George F. Will: Willy Loman on the stump

Published: November 1, 2012
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Much of the Democratic Party's vast reservoir of condescension is currently focused on women, who are urged not to trouble their pretty little heads about actual problems but instead to worry that, 52 years after birth control pills went on the market and 47 years after access to contraception became a constitutional right, reproductive freedom is at risk. This insult may explain the shift of women toward Romney.

'Tis said two things not worth running after are a bus or an economic panacea, because another will come along soon. Obama's panacea is to cure what he considers government's unconscionable frugality. Nothing in Obama's campaign has betrayed an inkling that anything pertinent to Social Security or Medicare has changed since they were enacted 77 years and 47 years ago, respectively.

Four years ago, Obama said he would slow the oceans' rise but this year has not sought a mandate to cope with — he has barely mentioned — the supposedly onrushing calamity of climate change. He says this emergency (like everything else) justifies giving government huge new dollops of power, yet our Demosthenes evidently despairs of persuading the benighted public. (See above: condescension.)

His only notable new idea in this campaign is to alter the First Amendment in order to empower government to restrict the amount of permissible political speech — speech about the composition and conduct of government. Nancy Pelosi pledges that if Democrats control the House, they will pass this constriction of the Bill of Rights on the first day.

All politicians are to some extent salesmen. But Obama, having devalued the coin of presidential rhetoric by the promiscuous production of it, increasingly resembles a particular salesman, Arthur Miller's Willy Loman:

“For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that's an earthquake.”

Why the empty stridency of the last days of Obama's last campaign? Perhaps he feels an earthquake's first tremors.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP