July 14th, 2012 // 3:59 pm @ Oliver DeMille
In an earlier post I noted that Americans sense a turning point in our history, that our challenges will get bigger in the years ahead and that we need leaders at the level of FDR or Ronald Reagan.
Yet our candidates for president are playing it smaller, avoiding great risks and trying to keep from making mistakes rather than going “all in” and leading America toward a great vision of America’s future.
This is all in contrast to the way Barack Obama ran for office in 2008, with huge messages of hope, change, a new era of unity, and the promise that “Yes, we can!”
In the 2012 election, neither candidate has yet stepped up with a moving, overarching grand vision of a great American 21st Century.
I also mentioned that if we don’t have a Great-Theme election, Obama will probably win, so the ball is really in Romney’s court.
Few things will signal whether the Romney campaign plans to play it safe or go all in for American greatness more than the selection of a running mate.
As George Will pointed out (This Week, July 8, 2012), there is little evidence that the running mate has an actual significant impact on votes.
But Romney’s selection does indicate whether he’s planning to avoid risks throughout the fall election season or boldly go for it with an all-out campaign for American greatness. Ford or Reagan.
If Romney emulates Ford, we’ll know we’re in for a risk-averse campaign where the big debate will be “no more of Obama’s failed policies” versus “we can’t go back to the failed policies of Bush.”
Such a scenario will be excruciating for the majority of independents, who see both the Bush and Obama eras as serious failures to really address America’s economy and future.
The Ford-style candidates, like Tim Palewnty or Rob Portman, signal more of the same and won’t likely be popular with independents.
The Reaganesque candidates like Chris Christie, Paul Ryan or Condaleezza Rice would signal that Romney is primed for a campaign of American greatness.
Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio are on the bolder side, but not quite as Reaganesque—though either might grow into this role.
Actually, we would really know Romney is “all in” for a great American turnaround if he selected Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, or Sarah Palin. Not likely, but the symbolism would be moving.
Perhaps less publicized potential running mates like Meg Whitman or Kelly Ayote would allow the campaign to write its own story, but that didn’t work so well in the McCain candidacy.
There may be other possible candidates that Romney is considering, and his eventual choice will signal the current direction of his campaign—avoid risk and just keep talking about the economy, or roll out a powerful vision of American greatness.
It is time for Romney, or Obama, to stop playing small ball in order to win one election and instead get serious about putting America on the right track for the rest of the Century.
This will require real leadership, bold risk and greatness of soul.
It is precisely what the American voter is looking for right now, and hopefully we won’t have to wait for 2016 or beyond to get it.
We want a great leader.
Either candidate can still rise to this challenge, and if somebody does this well it will be the most effective political strategy—and tactic—of 2012.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.