The Corner

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

Good to hear Mitt Romney making all the right noises last night after his win in Illinois. And typically disheartening to hear his campaign guru, Eric Fehrnstrom, immediately pull the rug out from underneath his own candidate by comparing him to an “Etch-a-Sketch.” First, Say-Anything Mitt:

 “We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam. Today, we can’t even build a pipeline.

“Every great innovation, every world-changing business breakthrough, begins with a dream. And nothing is more fragile than a dream. The genius of America is that we nurture these dreams and the dreamers. We honor them, and, yes, we reward them.

“That’s part of what is uniquely brilliant about America. But day by day, job-killing regulation by job-killing regulation, bureaucrat by bureaucrat, this president is crushing the dream and the dreamers.”

I would go even further and observe that we once crossed the Plains in covered wagons and braved the rounding of Cape Horn and now we forbid our kids to play on jungle gyms or sell lemonade without a license. The issue is not that we can’t do it, we won’t do it; the suicide cult that is the modern American Left won’t allow it, so devoted is it to the expiation of the sin of its own existence. 

More Mitt:

“This November, we face a defining decision. Our choice will not be one of party or personality. This election will be about principle. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot.”

But it’s not just economic freedom — it’s freedom itself. (Santorum is right about this.) Mitt’s running on a “jobs” platform, but there’s a much larger issue at stake than simply “putting America back to work.” What if half of America doesn’t want to go back to work? What if the half that pays no federal income taxes likes the current sponge-and-freeload system? How do you get through to folks who’ve grown reliant on the government man to show them the money? How do you get them down from the Big Rock Candy Mountain, where the handouts grow on bushes and they hung the jerk who invented work?

Not by telling them they can grow up to be Edison or the Wright Brothers or even Steve Jobs, but by destroying the matrix that keeps them in a state of perpetual semi-servitude, and explaining the Faustian bargain the Democrats have made with them: a humiliating subsistence in exchange for their votes, their dignity, and their souls. Still, it’s good to see Mitt taking his campaign up a notch from “America the Beautiful.” 

And then along comes Fehrnstrom this morning on CNN:

HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

Notice the implied premise of the phrase, “tack [too] far to the right,” as if being on the right were an extreme position compared with the sensible center or, God knows, the morally preening Left. But it’s the center and all those wonderful moderates out there in the dark that’s gotten us into this pickle, by accepting the Left’s narrative that “progressivism” is inherently good and “conservatism” inherently reactionary. Since when did fidelity to the Constitution, belief in good old-fashioned American values of individualism and enterprise, and a desire to preserve the country as founded become an “extreme” position? (Since the introduction of “critical theory” by the intellectual mountebanks and malcontents of the Frankfurt School, is one answer, although the poison of progressivism goes back at least to TR and Wilson.) 

This election is not about the most efficient running of the regulatory state: It’s about its dismantlement and the rebirth of personal liberty. If, by virtue of the long primary battle, Romney begins to articulate that, as he did last night, terrific. Even better if he actually believes it. But if it’s just Say-Anything Mitt telling the rubes what they want to hear so he can finally put Gingrich and Santorum away, then all the moderates in the world won’t save him from electoral defeat by a motivated Left and a dispirited Right.  


Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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