Commentary Magazine


Topic: We built it

Why “We Built It” Is So Effective

We’re only a few hours into the Republican National Convention and journalists are already getting sick and tired of the party’s “We Built It” theme. The incessant use of the phrase and the drumbeat of reminders of President Obama’s gaffe may be wearing on some viewers too. No tag line has ever been beaten down harder at a national convention. But Democrats who assume that the Republicans are overdoing it are probably mistaken. The line works. Even more important, despite the arguments from liberals that it was taken out of context, the more the full sound clips are played, the more its clear that it represents a window into the president’s core philosophy.

The Obama campaign is happy with the idea of this election being a choice between competing visions rather than merely a referendum about the president’s conduct in office. They believe that means they can frame the presidential contest as being between what the president claims is his moderate agenda against an extreme Republican program. The Todd Akin fiasco was a huge boost for this strategy since it plays into the fake “war on women” line that will, no doubt, be the theme song of next week’s Democratic convention. But the “we built it” line is the way Republicans re-focus Americans on what they already dislike about the administration.

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We’re only a few hours into the Republican National Convention and journalists are already getting sick and tired of the party’s “We Built It” theme. The incessant use of the phrase and the drumbeat of reminders of President Obama’s gaffe may be wearing on some viewers too. No tag line has ever been beaten down harder at a national convention. But Democrats who assume that the Republicans are overdoing it are probably mistaken. The line works. Even more important, despite the arguments from liberals that it was taken out of context, the more the full sound clips are played, the more its clear that it represents a window into the president’s core philosophy.

The Obama campaign is happy with the idea of this election being a choice between competing visions rather than merely a referendum about the president’s conduct in office. They believe that means they can frame the presidential contest as being between what the president claims is his moderate agenda against an extreme Republican program. The Todd Akin fiasco was a huge boost for this strategy since it plays into the fake “war on women” line that will, no doubt, be the theme song of next week’s Democratic convention. But the “we built it” line is the way Republicans re-focus Americans on what they already dislike about the administration.

Americans know that the president who rammed ObamaCare and the so-called stimulus down the throats of a reluctant country is addicted to big government solutions. The president was only speaking from his heart when he gave his memorable critique of individualism. It wasn’t really a gaffe because it was just Obama discussing his core philosophy about society. “We built it” sticks because it is nothing more than an illustration of the real divide between the two parties. Journalists and maybe even some in the television audience may be weary of it, but not as much as the president will be before this campaign is over.

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