Mitt Romney made several big gaffes during the presidential campaign, but the biggest by far was his assertion to a room full of rich donors that 47% of Americans refuse to take responsibility for themselves.As even conservatives quickly pointed out, the half of the country that Romney was referring to–those who don’t pay federal income taxes–includes tens of millions of dedicated professionals who pay other taxes and perform services and make things that everyone in this country needs.
So, viewing these folks as not taking responsibility for themselves was not just stupid and wrong; it was deeply insulting.
Romney quickly disavowed the remarks, and as the campaign progressed, many Americans seemed to forget about them — including the tens of millions of less-well-off Americans in rural “red states” who voted for him.
But yesterday, in a post-mortem conference call with rich donors, Romney made new remarks that say the same thing a different way.
Obama won the election, Romney said, because Obama is giving “gifts” to many segments of the population, including women.
The remarks on the conference call reveal three things about Romney, two of which we already knew:
- He tailors his remarks to what he thinks the people he’s talking to want to hear. (There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Most good salespeople do it. But it’s certainly valid to ask what these salespeople actually believe, and in the case of Romney, we still haven’t gotten a clear answer. It’s also strange that Romney hasn’t learned by now that when you say anything in the context of a presidential campaign, you’re talking to the whole country.)
- He really doesn’t have much respect for people who aren’t rich — or, at least, for those who accept any sort of government services, benefits, or help. Perhaps this is a common view of those in Romney’s social circles. If so, it reflects the worldview that Republicans seem desperate to cling to, that the world is made up of “makers” and “takers” and that only the former deserve any respect. The wholesale embrace of this view would be more understandable if so many Romney voters weren’t — in the Republican definition — in the “taker” category.
- He’s a sore loser.
Romney’s remarks on the call actually provided a very clear explanation of why he lost. The explanation just doesn’t happen to be the one he gave.
(He lost, it seems safe to say, because he doesn’t understand or care about the circumstances of most people in this country. You can argue about the effectiveness of social and poverty programs, civil rights laws, and other attributes of a progressive, modern society, but viewing all these things as “gifts” is deeply polarising at best.)
Romney’s concession speech on election night was gracious. Too bad he didn’t stop with that one.
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