The Republican National Convention has decided to use the slogan “We Built It” as a major convention theme intended to attack President Obama for remarks he made in July that have been wildly taken out of context. In the following excerpt from Obama’s speech, in which he stresses the importance of taxpayer funded infrastructure and the unselfish ethos of American society, the Romney campaign takes the line, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” and removes the surrounding content in order to re-alter the interpretation of the line:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Without reading the surrounding context, one is left to conclude that President Obama is literally saying that American business owners didn’t create their own businesses. However, with the context, it’s obvious to see that Obama is referring to the pre-existing infrastructure and society that enables a new business owner to succeed.
The problem with this line of attack — blatantly misinterpreting your opponents words and creating the rebuttal slogan “we built it” — by the Romney campaign and the Republican Party is that it sounds awkward and it reeks of insincerity. If you’re anybody who hasn’t been tuning into the 2012 election so far this year and happen to have kept on your TV after America’s Got Talent to happen upon coverage of the 2012 RNC, you were probably thinking WTF does “we built it” even mean? Who are they referring to as we, and what did they even build?
Out of context (which it is to the majority of Americans), the GOP’s “we built it” slogan sounds like nonsense. One can’t help but feel estranged and out of the loop. It’s not like John McCain’s “Country First” which anybody could identify its meaning as having explicit patriotic overtones. Instead, it leaves you confused, perplexed, and stuck on the ambiguity. Perhaps the slogan has these qualities because it is inherently based on a lie.