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Romney vs. the “Bitter Politics of Envy”

Mitt Romney’s main challenge going forward, aside from the general need to unite the party, is to find a message that refutes the class warfare arguments without offering up clumsy sound bites. If his victory speech last night was any indication, he may be finding his voice on this. He said:

President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success. In these difficult times, we cannot abandon the core values that define us as unique — we are one nation, under God.

Even more important than his defense of capitalism and the free market is the acknowledgement that President Obama’s success in November will depend entirely on how successful the president will be at dividing the country and setting Americans against one another.

The class warfare Obama will employ will mirror to some extent the recent attacks on Romney’s business experience from Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry. But the other element of Obama’s strategy will be what the White House’s allies and insiders have described as seeking a coalition of “voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment… and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.”

Obama reinforced this recently at a fundraiser where he suggested a Republican administration that replaced him would employ racist policies against minorities. Aside from the divisive rhetoric on race, the president signaled in his “Teddy Roosevelt” address that he will continue to demagogue wealth and success to capitalize on the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and scapegoat his political opponents for the failure of his policies to keep unemployment numbers where he promised they would be.

Obama won four years ago on the strength of his lofty oratory on uniting the country. He’s made it clear he will be taking the opposite approach in November. This gives Romney the opportunity to do what he did last night: instead of offering a disquisition on Schumpeter and Friedman, seek to protect Americans from the divide-and-conquer strategy to which the president is about to subject them.