Once, while discussing Peter Schramm’s Born American theme (various versions can be found here and here) with a friend who I believe also could write a similarly moving account of her experience as an American, she demurred saying that she didn’t know where to begin. "Oh, that’s easy," I said, "just think of it as writing a love letter to America." She said she liked the idea and I do hope she takes me up on the suggestion. Anyone who can write such a thing really ought to do it. We need these accounts, now more than ever, in our politics. We need them because they remind us of the ties that bind and the things that are most noble and inspiring in our regime. In talking about the things we love, we address that which has the potential for uniting us as a people. Too much of what passes for political discourse today is really just thinly veiled grousing and fault-finding. There’s a place for fault-finding and for expressing grievances . . . but how many of these grievances might be better addressed by motivating people toward the good instead of always scolding them for the bad? I don’t remember ever having been persuaded by a scold. But I’ve reformed many a fault (or at least tried hard to reform them) because of the persuasive power of good example, good humor, kind enthusiasm and gentle suggestion.
So imagine my surprise yesterday when I heard Rich Lowry on Hugh Hewitt’s show (wonderfully guest-hosted by Mark Steyn, by the way) say that everything good about Mitt Romney’s speech stemmed from the way in which it read like a love poem to America. That is exactly right! But why didn’t Mitt tell us that he thought these things about America before now? THAT might have been helpful. THAT might have been important. Unfortunately, everything that was wonderful and lovely in Romney’s speech is now forever tied to his defense of himself as a Mormon. But everything that was wonderful and lovely in that speech had nothing to do with his Mormonism (or even his relative Christianity) and everything to do with his AMERICANISM. It’s the Americanism, stupid! And doesn’t that make we conservatives look rather ridiculous in all this silly hysteria about religion?
I am very disappointed in the performance of my fellow conservatives and Republicans this week. Again, I think Romney should have quietly addressed the Mormon question long ago and then stubbornly refused to answer any question about it ever again. Then he should have given us his love letter to America quite apart from this whole absurd drama. Every candidate for the presidency should give us such a letter or such a poem. That will tell me more about who I want to be my president than any statement of policy--and certainly of religion--will ever do.