the planks are unbridled endorsement of a total ban on abortion in any circumstance, exceedingly harsh rules on immigration, disregard of the necessity of health care reform, denial of the science of climate change and its consequences, full-on assault of energy efficiency, and rejection of full civil rights under the Constitution for gay citizens.
To embrace such distorted priorities would put Romney at a disadvantage not just with independents, minorities and centrist voters in key swing states; it also would encourage many Republican voters to sit home. Most are already aware of his serial flip-flops on the policies he implemented as governor of Massachusetts. Others disdain his Mormon faith. If Romney were to offer approval of the party's platform, he'd just provide more reason for them to shun him.
That explains why he has decided to remain as quiet as possible on the controversy that Rep. Todd Akin ignited last week with his defense of a total ban on abortion on the false grounds that women victims of "legitimate" rape have the mystical power to "shut down" their body to avoid impregnation. Romney doesn't want to be linked to either side of the argument over a total ban on abortion, yet he will be squeezed by both. He ultimately will have to say whether he favors the party's support for a "human life" revision of the 14th Amendment to elevate the rights of "unborn children" from the point of conception above the mother's reproductive rights.
He is vulnerable, as well, to being labeled as a flip-flopper on most of the other major planks of his party's platform. If he supports them, he would have to endorse ouster and restriction of constitutional precepts for all illegal immigrants, never mind the demonstrated needs of farms, factories and businesses, or the circumstances of young people brought to America as children who have proved high values and deserve to become college graduates, soldiers and citizens.
Romney also would have to pretend that energy efficiency and conservation of natural resources for our grandchildren makes no sense in today's global economy. He would have to scoff at the preponderance of scientific research which confirms rising global temperatures and seas, which spawn extreme weather events and threaten global stability and food-production capacity.
Having initiated in Massachusetts the universal care template for the Affordable Care Act, he now would have to deny both the need for reform and the flaws of a status-quo health care system that already cost 50 percent-to-100 percent more, in national per-capita health care cost, than every other advanced industrial nation spends on humane universal health care.
Romney will try to finesse these and similar policy conundrums by harping on his plan to undo banking reforms and sensible environmental regulations in order to give Wall Street free rein on speculative trading, and to give big, rich corporations a free pass to off-shore both profits and jobs.
The latter clearly suits his own style at Bain Capital, the firm in which he built his massive fortune, and his personal investment strategies. Both centered on a business charter and investments in the off-shore tax havens of the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. It is this model that has resulted in dozens of American CEO's receiving more in compensation than their companies paid in taxes due to corporate and investment tax loopholes, while the incomes of 85 percent of American workers and families have shrunk.
His generalities about the economy provide no specific remedies other than those already shot down by congressional Republicans to sabotage Obama's presidency. Given the boundaries on Romney's options, it's clear why so few are expected to want expanded televised coverage of the convention.