Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, April 25, 2012
Mitt Romney’s speech after the primaries last night contained language that was simple, straightforward, and at times elegant. But there was also an impressive political intelligence behind the address.
Take as examples these three sentences:
* “Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired.”
* “The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best America can do.”
* “Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointment of the Obama years and the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together.”
These sentences tapped into the mood of the public, taking pre-existing sentiments of many Americans, giving voice to them, and channeling them to Romney’s advantage. While most Americans don’t dislike President Obama personally – quite the contrary — they are deeply disappointed in his record. They are tired. They are ready to move on. And they are ready to write new and better chapters in the American story.
Now take this sentence: “I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.”
This captured a crucial philosophical difference between Romney and Obama, with the former putting himself on the side of excellence and achievement while reminding the public that the president is a constant critic of those things. (For Obama, a progressive to his core, wealth is usually grounds for criticism, as if it’s a condition for which one ought to apologize.)