“We won’t put your dog on the roof”

A few suggestions for Democrats based on tonight's "We built that" RNC theme

Topics: Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney, 2012 Elections, Barack Obama,

TAMPA — The theme tonight at the Republican National Convention is “We did build that.” In case you don’t live in a state getting barraged by the $500 million already spent on TV advertising so far this year, the slogan is a reference to an Obama quote from July intentionally pulled out of context. In the Republican version, which played several times tonight in video complications, Obama says, “Let me tell you something, if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

In the reality version, Obama is talking about roads and bridges, which help businesses succeed, but are not built by business owners:

Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 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.

The truncated quote, no matter how disconnected from what Obama actually said, has nonetheless become a central theme of the Romney campaign and a rallying call for Republicans, who view it as a window into Obama’s down-with-business, up-with-big-government worldview. There was even a custom country song played tonight featuring the lyrics,”We built it / No help from Uncle Sam.”



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Given this approach, we have a few thematic suggestions for each of the three nights of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week. Night 1: “We don’t like firing people.” Night 2: “We care about the poor.” Night 3: “We won’t put your dog on the roof.” They’re all fair enough by Romney standards.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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