Romney, Poor People, and Political Tone-Deafness

Romney, Poor People, and Political Tone-DeafnessDespite Mitt Romney’s big win in Florida Tuesday night, the race still seems to be in full swing. Why do the other candidates believe in their chances in spite of Romney’s massive structural advantages? Romney’s words on Wednesday provided some of the answer.

In an interview Wednesday, he uttered perhaps the most tone deaf statement in American political history. He said, “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” Mitt, once again, reinforced just how out of touch he is with the average American. Mitt’s often compared to a used car salesman, but Wednesday’s statement makes him seem like a used car salesman with tourettes. In an instant he reinforced everything that people find distasteful about him, and uttered an unspoken truth that goes with out saying in Republican circles. Of course Republicans don’t care about poor people, the vast majority of their agenda works to undermine governmental protections for the poor. Even their stated economic plan of ‘trickle down economics’ aims to solve the problems of poverty by empowering wealthy Americans to create jobs which will then go to poor folks, allowing the government’s money to ‘trickle down.’ They make no bones about this fact, Democrats aim to give assistance directly to the very poor, whereas Republicans hope that money will somehow diffuse into poor people’s pockets by some form of osmosis. That Romney thinks that there is a sturdy social safety net adds to the ludicrousness of the statement, doesn’t he know that the vast majority of Republican plans to “balance the budget” will be on the backs of the very poor, or is he admitting that and saying that he doesn’t give a damn.

The fact that yesterday’s gaffe isn’t a death blow to the Romney campaign reveals a sad truth about American politics. Many are hesitant to engage in ‘class warfare’ because they don’t want to see themselves as part of the lower class. This is aspirational, but fundamentally silly. The idea that America is still a society where upward mobility occurs with relative ease is ridiculous. Certainly, there are outliers like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, who are able to strike it rich with a genius invention, but the reality is that if you’re an undereducated person in their 30s or 40s, you aren’t going to strike it rich overnight. People are scared and ashamed to admit their real economic reality, and American politics suffers because of it.

Romney’s comment joins a long line of statements that set him apart from the average American. His defense of corporations as people, and his love of firing service employees, clearly illustrate that he’s a plutocratic politician with little in common with average folks. Mitt is uncomfortable off the stump, whenever he’s forced off message and unable to utter platitudes he turns into a stammering mess. The reason some Republicans were drawn to Newt Gingrich after his performance in the debates is his ability to articulate conservatism. Gingrich’s conservatism isn’t one that ignores the poor, but supposedly ameliorates their condition. Romney wasn’t baited into today’s comment, he just uttered it because that’s what he believes. The implicit message is that poor people aren’t Americans.

There is an overarching belief in Republican politics that Democrats and the poor have a symbiotic relationship. The poor, read African Americans, suckle off the government because they have no work ethic, and the Democrats are happy to fund welfare because it increases the size of government and keeps them in power. It’s classic Republican thinking; it’s paranoid schizophrenia. To think that Democrats help the poor people in some sort of cynical ploy, and not because they truly believe that poor people are deserving of help, illustrates the way Republicans think. They are greedy and so they only understand greed. Of course, Newt, Ron Paul, and Santorum don’t really care about the poor, but none of them are dumb enough to say it aloud. Romney is.

(Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Jonah Redel-Traub is a blogger from New York City. Recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Redel-Traub started The Redel Traub Report, which features his hard hitting, insightful, tre more


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