American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks is a free-market apostle. And he is convinced that conservatives can win the argument between free markets and statism if they speak about it in unambiguously moral terms.
This is the central point of Brooks’ forthcoming book, The Road To Freedom, which will be released on Tuesday. Multiple Republican operatives and advisers in Washington, D.C. and across the country told Breitbart News the book will be a must-read playbook of sorts for anyone wanting to win the argument against liberals about how the free market system is the most moral system we can have to ensure fairness and opportunity, and to lift people out of poverty.
And after Mitt Romney’s op-ed in The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday, Romney and his staff should be the first in line to buy the book on Tuesday.
In a prescient conversation with Breitbart News before Romney’s op-ed was published, Brooks said that Romney — and other Republicans running for office this cycle — needed to couch all of the economic arguments they make in “the morality of the free market system, that everybody — rich or poor — deserves earned success.”
And they need to make that argument — and wear it on their hearts, because it is the best system to lift the poor out of poverty in America and abroad — as soon as they open their mouths, Brooks passionately said.
Brooks said Republican candidates have five seconds to tell the audience they are going to make a moral case for free enterprise before the audience’s attention starts to wane.
“The first five seconds must be used to make your moral claim, then you can back it up with wonkery,” Brooks told Breitbart News. “You have to come out of the cannon with the moral claim. This is what is supposed to be written on our hearts.”
On the day when the jobs numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today revealed nearly ten percent of Latinos are unemployed while the unemployment rate for Blacks is even worse at 12.5 percent, Romney’s op-ed made no mention of how these numbers are indicative of an Obama economy that is morally wrong.
Instead, Romney challenged President Obama on the economy with a litany of stats. In the op-ed, Romney cites that “unemployment is over 8 percent and has been for your entire term.” He cites that “nearly 23 million men and women are unemployed, underemployed or are no longer even looking for work.” He proposes cutting “individual tax rates by 20 percent across the board to jump-start job creation, grow the economy and help Americans keep more of their hard-earned dollars” and reforming “a corporate tax system that drives American jobs overseas.”
But as Brooks noted, this wonkery is fine and good, but it does not work without an overarching moral framework. With that framework, though, the stats become more powerful pieces of supporting evidence.
Brooks also said Romney and Republicans need to take Obama on more forcefully on these arguments. He said that Obama speaks constantly about fairness, referencing Obama’s speech in Kansas in which he incessantly spoke of it, and Obama thinks he can win the fairness debate because “conservatives are losing by forfeit.”
“The only way Obama is going to get beat is if Romney and conservatives take the game to him, and they can win if people hear these arguments aggressively and on offense,” Brooks said. “We can’t win if we don’t show up.”
Two weeks ago, In Manchester, New Hampshire, Romney did show up when he made the argument that the America he was fighting for was one that was “fundamentally fair” while Obama’s was not.
“We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next,” Romney said then.
But this rhetoric was found nowhere in today’s op-ed.
If he has any chance of winning the general election, Romney needs to sound more like the Romney in New Hampshire and less like the Romney in Friday’s op-ed in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.