The rah!rah! continues. While pausing to hope and pray for the embattled citizens of the Gulf Coast, the Republicans are still making the most of their collective moment. The most pervasive feeling permeating the proceedings at the Republican National Convention is love of country. This patriotism is not a blind expression of gratitude for an accident of geography, but a paean to the opportunities that this particular combination of government and culture allows to all people, no matter where in the world they began.
Glossed over, it seems that Pollyanna has to come to reside in Tampa, Florida for the week. But take a deeper look. After a divisive primary season, the convention gives the party a chance to re-coalesce, to celebrate similarities and tighten the political bonds.
But that last paragraph doesn’t begin to express the passion that is flowing through the Forum. Ann Romney softened up the crowd, talking about the love that flows through her family, for each other, and for America. She noted that her husband, Mitt, has been successful at everything he’s attempted, stated that he will work harder than anyone else to make this country successful again, and promised that he will succeed in his efforts.
Then Chris Christie took the stage. After hearing four years of apology for America’s faults, four years of promises to wrest money from those who have it to pass it on to those who do not, four years of assertions that the failure to succeed is someone else’s fault, this speech was the awaited hurricane blasting through Florida and clearing the air behind it.
There are those who think that it is provincial and sappy and vaguely unseemly to be proud of where one chooses to live. That it’s hip to be snarky and petulant when talking about the land of one’s birth, especially when that land is America. I don’t know whether that behavior is a manifestation of guilt for the success of this country, or where it comes from, but that attitude has taken over much of the airwaves for the past four years. It has overlain the entire conversation of where this country is headed and how it will get there.
So it was a great release, a whoosh of Finally!, to hear a politician unabashedly exuberant about his roots, about his ability to rise in the world, his amazement at how well he’s done, even his acknowledgement of the hard work that lies ahead. The America I know doesn’t shy away from hard work. The America I know isn’t looking for a handout from those who have done well. The Americans I know are proud people, who want to make their own way in the world.
Do we all need help at times? Most likely. But we do not want to feel like helpless children, needing a big brother always looking out for us, dependent on his largesse to make our way from day to day. That feeling is anathema to the American spirit of can-do, and it is what makes Mr. Obama seem foreign in his sensibilities. For most Americans, the rest of the world ought to be more like us. We should not be the ones changing to suit the rest of the world. No one else allows such a polyglot of humanity to be successful in whatever field they choose, all of us jostling (politely, for the most part) for position with people who in other countries would be pariahs, or shoved to the side, or forbidden from joining in the raucous discourse at all.
It is that spirit of openness, of opportunity, that has led to our greatness, has contributed to our success, not the other way around. And, while hearing it denigrated for four years has dampened our resolve, last night Chris Christie let us know that it is not breathing its last.
The Republican party is by no means perfect. But what they have going for them now is a belief that, while America has faults, it can be fixed and be better than before. By contrast, the Democrats seem to belief that America is faulty, and that the only fix is to continue to take from the rich to pass around to the poor. And there is a world of difference between the two. Perhaps the message coming out of Charlotte, North Carolina in the coming days will be as inspirational as that brewing up out of Tampa. That would be a terrific sea change, because it is difficult to hold a country together while attacking one segment as the enemy of another.
Instead of demonizing the Democrats, most of the Republican ads note that Mr. Obama is an honorable person, who has not been successful in doing the job for which he was hired, an attitude that Mr. Obama himself echoes. He claims it’s not his fault that the economy is in such bad shape, and the Republicans agree with him. But, they add, Mr. Obama does not seem to have the knowhow to turn the economy around, to put people back to work. You tried, they gently say, we know you tried, and it was an honorable effort, but it’s time to step aside now, and let the adults do what is necessary, lash the fiscal whip, and get the job done.
It will be interesting to see what Mr. Obama’s response will be. If he wants to demonize the wealthy and get them to contribute more, he might consider starting by having all of his rich friends write a check, in whatever amount they can afford, or whatever they think best, to the U.S. Treasury, and make pledges to continue contributing those amounts until the economy is back on its feet. Imagine the impact that kind of action would have! The Republicans would have a hard time casting Mr. Obama as a man of style over substance then. Even though such contributions would be no more than a drop in the bucket, they would signal that the Democrats are willing to put their money where their mouths are, and that’s an indicator that we still sorely need in this election cycle.