Romney’s Video Moment Betrays a Loathing, Disdain for the Average American –
The term class warfare has been increasingly used in recent election cycles to denigrate efforts to point out the disparate impact of policies on the rich versus the poor. The truth is that there are legitimate policy implications of tax policies that divide the political landscape in this country.
The comments that Mitt Romney is in hot water for making are not new comments, both in the sense that the video is old and in that the thoughts behind them are even older.
In his hastily-called news conference on Monday, Mr. Romney was correct when he noted that, while the comments were blunt and “not elegantly stated,” he had made similar observations in the past without generating controversy.
The problem is that he stated out loud and in very stark terms what Republicans – particularly country club Republicans like Mr. Romney – think.
Here’s what he actually said: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
There are several different kinds of problems embedded into this statement.
First, is the notion that there are 47 percent of the people who are… let’s just sum it up neatly, “lazy.” He didn’t use the word lazy, but he might as well have.
Republicans for years have gotten away with these kinds of lines because they have been careful to encode the message. It was welfare queens or coded language that made it clear that they were dealing with someone else – hopefully someone who did not vote.
By hitting 47 percent of the population, he is cutting a deep swath. Part of the problem that he faces is that part of the Republican constituency receives public assistance, just as much as the Democratic constituency does.
He has cut a deep deep swath of voters here. There was already a huge constituency within the Republican Party that was uncomfortable with Romney’s country club status. There was already a huge percentage of voters that believed that Romney was out of touch with the middle class.
And that is whom he is attacking when he hits on the 47 percent.
The other problem that he now has is that he argues that it is not his job to worry about those people.
If he wants to be President, it is his job to worry about everyone, whether they vote for him or not.
Mr. Romney said he was “speaking off the cuff in response to a question” at the fund-raiser, and added that he wanted “to help all Americans – all Americans – have a bright, prosperous future.”
Mr. Obama’s campaign accused Mr. Romney of having “disdainfully written off half the nation.”
It was already a rough time for Mr. Romney, as he attempted to restart his campaign and refocus his message.
As the New York Times suggested this morning, “Now, the video has raised the possibility that Mr. Romney’s campaign will be sidetracked, with attention focused again on his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy, the release of his personal tax returns and his ability to connect with middle-class voters. With its unvarnished language, the video seems to undermine what aides have argued is an enduring attribute that would appeal to independent voters: a sense that Mr. Romney is, at base, an empathetic and caring man.”
But it is worse than that. The real damage is not the disruption of another news cycle focused on the defense – a problem in and of itself.
The real problem is that they handed Obama the tool that he needs to close the sale to the American people that it is worth doubling-down on his Presidency rather than risking an unempathetic and out-of-touch Mitt Romney.
Clips of that video will now be ground up into tiny sound bites that will blast his error across the country over and over again.
Mr. Romney attempted to address the video, arguing that his words represented “a question about direction for the country: Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits? Or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”
And undoubtedly that is what he meant, but the language he used betrays a loathing of the average person, a contempt for the average person’s struggles and hardships.
The problem is that the slip, the blunt language, is not the aberration but rather the window into the truth that cuts through the talking-points and well-scripted words of a Presidential candidate.
Is this the death-knell for Mitt Romney? Too soon to tell. We have seen candidates in worse shape come back.
But the stark reality is that, on Monday morning, most people did not believe Mitt Romney would defeat Barack Obama. On Tuesday morning, that number is smaller still.
—David M. Greenwald reporting