Jill Lepore: Two Romneys -- George and Mitt





Jill Lepore, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005. She is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University.

George Romney was fifty-nine when he ran for reëlection as Michigan’s governor, in 1966. In this half-hour television special (see a clip above or the full-length version below), he explains his policies and plans for the state. (I came across the film in the records of Campaigns, Inc., in the California State Archives, while researching a piece on the history of political consulting.)

George Romney’s oldest son is now sixty-five. On television, he and his father look and speak uncannily alike. What they say, though, is strikingly different. Romney Republicanism in 2012 could hardly be more different from Romney Republicanism in 1966. The difference, of course, isn’t so much a family story as it is a story about the G.O.P.

Like Mitt, George started out as a businessman. Beginning in 1939, he was the head of the Automobile Manufacturers Association. In 1954, he became president of American Motors. He was committed to public education; in the nineteen-fifties, he ran a Detroit public-school-improvement citizens’ committee. He ran for governor as a moderate Republican in 1962. Two years later, he refused to support the Presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, calling Goldwater conservatism “extremist."...



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