Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The 47 percent and the case for voter suppression

I found myself musing this afternoon: what was Romney really saying about the 47 percent of the electorate he wrote off in that fundraiser?

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... my job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
There are three propositions here: 1) 47% of Americans don't pay taxes; 2) those 47% don't believe in personal responsibility or free enterprise;  3) because of those beliefs, they will vote for someone who is destroying personal responsibility and free enterprise. A fourth proposition did not need to be spoken to this group, but Romney says it on the stump all the time: Obama, enabled by this 47%, will change the fundamental character of America, destroy its commitment to and reward of free enterprise.

Two further thoughts. First, Romney' s mush-thinking conflates three tipping points: 1) Obamacare will put more than half of the economy under "government control" (as he nonsensically claims); 2) nearly half of Americans don't pay income taxes; and 3) nearly half of Americans are committed to an entitlement economy where the government ensures equality of outcomes. Second: there's not much conceptual space between positing that a defined group of people has irredeemably depraved values and positing that that group is not worthy of the franchise.  Because there's another conflation here: those who are poor have the wrong values.  And from there, it's easy to get to those who are poor are not worthy of the vote.

Needless to say, the Republican party has acted on that conviction with reckless and relentless abandon, disenfranchising as many of the poor, state by state, as they possibly can.  Because after all, the future of America is at stake.

It is of course absurd to posit that the 47% of the population that pays no income tax is relentlessly committed as a bloc to Obama - let alone that they believe in some absolute sense that government should take care of them. Many of that 47% are seniors, who favor Romney by fifteen points, and eight of the ten states in which they are most concentrated are hard-core red states.  It is true, however, that by modest margins lower income Americans favor Obama and wealthier voters favor Romney. Here is a breakdown from Gallup:

Voting preferences by annual household income.gif It might require a fiction-writer's leap of imagination to envision a Romneyite elite that seeks to limit the franchise to households earning the equivalent of, say, $50,000. To a large extent, however, the electorate already self-selects in that direction. And the GOP will do everything in its power to nudge as much of the perceived moocher class off the voting island as it can.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure it takes a fiction writer's leap of imagination to imagine the right openly arguing the poor should not be allowed to vote on the basis that they don't pay income tax. See this:

    An actual right winger argued for it.