The news from last night was not that Mitt Romney easily swept the five states that held primaries; that was assured once Rick Santorum left the race, if not before. Nor was it the prospect, which is being confirmed this morning, that Newt Gingrich would also drop out of the race as a result.
No, the news is that Romney finally gave the speech some of us have been waiting for him to give. (Click here to see a video of the speech, which lasted about 13 minutes, or here to read the prepared remarks; he didn’t stray too far from them.)
The heart of it was the contrast he drew between himself and President Obama. First, what he said about the president:
Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it can’t take, consumes a greater and greater share of the economy. You know, with Obamacare fully installed, government would have control of almost half of the economy, and we would have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society.
This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best — and can provide all.
We’ve already seen where that path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it’s supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty around. Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.
And then there’s his counteroffer:
I have a very different vision for America, and for our future. It’s an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. And because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated, skilled employees is intense, so wages and salaries rise.
I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents — some successful even beyond their wildest dreams — and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.
The repeated mentions of free enterprise, and the good line about congratulating people on their success rather than attacking them for it, are welcome. But here’s where Romney signaled an important theme leading to November:
This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.
When an opponent — as Romney correctly said Obama would do — wants to run not on his record but on distractions and distortions and fuzzy notions of “fairness,” you hit back at what other people might consider unfair. And there is a great deal of unfairness to be found in Obama’s conventional liberal positions, some of which Romney catalogued.
This is a promising start to turning Obama’s raw populism on its ear.
– By Kyle Wingfield