The Real Difference Between Obama and Romney

It's not just about the role of government in our lives, but whether we have an obligation to support those who need help when community fails to provide

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/Rick Wilking / Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan wave to the audience after Romney's acceptance speech at the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 30, 2012.

About 40 years ago, George Corley Wallace rose up out of Alabama smoking White Owl cigars and attacking American “elites” (bureaucrats and professors, among others) as he helped create a new racially coded politics. One of the keys to Wallace’s appeal not only in the South but among working-class whites outside the old Confederacy was his overt contempt for the status quo of the two-party system that had dominated American politics since the middle of the 19th century. In Wallace’s view, there was not “a dime’s worth of difference” between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

It’s tempting agree with Wallace, at least on this narrow ground. The two major parties tend to have more in common with one another than either side would like to recognize, much less admit.

(PHOTOS: Behind the Cover: Obama Makes His Way to the DNC)

To my mind, though, a key distinction—or difference, to use Wallace’s term—has emerged in this convention season. It’s subtle but important, and has to do with the most ancient of American tensions: the role of the state in the lives of individuals.

In his acceptance speech in Tampa last week, Mitt Romney made a strong case for his worldview—a vision where families, communities, and markets are the determinative forces in life. “And that’s how it is in America,” Romney said. “We look to our communities, our faiths, our families for our joy, our support, in good times and bad. It is both how we live our lives and why we live our lives. The strength and power and goodness of America has always been based on the strength and power and goodness of our communities, our families, our faiths. That is the bedrock of what makes America, America. In our best days, we can feel the vibrancy of America’s communities, large and small.”

He’s right, of course, and this passage is in some ways a lineal descendant of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 acceptance speech, an address in which the then-vice president emphasized the role of organic institutions and relationships—families, churches, and the like—in order to soften the antigovernment rhetoric of the Goldwater-Reagan wing of the GOP.

(MORE: What Obama and Romney Can Learn from Neil Armstrong)

Yet before accepting a wholly communitarian vision of life—which is what I heard Romney presenting last week—we might profitably listen to what President Obama said on the same general subject four years ago in Denver: “What—what is that American promise? It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have obligations to treat each other with dignity and respect. It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, to look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road. Ours—ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools, and new roads, and science, and technology. Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work. That’s the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

There’s the difference: Obama believes in communal responsibility, and in the role of government to try to smooth out the rougher edges of life for those for whom the community cannot. This is not to say that Romney is a cold man, or that Republicans are cold-hearted; he isn’t, and they aren’t. But there is a difference between the two parties—Republicans in general would like to think that our keepers can be found in society rather than with the help of the state. Experience tells us the Democratic view addresses the problems of history more fully than the GOP one. And that’s a difference that’s worth a great deal more than a dime.

MORE: Obama Plays Hard Ball

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Pat Elgee
Pat Elgee

I voted for Obama.  I am proud of how he lifted us out of depression and started us on the road to recovery.  He is well respected world wide as a strong advocate for what is right.  I am only disappointed in how pig headed the republicans are in Congress and their refusal to do any work.  If you want to see a more effective President Obama, vote for more democrats in Congress.  Honestly look at how Olympia Snow, rep. of Maine just gave up, because to do her job would alienate her with her party whose only objective was to block improvements desperately needed by the American people in a wrong headed effort to make Obama look bad.

IreadlotsofBooks
IreadlotsofBooks

Whats funny is the government has show that there terrible at protecting us from harm and providing children with decent education; keeping our water clean/ toys safe. Oh yeah they've invested in education, and new roads, and science, and technology, but where the most amount of money is flowing is where the worst success with children has been(washington dc). Our government should work for us, not against us(there totally working against us though). It should help us, not hurt us(totally hurting us). It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.....yeah yeah yeah that's we still have the federal reserve bank and pay illegal income tax...... pathetic..and sad..

IreadlotsofBooks
IreadlotsofBooks

Whats funny is the government has show that there terrible at protecting us from harm and providing children with decent education; keeping our water clean/ toys safe. Oh yeah they've invested in education, and new roads, and science, and technology, but where the most amount of money is flowing is where the worst success with children has been(washington dc). Our government should work for us, not against us(there totally working against us though). It should help us, not hurt us(totally hurting us). It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.....yeah yeah yeah that's we still have the federal reserve bank and pay illegal income tax...... pathetic..and sad..

