Romney’s Class Warfare

Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen

WASHINGTON — Now, at least, there can be no doubt about who is waging class warfare in this presidential campaign. Mitt Romney would pit the winners against the “victims,” the smug-and-rich against the down-on-their-luck, the wealthy tax avoiders against those too poor to owe income tax. He sees nearly half of all Americans as chumps who sit around waiting for a handout.

When Romney disclosed those views at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., earlier this year, he and his audience had no idea they were being surreptitiously recorded. Romney obviously believed he was among friends who shared his worldview, which I would translate as: “We must stop coddling the servants.”

I am not exaggerating. Thanks to whoever leaked the recording to Mother Jones magazine, we know what Romney really thinks about the nation he seeks to lead:

“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 — that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. But that’s — it’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. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

This analysis is not only grossly offensive but astonishingly ignorant. Romney suggests that nearly half of Americans are layabouts who only leave the house when they need to cash a government check — or when it’s time to vote for President Obama. Greetings, lazy bums, I’m Mitt Romney. Vote for me!

The truth is that Romney is mixing apples, oranges and bananas. The three groups he mentions — those who support the president, those who receive payments from entitlement programs and those who are not required to pay federal income tax — are not the same people. Quite a few senior citizens who receive Social Security and Medicare are Republicans. Quite a few working-class voters are not charter members of Team Obama.

But Romney’s ignorance is not as shocking as his callousness. Here’s what he says next about the 47 percent: “And — 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.”

To all the single parents holding down two minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet, all the seniors who saw their savings dwindle and had to go back to work part time, all the breadwinners who lost their jobs when private-equity firms swooped down to slash and burn — to all struggling Americans it must come as a surprise to learn how irresponsible they’ve been. And it must be devastating to learn that, try as he might, Mitt Romney will never be able to show these unfortunates the error of their ways.

Romney might as well have quoted Cee Lo Green: “Forget you!”

In Romney’s view, as expressed at that fundraiser, the key to victory is winning the 7 percent or so who voted for Obama in 2008 but do not belong to the incorrigible 47 percent who should be thought of as lost souls. His explanation of how he intended to reach these people made me think of what early European explorers must have told the folks back home about communicating with the Native Americans they encountered:

“You see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans. We spend our days with people who agree with us. And these people are people who voted for [Obama] and don’t agree with us. And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them.”

Maybe he should just try handing out shiny beads.

In an elegant dining room where the self-satisfaction was thick enough to cut with a knife, Romney made clear that he sees this election as “us” versus “them” — wealthy Republicans versus the unwashed hordes, makers versus takers. Romney believes half of America is lazy, dependent and, frankly, not too bright.

Voters will soon have the opportunity to show him we’re not as stupid as he thinks.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com. (c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

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4 Comments

  1. The french aristocracy used to have a saying; “Noblesse Oblige“.
    …Not long after they stopped using it, they were all beheaded.

    When the Bush tax cuts were being pushed through congress, Dick Cheney infamously said: “This is our due”. In other words, “To the victor go the spoils.”

    In his acceptance speech, Obama said “47% of the people didn’t vote for me, but I’ve heard your voices, and I’m going to work just as hard for you as those who did vote for me.”

    The choice in this election is between a commander-in-chief, and a carpetbagger-in-chief. To be honest I think that even the carpetbaggers are unlikely to be well-served by voting for the latter.

  2. What more can be said about Romney’s gaffe? To finally hear him say out loud what the policies of the GOP have been expressing for years to me is the equivalent of the tobacco companies finally admitting after decades that nicotine is addictive and they knew all along. Should have been a surprise to no one, but it made a huge impact. I suppose it will come as an eye opener to many Americans who so far have been unable to read between the lines, and if so, good.

  3. I have agree with slamfu, it really is just an open admission of what the attitude of the core of the Republican Party currently thinks. Those who say that it’s Romney pretending to be something he isn’t need to consider the audience more carefully. Wealthy? Check. Donors? Check. People like Romney? Check. I think he was comfortable enough in that environment to cut loose with the truth as he sees it. It wasn’t inelegantly phrased as Paul Ryan put it, it was exactly what he meant to say.

  4. I too agree with Slam, Romney just put into words what the MO of the GOP has been for over a decade now. I miss the Goldwater type Republican and really hope the remaining moderates left in the GOP take back control of their party.

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