TAMPA, Fla. -- This week, when Mitt Romney strides to center stage to deliver his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, he might draw inspiration from an unlikely source: the song "I Am What I Am" from the musical "La Cage Aux Folles."
One of the chief complaints from voters about politicians is that they package themselves disingenuously to get elected, only to reveal their real agenda after they've won. That is what President Obama did in the 2008 campaign, when he styled himself as a unifier who wanted to bridge the partisan divide: "[W]e are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America." He then governed more like he was in Soviet America, with redistribution of income and more centralized power in Washington.
Romney has rejected appeals to speak to the celebrity culture by "opening up" and exposing his feelings and emotions. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said, "People would like me to lie down and let it all out." He is right to reject such a strategy. He is what he is and voters should appreciate seeing the "real" Romney. They have had enough flash and are ready for substance.
This is a "take your medicine" election for Americans who think we can go on without reforms in Medicare and Social Security and with no substantial reductions in wasteful and unnecessary government spending.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is among a group of younger GOP leaders who are prescribing medicine the country desperately needs to swallow. In an address last week to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, Rubio said younger generations must accept a new Medicare: "The bottom line is there will be no Medicare if we don't reform it." That's the truth, not political spin.
Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, is saying much the same. Appearing on Laura Ingraham's radio show, Ryan said, "This is a serious choice of two futures we have in this country. If we stick with the president's path, this is a nation that will go into decline. This is a nation that will have a debt crisis. He'll bring us more toward a welfare state where we have a stagnant economy, where we suspend upward mobility and prosperity and opportunity and growth. And so we're going to make this about ideas. We're going to make this about a positive vision for the future."
Democrats continue to expound the 20th-century model created by Franklin Roosevelt and expanded by Lyndon Johnson in which the federal government fosters a growing dependence on government rather than encouraging self-reliance with government as a safety net. That model, while well intentioned, has failed those who bought into it. The greed, envy and entitlement mentality it perpetuated has harmed, not helped, the poor and middle class it promised to help. While technology has advanced and improved many lives, this dying government-first culture has done the opposite, stifling individual and national growth and lowering, not raising, motivation for individual success.
If enough Americans believe that Romney-Ryan are serious about doing what is necessary to fix our sick economy, they might trust them sufficiently to vote for them and for other Republicans. This must be a package deal. Divided government will hurt, not help reform.
That's the case Romney and Ryan must make at the convention. Democrats have no vision for the future, other than pacifying their unions and other liberal groups with a failed model for government.
Some opinion polls are showing a trend toward Romney-Ryan, but it's a hard sell to get government "addicts" into political rehab.
Examiner Columnist Cal Thomas is nationally syndicated by Tribune Media.