By Paolo von Schirach
April 3, 2012
WASHINGTON – After primary wins in Maryland, the District of Colombia and Wisconsin, it appears that Mitt Romney has turned a corner. It seems now that the Republicans are finally getting the message that this acrimonious and bitterly contested primary season is not advancing their objective of creating a compelling anti-Obama front that will gather momentum between now and the November elections.
A Republican inspiring message
Alright, suppose that the GOP has gotten wise and that it will close ranks around Romney, letting Rick Santorum know that he has no chance to fill the significant delegates gap between himself and front runner Romney. Then what? Then it would be up to Romney to craft a really inspiring message of Republican change that could resonate not just with the rather narrow base –he’s got those votes anyway– but with the millions of independents who always decide presidential elections.
Until now there has been no real outreach, no inclusive Republican message. No positive message for minorities, for single mothers, for unemployed youth, for America’s poor. Until now it has been all about showing who is the most conservative of all, and thus the truly genuine standard bearer of the ultra pure orthodoxy.
Who is the most conservative?
From the very beginning of this primary season it seemed that Republican voters were longing for a champion who would be the perfect incarnation of the conservative zealot: no new taxes, drastic cuts to government, repeal Obamacare, armed foreign policy, teach China a lesson, kick Russia, never follow the Socialist Europeans, fight the Taliban, Israel-is-our-true-ally, prayer in schools, no gay marriage, no gays in the military, women should stay at home, drill and be blessed with more oil so that we can drive for ever. And this un-enlightened agenda was then enriched with a new vigorous fight over contraception and other silly stuff that, at least so far, managed to further alienate women voters.
This is a mess. This is not the agenda of a modern party with modern ideas. Remember that just a year ago Obama was the weak incumbent incapable of turning the economy around. Now Obama is an enlightened statesman who has managed to improve the economy –or so the pundits say– and will be protecting each and every bit of government program the country is used to. The not so subtle Obama message is “stick with me and the gravy train rolls on, Middle America. Switch over to the other side and super wealthy Romney who could not care less about the problems confronting the middle class will gut the welfare state, cut all your benefits and give more tax breaks to his rich backers”.
Romney cannot run on his business credentials
Running against an entrenched incumbent no longer on the defensive, Romney will not be able to run just on his resume as successful business manager. As the economy is no longer in free fall, these credentials are no longer that compelling. Nor can he run on just the pledge to repeal Obamacare, without providing an alternative people can understand. The fact is –and the polls show it– that right now most Americans are quite ready to stick with the devil they know, Barack Obama, especially since he will keep all the entitlement programs people are used to.
Americans like entitlements
Unfortunately, Americans lack the will to see that behind all these promises lies fiscal disaster. And they cannot see how this president lacks the ability and the conviction to craft and promote a pro-growth agenda. They cannot see that staying on this course of modest to minimal growth, with a suffocating and growing public debt, will guarantee economic decline.
Most Americans are not willing to think of what will happen to this country if competitiveness is not revived and public spending keeps creeping up. The notion of America’s decline is too vague and too distant. People want their goodies today. Let somebody else worry about the bills later on.
The Romney alternative vision
So, if Romney plans to take the goodies away, then he has to create an alternative and truly inspiring vision for a future America, a renewed America of optimism, can-do spirit, enterprise and inclusiveness. A welcoming America that wants to give all a real chance.
Romney would have to talk convincingly about his belief in high quality public education for all. He will have to sketch a vision of urban renewal and enterprise zones and minority involvement and ownership. He will have to spell out his plan to restore innovation and boost US competitiveness. And, if he indeed wants to see the repeal of Obamacare, he better come up with some compelling alternative. Obamacare is a mess; but what preceded it was also a mess. Creating workable wellness programs, redoubling efforts on prevention, as opposed to wasting money on cures for diseases that could have been avoided, is an enormous job. But this is only way to contain health costs while having a system that takes care of everybody.
A tall agenda
This is a tall agenda. But, unless Romney will be able to fashion a real and truly inspiring alternative, middle America, apparently no longer scared about the economy, (and this is bad because this economy is still doing quite poorly), will stick with the devil they know.
Obama knows this and his campaign will demonize Romney as “the rich man who cannot possibly understand your problems, while I pledge to give you all the help I can provide. So, why take a chance, vote for the candidate who will keep all the government spending you are used to”.