By Michael Prell -

What happens if the economy gets better?

If you are a Republican candidate, who has built a campaign around being a better manager of the economy, a better economy (without the benefit of your management) would spell the end of your campaign.

We can see this happening right now.

A small downtick in the jobless rate from a catastrophic 9% to a slightly less catastrophic 8.5% has spurred an obedient media to declare that the economy has turned a corner, thanks to the management of the Obama administration, and to change horses now would put America’s economic recovery at risk.

None of this is true.  But none of this will matter if the Republican nominee runs a campaign on which candidate will better manage the economy.

The 2012 election is not about the economy.  It is a battle for the heart and soul of America.  The American idea.  The American philosophy.

Barack Obama is a philosophical warrior.  He set the philosophical stage for his re-election campaign in Osawatomie, Kansas on December 6, 2011.  In that one speech, he invoked the name of ‘fairness’ fifteen times.

“It’s not fair” is one of the first things we say as children.  This non-thinking urge for fairness lies dormant within all children, and becomes dominant within those who fail to grow up.  Case in point: the Occupy Wall Street Movement, whose one unifying idea was that it was “not fair” that some people had more than others.  That worldview resonated with Barack Obama, who said to them in November: “You are the reason I ran for office.”

But, as any child who has spent less than four years on earth understands: life is not fair.  President Obama, who has spent less than four years in the White House, does not understand that life is not fair.  Or worse: his polling shows that he can stoke the childlike instincts of a plurality of voters, and get re-elected under the banner of fairness.

A child with one cookie will look at another child with three cookies and cry to his mommy: “It’s not fair!”  A bully child will forcibly take one cookie from the other child to restore “fairness.”  But a truly bad child will demonize the other child for having three cookies, whip up the playground into a jealous frenzy, and march on the “unfair” child to take away his cookies.

If it’s childish when a child does it, then what is it when the leader of the free world does it?

We used to have something called “The American Dream.”  It was the belief that America was the land of opportunity.  The place where the world’s huddled masses could come to make better lives for themselves.  The land where anyone could grow up to be President.

This desire to be #1 is deeply ingrained in the American character.  If being #1 means having more cookies – congratulations – you have achieved the American Dream.  And your “unfair” allotment of cookies (or cars or cash or corporations) will stand as a beacon in this land of opportunity: an inspiration to those who use their blessings of liberty to pursue the American Dream.

They might even open a cookie store.

In the late 1970’s, America suffered under a president who sought fairness over freedom and equality over the American Dream.  In his now-infamous “Crisis of Confidence” speech in 1979, President Carter said “Our nation must be fair…I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle”

Carter’s philosophy was defeated by Ronald Reagan’s philosophy, which he articulated when he launched his campaign:  “I cannot and will not stand by and see this great country destroy itself.  Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control, on false estimates by unknown, unidentifiable experts who rewrite modern history in an attempt to convince us our high standard of living, the result of thrift and hard work, is somehow selfish extravagance which we must renounce as we join in sharing scarcity.  I don’t agree that our nation must resign itself to inevitable decline, yielding its proud position to other hands.”

The philosophical heir to Jimmy Carter is in the White House now.  It took a philosopher to beat Jimmy Carter.  And it will take a philosopher to beat Barack Obama.

It’s not the economy, stupid.  It’s the philosophy.

Michael Prell is a strategist for Tea Party Patriots, and an award-winning international communications expert.