People surprised by Mitt Romney’s off-the-record, but secretly recorded, statements on Obama voters and Palestinians (and, others in whatever future comments Romney may make)—all insulting, callous, and wrong—surprise me. For Romney has long shown contempt of, indifference to, and ignorance of others unlike him in economic class, social status, or political position—attitudes common, though not universal, among wealthy, privileged, sheltered people with little or no experience beyond the confines of boardrooms, country clubs, and gated communities.
If Republican had a clue, they would stop urging Romney to try to show the “real Mitt Romney,” as if he were a truly warm, fuzzy person pajama-less at bedtime. He is nothing of the sort, and the advice merely urges him to pretend to be someone he is not—and to fail—which is one reason why they themselves do not like him. Give it up; he is who he is, a man of situational ethics with matching relativistic rhetoric, and ambition.
One omission to all the reactions to his statements also surprises me. All of them seem to be capable of confirmation or refutation by fact. Yet no one on either side of the political spectrum has asked what seems to me to be obvious questions about them: From whence come these categorical, unqualified generalizations? What sources of information are the basis for his statements? Do these statements reveal this potential president as informed and insightful?
The interesting fact, to which many commentators are calling attention, is the mixed composition of this 47 percent: soldiers on active duty combat zones, retired seniors, the involuntarily unemployed, students attending college on loans, hundreds of millionaires (including, perhaps, Romney himself!—wonder what those hidden returns show about his annual income tax payments), and the poor, the ill, and the otherwise disadvantaged.
So how the h-e-double-hockey-sticks does he know that all people who support Obama constitute a class, that all members of this class lack personal responsibility, that all think themselves “victims,” and that all believe themselves entitled to a long list of things? Romney’s statements go beyond generalizations to stereotyping and disclose their maker as a prejudiced—a pre-judging—person and someone who appeals to others also prejudiced. (Romney just joined a lot of Southern white women to a lot of urban black women as “welfare queens.”)
Of course, a candidate for the presidency who harbors prejudices against almost half of all Americans is not likely to take their concerns seriously if elected president. But Romney is right about one thing: many of them are less concerned about the national debt than about their debt. They are trying harder to deal with their debt than Romney and Congressional Republicans, including Paul Ryan, his (under three-hour marathon) running mate, are trying to deal with the national debt. Romney would not raise $1 dollar in taxes to cut $10 in spending, and, for the sake of political advantage, Ryan has voted at every opportunity to reject Obama’s efforts at deficit reduction. Truth be told, Republicans like a growing national debt; it gives them something to get all pious about and to run against, like sin.
As Romney earlier indicated that he does not care about the poor (they have a safety net, which, however, Ryan and he wish to shrink or shred), so he indicates that 47 percent of the American people, many statistically in the middle class, which he professes to care about, are not his concern. So we cannot expect Romney to propose or support legislation which would benefit them.
The same kind of prejudice dangerously biases his foreign policy. Romney asserts that Palestinians—all of them, apparently—do not want peace—again, what makes him think so?—, so he has no reason to try diplomacy to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. His belief is tantamount to saying that he does not want peace between them. No friend of Israel—and American Jews should not view him as a friend—would adopt a kick-the-can-down-the-road policy about the hostile situation which is harmful to both sides and prompts so much anti-American feeling far beyond Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Everyone knows that the situation is dangerous, difficult, dynamic, complex, and seemingly intractable. But Romney, who touts American leadership, declares that he is unwilling to exercise it and strive for peace in everyone’s interest.
Which points to larger questions: aside from wanting to fulfill his ambition to be president, what does Romney want to achieve as president, for whom, and how many? Is there any consistency, coherence, even common sense to his positions?
Commentators on both sides have overlooked another important point in Romney’s disparagement of the 47 percent. They have been so busy analyzing the ugliness, incoherence, and inanities of his comments that they have overlooked their anti-democratic leanings. For eight decades, bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress have passed, and administrations of both parties have signed, economic and social legislation to address the needs of almost all Americans. That legislation has served the rich, the poor, and those in the middle, with tax loopholes for some matched by tax abatements for others. If some pay no federal income taxes because of tax laws, did not Romney himself say that he would not be qualified for the presidency if he did not take advantage of the tax laws? So the pot is calling the kettle “dependent.”
When Romney and Ryan speak of the “dependency” of others, they merely indicate their contempt for many Americans and a disregard of democratically defined goals of democratically enacted legislation. What Romney’s speech and Ryan’s support of it signify is the GOP’s desire not only for a new economic order, but also for a new political one. That order is taking shape in state governments controlled by Republicans, with their efforts to curtail the franchise and limit the right and ability of many of the 47 percent to vote. (Will they also take the country back to a property qualification to vote?)
How ironic that the Republican Party, now controlled by the Tea Party, should disregard the colonialists’ pre-revolutionary rallying cry “no taxation without representation” and the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” For all their chest-beating about American principles, values, and the Constitution, these self-professed patriots reveal themselves to be latter-day Tories. Whatever else he may be, latter-day or not, Romney is, and acts like, a royalist who favors monarchy.