There’s a critical issue central to the presidential campaign that neither Democrats nor Republicans have addressed, yet how it is handled could determine the outcome of the 2012 election.
It’s the issue of personal freedom, liberty and opportunity in America.
Put simply, most Americans believe their opportunity to advance in life has been fundamentally eroded, and personal freedoms have been severely limited if not eliminated entirely.
Recent public opinion polling data show most Americans think our society has become increasingly rigged against their interests, against the interests of ordinary people like them, and in favor of financial elites, Washington insiders, special interests and the mainstream media.
This sentiment is part of a larger sense that the traditional expectation of being able to thrive in America is gone. It’s a sentiment both political parties don’t fully understand. Democrats and Republicans are out of favor and continue to garner negative ratings in public opinion polls.
That’s the reason why Donald Trump had emerged strongly, and why Herman Cain did so well at the little-known and little-watched GOP debate in South Carolina, advocating straight talk and standing up for ordinary people.
Put simply, the American people fundamentally want to be able to control their lives, the chance to thrive and a government that will, at the very least, be a neutral arbiter that allows ordinary people to reach their full potential and maximize their opportunity for personal and professional growth and development.
This is a fundamental value President Barack Obama’s administration doesn’t seem to grasp. On one hand, the president said during his speech on the Middle East that he stands for “a set of universal rights” that “includes free speech.” Yet the administration has proposed that any individual who seeks a federal contract will have to report their political contributions, a move that will hinder free speech.
Furthermore, Democratic policies tied into new initiatives by the National Labor Relations Board to control where firms such as Boeing locate themselves, and what type of role unions play alongside management, make it clear Democrats are offering an approach to government that’s directly at variance with the themes Obama struck in his Middle East speech.
There needs to be a new narrative developed in America about what kind of a society we have, what we are trying to achieve and who we are as a people — in short, what makes America exceptional and unique.
This, the Republicans have yet to do.
The American people now have more opportunities to participate in the political conversation with the advancement of the Internet. Americans have more opportunities than ever before to share and disseminate information, and more possibilities to speak directly to our leaders and those in positions of economic power.
Yet people have never been more disenfranchised, disillusioned and angry.
Democrats have offered an answer that, as the 2010 midterm election “shellacking” made clear, is largely antithetical to what the electorate is seeking.
Republicans have yet to offer a coherent or consistent alternative or response. They lack a commitment to promoting a free society, limited government, entrepreneurship and an optimistic vision of a future that sees America restored to its position of centrality in the world.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and a Fox News contributor.