Yes, rest assured, Romney and the GOP are already working on ads about this. It’s the GOP that cut the clip and circulated it, in fact. Mitt himself evidently can’t wait to get started:
We don’t belong to government, the government belongs to us.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 4, 2012
People are going to follow Romney’s lead and seize on the word “belong” but that’s only half the problem. Even if Democrats had chosen a phrase that didn’t connote ownership, like “participate in” (Obama’s preferred turn of phrase when pushing this idea is “doing things together”), this is still a creepy, spurious justification for expanding government. As Yuval Levin recently explained in NRO:
The president simply equates doing things together with doing things through government. He sees the citizen and the state, and nothing in between — and thus sees every political question as a choice between radical individualism and a federal program.
But most of life is lived somewhere between those two extremes, and American life in particular has given rise to unprecedented human flourishing because we have allowed the institutions that occupy the middle ground — the family, civil society, and the private economy — to thrive in relative freedom. Obama’s remarks in Virginia shed a bright light on his attitude toward that middle ground, and in that light a great deal of what his administration has done in this three and a half years suddenly grows clearer and more coherent, and even more disconcerting.
Again and again, the administration has sought to hollow out the space between the individual and the state. Its approach to the private economy has involved pursuing consolidation in key industries — privileging a few major players that are to be treated essentially as public utilities, while locking out competition from smaller or newer firms. This both ensures the cooperation of the large players and makes the economy more manageable and orderly. And it leaves no one pursuing ends that are not the government’s ends. This has been the essence of the administration’s policies toward automakers, health insurers, banks, hospitals, and many others.
How psychologically impoverished must you be to find validation in “belonging” to a government? You’re forced to “join,” your “dues” are typically squandered on stupid, wasteful projects, half of the other members are perpetually at your throat, and the whole thing is shot through with corruption at every level. It’s essentially the world’s biggest and worst union (and worst in part because it’s biggest). In fact, didn’t we just spend an entire week listening to the left’s friends in the media tell us how racist Republicans are? Why would any liberal want to belong to a group with people like that in it? This rhetoric is pure communitarian garbage, designed to inculcate some perverse civic pride in the ideas that (a) government will continue to grow and usurp your choices and, more importantly, (b) you need to pay more “dues,” even though government’s already so big that realistically there’s no amount you could pay to make it sustainable. Loathsome.
Update: Someone’s nervous.
An Obama aide emails that the Charlotte host committee, not the Obama campaign, produced the video:
“The video in question was produced and paid for by the host committee of the city of Charlotte. It’s neither an OFA nor a DNC video, despite what the Romney campaign is claiming. It’s time for them to find a new target for their faux outrage.”
That’s super. Now how do they explain the “doing things together” rhetoric?