So it appears that, with the Muslim world burning and reports that some but not all embassies were on alert for possible security threats on the 9/11 anniversary last week, with unemployment still so high and the Obama administration’s policies still so ineffective that the Federal Reserve has resorted to a new round of printing money — with all that, we’re nevertheless doomed to another round of debate about another “gaffe” by Mitt Romney.
That gaffe consists of Romney’s remarks, during a a closed-door fund-raiser four months ago, when he said, in part:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what …
And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 … he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.
This is, of course, exactly the kind of sentiment you can hear on, say, Neal Boortz’s radio show: the idea that the nation is reaching a tipping point of “makers” vs. “takers,” of people who pay income taxes vs. people who receive benefits funded by those taxes (and debt).
Is it the kind of thing a presidential candidate should say? No. Is it true that all 47 percent — that statistic is correct, by the way — are “moochers”? No.
But here’s another question: What about Barack Obama’s political career, including his presidency, refutes the broader point Romney made?
Is it the cradle-to-grave dependent “Julia,” about whom the Obama campaign constructed a narrative describing her inability to make it in America without government aid?
Is it the fact that food-stamp spending is on pace to more than double between 2008 and 2013?
Is it the fact that Obama’s signature legislative achievement would have the effect of making even more people — what’s that word again? — dependent on government for their health insurance?
So there are two aspects to Romney’s remarks. The first is the underlying substance of what he said, which boils down to the basic conservative critique of Obama specifically and liberalism in general: that they are highly, maybe even chiefly, interested expanding government and Americans’ dependence on it. Is anyone actually surprised by this? Does anyone think this is not a large part of what this election is about?
The second is the way he phrased it, and that did his candidacy no favors. If nothing else, he should have acknowledged that not all of the “47 percent” are dependent on government, that many of the ones who are dependent would prefer not to be, and that it is worthwhile to try to persuade at least some of the holdouts.
But I’m not sure it will be overly damaging to him, either. For starters, I agree with Ben Domenech that many members of the “47 percent” do not think they are members. How many people will hear that and think Romney was talking about them?
Going further, how many people will hear that and be offended by Romney’s remarks? And, adding the two groups together, how many of them were still actually considering voting for Romney anyway?
I would suggest we’re not talking about a very large number of people here. Now, in a close race, even a relatively small number of people can have a significant effect. But, with almost two months still to go in a campaign with much bigger issues front and center, I’m not sure a significant number of voters will make their decision even in part on Romney’s remarks at a fund-raiser back in May.
It is, however, one more reason for Romney to get back to playing offense on the economy and the size and scope of government — and soon.
– By Kyle Wingfield