It’s Not Just the Economy, Stupid!

Given the awful state of the American economy, featuring a four-year high unemployment rate and an increasingly crushing national debt …

Given that America is at least as hated in the Muslim world as it was when George W. Bush was president — despite the Obama policy of obsequious rhetoric directed toward that world …

Given the virtually unprecedented tension between the United States and Israel, its closest ally in the Middle East …

Given the complete failure of sanctions to stop Iran from its pursuit of an atom bomb …

Given the spectacle of European financial collapse — and very possibly the end of the Euro — owing to the inevitable failure of the very type of welfare state that the president and the Democratic Party advocate …

Given the lack of any of the promised progress in unifying America politically and racially (if anything, the country is more divided than ever) …

Given the huge growth in the number of Americans receiving payments from the government, and the growth in the amount of those payments …

a Republican candidate should not merely win in the November elections, he should win in a landslide.

Yet, polls show the candidates more or less tied nationally and President Obama winning in most “battleground” states. Assuming the polls are valid, how is one to explain this?

There are two interrelated explanations.

1. The campaign has focused almost exclusively on the unemployment rate, on “jobs” and “job creation.”

2. Many Republicans and many conservatives — including, too often, Mitt Romney — do not know how to make the case for conservative values.

Yes, Americans want a president who can fix the economy. But even more so they want a president who has a vision for the country.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Ronald Reagan, no Republican presidential candidate in our lifetime has articulated the distinctive American values system, or what we call conservatism.

Indeed, the senior George Bush actually disparaged such talk as “the vision thing.” He consequently became one of only two presidents since Herbert Hoover to be denied a second term. Along with raising taxes after promising not to, his lack of a vision for the country was a major reason.

If the 2012 election is truly the most important in our lifetime, if not in modern American history, isn’t running for president on the issue of job creation alone insufficient?

If most Americans believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction, doesn’t it behoove the Republican challenger for the presidency to explain why that is so in as broad and compelling a way as possible?

That Mitt Romney doesn’t offer precise plans as to how he will fix the economy and create millions of jobs is understandable. When George W. Bush explained how he would fix social security, the Democrats demagogued his plans and handed him — and the country — a defeat.

But precisely because he doesn’t offer details about his plans, Mitt Romney must run on the big issue of the direction of the country.

And the number one issue must be the size of the state. America was founded on the belief that the citizen must be free as possible and that such freedom is possible only if the government is as small as possible.

The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen.

Every Republican candidate should be repeating that truth in every speech.

Why? Because the American experiment is on trial this November:

–Are we to remain the heirs of the American Revolution or become heirs to the French Revolution?

Do we want to take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities — or do we want, as in Europe, the government to do so?

–Is it moral or compassionate to saddle our children and grandchildren with a crippling national debt?

–Is it moral or compassionate to keep printing dollars, which both devalues the savings of all Americans and imposes a tax on all Americans, especially on the poorest?

These are the questions Romney must pose every day and in many of his ads. Only when Americans have to answer these questions will a sufficient number of them vote Republican this November.

Dennis Prager’s latest book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.

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