Did you feel it? A better America began Tuesday night. Mitt Romney said so in his speech claiming the Republican presidential nomination. To make sure we didn’t miss it, he had his new slogan posted on the front of his podium and repeated five times on the banner behind him: “A better America begins tonight.”
Did you feel it? A better America began Tuesday night.
Mitt Romney said so in his speech claiming the Republican presidential nomination. To make sure we didn’t miss it, he had his new slogan posted on the front of his podium and repeated five times on the banner behind him: “A better America begins tonight.”
A better America began, Romney went on to explain, because he had reached a milestone in his quest to eradicate what is apparently the only thing wrong with America.
“Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years,” he said.
Don’t have a job? Is your mortgage underwater? Worried about a family member experiencing hard times, a soldier in danger overseas? Fear not. Mitt’s here.
If the messianic tone sounded familiar, it should. In June 2008, at the equivalent moment in his pursuit of the White House, Barack Obama declared that “generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick, and good jobs for the jobless. This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.”
We should be neither surprised nor offended by such statements. Campaigns are advertising, and hyperbole is essential to advertising.
Every candidate who is not an incumbent promises change because few voters will be moved by promises to keep things the way they are. I never expected Romney to run as Mr. Humility, so I’m not surprised that he’s gotten more explicit about characterizing himself as the answer to America’s prayers.
For four years, Obama’s opponents have tried to use his grandiosity against him. They mocked the enthusiasm of his most naïve supporters. “Four years ago, Barack Obama dazzled us, in front of Greek columns, with sweeping promises of hope and change,” Romney said in his speech Tuesday.
He then went on to make his own sweeping promises of hope and change, wrapped in platitudes. His other slogan, “Believe in America,” reminds me of an earlier moment in the campaign, when Romney got carried away with his talking point:
“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in,” he said. “That’s the America I love.”
Don’t we all. And do you know what Americans hate, the way Romney tells it? Barack Obama. Romney’s pitch, at least so far, has been 50 percent platitudes and 50 percent Obama-bashing. It’s gotten so obvious that leaders of his own party are urging him to come up with a more positive message.
I hope he does, but I don’t expect it, from either Romney or Obama. Modern campaigns are all hype and negativity. Every problem the nation faces must be blamed on the other team, and the only solution is to vote our team in.
Democrats are already blasting Romney for his wealth, his flip-flops and for the most extreme positions of the most extreme members of his party. And for making poor Seamus, the family dog, ride in a crate on the roof of the car back in 1984.
Republicans have never stopped blasting Obama for trashing the economy, for his former pastor, his birth certificate, his secret plans to confiscate guns and turn the U.S. into a socialist dictatorship. And for eating grilled dog meat when he was a 9-year-old in Indonesia.
The media, meanwhile, will flood the airwaves with horse race speculation and fluff. We’ll hear more than anyone needs to hear about Romney’s “veepstakes,” the candidates’ convention bounces, debate minutiae and endless polls. We’ll hear more about likeability, gaffes and stagecraft.
What we won’t hear is substance. There are important things Americans should be talking about: the “taxmageddon” coming Dec. 31, when a raft of Bush- and Obama-era tax cuts expire; the war in Afghanistan, soon to enter its 11th year of futility; a Supreme Court trending toward dogma once thought radical; a national security establishment growing by the day; a Congress that seems incapable of agreeing on the time of day, let alone finding middle ground on festering national problems.
In “a better America,” candidates would tell us specifically what they would do about these things, so voters could choose. A better presidential campaign would improve the public’s understanding of complicated issues and provide the winner with a mandate to act. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards this time around.
I continue to hear echoes of 2004 in this race. Back then, we had a president who was deeply unpopular with the other party and estranged from part of his own base. His challenger was a rich guy from Massachusetts, somewhat stiff and aloof, with a reputation for flip-flopping.
There were important things to talk about – two wars that weren’t going well, a banking industry peddling liar loans and securities backed by them, a housing bubble getting ready to burst, the growth of government spending and federal debt.
Instead, that campaign saw swiftboat turned into a verb and the crash of Dan Rather, as mudfights over the candidates’ records during Vietnam upstaged current issues. It was a campaign of hype and negativity.
That turned out to be a close election that settled nothing. This one promises more of the same.
Rick Holmes, opinion editor for the Daily News, blogs at Holmes & Co. He can be reached at email@example.com.