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Yes, the view of the democratic party is far more realistic than that of the republican party.

fightingforfreedom8
fightingforfreedom8

I have taught in the public schools for 28 years and have been witness to the destruction government handouts cause.  Try to motivate a class of students who tell you that they don't have to do anything because "I will get a check like my mama when I get older."  These are capable, talented children with no motivation to better themselves because they don't see the need.  Yes, we have a responsibility to one another and the government does have a role in our lives.  But when the government gives to the point that it is actually taking away, there will no longer be a nation to be governed.

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Gloria Peters

Franklin D. Roosevelt is known as one of the best US Presidents in our history, yet it took 15 years to turn the depression around under his leadership. That Depression started in 1929 and ended in 1945 after WWII.   That economical tragedy became a full blown Depression because no means were used to stop it from free falling. 

Comparably, President Obama  did stop our economic tragedy from its free fall. Though we are still in a recession after 4 years, we did not completely crash and we are doing better than those folks did during the depression of 1929.  I know because I heard my dad and his friends talk about it while I was growing up.  Though we are experiencing less hardship, we are bigger whiners.  Because we are all spoiled little brats. 

I fault neither President George Bush nor President Barack Obama.  The seeds in deregulating those entities, which are at fault for this recession, started with President Ronald Reagan and the house of cards that was built upon the deregulation of lending institutes was during President Bill Clinton.   Both Presidents Bush and Obama got stuck with this hot potato.  They get all the blame, while Presidents Reagan and Clinton are applauded as heroes.  

We, the people, are at fault for behaving like little bratty spoiled children, while Presidents Reagan and Clinton acted like enabling bad parents.  Presidents Reagan and Clinton were nothing less than narcissists.  They put more value in their self-love rather than in the consequences that many would eventually suffer because of their narcissistic ways.  

And then, there are those idiots who really believe that getting rid of President Obama will solve the world problems. I don't listen to them at all because they are not helpful, just hateful.   Mr. Romney concerns me when he simplifies our situation, like when he says "ask your parents for money to go to college".  It's apparent that he is only talking to wealthy households and not the rest of us. A President must represent ALL the people, and ALL economical classes.  Mr. Romney knows nothing about us. But, to be honest, I don't know what it's like to be that wealthy either. Maybe the wealthy are right, it maybe a big burden being rich and need the tax breaks to lighten their burden.  Using the Ben Franklin method, (Pros and Cons), President Obama represents my interests more.  

Joe Monte
Joe Monte

The socialism that Obama supporters love so much was tried in the Soviet Union for over 70 years.  If you remember they also had their 1%(Dachas were not available to the proletariat), although their leaders claimed an egalitarian society.  When the  Soviet Union collapsed, we found out that the Utopian government they had claimed was nothing more than organized squalor.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

You have no understanding of history or economics, Joe.

West Chester Al
West Chester Al

You wouldnt know a SOCIALIST if Karl kicked you in the az z.............

Joe Monte
Joe Monte

The socialism that Obama supporters love so much was tried in the Soviet Union for over 70 years.  If you remember they also had their 1%.  Although their leaders claimed an egalitarian society, dachas were not available to the proletariat.  When the  Soviet Union collapsed, we found out that the Utopian government they had claimed was nothing more than organized squalor.

 

 

brucew29
brucew29

Wall Street and Big Banks belong to the private sectior and they screwed everything up because of inadequate government regulations! We don't need less regulations but we do need better regulations!

brucew29
brucew29

If you can't beat them then join them!

The old proverb, "If you can't beat them, join

them", was adopted by the Mafia years ago. The Mafia couldn't beat

government so the Mafia joined government! The old Mafia, now being a part of

government, now call themselves "Republicans"!

Simple Math

Romney-Ryan = R-R

R-R = Rail-Roaded!

Democratic Party = For The People!

Republican Party = Screw The People!

