Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Not only do I disagree with John Podhoretz's claim that Obama's 'You didn't build that' riff was the Mistake of the Campaign, I am not sure it was a mistake at all...

Obama's comments not only resonate with bog-government loving liberals, they resonate with those who aren't as rich or as successful as they want to be... and who desperately want to avoid having to take responsibility for that.

Romney and the Republicans are responding to Obama by claiming that success is a function of brains and hard work (and perhaps a bit of luck).  According to conservative doctrine, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates earned their success, their millions of dollars and their stature by being smarter and working harder than just about everybody else.  So too, albeit on a somewhat more limited scale, did the guy who owns a local construction company, the local Coke bottling franchise or a computer consulting company.

But the flip side of this viewpoint is that, by definition, anyone who isn't rich is stupid, lazy and/or getting screwed by someone else.

And people don't like or want to accept that view of themselves.  Whether in sports, business or life in general, it's never their fault that they're not as successful as they think they should be.  It's never their fault that they're not as rich as someone else.  It's never their fault that someone else is higher up the corporate ladder.  It's never their fault that they failed while someone else succeeded.

And when Romney responds to Obama by defending American entrepreneurs and business owners, what these people (subliminally) hear is Romney blaming them for their lack of money and success.  And in listening to Obama, these people hear someone telling them that it isn't their fault that they're not rich.  Per Obama, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and the guy who belongs to the country club and drives a new car aren't rich and successful because they were smarter or harder working, but rather because they got help.  And per Obama, someone who isn't successful and rich isn't dumb or lazy, they simply haven't gotten the help that others have.

And who is it that offers these folks more of that kind of help?  Not Romney with his championing of 'traditional' success, but Obama with his exhaustive list of the ways in which government can help people get further in life.

It's a shame that so many people refuse to accept responsibility for their fate.  Not only for all sorts of philosophical reasons but also because there are a whole lot more people who aren't rich and famous and successful than those who are.  Romney may win all the votes from businesspeople who feel (rightly, in my view) that they did build their business... but he's not going to win the election if he can't also win a whole bunch of votes from those who think otherwise.