Americans will not only be voting for a president (and a House and a third of the Senate). They will be participating in a plebiscite on the definition of America.
If Americans re-elect the Democrat, Barack Obama, they will have announced that America should be like Western European countries -- governed by left-wing values. Americans will have decided that America's value system -- "Liberty," "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum" -- should be replaced.
The election in November is therefore a plebiscite on the American Revolution. The usual description of presidential elections -- "the most important in our lifetime" -- is true this time. In fact, it may be the most important election since the Civil War, and possibly since America's founding.
The left knows what is at stake. And the most left-wing president in American history knows what is at stake. Candidate Obama announced shortly before the 2008 election, "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
He described the left's aim perfectly: to fundamentally transform America. It seeks to replace Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum.
That is what "fundamentally transform" means. In fact, those words are proof that American values and leftist values are fundamentally opposed to one another.
The right, on the other hand, seeks to maintain America's values. Conservatives want to improve America, but, as its name implies, conservatism seeks to conserve, not transform.
"Liberty" means, first and foremost, limited government -- because bigger government means less individual liberty. "In God We Trust" means that America must be rooted in Creator-based values. There are no inalienable rights if no rights derive from God. And "E Pluribus Unum" means the assumption of an American identity by all citizens regardless of their racial, ethnic or national background.
The left seeks to replace Liberty with Equality. Material inequality is the great evil, and if individual liberty needs to be sacrificed to attain equality, so be it.
Creator-based values are to be replaced by government-based values. "God-fearing" is to be replaced by "State-fearing." God must be removed from schools and wherever else the left can succeed in doing so.
"E Pluribus Unum" is to be replaced by multiculturalism. For leftism, the very words "American identity" conjure up chauvinism, if not fascism.
For these reasons, this election is not just a choice between a Democrat and a Republican. It is between Americanism and leftism.
This does not mean that left-wing Americans are un-American or unpatriotic -- or that they do not love their country. The conflict between Americanism and leftism is between ideas, not between decent and indecent people. But it is an unfortunate fact of life that decent people can believe in bad ideas. If this were not so, few of the greatest evils would ever have occurred.
If this election is indeed a plebiscite on America, Mitt Romney cannot campaign solely, or even primarily, on the state of the economy. First, what if the economy even slightly improves? What happens then to Governor Romney's appeal? Moreover, relying for one's success on the suffering of one's fellow Americans is morally as well as politically perilous. Second, Americans want to vote for more than an economic Mr. Fix-It, as desirable as such a person is.
So, too, Mr. Romney should not overly personalize his campaign. He is running against Obama, but Barack Obama is not the biggest issue. The left's desire to transform America is the biggest issue. Barack Obama is to be opposed because he is a man of the left.
Mitt Romney and the entire Republican Party need to describe this election as the plebiscite on America that it is. The most urgent task in American life is to make clear, and then repeat as often as possible: leftist values and American values are in conflict.
Instead of asking, "Are you better off than you were three years ago?" Every Republican needs to ask, every day, "Do you want to fundamentally transform America?" If they do, Barack Obama is their man. If they don't, Mitt Romney is.