The 47% Solution

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Earlier this week Mother Jones released a video in which Mitt Romney, standing in front of a gathering of prospective donors (that is, rich people whose lives are so impoverished they have nothing better to do than listen to another rich person beg for money), all but conceded the election, announcing that no matter what he did, 47% of the nation would be voting for his opponent. Setting aside how imprecise and impolitic his remarks were — did he really need to make himself appear even more out of touch with the public? did he really mean to lump minimum-wage earners in with the professionally unemployed as “moochers”? — his response to the footage that shows how poor a candidate he is, and how incompetent his campaign has been.

Straight off, Romney took to his domesticated media outlet, Fox News, to answer softball questions that would allow him to get back on message. But he botched even this: saying his remarks were “not elegantly stated” because they were “off the cuff” was an admission that he could neither handle anything approaching a crisis, nor tailor a message to this specific audience while keeping up the phony populist image all politicians are expected to maintain.

Can you imagine Reagan casting aside half the nation at the start of a campaign?

Next, Romney pointed to Obama’s notorious remarks in the 2008 campaign about rural voters “get[ting] bitter and cling[ing] to their guns or religion.” While he’s right about this revealing the president’s (undoubtedly ongoing) contempt for a large percentage of the electorate, he’s wrong that the effect is in any way comparable, or that Obama’s later victory proves that this election is still salvageable. Obama’s remarks came in April, much earlier in the cycle, when he was still battling Hillary Clinton for his party’s nomination; at that time he was running left, trying to gain support from likely primary voters in the Democrat base. Obama still had plenty of time to spin the remarks for a wider audience (and is still doing so today), especially when faced with yet another weak GOP candidate.

Romney is not facing a lame duck candidate, and he does not have months to spare. He may have had that chance if the video had surfaced in May, when the donor event was surreptitiously recorded, but with the tape emerging only now, it’s as if he gave them just last week. And even so the situation was still different: by then Romney was the nominee in all but name; his message should’ve been about how he was going to carve out hunks of that 47% for the GOP. Can you imagine Reagan casting aside half the nation from the very first? Romney's comparison of his callous remarks with Obama’s shows he does not understand the gravity of his misspeak.

Meanwhile, Romney, as well as Paul Ryan, has also tried to call attention to taped footage of Obama speaking in 1998 — 1998! — about how he believes in “redistribution” of wealth. Back then Obama was just finishing up his first term as an Illinois state senator in a very safe seat; he had no reason not to say he believed in the same thing 99% of Democrats have believed in since FDR’s day. The move smacks of sheer desperation; worse, it suggests that this video clip from 1998 — 1998! — was something the campaign had been holding in reserve, a hidden weapon the Romney crew hoped would push their guy over the hump. What’s next, a tape from Obama’s childhood where he would like to get the world singing in perfect harmony?

There are so many ways to hit Obama’s first term performance, yet Romney has missed with every swing.

If Romney had proven himself competent at any point during this campaign, he might’ve been able to mitigate the damage, or at least issue a semi-believable retraction. But this is a candidate who somehow contrived to offend even the English — the Tories, even, past masters at giving offhand offense — when he stated London might not be ready for the Olympics. (It was.) And, to pick just one more among many, he’s also the candidate who, when he was asked how much “middle-income Americans” make, gave a range between $200,000 and $250,000.

The Fox News fools, of course, are trying to rally behind this, encouraging Romney to stick with that line of attack—a great way to lose not only the White House, but any chance of retaking the Senate, as well. Which could be the point: it was enough early on that no Republican with any genuine chance at a two-term presidency wanted anything to do with the 2012 election; I suspect the smart ones among them (and the intelligence of anyone in the GOP should from this point be measured by the speed at which they distance themselves from Romney) realize what a mess the world will be by 2016: global recession, mushrooming unemployment, massive debt burdens, neverending wars . . . how could anyone tossed into that not improve things at least a little?

