As I await the arrival of my tickets to see The Who in concert in a few months, it is tempting in this election season to consider a 2012 version of the gauzy wisdom of "Won't Get Fooled Again" -- to wonder whether a majority of this nation still believes, or even wants to believe, the "same as the old boss" campaign rhetoric of President Barack Obama, despite his persistent record of hyper-partisanship and failure, both foreign and domestic.
But sticking with the words of Pete Townshend (a great lyricist if not the equal of Ray Davies of The Kinks), a better question as we ponder what is accurately if too frequently called "the most important election of our lifetimes," is "Who Are You?"
Who are you, Mr. or Mrs. Likely Voter? And what does America mean to you?
Are you a "Progressive" who believes, as Barack Obama does, that our Constitution, our society's rulebook (even if apparently officiated by replacement referees these days), is "political witchcraft" (Woodrow Wilson) designed to create a "supremacy for the rich and powerful" (Howard Zinn) which should only be supported by a president "as he understands it" (Franklin Roosevelt)?
Or are you a proud American who believes, as I do, that the Constitution "is the only safeguard of our liberties" (Abraham Lincoln), that freedom is being taken from us "by gradual and silent encroachments" (James Madison), that "the Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens" (Justice John Marshall Harlan) and that an important defense against "abuses of Constitutional power" is to "inform (Americans') discretion by education" (Thomas Jefferson)?
Do you believe, as Barack Obama does, that there is a "right" to health care or a "living wage" or anything else which must be demanded or extracted from others with an implicit threat of force?
Or do you believe, as the Founders did and as I hope Mitt Romney at least feels in his gut, that our fundamental laws are the codification of natural and "negative" rights? To wit, we have rights as human beings (not just as citizens) regarding actions that the government may not take against us or allow others to take against us, rather than commands regarding what others must do for us.
Do you accept as true, as Barack Obama does, that "When you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody"? Or do you deem taxation beyond what is needed to fund the legitimate functions of government -- to protect the life, liberty, and property of citizens -- as "lawful plunder" which inculcates Americans into a culture of dependency and out of our historic trait of self-reliance (to include family, neighbors, and charity when necessary) upon which American exceptionalism was built? (Liberals, including Obama, view American exceptionalism as a myth.)
Do you consider, as Barack Obama does, men (the term used the traditional way, to include women) to be too venal to be allowed to freely interact with others, especially in the economic sphere, and too stupid to be allowed to govern our own affairs, especially in the most important aspects of our existence as once-free people?
Or do you conclude, as Madison said in Federalist 51, that although "if men were angels no government would be necessary," over-regulation and over-legislation based on mistrust of our citizens' ethics or intelligence leads to loss of liberty and prosperity, while giving government nearly unfettered power over our daily lives?
These and many other such fundamental issues are at stake on Tuesday. Questions about "entitlements" (think about what that word really means, and whether such a thing should really be possible under our Constitution), and questions about energy policy (whether to sacrifice the prosperity of a nation at the altar of "green"). Questions about whether national security means being liked or being respected, even feared, and questions about whether we want to live in a country where politicians buy our votes with our own money by promising subsidies for everything from education to health care to ethanol (as if any society that is not diagnosably insane would willingly implement a policy of burning our food). And perhaps most importantly, critical questions about the immoral transfer of debt onto the backs of our youngest in order to fund the profligacy and cowardice of interest groups, unions, and politicians.
Mitt Romney may not have been most Republicans' idea of the perfect candidate. Indeed he was not mine. But my enthusiasm for a Romney victory is so strong that I will, for the first time in at least twenty years, vote Republican (rather than Libertarian; I've never voted for a Democrat) for president.
One obvious reason: As I said to a neighbor who asked me what I would do on Election Day, "I have two young children. It would be utterly irresponsible of me to vote for anyone other than Mitt Romney." This nation simply cannot afford another four years of Barack Obama. By that I do not just mean financially, though that is vitally important, but also in terms of the fundamental relationship between the citizens of the United States and our government. Barack Obama has moved us rapidly (speeding up a process in which politicians of both parties have been complicit for generations) toward all becoming wards of the state, dependent on handouts and the beneficence of politicians and regulators. This must stop, or we will no longer be even vaguely recognizable as the free nation that our forebears pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" to create.
But another reason to enthusiastically support the Republican candidate must be made plain, and that reason is Mitt Romney himself. No doubt any citizen of good will can find something in Romney's plans, as with any politician's plans, to question. But in the past several weeks, perhaps due to increasing self-confidence following the pivotal first presidential debate, Romney has become an appealing, often compelling speaker, with a positive, hopeful, credible message. (Romney's speech in Englewood, Colorado on Saturday is just the latest example, and well worth watching if you have not seen Romney speak lately.)
Yes, we could spend our time wondering "Where was this guy six months ago, or four years ago?" but even successful adults sometimes go through significant growing processes as they experience and learn. It is perhaps a key sign of successful adults that they, unlike our current president, do indeed learn rather than going through life as the very embodiment of Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Indeed, Barack Obama's prescription for the next four years is identical to that for the last four years, much the same way that a medieval doctor, determining that bleeding a patient was not healing her, would then bleed her again. Mitt Romney is a welcome, and desperately needed, dose of sanity.
Just as Barack Obama's character, that of a narcissistic supercilious petty tyrant, is predictable in a "community organizer" born to, raised among, and influenced by the most radical of anti-American leftists, Mitt Romney's public persona is, at long last, a better reflection -- a fine mirror rather than a distorting funhouse looking glass -- of his true nature as a remarkably generous and decent man. (Please do visit both of those links.) He's even shown a warm, self-deprecating sense of humor unlike our prickly president who is caustic and egomaniacal even in jest.
For many of us who are deeply opposed to the Obama agenda, Mitt Romney has gone from being a candidate of default to a man we can proudly, affirmatively support.
In this election, we face a stark choice. Not just between two men or two political parties. Not even just between two very different sets of policies and priorities. We face a choice between two opposite and incompatible futures for our nation.
It is too optimistic to say that we are at a fork in the road. Rather, we have already taken the wrong fork in the road and are heading deep into a jungle where our money will be devoured by ravenous political beasts goaded by their union owners, and our freedom will be restrained and then crushed by the strangler figs of the bureaucratic regulatory state.
But looking through the trees, we can still see, no doubt off to our right, the path that leads out, into the sunshine of liberty and free markets, to a nation where adults are expected to make the most important decisions for themselves and their families, where politicians and those whose votes they are trying to buy do not consider your success the same way a leech considers a pulsing ankle vein, where your relationship to your government does not mirror your pet's relationship to you, hoping to be given food, shelter, and a pat on the head in return for nothing more -- and nothing less -- than obedience.
So, Mr. and Mrs. Likely Voter, I ask you again, as you look down at your ballot, Who Are You?
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