- - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

According to exit polling data, Mitt Romney lost the presidential election in part because people did not believe he “felt their pain.” The Obama team effectively portrayed him as a cold, heartless, multimillionaire monster to the American people, a man willing to slash jobs, throw grandma off the cliff and let people starve in the streets while he and his wife sip champagne, eat caviar and, in the mind of one liberal journalist, celebrate while black people drown. In short, Mr. Romney was punished for his personal success. This is un-American.

President Obama’s use of class warfare, personal attacks and character assassination, and an America that allowed such attacks to stick, tell the real story of the 2012 campaign. When Mr. Romney said 47 percent of the people wouldn’t vote for him, he was simply recognizing that a large segment of the American people have abandoned the self-reliance, personal independence and entrepreneurship that defined early America in favor of dependence, laziness, entitlement and decadence. Mr. Obama tapped into this apathy and hatred of the real American character. At least Mr. Romney can take solace in knowing he is not alone.

The great businessman and inventor George Westinghouse faced a barrage of criticism from the press during the severe Panic of 1907. When he opened the newspaper one morning, the lead story pointed to his financial mismanagement and poor business decisions. Westinghouse simply replied, “I suppose all of those great works built themselves.” Like many of the captains of industry in the Gilded Age, Westinghouse went from rags to riches. He was a generous man who insisted on good working conditions for his employees, and kept men working at his own expense when the economy was down. He was the American model, the enterprising industrial pioneer Americans used to emulate. He was a real American hero.

Americans used to know that men like Westinghouse, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Booker T. Washington and Nikola Tesla accomplished great things without government help. They did “build that.”


Carnegie arrived in America as a poor Scottish immigrant and built the most powerful steel firm in the United States.

John D. Rockefeller, the son of a poor, philandering, snake-oil salesman, pinched and saved enough to start a small wholesale produce company, then took a risk and invested in oil. He later doubled down, consolidated, and Standard Oil was born, the most profitable company in American history. Neither used government loans or small-business grants.

Like Mr. Romney, both of these men were generous. Mr. Romney contributed almost 30 percent of his income to charity in 2011, and Carnegie and Rockefeller gave almost their entire fortunes away to charitable causes in their lifetimes. They all recognized that philanthropy and wealth should be synonymous and correctly thought they could do more for the poor than the government. This doesn’t count the thousands of jobs they “created or saved” without taxpayer money.

Booker T. Washington walked to college across the state of Virginia, was forced to take a job unloading pig iron and to sleep under a sidewalk when he ran out of money, and swept a classroom to gain entrance to school. He worked hard and eventually helped found the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, which became the premier historically black university in the United States, all while facing the problems of segregation and racism. He did not have a Pell Grant or a subsidized loan.

Tesla, the genius, college-educated, Serbian immigrant, went broke after he left Thomas Edison’s General Electric Co. and was forced to dig ditches to survive. This would be problematic for a modern, college-educated, Occupy Wall Street type. Then he sold his designs for alternating current generation to Westinghouse, and if he had held Westinghouse to his contract, he would have become the wealthiest man in the world. He did this without a science grant from the federal government.

These men are real American heroes. By the middle of the 20th century, however, Carnegie and Rockefeller were considered “robber barons,” Washington was castigated as a “sellout” in the black community, Tesla had been branded as an eccentric “mad scientist” who squandered opportunities, and Westinghouse’s fame had been eclipsed by the more government-friendly Edison. Our collective ignorance of real American history allowed for the type of demonization that Mr. Obama utilized to win re-election.

The election should be a wake-up call. Americans need traditional American heroes now more than ever. Reconnecting with our independent, hardworking, common-sense, red-blooded past is the antidote to Obama-mania and the leftist destruction of America, but it has to start now. America lost this battle, but we can still win the war.

Brion McClanahan is author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes” (Regnery, 2012).