With the Republican convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney has launched the most ideological presidential campaign in recent history. At issue is not merely the current state of the economy and Romney's ability to become the CEO-in-chief and perform a turnaround. Romney is waging a battle for the opportunity to conduct a conservative social experiment that would remake fundamentals of American society. But he neglected to mention that Thursday night during his climactic—though hardly soaring—acceptance speech.
The previous evening, his veep pick, Paul Ryan, married two ideas together when he wasn't tossing out profoundly false talking points: The first is that Romney is a successful businessman who can revive the flagging economy and return the nation to greatness; the second is that voters are now living in an American gulag, where basic freedoms have been destroyed and sanctimonious central planners dictate citizens' lives, smother initiative, and doom everyone to a life of entitlements and control. The first of these notions is upbeat and hopeful, addressing the immediate concerns of voters confronting economic challenges: Romney, the guy who looks like a president from Central Casting, is galloping in on a white horse to rescue you. The other is gloomy and of more concern to the arch-libertarians of the tea party and conservative movement: We are living in a place akin to the former East Germany and must break free of the chains.
Yet when Romney spoke to the convention on Thursday night, he only worked the first idea, sticking with a more standard (and less revealing) script. It was a grade-B endeavor, an uninteresting speech offering few ideas but containing the familiar Hallmarkian biography (good son, good husband, good dad, man of faith, good businessman) and all the expected rhetoric: lower taxes for all, repeal Obamacare, increase military spending, deride concern about global warming ("President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."). There was the usual hawkish talk about Iran, as Romney channeled his neocon advisers. Yet oddly, and perhaps scandalously, he did not once mention the war in Afghanistan or the tens of thousands of US troops serving there.
Romney did adopt a somewhat gentle approach to slamming his opponent. He noted that he had initially hoped that Obama would succeed as president (really?) but that now, after years of disappointment, Americans "deserve better" and a change in leadership is necessary to produce jobs, jobs, and jobs. Romney contended that his economic plan (details not included) would yield 12 million new jobs—but most economists figure that's the amount of jobs that will be created in the next few years without Romney at the helm. And despite his more measured tone, Romney still portrayed Obama as a foe of business and religious freedom. ("He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.") Without hesitation, he hurled the campaign's favorite falsehoods: Obama went on an apology tour; he raised middle-class taxes; and he slashed Medicare by $716 billion.