Fifteen months after those 2010 midterms, people are more, not less, worried. They are worried about the economy. About the freedoms they were raised to cherish. About the very future of America.
Mitt Romney is wise not to join the Occupy screamers, campaign-rally hecklers, and talking-head interrupters. Yet, there is clearly something about Gingrich that resonates with voters, beyond his entertainment value. Could it be, perhaps, that Newt seems to embody an impatience and a sense of immediacy that voters across the board are feeling?
When Mitt Romney quotes lyrics from patriotic songs, recalling his cross-country trips with his parents as a youngster in their Rambler, this is what he’s actually trying to relay: a broad conservatism, based on a desire to preserve the country of his youth — the country he was raised to love. Romney seems keenly aware that America will not inevitably last, unless people are willing to fight for it in both principle and policy.
But an understandably skeptical voting public needs more than just latent awareness. And Romney hurts himself — and shortchanges his experience and his message — when he throws out a line like “It’s not worth getting angry about.” Because people are disappointed and hurting and, yes, angry. They are angry about a government that would mandate things that it has no business mandating. They are angry about a government that would force them to violate their consciences.
And they are worried. They wonder: “Once the government gets its way on this, what’s next?” Mitt Romney doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — raise his voice or bully anybody. He certainly doesn’t have to become Mad Mitt. But he does have to demonstrate not only that he understands the concerns that Rick Santorum voiced, but that he can unite Americans by articulating that which is best about this land we all love: her freedom.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through United Media.