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

 Its actually screw the people from the 95%  and give it to the 5%.

wereright
wereright

I heard, I believe it was Thomas Sowell, confident ignorance.  More confidence than wisdom seems to be Mr. Obamas weakness.  I dont want him making my decisions for me....ever.

wereright
wereright

I don't get the article.  So, you recommend voting for Obama because we need the government to smooth the rough edges created by rugged individuals? Please tell me the evidence that government does anything better than the private sector and individuals.

Most of us, at least people I know, would rather depend on themselves than the commune.

AnnHCsonka
AnnHCsonka

@wereright "the commune"?  What baloney.  America is about people all working together.  TOGETHER does not mean "government run" anything. As ALL candidates for president have always said, there is a place for government--like building the interstate highway system and the dams that supply water to millions in the west.  Like conserving the national parks that you probably have visited at some time in your life.  Like having national defense.  It is super inefficient for everyone to be their own police, fire department, military, etc. doesn't work.

The UNITED STATES simply connects all the individual accomplishments. the private sector and market, etc.

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

Then please do. If they need a loan to pay for their college, ask them to go to banks; if your or their crops wither because of drought or other natural calamities, do not go to the Government, just go to your fellow farmers and the community; if an outbreak of a virus or disease spreads in your commune, don't ask for help from the CDC and so much more.

Its easy to say that you don't need Government services and instead depend on your community. but when the time  comes (like when you medical services) that's when you most need it, who will be there but the Government.

f_galton
f_galton

You should look up the concept of "false dichotomy".

f_galton
f_galton

Obama done keep da toys safe! Fo mo years, fo mo years!

Ralph Snart
Ralph Snart

Obama drinks beer and Romney doesn't. That's the only difference that means anything.

Phil Mccanless
Phil Mccanless

Both Obama and Romney support the patriot act, NDAA, corporate bailouts, marijuana prohibition, the federal income tax, foreign wars and neither can be trusted to protect civil liberties.  Neither deserve to be president.  Gary Johnson has more executive experience than Obama and Romney put together and is the only one talking about bold and workable solutions.  JOHNSON/GRAY 2012!

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laofeidou
laofeidou

yes,it is time to change for America.

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GeorgeBluth
GeorgeBluth

I've been living in China for about 2 years.  One thing I have found extremely different is the huge role  governments play in industry.   Huge subsidies are provided either in the way of tax breaks, zero interest loans, and free rent.  This happens at both the national and local level.

I don't necessarily agree with this but what I want to point out is  we compete with the Chinese in the globalized economy.  Thus, while Republicans and libertarians may argue for free market economics and a more limited government that "doesn't pick winners", this is already and impossibility because OF WHAT OTHER GOVERNMENTS DO.  Did you know as late as 2007, Japanese automakers received $4k-14k for every car exported?  Did you know while we were slamming Obama's $1billion loan to failed solar startup Solyndra, china was giving its top 5 solar panel makers $30 billion?I would definitely prefer to compete in a free market.  But the fact is we don't.  I think Republicans and libertarians often package limited government and free market principles as the panacea for all the ills of how government is run...  and they'd be right in the old unglobalized economy.  But right now I just don't think that's so anymore.  We're getting murdered out there.  

What's the saying?  "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight."

Joshua
Joshua

Hang on. So the guy who said his judgment was an adequate substitute to our Constitution, assassinated several American born people with no due process, no charges filed, no evidence shown to a court, said that the government shouldn't hurt us? Right. The precedent has been set for all future presidents that they might be our judge, jury, and executioner. Don't worry though, I'm sure they would never abuse that power.. 

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

What? Really? But those things were also done by Bush, did you complain?

Its easy to complain when its a democrat doing a republican thing, but if Republicans are doing it, its alright? What crap....

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

BOY, aren't you being STUPID here !

Making FALSE accusations against someone you don't even know and you go around assuming he didn't complain ! I like stupid people like you !

What is with people like you anyway ? Disagree all you want but DON'T go making false assumptions against someone you never met ! 

