Mitt Romney‘s leaked videos are taking their rightful toll on his campaign, and the media is doing its job, helping to push them along. A Bloomberg News op-ed, titled, “Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election,” predicts what most folks are thinking. The title of semi-conservative David Brooks’ New York Times op-ed, “Thurston Howell Romney,” encapsulates the essence of Romney far too well.
In case you have yet to see the videos, or hear about them:
“You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released [yesterday] by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney’s campaign for president,” Josh Barro at Bloomberg writes:
On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmoveable Obama voters. As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims.” He laments: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
So what’s the upshot? “My job is not to worry about those people,” he says. He also notes, describing President Obama’s base, “These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”
This is an utter disaster for Romney.
Romney already has trouble relating to the public and convincing people he cares about them. Now, he’s been caught on video saying that nearly half the country consists of hopeless losers.
Romney has been vigorously denying President Obama’s claims that his tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class. Now, he’s been caught on video suggesting that low- and middle-income Americans are undertaxed.
(That one is especially problematic given the speculation about what’s on Mitt’s unreleased pre-2010 tax returns.)
Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.
It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.
The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.
Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.
The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.
The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.
The shocking part of all this — Romney calling half of America losers who are dependent on the government and want to be because they don’t take personal responsibility and want it that way — is that it’s not shocking at all, coming from Romney, it’s exactly what you’d expect.
Lat night on the Last Word, Krystal Ball called Romney’s comments, “quite devasting because they are not shocking.”
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