Presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke at the 103rd NAACP Annual Convention this past week. I commend Governor Romney for doing a brave thing: speaking to some of his opponents’ most staunch supporters about why he would be a better president. However, this is where my praise stops because Governor Romney took a great opportunity the NAACP gave him to detail his plan for America’s future and brought nothing but campaign façade and rhetoric.
Governor Romney’s 24-minute speech exhorted us to focus on the family and free enterprise. He invoked a vision of an educated, married, and employed America. The five point plan was straight from campaign ads:
- Expand the use of the United States’ natural energy resources.
- Expand American trade, and fairness in world trade.
- Reduce government spending by eliminating every nonessential government program, including the Affordable Care Act.
- Expand the number of skilled workers we have in this country.
- Restore economic freedom.
In this speech, we glean only two concrete details: that Governor Romney plans to build the Keystone Pipeline and repeal the Affordable health care act. The highly controversial pipeline has already met major opposition because of environmental concerns. This pipeline has been touted as a potential means to energy independence for the United States. However, the oil transported and refined are products of private companies, and there are no provisions specifying that these oil products will be preferentially sold in the United States. It is as likely that produces of this pipeline can be used to fuel our foreign industrial competitors as they can be to fuel US industries.
With regards to the Affordable Care Act, the president does not have the power to repeal laws already on the books. That power is given in one shape or another to Congress and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has already upheld the Affordable Care Act in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. It would be better for a president to try to shape this legislation into something that both parties can be proud of, rather than encouraging partisanship in Congress to uphold or repeal a law that all agree have some merits.
We could have particularly benefited from hearing details of Governor Romney’s plans to restore economic freedom. Economic well-being of any nation in the world today is tied in with all the others due to how intertwined nature of the world’s economies. This is an issue the next president will have to confront. We need to hear not only about Romney’s plans in the United States, abut also plans for the US's role in world economic recovery plans.
Major media outlets looked for a story from this speech, and most of them focused on Romney getting booed by the crowd. These media outlets exaggerated what happened. Yes, Romney did get booed. But it only happened twice, and it was not loud or obnoxious. The real story behind what happened at the NAACP Convention last week was Romney missing an opportunity to much more clearly define his plans. He had the opportunity to begin a substantive dialogue with a major component of his opposition’s base. But, instead of arming himself with a well thought out national plan, he trotted on stage with the usual stump speech of the Republican Party.
Every political science student knows that the modern Republican Party’s tenants include expanding the use of domestic energy resources, expanding trade, and creating a smaller government. With today’s market, all politicians want to create more jobs and help restore the strength of the economy. None of this information is new or enlightening, and Romney needs to bring more specifics to the table.
It’s been a tiring primary season filled with mostly broad, sweeping statements from both sides with figurative or actual “booing” from the opposite side. As we enter into the next phase of presidential and legislative debates, I hope we will hear more details. I also hope the audiences will not just boo but stand up and ask questions that will lead to discussion about future government policies. Stand up and say to our candidates: We are tired of spin, give us substance.