Joshua
Joshua

Wasn't happy with Bush and things like the Patriot Act either. What's crap is that you assume that I'm supporting the republicans, I am not. Also what's crap is that the left was very vocal about the wars and civil liberties under Bush, but when Obama was elected they became mostly silent. If Bush had a kill list and was targeting multiple Americans for assassination, would so many people be okay with it? 

IddiKlu
IddiKlu

There are some tough questions here.  Should the individual not be MORE responsible for his and his family's well being than the government?

Can anyone expect the government to take care of individuals, except for short periods of time, and under very limited circumstances?

The government can be an emergency net under some who are temporarily unable to take care of themselves.  It absolutely cannot be the main provider for everyone, all the time.  Not only is there no way to get the necessary means, but the inefficiency of bureaucracy will always thwart that, even if the means could be found.

Even the old Greeks already figured that out and the consequences of the populace trying to get a free ride from the government has always brought about the destruction of the country in which it took hold.  Argentina at the beginning of the 20th Century is a well known example.

If we, as American citizen, don't acknowledge that and act accordingly, this wonderful country is doomed to go down the same tubes so many others have before it, for that same reason.

It is up to us and even an obviously misguided, inept President is no excuse for allowing it to happen.  In the end, we, the citizens of this nation are responsible for its survival, for us and our descendants.

TianbianHaiou
TianbianHaiou

Thank you for reminding us the universal meaning of "Humanity". It takes a truly intelligent human like Obama to be sincere and faithful to Humanity!

Phil Mccanless
Phil Mccanless

How is killing American citizens with drone attacks with no trials, much less convictions, with one man acting as judge, jury and executioner all in one being faithful to humanity?  Because it sure isn't being faithful to the rule of law.  JOHNSON/GRAY 2012

TianbianHaiou
TianbianHaiou

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bigbrother3
bigbrother3

You are only kidding yourself. The blind leading the blind.

TianbianHaiou
TianbianHaiou

仁者莫大於愛人, 智者莫大於知賢

心善,則到處天堂

kwco
kwco

Wasn't George Wallace that idiot that stood out side the University Of Alabama and tried to stop Black Students enrolling? In fact, wasn't he a Democrat?

 If that's the Democrat vision of the role of government - they can keep it. I think I'd rather have the GOP version.

Robert Sellers
Robert Sellers

That's a foolish comment, all the dixiecrats as the southern dems were known left the party over integration.  Strom Thurmond, would be case in point.  

Wallace only stayed a D because he had a religious awakening after being shot that led him to accept African Americans and become their political champions. 

FormerGOP
FormerGOP

George Wallace was a "Southern Democrat", in opposition to what used to be the Lincoln Republicans of the North.  All of those Southern Democrats have since switched to the Republican Party, turning the South to the Red States, at least the white citizens...Never hear the current Republican Party referring to their initial hero, Abraham Lincoln anymore, do you?

kelub
kelub

You should really try putting labels in historical context. The south was primarily "democrat" until LBJ stood up for civil rights; that's when the bulk of the southern "racists" moved to the Republican party... and stayed there. So is it accurate to say that racist figures from the past were Democrats? Yes. Would they be today? Absolutely not. The GOP saw an opportunity to win over the south by embracing the backwater segregationist folks and still do their best to walk a thin line between appeasing that base with euphemisms and avoiding alienation of the mainstream, independent voter. 

VictorCraig
VictorCraig

Memo To:

 

Mr. Mitt Romney and Mr. Paul Ryan

 

You have been sending messages to those of us who were

enthusiastic about the election of the first African-American President and

telling us about our disappointment and how Mr. Obama has let us down.

 

This is obfuscation at its best and worst and an execution

of a well thought out plan.

 

If there is any disappointment to be felt, it would be by

the entire American electorate on the performance of the Republican-led House

of Representatives and certain Republican members of the United States Senate.

 

You,

Mr. Ryan, claimed that the president walked away from the talks to balance

the nation’s budget and to pay off the debt while omitting the fact that

you were was one of the committee members who voted “No” to the proposed

Simpson-Bowles solution. According to you, we are supposed to be

disappointed in the President, not you or your “no compromise”

congressional colleagues.

