Editorial: Michigan: The technocrat vs. the idealist

Posted by hpayne on February 17, 2012

Novi – It’s the technocrat vs. the idealist. The capitalist vs. the Constitutionalist. The son of a successful Detroit auto CEO vs. the grandson of a Detroit auto worker. A man determined about fixing Washington vs. a man passionate about restoring America’s spirit. In the Michigan primary – and likely the Republican nomination- the GOP presidential race has come down to Mitt Romney vs. Rick Santorum.

On Thursday, the two different men locked horns on Michigan’s battlefield – a perfect battlefield to showcase their respective talents.

In the morning, Romney received the endorsement of fellow technocrat, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who declared his fellow private equity CEO the right man at the right time to fix America’s structural economic problems. In an editorial board meeting with the Detroit News, Romney’s business acumen was on impressive display as he expertly diagnosed the auto industry’s problems, laid out a plan to reform health care beyond Obamacare repeal, and said that he had “lived conservatism” as a business expert who turned around companies and balanced budgets.

“If I’m president I want to be the ally of entrepreneurs and job creators,” Romney said. Then, alluding to Snyder’s restoration of Michigan to fiscal sanity: “I’d run the government like a business, like a household — like this state.”

At days’ end, Romney and Santorum met face to face at the Republican Party’s annual Lincoln dinner in Novi. And though it was Ann Romney – not Mitt (traveling in Ohio for another campaign event) – who represented her husband, the theme was the same. She touted him as the manager the nation needs. “I have seen him turn around companies,” she beamed.

“I turned to Mitt and said: I will do this again if you can fix it,” she said of her reluctance to go through another brutal presidential campaign even as she worried about the country’s fate. “Can you fix it?”

“Yes, I can,” her husband reassured her.

That theme of entrepreneurial exceptionalism resonates with Michiganders, a state that has produced some of the world’s iconic entrepreneurs and the companies that bear their names: Ford, Dodge, Penske. Romney’s father comes from that mold – as does Mitt, founder of Bain Capital.

But Rick Santorum has his own American success story to tell. It starts with his grandfather, an immigrant laborer who came to Detroit first as an autoworker (before settling in Pennsylvania as a coal miner).

Santorum’s speech before the Republican Lincoln dinner glowed with the pride of immigrant sons whose fathers came to Detroit to pursue the American Dream.

While Romney talks of American know-how, Santorum talks of its Constitutional foundation, of the “founding principles that make this country different than any other on earth.” In an emotional recitation of the country’s culture of freedom and of inalienable rights granted – not by the government – but by God, Santorum lamented a country that has lost its way. Santorum lamented how government welfare has destroyed the American family, replacing fathers with paternalistic government.

In the emotional heart of the speech, he said that as the father of seven children ranging from 20 to 31/2 “I probably shouldn’t be running for president.” But he said he felt called at a critical time. He said President Obama was wrong in finding national greatness in welfare public assistance programs. “Americans still come by the millions from all over the world” he said. “And they don’t come for the government programs. They had government programs where they came from.”

Taking on Romney and Obama – father of Obamacare, Son of Romneycare – Santorum said America faces a defining moment about the country it wants to be. The former senator’s stem-winder dripped with the passion missing from Romney’s technocratic speeches.

“I come from steel country. We feel that same pride about what we did to forge a great and powerful nation. You helped build America. You helped create wealth. You moved people,” Santorum said in forging a bond between Michigan’s identity and his own.” Show America you’re not done building here in Detroit. Show American our best days are ahead of us. ”

“Nominate someone who has that bold vision,” he said, his voice rising and the audience rising to its feet with it. Here came the Reaganesque chord they had been craving:”If you do, you will restore America, and we will be that shining city on the hill.”

If these are the last two men standing in this wild, rollercoaster primary, it is fitting that they begin that battle on Michigan soil. They represent the best of this country – sons of an entrepreneur and a laborer. And they are squaring off in an iconic state where skilled labor came to work for skilled businessman.

Romney vs. Santorum. Game on.


Tagged with:

Leave a Reply