With Mitt Romney back in the news, under consideration as Trump’s Secretary of State, I might as well say that I think that Romney didn’t kill conservatism but he was its unintentional coroner.
That is, when in 2012 he denounced the 47% of households without a net federal tax liability as losers and takers, he exposed why conservatism as an ideology can’t survive in the post-bourgeois era– it ends up condemning almost everybody.
There was a lot of misconstrual of Romney’s speech as being about race; when he says “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he must be talking about Those People. But this is exactly backwards. The 47% speech was important because it wasn’t about race, because it redirects the contempt and scorn that previously had been reserved mainly for black people for failing to live up to bourgeois norms to a much broader swath of the population, including a lot of white households. The “white collar conservative flashin down the street/pointing his plastic finger at me” is now pointing at you, and you, and you.
If you want to ask why Trump was able to seize the Republican nomination and then run up huge margins among whites without college education, it seems key that he was rejecting the premises of the 47% speech: lower-income Americans weren’t takers, they were getting screwed over.
This notwithstanding, I think Romney would probably be an excellent Secretary of State, for much the same reason he was a decent Governor of Massachusetts and did a good job running the Salt Lake City Olympics. Some people are better at more constrained and well-defined tasks.