I wish I didn’t have to write this, but apparently I do:
In his ambition to become president, Mitt Romney is trotting out the race card, calling upon and reinforcing old resentments and racial stereotypes to generate votes and support.
I had resisted that notion for months, despite evidence otherwise. I had given Romney a lot more credit than that, both as a person of decent instincts and as a leader. I honestly did not think that he would stoop to the likes of a Newt Gingrich, for example, with his description of Obama as “the food-stamp president” pursuing “Kenyan” values.
In addition, I think conservatives often have a valid point about the “race card” being played too quickly, based on too little evidence. I consider it a serious accusation that should only be made reluctantly, and only with sufficient proof to make it stick.
Unfortunately, the accumulating evidence against Romney has grown too powerful to deny.
Some of you perhaps came to this conclusion a while ago. Some of you no doubt reject it altogether and will continue to do so vehemently. That’s fine, because I’m only speaking for myself. And personally, the straw that broke the camel’s back came in a new interview with USA Today in which Romney charged that Obama was gutting the work requirement in welfare law in order to “shore up his base.”
Because as everyone knows, Obama’s true base can be found among those shiftless Americans too lazy to work and eager to collect welfare bucks for doing nothing, right Mitt? (And if you doubt the power of that narrative among an alarmingly large number of Americans, come back in an hour and read the comments that are sure to follow this post).
In hindsight, the claim that Obama was trying to gut the work requirement — and the prominent play that the Romney camp has given the claim — should have been enough to confirm his shameful intentions. In one ad, for example, Romney claims that “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.”
Every independent observer to study the claim has confirmed that it is false. Not just slightly false, totally false. Politifact calls it a pants-on-fire lie. The Washington Post gives it Four Pinocchios. FactCheck.org also concluded the charge is false.
The reality is that several state governments, including Republican administrations in Utah and Nevada, sought flexibility in how to administer the law. That’s a conservative idea, right? Give states flexibility in figuring out how best to do things? When Obama took office, just 29 percent of welfare recipients were actually working or taking job training, so the idea of trying something new seemed attractive.
As Gary Herbert, the Republican governor of Utah, wrote in a letter last month defending the waiver request, “Some of these participation requirements are difficult and costly to verify, while other participation requirements do not lead to meaningful employment outcomes and are overly prescriptive.” Utah has no intention whatsoever of weakening work requirements, Herbert wrote.
But when the administration acceded to such requests, it was immediately accused of wanting to give taxpayer money away to welfare bums.
But again, the falsity of the charge is not what gives it away. What gives it away is the Romney campaign’s insistence on taking a very minor bureaucratic change and trying to elevate it into a major issue in the campaign. There is only one possible explanation for pushing the welfare claim so hard, and for hinting that the change is being implemented to “shore up (Obama’s) base.”
And that is an appeal to racism.
– Jay Bookman