...Mitt Romney really was a strong proponent of Smart Growth when he was Governor of Massachusetts
For what it's worth, your faithful correspondent is a praiser of vibrant urban places at least in part for the same reason I'm a registered Democrat - I was born and raised that way. I also happen to truly love cities and hold progressive political opinions, so it's not as if I categorize myself unwillingly. In other words, at some level, we simply are who we are (for reasons both in our control and outside of it) and we need to admit it.
How, then, are we to understand the whiplash-inducing spectacle of position-reversal that is the campaign of Mitt Romney as the Republican Party's nominee for president of the United States? Because it's not just his positions on things like health care that have swung so far to the right as he has pursued the presidency that you begin to wonder if the present campaign is really more like a schizophrenic battle of present-day Romney against Romney circa 2002-2006 than it is Romney against the incumbent. No, indeed. Romney also very warmly embraced Smart Growth, which is now so totally anathema to his party that it has been associated with the unholy trinity of the U.N., black helicopters and one-world-ism. This was true during both the 2002 gubernatorial campaign and Romney's administration, and well do I remember it. And thankfully my recollection is confirmed by an insightful piece - "Romney, once an anti-sprawl crusader, created model for Obama 'Smart Growth' program" - posted earlier this year by Lisa Hymas at Grist.org. Go check it out. As the quotes from Doug Foy and Anthony Flint suggest, Romney's support for Smart Growth really did have a kind of "Is he for real?" quality to them. Nothing, at least nothing publicly known, that he had done or said before the 2002 campaign suggested that Smart Growth was a major issue for him. But he and his administration really made some real progress on it while he was governor. And, given his silence on the issue, one can now only assume that he shares his party's revulsion for the entire notion, let alone its implementation as policy. The whole thing would be amusing if we didn't actually need Smart Growth (or whatever alternative name people would like to apply to it, whether that's sustainable development, traditional neighborhoods, walkable neighborhoods, or any combination of those terms and others) so desperately for a whole host of reasons.
RTUF Note: This post was updated since its original posting to improve readability and correct certain phrasing. - MJL