Mother Jones came to President Obama’s rescue with an urgently needed distraction from the meltdown of his foreign policy.
A surreptitiously recorded video of Mitt Romney addressing a private dinner meeting of high-end donors back in May includes some controversial remarks. Predictably, sanctimonious indignation thundered from the establishment media, accusing Romney of arrogant contempt for half the population. For different reasons those of us who have supported Mr. Romney, and were especially encouraged when he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, are disappointed and concerned by what we hear in the video.
Context is important. Mr Romney’s was speaking to sophisticated people who had just made large donations and his remarks were mostly about how campaign resources would be deployed, rather than about governing philosophy. Our commentary starts at a portion of the video where Mr. Romney sought to assure the donors his campaign was competent:
I can tell you I have a very good team of extraordinarily experienced, highly successful consultants. A couple of people in particular who’ve done races around the world. I didn’t realize these guys in the US, the Karl Rove equivalents, they do races all over the world. In Armenia. In Africa. In Israel. I mean, they work for Bibi Netanyahu in his races. So they do his races and see which ads work and which processes work best and, uh, we have ideas about what we do over the course of the campaign. I’d tell them to you, but I’d have to, you know, shoot ya.
Campaign consultants with the same qualifications also worked for every candidate who lost in recent years, including John McCain in 2008 and Bob Dole in 1996. Indeed, Karl Rove was prominent in George Bush’s 2000 campaign when he lost the popular vote and would have lost the election if Ralph Nader had not saved him by pealing off a 97 thousand votes in Florida that otherwise would have gone to Al Gore.
The troubling possibility, supported by this video, has always been that Mitt Romney sees himself not as a reformer, with fire in his belly, on a mission to shrink government and expand liberty but as the CEO of a company of campaign technicians.
The section of the video that has been most replayed in the Obama supporting media begins with this question from one of the donors:
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?
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. And this President starts off with 48 – 49, he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income tax.
Romney seems to have decided, on the advice of those “extraordinarily experienced” consultants that a huge voting block, 47%, are all dependent on government, AND all believe they are entitled AND pay no income tax AND are certain to vote for Obama. The unspoken corollary is that all Obama voters are non taxpaying government dependents.
But these assertions are preposterous! Consider exit polling results from the 2008 election:
- 52% of voters who earned more than $200,000 and thus paid substantial income tax voted for Obama;
- 32% of voters who earned less than $30,000 and thus paid very little or no income tax voted for McCain;
- 53% of seniors, the largest group receiving government subsidies, voted for McCain.
Income tax obligation is the dumbest of all the dumb ways campaign consultants slice and dice the electorate into identity groups. Abandoning millions of voters to Obama because they don’t currently have an income tax obligation is a campaign strategy guaranteed to fail. Consider two hypothetical, female voters, both with the same income:
- An unmarried woman with no children, earning $75,000, living in Los Angeles, who does not attend church. Polling data indicate that Obama is almost certain to get her vote. She will pay approximately $12,000 in income tax.
- A married woman with four children. She and her husband earn $75,000, live in a home with a mortgage and tithe to their church. According to polling data she is a solid GOP loyalist, nearly certain to vote for Romney. She and her husband will pay zero income tax.
Less than two minutes before his 47% rant Romney had said:
And then I quote Marco Rubio in my speeches, I say…Sen. Rubio says that when he grew up poor, that they looked at people that had a lot of wealth, and his parents never once said, “We need some of what they have, they should give us some.” Instead they said that you work hard and go to school, someday we might be able to have enough.
One wonders then, what does Romney actually believe? If he believes there are more people like Rubio’s parents why would he pursue a campaign strategy that ignores them?
Romney concluded the 47% rant:
So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect and [Obama will] be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. That’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Again, the wisdom of campaign consultants. Don’t follow the Reagan model. Don’t “waste” resources trying to unite voters of all ethnic and socio-economic groups, behind the same powerful message of liberty and free enterprise. Don’t try to persuade. Instead, segment the population into identity groups based on ethnicity and income and perceived social class. Then, “target” only some of those groups with customized, not necessarily sincere messages that seem to confirm whatever perceptions you think they already hold.
The last sentence seeming to dismiss all of the 47% as unwilling to take personal responsibility is not only offensive, it blatantly contradicts what purports to be the fundamental premise of Romney’s campaign, that tens of millions of diligent Americans have been displaced by the Obama economy and are aching for an opportunity to work and be responsible.
The meeting in this video took place last May. Based on the selection of Paul Ryan as running mate it appears that Mr. Romney may have modified his thinking since then. We certainly hope so. Liberty Works enthusiastically supported that selection and the subsequent campaign messages. Basing the final weeks of the campaign on the assumptions in the video will award an unearned victory to Barack Obama and his corrupt, disastrous, administration.