Romney Is Mr. Normal
Divisions between radical leftists in the Democratic Party and so-called extremists on the right get most of the media attention these days, but a more important political current is emerging with Romney's success in the presidential campaign. This is the desire of a large segment of the electorate for a return to normalcy.
Who can blame them? The desire for normalcy is understandable following one of the most unhinged periods in American history. The last four years have seen the Obama administration spinning out of control and the country going with it. Since 2009, the national debt has risen by $5 trillion, unemployment has not fallen below 8%, and GDP growth has averaged a paltry 2% -- hardly enough to increase wages and lower unemployment. According to one reliable source, job-creation under the current administration is 6.5 million below what it should be at this stage of a typical economic recovery. Meanwhile, much of the Eurozone is in recession, Asian growth is slowing, and growth in the U.S. is falling, not rising. Forecasts show unemployment on Election Day stuck above 8%.
On the foreign policy front, the administration has sat back as China has laid claim to the entire South China Sea, Iran has proceeded with its nuclear ambitions, and Islamist enemies of America threaten to take over most of North Africa. Under Obama, American foreign policy is following the failed playbook of the Carter era, when American policy was to turn our backs on our friends and turn the other cheek toward our enemies. Powerful leaders around the world, from China's Hu Jintao to Russia Vladimir Putin, are playing Obama like a fool. As Obama assured former President Medvedev back in March, "[t]his is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility" on missile defense. Medvedev promised to "transmit this information to Vladimir." As it turned out, he didn't have to; the whole world was watching as Obama licked Putin's boots.
All of this and an administration that files suit against Arizona for enforcing immigration laws, blocks Florida and other states from preventing election fraud, and refuses to support the Defense of Marriage Act. It's not surprising that most Americans -- 70%, in fact -- share Merle Haggard's opinion that the country resembles a snowball headed in the general direction of hell.
For these mainstream Americans, normalcy means that America is the land of freedom and opportunity. It means good jobs, like the jobs Obama threw away banning drilling in the Gulf and vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline. It means freedom, including the right to have one's vote counted and not canceled out by the vote of an illegal immigrant or deceased voter. It means national security and national pride, not embarrassment at America's riches and power. It means living in a nation in which public officials do not quake at the idea of mentioning God in public.
For these swing voters, normalcy means having a president who spends more time governing than campaigning, and whose governance is based on principle rather than sweet deals with green energy lobbyists and hedge fund donors. It means a president who plays fair, not one who rams his health care reform bill through Congress without allowing anyone, not even members of Congress, to read it. It means a president who is transparent with the public, not one who promises transparency and then claims "executive privilege" to hide possible wrongdoing by his attorney general.
This majority of mainstream voters knows there is something seriously amiss when an administration thinks it can govern without congressional approval of cabinet-level appointees. There's something wrong when the president thinks he can influence Supreme Court justices on ObamaCare by suggesting that it would be unprecedented to invalidate a law passed by Congress -- when, in fact, the Court has done just this scores of times and has the responsibility to do so when a law is unconstitutional. This majority of voters knows that the Chicago Way is not the American Way -- that intimidation, harassment, and blustering may be all right for a Chicago ward heeler, but they aren't OK for the president.
In other words, the public is weary of an administration that thinks it has the right to break all the rules and get away with it. The public is tired of the failure, incompetence, scandal, brazen contempt, and incredible arrogance of this administration. What the public wants is competence, reasonableness, correctness, and a dash of humility.
The public wants normalcy, which also means less divisiveness. It wants a president who will pursue a mainstream agenda that includes bringing the deficit under control, repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with workable reforms, and unleashing the entrepreneurial force of free-market capitalism. These are not radical changes -- they are a return to what America was for most of its history -- and the new president will have a mandate to bring them about.
No president in memory has done more to divide America than Barack Obama. Exploiting every division for political gain, he has pitted poor against rich, blacks and Hispanics against whites, gays against straights, women against men, young against old, and union members against business and government leaders. Mainstream Americans are tired of these divisions, and they want a president who speaks of "believing in America," not believing in black America, Hispanic America, young America, female America, gay America, or unionized America.
The American people are tired of change. What they want is jobs, better wages, stability, and security. For swing voters, most of whom do not identify themselves as liberals or conservatives, Romney is appealing because he can unite the country around a practical agenda for growth. Conservatives, I believe, need to recognize the mood of the country and understand that Romney is the best shot we have of defeating Obama. And it is imperative that Obama be defeated.
There is only one presidential candidate in the race who understands and supports the free market, has the competence to govern, and promises to govern by the rule of law. There is only one candidate who will unify the country and restore faith in the nation's future. And there is only one candidate who can return the country to normalcy. That candidate is not Barack Obama.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).