Reposted from the Washington Post-- by Eugene Robinson
Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate underscores the
central question posed by this campaign: Should cold selfishness become
the template for our society, or do we still believe in community?
Romney wanted the election to be seen as a referendum on the
success or failure of President Obama’s economic policies. Instead, he
has revealed that the campaign is really a choice between two starkly
different philosophies. One could be summed up as: “We’re all in this
together.” The other: “I’ve got mine.”
This is not about free enterprise, and it’s not about personal
liberty; those fundamental principles are unquestioned. But for at least
the past 100 years, we have understood capitalism and freedom to exist
within a larger context — a complicated, real-world, human context. Some
people begin life at a disadvantage, and it’s in the national interest
to open doors of opportunity for them. Some people make mistakes, and
it’s in the national interest to create second chances. Some people are
too young, too old or too infirm to care for themselves, and it’s in the
national interest to secure their welfare.
This sense of the
balance between individualism and community fueled the American Century.
Romney and Ryan apparently don’t believe in it.
It is well known that Ryan, at least for most of his career, has been enamored of the ideas of Ayn Rand, the novelist (“Atlas Shrugged,” “The Fountainhead”)
whose interminable books tout self-interest as the highest, noblest
human calling and equate capitalist success with moral virtue. Ryan now
disavows Rand’s worldview, primarily because she was an atheist, but he
lavishly praised her ideas as recently as 2009.
What about Romney? While he has never pledged allegiance to the Cult of Rand, his view of society seems basically the same.
least three times in recent days, as part of his response to President
Obama’s “You didn’t build that” peroration, Romney has told campaign
audiences variations of the following: “When a young person makes the
honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to the school, but I
don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll.”
delivered that line in Manassas on Saturday with Ryan in tow, Romney
drew wild applause. He went on to say that a person who gets a promotion
and raise at work, and who commutes to the office by car, doesn’t owe
anything to the clerk at the motor vehicles department who processes
What I hear Romney saying, and I suspect many others will also hear, is that the little people don’t contribute and don’t count.
don’t know whether Romney’s sons ever rode the bus to school. I do know
that for most parents, it matters greatly who picks up their children
in the morning and drops them off in the afternoon.
It may not be
the driver’s job to help with algebra homework, but he or she bears
enormous responsibility for safely handling the most precious cargo
imaginable. A good bus driver gets to know the children, maintains order
and discipline, deals with harassment and bullying. Romney may not
realize it, but a good driver plays an important role in ensuring a
child’s physical and emotional well-being — and may, in fact, be the
first adult to whom the child proudly displays a report card with all
School bus drivers don’t make a lot of money. Nor, for that
matter, do the clerks who help keep unqualified drivers and unsafe
vehicles off the streets. But these workers are not mere cogs in a
machine designed to service those who make more money. They are part of a
The same is true of teachers, police officers,
firefighters and others whom Romney and Ryan dismiss as minions of “big
government” rather than public servants.
And what do the
Republicans offer their supposed heroes, the entrepreneurs who start
small businesses? The few who succeed wildly would be rewarded with tax
cuts so huge that they, like Romney, might one day have a dressage horse
competing in the Olympics. Most of those who just manage to scrape by,
or whose businesses fail, could look forward to only as much health care
in their senior years as they are able to afford, and not one bit more.
is a campaign Democrats should relish. The United States became the
world’s dominant economic, political and military power by recognizing
that we are all in this together. School bus drivers, too."