A Truly Ideological Campaign?

Barack Obama's re-election campaign has finally begun in earnest, with a TV ad hitting Mitt Romney as an ally of the oil industry and a speech coming up later today in which he'll attack Paul Ryan's budget, which almost every Republican in the House voted for and Mitt Romney endorsed. Ryan's budget won't ever pass, but it's a pretty forthright ideological statement, and the Obama campaign is endeavoring to make sure everyone understands where it's coming from. And in doing so, he's offering more hints that his campaign could actually turn this into more of a real debate about fundamental values, and less of a clown show about things like who loves America more. Here are some advance excerpts:

Disguised as deficit-reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It's nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism. It's antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last — education and training; research and development — it's a prescription for decline....

In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few. It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class. That's how a generation who went to college on the GI Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known. That's why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so they could buy the cars that they made. That's why studies have shown that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Wait a minute—quoting economic studies? What is he, some kind of elitist?

I'm not naive—between now and November there'll be plenty of character attacks on Mitt Romney, and lots of petty squabbles and feigned outrage over whatever gaffe Romney committed that week. But if along the way the campaign can force Americans to give a moment or two's thought to what contemporary conservatism and liberalism actually represent, then it could be one of the more edifying presidential contests we've seen in quite a while.

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