How to Torpedo a Campaign
The stage was set for Republican’s to retake the White House. The incumbent President was saddled with an unemployment rate over 8%, a strong Tea Party movement in 2010 wrestled control of Congress away from the Democrats (a de facto referendum on the President’s performance), and new campaign finance rules unleashed the wealth of billionaires onto the scene. Unfortunately, Republican’s couldn’t come up with a consensus favorite to claim the throne presidency. A lengthy primary season left us with Mitt Romney, not quite conservative enough, a little too wealthy, and devoid of a definitive plan for an American Recovery. What Mitt Romney has displayed is a consistent ability to say the wrong thing the wrong way to the wrong people. His latest faux pas might be the most damning, not because it’s any more outrageous than his other missteps, but because it’s the most honest characterization of the perception problem between economic classes.
If you have been carefully avoiding anything resembling news the last three days, let us fill you in. Mitt Romney, speaking at a $50,000 a plate fundraising dinner in Florida in May, Romney was asked:’
“For the last three years, all everybody’s been told is, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.’ How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?”
His answer is a political crash course in How-To-Torpedo-A-Campaign:
“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 that 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.”
Not to be misunderstood, the former governor continues digging the hole:
” These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
His comments echo his statements earlier this year that he is not worried about the very poor. While the context of the conversation is about the election and getting votes, the truth in the words is damning. Romney is speaking to wealthy donors and finds the best way to connect with them is to create a clear social line between them and the growing rabble trying to steal their money. The divisive nature of the comments is deplorable.
Elections are, in part, the redefining of the role of government. Here, Romney would recast government as beholden to the wealthy and barely tolerant of everyone else. Worse, in one fell swoop he characterizes a wide cross-section of society as lazy, dependent, and ignorant. Where he might have stressed the importance of communicating a plan capable of improving employment opportunities, reducing the cost of healthcare, and advancing the quality of an American education – issues which would directly address the problems confronting so many of us – Romney launches a straw man argument meant to play to the elitist pejoratives of his rich audience. This fictional American dependent, leeching off the government (i.e., the holy job-creating, tax-paying Producers) simply cannot be reasoned with, cannot be motivated to work for their living. This reaffirms what seems to be a growing feeling among well-to-do Americans – those without adequate means to buy the comforts our society has sacrificed its soul for just aren’t willing to work hard enough.
Whether Romney actually believes 47% of Americans don’t pay income tax is irrelevant. The 47% refers to people who do not pay Federal Income Tax. Of those nearly 30% pay other forms of income tax and 10.3% are retired, having paid the Federal Income Tax for decades; 6.9% of households pay no form of income tax because their earnings so low they are not required to pay; but the real prize here are the 19,551 US households with incomes over 200,000 that paid no income tax. Six people who earned over $77M also paid no income tax, because, you know…wait, no, there is no good reason. While we can certainly call these people irresponsible, Romney’s lack of personal accountability message is nonsense. All of these people buy things, paying sales taxes, and own or rent a living space, paying real estate tax.
He is perpetuating myths and economic classism to pander for money and votes. Politics at its worst; and most revealing. This is who Mitt Romney proves to be in the end, a man who takes on the character of his surroundings and has no sense of the human struggle. His repeated moments of ineloquence, the characterization Paul Ryan gave his bullshit, are not just poor word selection; they are the musings of a man who is pessimistic about human nature. He is not out of touch with the average American; he believes the average American isn’t worth considering. Just listen to him.