 

According

to a recent report in Time magazine, John Boehner, the Speaker of the

House, met with you and other congressional colleagues planning and

conspiring to oppose any and all legislation that the president might

present for debate and vote. This strategy earned the name, ”The Do

Nothing Congress”.

 

Several

Republican members of congress signed a pledge to a lobbyist, named Grover

Norquist to vote down any increase in taxes that would help to pay off the

national debt. They put that pledge over and above their oaths of office

and their obligations to the fiscal health and welfare of our nation.

 

Senator

Mitch McConnell stated publicly to make it his mission to prevent Mr.

Obama from serving more that one term. This same senator blocked the “Jobs

Bill” which proposed funding for the re-hiring of teachers policemen and

firemen. It also contains provisions for re-training many unemployed

workers.

 

By putting their own re-election hopes, political, and racist-based agenda ahead

of the needs of the American people, the Republican party through actions and

non-actions share the lion’s share of responsibility for not tackling many of

our nation’s economic ills. Where is the Jobs Bill?

 

The message, therefore to Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan is this:

 

We were uplifted by the election of Barack Obama and we

thought that America had finally shaken off its racist chains. So YES! We are

we disappointed but, NOT in the president as you two want us to be.  We are disappointed in the disgraceful,

racist-based and nearly treasonous actions of CONGRESS whose members you

represent and with whom you have worked.

More importantly, we are disappointed in you for having

pandered to the least progressive members of the US population with your thinly

veiled racist remarks and pre-12th century attitudes and

pronouncements.

 

bigbrother3
bigbrother3

No you are wrong. What you had in the first two years of the Obama administraition was Majority Tyranny. Ramming every thing down out throats. Thankful for the Republican House which kept this president from becoming a true dictator.

shaysite
shaysite

So what of Mitch McConnell's statement at the beginning of the Obama presidency that the GOP's single most important goal was to defeat the president and the instructions congressional Republicans received to make no agreements with the president under any circumstances (so as to weaken him, deny him any accomplishments)?

How do you square that with the idea of a party with whom ANYONE could compromise?!

How do yo square that any claim of patriotism?

factsmatter3
factsmatter3

Bigbrother3, I would like more information about which policies you think were rammed down your throat.  Was it the health care initiative?  The same initiative that was designed by the Heritage Foundation and originally enacted in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney.  Perhaps you are referring to the aut0 company bailout, a policy that saved millions of jobs and has been paid back.  No wait, you are probably referring to the stimulus program, which representative Ryan and many other Republican legislators took advantage of to help their districts.

The reality is that Obama is a centrist who has bent over backwards to negotiate with republicans but has been stymied at every turn by a party that only wants to make Obama a one-term president. 

Your comment contains no facts, only an opinion that does not stand up to even a cursory evaluation of realty. 

jeff152
jeff152

I think Obamacare is the primary issue.  It was passed without one republican vote.  If the republicans passed something without one democrat vote, I'm sure you would use the same language.

If Obama bent over backwars don't you think he could have got even one (Spector or Collins?).  I guess the republicans are so corrupt that they could not even find one.  Think about how closed minded that sounds.

VictorCraig
VictorCraig

bigbrother.

You are not being fair in your judgement.

When the Republicans had a majority, they pushed the Iraq war down the throats of the US population. Was Geoge W. Bush a dictator? 

There is no way that any president-not Bush. Reagan or Roosevelt, is able to become a dictator.  Those rules are set forth in the US Constitution.

Check it out yourself.

However, for the so-called "loyal opposition" to pledge their loyalty to a lobbyist instead of to the American public, is disgraceful.

The whole idea of three branches of governments as set forth by our founding fathers is for those three branches to arrive at compromise solutions to our nation's problems.

 However, the republicans set those principles aside for their own political reasons.

 You  do not need to believe me. Just read the news of congressional activity over the past three years.

They were not called "The Do Nothing Congress" for any reason other than that  they did nothing except opposes everything. 

Finally, for example, most recently there is the jobs bill that might have put thousands of people back to work that was stalled in the senate by Mitch McConnell on nothing more than a procedural technicality. It was not reviewed, discussed or even debated.

 WHY do that, when we have a big unemployment situation? 

I rest my case.

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