One of the most inspiring things about the first night's program of the Republican National Convention was the way it highlighted the achievements of children of immigrants.
Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, spoke about how his father had come to America from Italy at age 7 and worked as a coal miner until he was 72. Ted Cruz, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, spoke of how his father fled Cuba in 1957 with $100 sewn into his underwear and, after arriving in America, worked washing dishes for 50 cents an hour. Nikki Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina, spoke of her experience as the daughter of immigrants from India. Her parents started a small business out of the living room of their home. Ann Romney, the wife of the presidential candidate, spoke of her father who came to America from Wales at age 15. Mia Love, the Republican mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is the daughter of parents who came here from Haiti with just $10. The keynote speaker, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, spoke of his "Irish father" and "Sicilian mother," though he did not specify whether they were immigrants.
This upward mobility and idea that America is a land of opportunity for people around the world who come here and work hard is a great message for the Republicans, both because it's an optimistic counter-story to all the talk about debt and unemployment, and because in a subtle way it reinforces the Republican idea that success is earned through risk-taking and hard work, as opposed to President Obama's idea that success often comes more from luck or inheritance. This in turn, has implications for the justice of redistributing the fruits of this success through taxes.
Other thoughts on tonight's convention program:
I don't understand why Ann Romney needed such an extended and prime-time speech. She giggled some toward the beginning and didn't strike me as particularly effective. She's not running for anything and hasn't been elected to anything. The closest she got to policy substance was when she spoke of how as governor, Mitt Romney had created a John and Abigail Adams scholarship that offered four years of "free" tuition to the top 25% of students in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Of course, this isn't "free" to the taxpayers, some of whom may not have gone to college at all, but who are now stuck paying for the entire college educations of students at various Massachusetts state colleges and universities. Some of us are looking for politicians who want to give away less "free" stuff with taxpayer money, not more of it.
The "small business owner" showcased was Phil Archuletta of P&M Signs, who got up and complained that his government contracts had dried up in the Obama administration. His business seems to mainly be making signs for federal agencies and the state of New Mexico, and he is certified as a "small, disadvantaged, minority-owned, woman-owned manufacturer." It was really strange that this was the best example the Republicans could come up with for a businessman who has been hurt by the Obama administration. How about someone whose business doesn't depend on government spending or on contracting policies that give preferences to businesses owned by members of certain groups?