Which, again, highlights the unfathomable failure of the Romney campaign. There are so many ways to hit Obama’s first term performance, yet Romney has missed with every swing. Obama extends Bush’s imprudent wars, pursues new ones, prosecutes whisteblowers for treason, executes American citizens extrajudicially, and kicks bin Laden’s corpse up and down the campaign trail; Romney calls him soft on terrorism. Obama maintains Goldman Sachs’ disastrous control of American economic policy, bails out underwater companies while deriding solvent ones, exacerbates global starvation through continued agricultural subsidies, and puts forward an unworkable piss-take of a budget; Romney refers everyone to Ryan’s almost equally unworkable budgetary scheme. Obama presides over a prison gulag filled with consensual criminals and an unconscionable percentage of America’s young black men; Romney says nothing on criminal justice reform. Obama holds up trade agreements to benefit his union cronies; Romney calls for trade war with China. It just goes on and on and on.

Going by the president’s approval ratings, this is an election that the Republicans could have won — but not by this candidate, and not with this campaign. Now there’s just one good thing the GOP can hope to take from the Romney campaign: getting a couple months’ jump on the postmortem.



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Comments

Fred Mora

Wow. Romney says something that happens to be true, if unpopular. Liberal media howls and announce he lost the election. Film at 11.

The media would also howl and triumphantly herald the victory of The One if Romney commented on the weather or asked someone to pass the salt.

Tempest in a teapot, really.

Disclaimer: I don't particularly like Romney. However, I think the media's constant partiality is starting to exasperate many undecided voters.

Rodney Choate, P.E.

True, that most of the "gaffs" being said are (more-or-less) true anyway. As such, is it possible we may have reached the point of the "0% solution", where nothing will save us!!? In other words, perhaps we have now reached the place where the truth IS gaff, and truth doesn't matter enough any more. Conservatives can only blame themselves, as predicted best by Rand in her essays years ago. In the Bible there is something about the sins of the father being visited on the next seven generations.

I have been harping to people for years about us not obeying our Constitution. I was smart enough to see how our society's actions were making MY life less than it could have been. But as long others didn't have that same experience they wouldn't listen to a young, eccentric know-it-all. Now everybody's in on the act. Everyone I talk to now (friends, family, co-workers)wants to talk about how scared they are. But they are still the same people who wouldn't listen to me 20 years ago- with the same minds.

ajf

True? Hardly; Romney's comments show how badly he misunderstands the nature of poverty and government dependency in today's America. Check this article, where Tim Carney (by no measure an Obama partisan) sums it up much better than I can here: http://washingtonexaminer.com/carney-romney-gets-it-all-wrong-on-government-dependency/article/2508497

Jon Harrison

This essay is a breath of much-needed fresh air.

Visitor

The reason Romney doesn't want to attack Obama's policies and/or record is because Romney will enact the exact same policies.

Just like Obama has continued all the worst policies of Bush.

The only good thing about Obama is that he is deporting many more illegal aliens than Bush did.

Other than that, it's just going to be more warfare and welfare.

ajf

As Obama admitted himself just today (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/20/barack-obama-immigration-reform-failure), the continued cruelty of deportation, and the attendent destruction of families and local/state economies is one of the greatest (though certainly not the single greatest) failures of his administration. This was one of the few, very few successes of Bush's presidency, and the only one where it seemed he was truly willing to fight against his party minders to do what he thought was right.

Sadly, given the increasing willingness of the Republican Party post-GWB to turn over their immigration policy to those same racist cranks, naturalized Latino and Asian immigrant voters have little alternative other than to hold their noses and pull the lever for Obama, hoping he will live up to promises of amnesty in the second term. Yet another demographic Romney can safely write off.

Jim Stiles

Obama presides over a prison gulag filled with... an unconscionable percentage of America’s young black men...

Reform of the criminal code to eliminate victimless crimes would not substantially change the proportion of young black men in prison.

Franklin

The number one cause of black male incarceration is non-violent drug offense.
But perhaps your crystal ball provides you different analysis.

ajf

Eliminating or at least easing off the War on Drugs would substantially reduce the profit margins that make gangs that most viable entrepreneurial model for young inner-city black men. Movement toward a treatment-based model along the lines tested out successfully by Portugal would likewise free up many cells presently occupied by those on drug-related charges, a population which is disproportionately black (and male, though increasingly and distressingly the female population is catching up). Also, with fewer households broken up by long prison stays, the conditions for future generations improve and they are less likely themselves to turn to gangs and crime.

What we're doing right now, at least, isn't working. Seems worth trying something different rather than continuing to allow prison builders, guards' unions, and professional busybodies to feed off the lower class; one would have expected Obama to be more attentive to this but unfortunately he's more concerned with not appearing "soft on crime."

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