02.22.2013 3

What a Super Bowl ad tells us about ourselves

By Marta H. Mossburg — I wonder what Mitt Romney thought when he saw the Dodge Ram commercial during the Super Bowl. It’s the one narrated by the late broadcaster Paul Harvey featuring still shots of farmers that everyone is still talking about because it is so powerful. Here are some other adjectives for the paean to an almost lost way of American life: humbling, gritty and most of all, human.

My guess is that Mr. Romney wished he had hired the Richards Group, which produced “So God made a farmer,” to work for him because the company said more about who America is and what it should be in two minutes than Mr. Romney did in years of campaigning for president. Its overwhelming popularity verifies that Americans still believe in and admire self-reliance and hard work, qualities Mr. Romney championed but that never felt believable in him — by design.

His opponent Barack Obama played a large part in that, defining him early on as rich and out of touch. But Mr. Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, cemented Mr. Obama’s narrative by acting like robots who kept trying to convince the American people about math equations when what they wanted to know first was who they were.

And when Mr. Romney was caught being “real,” he alienated people, as with his comments about the infamous “47 percent” who don’t contribute to society.

Americans are neither business turnaround artists like Mr. Romney nor wannabe accountants who analyze Social Security reports into the wee hours like Mr. Ryan. We frequently make rash and economically irrational decisions to the chagrin of people who see the country as a giant spreadsheet, but we can be convinced to do the right thing when you earn our trust.

Messrs. Romney and Ryan were right about the economy, but they couldn’t open the door to discuss the hard choices necessary to fix it because their campaign felt ultimately more about aseptic balance sheets than about America.

That ironically helped to hand the win to the guy who wanted to redefine the American dream to one of dependency on government throughout every stage of life.

But the success of the ad, at least in page views if not in trucks sold at this point, should give liberals and progressives pause. As corny as some might say it is and as dependent on government aid as so many farmers are doesn’t change the fact that the virtues it celebrates were fundamental to the founding of this country and still endure.

It’s impossible to imagine an ad celebrating the life of “Julia” – the Obama campaign’s embodiment of the new woman whose success hinges on government aid from cradle to grave – that could arouse such a visceral response.

As one commenter said after watching the ad, “I sure want to buy a farmer.” About half of Americans are subsidized by the government, but do they want to “buy” that image of themselves? Not yet, in my opinion.

Why else would a heartfelt speech about the demanding life of farmers given in 1978 at a Future Farmers of America convention win so many fans across the country in 2013? And to give another example, why would Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged,” a celebration of the individual against the tyranny of the government, remain on all-time bestseller lists?

Those two items should scare those who think that God and the Constitution are dead and government the solution to civil society’s ills. They may be winning, based on statistics of government dependency, but they are not yet the legitimate heirs to the American political throne. That means those who believe in limited government and personal responsibility still have a window of opportunity. But they need the right people to express the message.

One more thing: It’s worth noting that the Richards Group is located in Dallas, Texas. I don’t think an agency in New York City, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., could have produced the ad it made because the worldview celebrated by “So God made a farmer” is foreign to those who live in those places. Republicans take note.

Marta H. Mossburg writes frequently about national affairs and about politics in Maryland, where she lives. Write her at marta@martamossburg.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.

  • jwatersphd

    Marta, welcome to the Mythspinner’s Circle! Great to hear about the farmer, most of whom are now being crushed by big agribusiness and Wall Street power plays. And certainly Ayn Rand, the glorifier of meanness and selfishness. Good to see you brought God in, as well; everyone can see day by day his handiwork . . . oh, well, maybe not; was Obama’s election the will of God? Also love the idea that anyone who isn’t mean and selfish must really believe that any government facilitation of our endeavors means “dependence.” You think the 47% remark was a mistake but you’re basically doing the same thing. There are plenty of us out here who work hard and take personal responsibility who do not agree with you that unbridled individual pursuit of one’s goals to the exclusion of anything else is the height of morality. Nor do we think that the society will run itself just fine if there are no laws, regulations, or organizing principles. But you’re doing fine with your debut appearance here; i hope you feel good about the email page that got me to your story with Reagan hazily in the background . . . now there was an honorable man, just think Iran Contra. You fit right in.

  • Mark

    Typical liberal rot, j waterboard. Every statement is an absolute. No laws, regulations and organizing principles? Yeah, that’s what conservatives want. You’ve learned from your lord and savior, Obama, very well. Like YOU, or HIM, can explain what I stand for and believe as a conservative. Anyone who doesn’t believe in the the life of “Julia” model, government dependence from cradle to grave, is mean and selfish. HA! Liberal rot. And if Iran Contra bothered you, than Obama’s scandal of the month must really bug you. Oh, wait, you’re a liberal. Laws, morals and integrity are for others, not you and yours.

  • reggiec

    No one forces a person to take on the responsibility of being a farmer, gardener or local business, just as no one will force you to take responsibility and become involved in the affairs of your country. Gardeners, farmers and small business owners are self-starters. They prepare the land, plant the seed, keep watch for pests, and aggressively fight the encroaching weeds that would take nutrients from the soil and deny these nutrients to the wanted crops. The same applies to a business that faces many obsticles and challenges but of a different sort than a person connected to the soil. All these activities give a person satisfaction and, yes, even happiness. Participating in these activities or just watching others perform them, I believe, teaches people the values we need to live happy, productive lives at all levels. Taking responsibility and becoming an activist in the affairs of your country can be just as rewarding. Our government can be equated to a baby diaper in many ways. You are irresponsible if you don’t monitor it with great frequency and change it when needed for the very same reasons.

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