By now, many readers are likely aware of the secretly recorded video making such a splash in the news of Mitt Romney at a fundraising event where he spoke of the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax. To his credit, he immediately answered the Democratic/liberal spin on the statements. Unfortunately, the fact he did so via a late night news conference indicates a little panic on the part of his campaign.
But, let us put the comments into some perspective. First, when you are standing at a fundraiser before conservative donors, does anyone expect Mitt Romney to adopt the line of, for example, the Occupy Wall Street movement? If Obama stands before the NEA, is he going to call for his support of school vouchers? Or is Obama going to talk glowingly of the Tea Party while sitting at a fundraiser in the home of George Clooney with the Hollywood liberal establishment gazing in awe? Of course, they are going to play to the audience in front of them in an effort to raise funds.
Second, is what Romney said actually wrong? He has already admitted that it was worded incorrectly and it certainly was impolitic. But, the fact does remain that 47% of Americans do not pay income tax. The fact also remains that the bulk of those people- those at the lower end of the income scale- likely will not vote for Romney. Again, he is merely speaking the politically obvious. That being said, I do not believe that every one of them think that they are entitled to a government hand out no more than I believe that the higher earners don’t think they do not pay their fair share of taxes as Obama would have us believe vis-a-vis folks like Eva Longoria and Warren Buffett.
Third, Romney is stating the obvious when it comes to political strategy. There is a reason you will not see Barack Obama campaigning in Kansas or Oklahoma this year just as there is a reason you won’t see Mitt Romney campaigning in California or Vermont. Of course, Obama would like the electoral votes from Kansas or Oklahoma and Romney would like the votes from California or Vermont, but they both realistically know that it simply is not going to happen. So they prioritize and devise an electoral strategy. And of course neither one of them is going to turn down votes from the fine folks of those states. That does not mean that Romney thinks lowly of California or Vermont citizens or that he would not represent them if he became President any more than Obama thinks lowly of the citizens of Kansas or Oklahoma and will ignore their needs as President. Instead of thinking in terms of states, think in terms of the 47% who do not pay taxes and the 53% who do and the same truth holds.
Fourth, there is no use ranting about the fact this was secretly recorded video. The “cat is out of the bag” and arguing about alleged dirty tricks on the part of liberals or Democratic operatives will simply fall on deaf ears and sound like political crying. But, make no mistake this was political dirty tricks. What it illustrates is the lengths to which the Obama campaign and his supporters will go to win this election. What Republicans need to learn and where conservatives need to help is realizing that the other side plays by a totally separate set of rules. The liberal “ends justifies the means” mentality and strategy is something the GOP and conservatives simply do not understand or refuses to adopt. A perfect case in point is some conservative rumblings recently about the Romney campaign, namely that he is not discussing policy specifics. That may be part of the problem but by releasing a 53 page economic recovery proposal or a detailed energy plan one would think that suffices. People and most voters don’t read detailed policy proposals. They react more to the visceral, not the cerebral. It is great that conservatives and Republicans have ideas and detailed policies; it is certainly one major advantage we have over liberals and Democrats. But, I argue, it is not enough and it is something that must be addressed going forward whether we win or lose this election. We need to (I hate to say this) adopt some of the strategies of Saul Alinsky and turn the tables on liberals and Democrats. Obama and company have no reservations about playing politics in the gutter. The other side needs to do likewise since “playing by the rules” will result in another John McCain-type disaster.
And of course, there is the corollary “Latino” comment on that same videotape that is being played up by the Hispanic community as somehow being insensitive to their sensibilities. Besides prefacing the comment as being a joke, most people don’t understand that. They only hear the “I wish I was Latino” part. Some analysis I have heard claims that this innocuous comment is worse than the other comments. Has this country, thanks to the identity politics played by the other side, become so racially or ethnically polarized that someone cannot make an innocuous joke or comment without it becoming a racial slur? Well, at least they cannot blame Romney for a “dog whistle” comment as it was rather right out there.
So what is the Romney campaign to do about this? He has already released a statement and held a news conference over the comment. He has apologized if it offended anyone and he has explained himself. He has admitted that the syntax was incorrect and where have we heard that one before? The lapdog media likely will not let up on Romney over this unlike the pass Obama received over “You didn’t build that” or Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners “clinging to their guns and Bibles.” I believe a little benign ignorance here could go a long, long way. Just laugh, snicker, attack and move on. In the near future, Romney needs to parse his words a little better and make sure that those in the room at a fundraiser are truly his friends. Already there are no less than three national editorials referring to these comments as “Romney’s class warfare.” Yep- politics in 2012 where electoral strategy is now reduced to accusations of class warfare. You gotta love it.