One Washington-based Republican adviser recounted an interaction in which a senior member of the Romney team, asked what the campaign planned to do to soften the class-based criticism of Romney, gave a blank look and snapped, "Nobody cares about that crap."Contrast that attitude with this line from Vice President Joe Biden's campaign kickoff speech yesterday:
Simply stated, we’re about promoting the private sector, they’re about protecting the privileged sector. (Applause.) We are for a fair shot and a fair shake. They’re about no rules, no risks, and no accountability.I'd say that Biden had sprung a trap, but I think Romney and his team genuinely believe that their brand of plutocratic capitalism is the one and only true form of free enterprise and that anyone who doesn't buy into is guilty of socialism, communism and un-American loathing of the private sector.
In his speech yesterday, Biden dismantled their narrow world view. Democrats do want a strong and growing private sector, and they don't expect government to do everything. Unlike Republicans, however, Democrats are realistic enough to know that you need government to establish and enforce rules of the road to make sure that competition is fair, that sometimes you need to the public sector to step in and support the private sector when the economy is in crisis, and that a strong safety net to prevent poverty makes us a stronger and freer nation.
When Democrats have failed, it's because they've forgotten those things and caved into Romney's plutocratic vision, but when they've done things right, they've not only shown that Democrats are better capitalists than Republicans, but that a strong private sector can mean a strong middle class. In three years, President Obama already has a better record on private sector jobs than President Bush in eight. And President Clinton had a better economic record than President Reagan—and he balanced the budget while doing it.
Mitt Romney might believe this election is about a choice between his economic vision and Soviet-style Communism, but as Biden said, it's really about whether we're going to stack the deck in favor of a privileged sector or whether we're going to have a private sector that gives everybody a fair shot. And no matter what Romney's campaign says, people do give a crap about that.