Perhaps the most significant if unspoken argument for voters to settle on November sixth involves the bitter dispute over which candidate has lived the more virtuous, worthwhile, constructive life: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
Democrats raise this question implicitly in their avalanche of attacks on the GOP nominee, portraying him as a greedy, callow, uncaring plutocrat who has taken hundreds of millions from the society at large while giving next to nothing in return. Vice President Biden tried to tie Romney’s policies to his questionable character in the contentious Vice Presidential debate while Paul Ryan defended his running mate by citing his prodigious charitable giving and explicitly assuring the audience that Mitt “is a good man.”
Angry ads from the Obama forces of course tell a very different story, touching on prodigious wealth mostly housed in Cayman Island investments, a 14 percent income tax rate, heartless plant closings, outsourcing, expensive hobbies (including a horse in the Olympics), and alleged contempt for the hard work and blighted hopes of the American middle class. Nearly all the nastiest criticisms and caricatures advance a single theme: that Romney has devoted his 65 years of life on earth to the selfish, soulless pursuit of money while using his privileged position to lord it over the less fortunate. In this version of the candidate’s biography he’s not only animated by bad ideas but is, in fact, a bad man—an avaricious avatar of insatiable greed.
The Republicans not only disagree with this dark view of their candidate but feel outraged and indignant over its demented devaluation of the very nature of private-sector success. To them, Mitt’s shockingly scandal-free record of business building and sage investment deserves admiration, not contempt. Conservatives believe that a capitalist with a golden touch like Romney’s ends up giving far more to his investors, his employees, and to the nation as a whole than he ever takes away from the system. Moreover, his tireless work for his church and his dedicated child-rearing (with five clean-cut sons and eighteen grandchildren so far) could serve as a model and inspiration for any American.