The dance of Obama and Romney begins. The final teams are selected. The score cards printed. The play books written. The cameras are rolling. Millions of dollars have been collected to hire the coaches and players and attract the participants. The bets are placed. There will be a winner and a loser in this four-year ritual. But it never really ends because as soon as there is a triumph the losing team is preparing to defeat the winner.
We can get a sense of the American religion and the interests, values, affiliations that motivate Americans through the presidential election contest, its highest ritual. We can unveil the symbols of the contest to discern the American religion's underlying meaning. We can find the main tenets of its salvation theology with its warnings against damnation and its promise of paradise in candidate websites. We can read the candidates' sermons for the pronouncements and prophesies they use to inspire their congregations and keep them on the path to glory.
This will be our ongoing inquiry until the winner is declared, but let us start with the issues selected by the contesting teams.
- Under "values," Romney talks about stopping abortion, marriage between man and woman, stem cell research. Obama talks about equal rights, women's health care (including contraception), progress for LGBT, stopping hate crimes.
- Romney talks about Gun Rights; Obama doesn't.
- Both use the word "fairness" but mean different things. Obama is closer to Rawl's definition of substantive justice: dignity of all human persons. Romney speaks of justice as opportunity provided in a free economy without government intervention.
- This consistent with immigration views. Both want secure border. Obama wants education assistance for children of immigrants even if illegal and a path for citizenship for those here illegally but contributing to the American economy and community. Romney against "amnesty" as magnet for further illegal immigration.
- Spending--Romney: less spending for everything except military. Obama: investment strategy in research for manufacturing, education, renewable energy, infrastructure.
- Regulation--Both talk about reducing unnecessary regulation. Romney would eliminate EPA and HUD, cut regulations for all business transactions. Obama wants to enforce regulation of financial institutions and equal rights.
- Obama wants to maintain tax breaks for middle class but raise on wealthy (Buffett rule). Romney wants no new taxes and to reduce for all investors and those with large capital who invest in economic growth.
- Both want to maintain but reform Social Security/Medicare--both vague on how.
- For Romney, the role of government is to remove obstacles to free enterprise which will add to the accumulative wealth of the nation. For Obama, the role of government is to lay tracks for economic investment in a changing economy and insure basic needs are provided for everyone's subsistence.
- Romney focuses on oil, drilling, fragmenting, shale; wants to remove environmental restrictions on exploration, production, and transmission of oil, natural gas, nuclear and limit alternative energy research. End the EPA regulation of carbon emissions and in general all environmental considerations if they impede economic growth.
- Obama wants an "all the above strategy" which keeps producing traditional energy in a way that does not harm the environment, but provide greater research and investment for renewable energy.
- Romney says leave it to the states and to the private sector to come up with the best education system. Obama wants to use Bush's "No Child Left Behind" but allow states to set standards. He also want to extend student college loans and support for community colleges.
- Romney is against organized labor and believes that workers and businesses are best served through pro-choice without labor union influence in "right to work" states. Obama has little to say on labor unions though worked with them to save jobs in the auto industry.
Romney will repeal the Affordable Health Care Act even though it was based on his own Act in Massachusetts. Obama will continue and strengthen the Act so that healthcare is available to all citizens in a way that contains its cost.
Conclusion: There are some differences in emphasis and approaches. Romney wants a more passive government with less investment in infrastructure and investment. Obama a more activist government providing investment in new technologies and infrastructure. Obama believes that government needs to provide minimum resources to maintain human life. Romney believes this can best be accomplished through a free market where the industrious succeed and the weak or lazy fall. But both measure success in terms of economic wealth. Both advocate a strong military to keep America dominant in the world to protect free enterprise and technological progress.
The American religion is strong. The ideal community is where individuals are pursuing and achieving happiness, i.e. the ability to produce and consume. Whether government's role is to remove obstacles (Romney) or to provide partnership and investment (Obama), the private sector working to increase private wealth is the main actor in the social order. Economic growth is the measure of human success. America's role is to preach, model, and defend free enterprise for this human success.