Earlier this month a video leaked of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stating, among other things, that 47% of Americans believe that they are “victims,” “entitled” to the provision of various government programs. The media backlash from these comments continues to damage the Romney-Ryan campaign even weeks following the event, and may cost Romney the 2012 presidential election.
Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Romney’s arguments, this sort of rhetoric is not the way to motivate a nation. In my opinion, it is not Romney’s political policies that may lose him the election, it is his gaffs, his failure to provide rhetoric that America can stand behind. The “victim” statement could easily convey a similar message in a manner that is far less inflammatory and far more inspiring. Instead of “47% percent of Americans see themselves as victims,” why not: “We need to believe that as Americans we possess the power to change the course of our lives.”
The recent media field days over the leaked Romney videos brings to my mind Ronald Reagan, the best rhetorician in contemporary GOP history. Arguably, both Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan faced an overwhelmingly crucial election. In 1980, the Reagan-Bush ticket began campaigning during an extremely dismal economy at home, an energy crisis, and the worsening Iran hostage crisis. A republican victory was crucial to the health of the nation.
Today, Americans continue to face the challenge of recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, the possibility of a socialized healthcare system, and completely unchecked government spending. Fiscally, a GOP victory is important to national growth and security.
Where Romney asserted “47% of Americans see themselves as victims,” Ronald Reagan declared “It’s morning in America.”
Voters cannot be moved to someone’s vision of something if they cannot be inspired—no matter how compelling that vision is. In a democracy, this resonates especially.
Strong rhetoric is a necessary quality of leadership just as it is necessary to motivate others to action. At Stanford, and generally among people my age, I find that college students today are increasingly disillusioned by the American political process.
Frankly, I can’t blame them.
We need to believe that we as students have the power to shape our political system, and to create change within that system. In fact, this is what the Western system of education was created for. As American college students, we should inquire, we should question, we should protest, and we should be activists. And we should believe that all of these actions represent individual agency and matter deeply to the health of America.
In every way, a presidential election should mean it’s morning on the Farm.
The problem with the Romney campaign isn’t that its policies aren’t superior or that it’s ticket isn’t exceedingly qualified. It’s that its leaders appear to be just as disillusioned by the American political system as the next voter.
Students, we are not victims to the disillusionment rampant in our society. Nor must we conflate our citizenship with victimization. We need to believe that no matter the challenge, America is capable. No matter how broken, we can rebuild. This paper aims to move people and inspire.
It’s morning at the Stanford Review.
Lisa Wallace ’14