My latest post for NBC Latino.
The viral video of Mitt Romney calling nearly half the country a bunch of entitled freeloaders earlier this year took the internet by storm last night. It’s hard to see why this sentiment is so surprising, but it is also simplistic to write this off as just more of the same contempt-driven messaging we’ve grown accustomed to from this Tea Party-brained version of the Republican Party.
It’s clear Romney made a decision early in the campaign to jettison any attempt to broaden his appeal, and instead concentrate on consolidating it by stoking the fire of anxiety that fed the Tea Party movement to “take back their country” after our black, I mean Kenyan, I mean Muslim, I mean socialist, I mean non-citizen President was elected in 2008.
But with such a focus on the “otherness” of our President over the last four years, such as when Romney recently chided Mr. Obama for apologizing for our American values in the Middle East, its difficult to avoid the implication that this message is systematically underlying the Romney campaign.
Yet most of the media discussion about Romney’s latest gaffe has taken a simplistic view of the imagery he is appealing to when he calls the forty-seven percent self-entitled victims who demand free food, health care and housing. He’s certainly not talking about the millions of white senior citizens who cash social security checks every month to help pay for their food and rent, and whom will overwhelmingly vote for Mitt Romney in November. It is not the military veterans who depend on the one truly socialized health care system in the country, or the many soldiers living in taxpayer-funded housing. It is not the millions who rely on Medicare for their drug prescriptions, annual check-ups, and maintenance, and who are again overwhelmingly white and will vote for Mitt Romney.
On average, none of these folks will take umbrage with what Mitt Romney said, because he isn’t talking about them and they know it. The social contract, for which we all are consigners, rightfully obligates us to treat these people with dignity, and we largely do.
So the question isn’t why is Romney disparaging half the country, but which half of the country is really the target of his disparagement and why does he feel this will resonate with potential voters? The number itself is merely a convenience, but its the conceptual hold on the Republican psyche that this less-than-majority of people will overwhelm the country that is more interesting to me.
Yet the media paints this as an example of how out of touch Romney is with middle America, and my problem with that claim is that it assumes a level of stupidity that gives no person the right to run for any elected office, and it assumes that the resonance this message carries among Republican voters is simply an innocent response to hard economic times for taxpayers. Sure, I guess it would be easier to believe as Romney says, that half the country is simply stupid, but I’m not buying that.
Since the media cycle can only handle so much idiocy in one day, lost in the discussion was another off the cuff remark by Romney that went largely unnoticed, but added important context to his remarks about the forty-seven percent. Romney lamented that he was not born to Mexican parents, and that if he were not born to white parents, he would have a “better shot at winning” the election. Perhaps this is funny to him and his rich donors, but it’s the same something-for-nothing brush he has painted the forty-seven percent with.
White folks work hard, earn their money, honorably invest and retire with dignity. Life would have been so much easier with all the handouts and advantages given to those with minority status. But the depravity of minorities is such that they make about twenty times less than whites, one in four live in poverty, and one in three have no health insurance. They have squandered an opportunity white folks can only dream of.
And if you don’t vote this November, these lethargic, undignified, undeserving foreign people who do not have the decency to be thankful for all that has been given to them will be voting for a black man, Mr. Food Stamps, who apologizes for our American values. That’s the message of the forty-seven percent.