The other day, I passed a Republican-party county office here in my home state, its window attractively emblazoned with placards declaring “Believe in America. Romney 2012” and “New Hampshire Believes. Romney 2012.” There’s not a lot of evidence for the latter proposition, but I’m certainly willing to believe that Romney believes that New Hampshire believes. An hour or two later, I chanced to be passing a television set just as the station went to break. The words “WE BELIEVE” appeared on the screen, followed by youthful hands raised to a clear blue sky at the dawn of a new day, shafts of sunlight gleaming through ears of corn, a puppy gamboling across a meadow, a kitten playfully pawing, happy green-T-shirted volunteers of many races unloading a recycling carton . . . and I thought, despite myself, “Well, say what you like, but the reassuring vapidity of the Romney campaign is at least getting more professional.” At the end, in the spot where the off-screen voice is supposed to say “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message,” it instead said: “Introducing Purina One Beyond: a new food for your cat or dog.”
Well, what do I know? By contrast, the Obama campaign’s theme is “Forward” — which, in the context of a second term for Mister You-Didn’t-Build-That, I’d carelessly assumed was a poignant allusion to “The Charge of the Light Brigade”:
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
But apparently the focus groups are oblivious to Lord Tennyson, and “Forward” is seen as sunny and optimistic rather than a deranged lemming-like march into the abyss. In that sense, “Forward” is unusually honest for the Democrats, at least compared with their recent assertions that Romney hasn’t paid any taxes in ten years and personally gives women terminal cancer. “Forward” means “Even more of the same”: You can’t say he isn’t warning us.
Against this Romney offers “Believe in America.” It’s a slogan designed not to frighten the horses and, like Purina One Beyond, appeal to both cats and dogs, Republicans and Democrats — or at least those mercurial “independents” on whose whims and fancies the fate of the republic depends. If it were up to me, the campaign slogan would be “You’re screwed, losers. Steyn 2012” — or, after yielding to the consultants’ internals showing that moderates want something more sunny and upbeat, maybe “Get real, you chumps. Steyn 2012.” That’s the reason I’m not running. Well, that and the Hawaiian birth certificate.
I wouldn’t claim to know what America believes or even what “New Hampshire Believes,” but this is what I believe — that another four years of the present statist ascendancy will seal America’s fate. As noted here previously, the International Monetary Fund predicts that China will become the world’s dominant economic power by 2016. So the guy elected in November will be the first president since Grover Cleveland to know what it feels like to be the global also-ran. Even this, however, understates the size of catastrophe the United States faces. There are no precedents in history for a great power spending itself to death on the scale America is doing. Obama has added $5 trillion to the national debt, and has nothing to show for it. Do you know how difficult that is to do? Personal debt per citizen is currently about 50 grand, but at least you got a La-Z-Boy recliner and a gas-fired barbecue out of it. Obama has spent America’s future, and left no more trace than if he and his high-school “choom gang” had wheeled a barrow of 5 trillion in large notes behind the gym and used them for rolling paper. Right now, combined total debt in the United States is just shy of $700,000 per family. Add in the so-called “unfunded liabilities” that a normal American business would have to include in its SEC filings but that U.S.-government accounting conveniently absolves itself from, and you’re talking about a debt burden per family of about a million bucks. In other words, look around you: the paved roads, the landscaped shopping mall, the Starbucks and the juice bar and the mountain-bike store . . . There’s nothing holding the joint up.
Hmm. “There’s nothing holding the joint up. Steyn 2012”: How’s that poll with the focus groups? Not exactly “Morning in America,” is it? But what happens when you blithely ignore debt for a few decades? Here’s a headline from the Wall Street Journal’s “Smart Money” this very week: “More retirees are falling behind on student debt, and Uncle Sam is coming after their benefits.” Maybe that’s the slogan. “It’s twilight in America: More retirees are falling behind on student debt.”
Half the country is entirely unaware of the existential threat Obama-sized government represents, and Mitt seems in no hurry to alert them to what’s at stake, save for occasional warnings that if we’re not careful America will end up like Europe. We should be so lucky. The more likely scenario is something closer to the more corrupt and decrepit fiefdoms of Latin America. Look at the underlying assumptions of the Mitt-gives-you-cancer ad — that in America a businessman is somehow responsible not only for his employee’s health, but that of the employee’s family members years after said employee has left said employ. No Euro-socialist would even understand the basis of the attack: In its assumptions about the ever more tortuous and farther flung burdens the state can place upon private business, it is quintessentially American.
This election represents the last exit ramp before the death spiral. (Yes, yes, I know: too long for a campaign button.) Obama has spent the last four years making things worse. More debt, more dependency, more delusion. For Act Two, he’s now touting the auto bailout as a model for . . . everything! “I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.” In the last three years, he has “created” 2.6 million new jobs — a number that does not even keep up with the number of (legal) immigrants who arrive each month. Obama does not “create” jobs, he creates disabled people: In the same period as 2.6 million Americans signed on with new employers, 3.1 million signed on at the Social Security Disability Office. Obama is the first president in history to create more disabled people than workers. He is the biggest creator of disabled people on the planet. He has disabled more people than the Japanese tsunami. More Americans have been disabled by Obama than have been given cancer by Mitt Romney. “Ask yourself, ‘Are you more disabled now than you were four years ago?’ Obama 2012.” Followed by the wheelchair logo with the Obama “O” where the wheel should be. In the Democrats’ Dependistan, the wheelchair ramp is downhill all the way.
I support Romney, and I’m not rattled by a bad week’s polls. But I am bothered that Romney’s insipid message does not rise to the challenge this nation faces. Maybe the milquetoast pantywaist candy-assed soft-focus “Believe in America” shtick will prove sufficient under a relentless barrage of nakedly thuggish attack ads designed to Barry Goldwater the guy. But John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, thinks not: “This is a race he should be able to win,” he wrote, “so if he loses, it won’t be because Obama won it. It will be because he lost it.”
Just so. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The hour is late, and the man needs to get in the game.