One thing that’s hard not notice about the Obama and Romney campaigns — or at least about how the parties are presenting themselves to voters this cycle — is they place wildly different emphases on the importance of civic responsibility.
Both campaigns emphasize the virtues of inspiration and perspiration but the notion that organizing on behalf of the public good is a worthwhile calling is almost entirely absent from the GOP’s appeal this year.
I don’t think it’s possible to illustrate that point better than by contrasting two of the conventions’ most memorable lines so far.
First, from Democratic keynote speaker and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, on the foundations of his own success.
“My mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.”
To my ears, and to many of yours I’m sure, it borrowed heavily from something Florida Republican Marco Rubio said about his father at the Republican convention:
“He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.”
I have no special insight into the Dems’ speechwriting process. But to me it looks a lot like Castro borrowed the construction both for its elegance, and to flip its appeal — from the virtues of hustling and laboring on behalf of oneself and one’s family to the virtues of dedicating oneself to a larger collective project.
Appealing to such purposes, albeit via strictly private, voluntary, government-free channels, has been a common theme in recent GOP campaigns — think 1,000 Points of Light or Compassionate Conservatism. Fast forward to 2012, the Romney campaign — whose appeal begins and ends with being the non-Obama campaign — seems to have lost or abandoned that rhetorical thread.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.