Relatively speaking, doesn't Barack "they cling to guns, they cling to religion" Obama positively ooze with empathy and respect for his opponent's voters?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…These are people who pay no income tax.Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
This is the mother of all 'what you really think' gaffes -- or perhaps just 'what you really want your core supporters to think you think' gaffes.
And what is the assumption? That those who can't independently access or afford health insurance, those who temporarily need to avail themselves of food stamps, those whose mortgages are underwater or who can't make the rent in the mother of all recessions, those who might pay state tax, FICA tax, property tax, sales tax but no income tax -- all are nonproductive moochers. Ayn Rand is officially at the top of a national ticket; the U.S. has at least a one-in-three chance of being run by unabashed social Darwinists.Or did, before this tape came to light.
If it were Hillary running against Romney, she'd have the "Romney needn't worry about me" tee shirts printed by now.
I can't wait for the political scientists to tell us that this one doesn't matter. Over to you, Bernstein.
Update: right on cue, John Sides is up with some pretty powerful evidence that gaffes don't move the polls. Still, I often wonder whether he and other political scientists aren't too literal-minded about gaffes and polls: it would be hard to measure the cumulative effect of a series of remarks that help to drive home a plausible idea about a candidate -- e.g., for Romney, "corporations are people too," "I like to fire people [who provide services to me]", "I'm not concerned about the very poor," and now, "My job is not to worry about those people." Still, evidence is evidence, and the lack thereof is the lack thereof -- and if the economy nosedives, even this gaffe may not matter, or not matter enough to matter.
Also, re Hillary and the tee shirts: as I wrote that, a little voice was whispering that Hillary didn't win, and that Obama handled her gaffes differently. A Dish reader caught the essence of the thought clamoring to be heard:
If Obama is really, really smart, tomorrow he's going to be almost speechless about what Romney has said. He's not going to pounce; he's not going to express campaign-grade indignation; he's not going to try to score points. Rather, he'll take a moment to explain what everybody else is explaining: that a lot of the people who don't pay income taxes are the sick, the poor and the elderly, who we should all be concerned about.
You'll know tomorrow just how meep-meep Obama is. If he plays this correctly he hangs this around Romney's neck in a way that he will never be able to resolve before the first debate. If he treats it like just another campaign moment, that's how voters will see it.Finally, one more wonder on this wondrous evening: the best thing I've read among many excellent analyses of the assumptions and misunderstanding expressed in Romney's remarks is by, of all people, David Brooks:
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.”Maybe Brooks really is a compassionate conservative. [Update: I'm impressed by the broad perspective of three conservatives, including Brooks, pleading with the GOP to remove the makers/takers blinkers. It's in the long-term interests of the country that the party hear them.
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.