Until now, conservatives’ support for Mitt Romney was based largely on this: He’s not Barack Obama. But that was then and this is now. Conservatives are finding reasons to not just vote for Mr. Romney but to get excited about voting for him.
During the frenzied, slugfest days of the Republican primary season, even conservatives who were skeptical of Mr. Romney have found reason for optimism. As desperation set in for his opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, their attacks on the former Bain Capital entrepreneur made them sound more like liberal class warriors than conservative Republicans.
Mr. Gingrich claimed Mr. Romney was not being “fair” and tried to “loot” his own company. In reality, of course, owners can and should be free to withdraw capital from their own investments. Mr. Perry called Mr. Romney a “vulture capitalist” who “picked the flesh off the carcass” of a dead company. Would Mr. Perry prefer to waste taxpayer money on dying companies instead? That’s called Obamanomics.
Mr. Romney very astutely recognized that these attacks were not just directed at him personally, but were assaults on free-market capitalism itself. This was a preview of the attacks that would come later from President Obama, and Mr. Romney answered them with a full-force, unapologetic defense of free enterprise that set the tone for the general election. In contrast to Mr. Obama’s attempt to “fundamentally transform” our nation into a government-centered system, Mr. Romney instead vowed to rebuild America’s “opportunity society.”
Fast-forward now to the dog days of summer with Mr. Obama launching an all-out assault on free-market capitalism: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” They say a gaffe in Washington is when a politician accidentally says what he really means. Consider this then to be the mother of all gaffes. Mr. Romney is ready, willing and fired up to respond in force.
“The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John’s Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft? You go on down the list. To say something like that is not just foolishness; it’s insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America — and it’s wrong.”
It’s not just famous captains of industry. Mr. Obama set off a firestorm by insulting all small-business owners in America who have worked grueling hours and risked it all pursuing their own American dream. “My father’s hands didn’t build this company? My hands didn’t build this company?” asked an indignant Jack Gilchrist, standing aside his family metal fabricating company in a powerful Romney ad titled “These Hands.” “Did someone else take out the loan on my father’s house to finance the equipment? Did somebody else make payroll every week or figure out where it’s coming from?”
Conservatives have endured a long drought since the Reagan years when last an American president could effectively communicate the virtues and power of the free market. President George H. W. Bush of “Read my lips, no new taxes” fame called capitalism “voodoo economics.” His son, George W. Bush, once incoherently uttered, “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.” Huh?
At long last, conservatives have found in Mr. Romney a presidential candidate who understands and can explain the free-enterprise system that made America the most prosperous nation in the history of humankind. “I want to encourage economic freedom. Our economy is driven by free people pursuing their ideas and their dreams. It is not driven by government. And what the president is doing is crushing economic freedom.”
Says Mitt Romney: “It goes to something I’ve spoken about from the beginning of the campaign, that this election is to a great degree about the soul of America. Do we believe in an America that is great because of government, or do we believe in an America that’s great because of free people allowed to pursue their dreams and build their future?”
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a radiologist and President Obama’s cousin. He blogs at miltonwolf.com.