Romney engages, Obama avoids, the NAACP
Mitt Romney grabbed headlines when he addressed the annual convention of the NAACP in Houston, but most of the post-speech reporting and commentary missed the point. He gave the same speech he would deliver to any audience to promote his message of economic freedom and opportunity as the route to middle class prosperity.
By delivering this message to the NAACP, Romney took dead aim at the cynical world of identity politics that divides voters by race, gender, and class. He rejected the politics of pandering for a universal message of family, education, and economic progress for every citizen.
Most of the news reports focused on the boos Romney received when he pledged to eliminate wasteful government programs, including President Obama’s healthcare law. They also highlighted the crowd’s uneasiness when Romney said that he is the candidate to improve the lives of black Americans along with everyone else. There were few reports of Romney’s job-centered economic message.
Ordinarily there is nothing unusual about presidential candidates addressing the NAACP convention. They do it every four years. But this year the Republican nominee will be up against the first black president. What could Romney hope to accomplish by addressing an audience that gave 95 percent of its vote to Barack Obama in 2008.
What Romney accomplished, besides his universal economic message, was the point that he aims to represent all Americans as president. He did not dismiss the NAACP convention delegates as citizens beyond his electoral reach. He asked for their support as he would any audience.
If anyone dismissed those attending the convention, it was President Obama. He spoke to the delegates by taped message and sent Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder as his surrogates. Few media reports questioned the president’s absence.
By ignoring the president’s failure to attend the convention, the media dodged the obvious. The president did not attend the convention because he has no plausible message for his most loyal audience. Black unemployment stood at 14.4 percent in June, well above the 8.2 percent national figure. What could he possibly say to the delegates to boost confidence in four more years of the Obama administration?
Romney told the audience that his economic policies would rebuild the middle class and assist those who aspire to middle class success. He praised the role of family and education. To drive the point home, he called for education reform that includes school choice and extra efforts to close the achievement gap among all students.
Romney spent the most time on his main message: Jobs will be job one in the Romney administration from day one. He outlined his support for using all of the nation’s abundant energy sources and specifically mentioned the need for the Keystone Pipeline. He called for opening new markets for U.S. goods and services and the need to crack down on unfair trade policies practiced by China. He emphasized the need to develop skilled workers to tap the nation’s most important resource.
These and other policies can help create jobs, Romney said, but cuts in government spending are essential to job creation. Out of control government debt fueled by spending stifles growth. This is why he included the president’s healthcare law a priority for elimination.
In Houston, Romney delivered an economic message appropriate for any audience. He showed that inclusion and not division displays respect for every American.