David Frum

09.20.12

Mitt, Why Not Stand For the 100%?

The American Enterprise Institute's Henry Olsen bemoans the Randian meme of the 47% versus the 53%.

When I came of political age in the late 1970s, conservatism was led by two giants, Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. Each came from humble backgrounds; each had known real adversity and expressed genuine empathy for the common man. Both had created uncommon lives for themselves. But neither thought that the people from the neighborhoods they left were anything but decent and honorable Americans, no matter how much they paid in taxes.

In their hands, conservatism ceased to be a theoretical oddity or academic exercise. It became the vital life force of American politics, the prism through which Americans could see their futures happily unfolding. Central to this achievement was an obvious respect for the innate dignity of the average American. Kemp’s manifest passion for improving the lot of the poor endeared him to many who disagreed with his prescriptions. Reagan’s regard was less impassioned in his manner but just as profound. ...

After Nov. 6, whether Romney wins or loses, the conservative movement will still face a time for choosing. Do we still value the Lenny Skutniks and Joe the Plumbers? Or are we a movement that not so subtly tells the average Jane and Joe that their sacrifices don’t count, that the place of honor is set only for the highest and most successful among us?