THE ELECTION 2012 TIPPING POINT
Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan to be his Vice Presidential running mate was a very astute move, one that may well be the tipping point in election 2012. Before Ryan, conservatives were quiescent when contemplating going to the polls for Romney. They were motivated to do so more by enmity for Obama than by admiration for Romney.
By selecting Ryan, Romney bought into Ryan’s credentials which include a strong intellectual foundation in the rationales for limited government and individual liberty and a budget plan that, while less than ideal, nevertheless does promise to cut government spending and revamp Medicare.
By aligning himself with Ryan, Romney dropped an anchor on the right. He instantaneously infused his campaign with an intellectual conservative rigor and seriousness that puts the issue of reductions in government spending and revision of Medicare directly in issue. The alliance with Ryan also obliterated the ephemeral charge that Romney was a Wall Street titan out of touch with main street America. Suddenly, Ryan, the product of main street who believes in an opportunity society where markets free of regulation permit start-ups to flourish and create new jobs, is endorsed and embraced by Romney, dispelling the all too facile myths about Romney generated by the Obama campaign and republished vigorously by national media. The Romney selection not only excites the Republican base, it also feeds into the creation of a new American majority comprised of libertarians, conservatives, disaffected fiscally conservative Democrats and segments of groups neglected or mistreated by the Obama Administration: Catholics, Jews, and Blacks.
It also shores up a stark reality for the electorate, that while the GOP now has a real budget plan and intellectual foundation for revivifying limited government and individual liberty, Obama has no budget plan despite three and a half years of governance and articulates no clear ideology, masking his true sentiments which favor a regulatory state so massive that it dictates all market outcomes, selecting winners and losers through government planning. In short, confronting a specific conservative economic agenda, Obama remains a unspecific statist whose utter failure to present an intellectually savvy argument for socialism leaves him appearing disingenuous (he promises economic recovery but offers nothing to save America from the fiscal cliff; he promises relief from all manner of social ills but neither explains the precise role of the state in limiting individual liberty to achieve those outcomes nor explains how America can afford the cost of ever expanding government). Obama now plainly appears to be a vacuous hypocrite.
He will not embrace directly the state expansionist model he favors but attempts to straddle two divergent camps—he winks in the direction of the one demanding reductions in federal spending that can save the nation from financial ruin, and he smiles in the direction of the other demanding massive expansion in federal spending to achieve government control over all vestiges of a free market. But to neither does he offer any specifics or real commitments. He is therefore resented by his base and by a significant segment of the already alienated fiscally conservative Democrats (including southern Democrats). Therein lie the elements for achieving his defeat.
Suddenly, it is the Obama supporter who feels quiescent when contemplating election day, and the Romney supporter who feels energized. The momentum and the dynamic for the election have changed at present. If Romney can capitalize on that shift through solid debate performances, he will overcome the odds and achieve victory. If he fails to appreciate precisely why the electorate is moving his way and waffles rather than remains resolute in his defense of cutting government spending and revamping Medicare, or if he disowns Ryan’s positions, he will become more indistinguishable with a President whose policies are increasingly unpopular and will alienate the conservative base. Americans do not have to like Romney personally to vote for him, they just have to be sure that he will confidently do the essential work of cutting government spending and revamping Medicare through the Ryan proposed changes.
Obama is in the most precarious spot at present. If he refuses to embrace Medicare reform, he must defend a system that is going bankrupt by every reasonable economic measure. If he refuses to identify specific budget cuts to save America from the fiscal cliff, he must admit that the nation will continue to falter, yet if he dares say that he will reform Medicare, he will alienate his liberal base. If he dares identify specific budget cuts, rather than maintain a commitment to increased spending, he will likewise offend his base. So long as that dilemma for Obama is revealed in the debates, the President will not only be identified with failed policies but also with a “likely to fail” future (Obama’s “forward” looks backward), and he will be understood to be the liability for America that he most certainly is.
Add to this Obama’s disastrously revelatory “you didn’t build that” moment of a few weeks ago, where he admitted to his market naivete and to his misguided absolute trust in government as a substitute. While campaigning in Virginia on July 13, he let his guard down, stating:
“I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help . . . If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
There is in that comment a hauntingly stark contrast with Romney/Ryan which should resonate through the electorate as a defining moment. Anyone familiar with American history understands that this nation is of remark in the world because the American people, free of government restraint, have invented all manner of conveniences from the automobile to the personal computer. Yes, they did “build that.” Wherever government has expanded, markets have receded and have become less efficient, and innovation has suffered. It is undeniable that America’s greatest inventions are the product of exceptional individualism and have arisen despite government, not because of it.
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It is the genius of invention in an environment where economic risk is complimented by economic reward (where, to quote Jefferson, government does not take “the fruits of labor”) that builds the economy. Government is a market parasite; it takes the wealth of the industrious and redistributes it; it does not invent wealth. From Obama’s hedonistic vantage point, “but for” government, nothing would be invented. To him, government structures markets and ensures the “right” innovation. This is the same view that dominated the thinking of feudal societies where the need and worth of invention was the subject of Lords and Kings, not of common folk.
The addition of Ryan to the ticket offers the first real promise of victory in November. Obama’s proverbial foot in the mouth moment when he denied that inventors “built that” will continue to echo uncomfortably in the ears of Americans. If this momentum remains, Obama’s days in the White House are coming to an end.
© 2012 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved