10 Desperate and Depressed Conservative Reactions to Romney's 47 Percent Moment
Photo Credit: Smirking Mitt Walking Away From Stuff
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Team Romney's biggest problem continues to be Mitt Romney. It's tough to build a campaign around a cartoonish 1-percenter whose CPU doesn't appear to be programmed for human empathy and who lacks an effective filter between brain and gums.
Will his 47 percent moment prove to be his undoing? Probably not in the short-term; an unusually high number of voters are already locked in, and as Cornell University's Suzanne Mettler's research has shown, a lot of Americans receiving benefits from the government have no clue that they are, so people who should be personally offended by Romney's crass remarks may instead think he's talking about “undeserving” blacks and lazy welfare cheats.
But it is hurting the candidate, reinforcing the majority's view of Romney as aloof and uncaring. It's also forcing the campaign onto the defensive, marking another few news cycles in which the campaign is forced to talk about things it would prefer not discuss. Finally, the story provides a perfect opening to once again hammer Romney for refusing to release his tax returns -- has he been among the 47 percent who pay no federal income taxes? It's entirely possible.
Whatever the long-term impact of the video might be, that moment of candor is a bombshell dropped into the election seven weeks before voters go to the polls, and it's triggered a variety of responses from the right. Let's take a tour of what conservatives are saying.
1. The Problem Isn't Romney, It's the Crazies
David Frum (whose Canadian background may serve the function of a tin-foil hat, protecting him from the crazy that's swept his compatriots) thinks Romney “committed the worst presidential-candidate gaffe since Gerald Ford announced in 1976 that 'there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.'" For Frum, what makes it such a killer is the right-wing media's reaction. “You know who's determined that Romney never recover?" he asks. "His deluded supporters in the conservative media world.”
Romney was expressing views that are widely held among a certain group of conservatives, and they are determined to make it as awkward as possible for him to retreat from those views.
And Romney's defenders' big blind spot all comes down to race:
When you ask white Americans to estimate the black population of the United States, the answer averages out at nearly 30%. Ask them to estimate the Hispanic population, and the answer averages out at 22%.
So when a politician or a broadcaster talks about 47% in "dependency," the image that swims into many white voters' minds is not their mother in Florida, her Social Security untaxed, receiving Medicare benefits vastly greater than her lifetime tax contributions; it is not their uncle, laid off after 30 years and now too old to start over.
2. He Was Just Mixing Up The Wingnut Talking-Points
Over at the National Review, Rich Lowery argues that Romney was right, but got his rhetoric confused. “The overall impression of Romney at this event,” writes Lowery, “is of someone who overheard some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read.”
[H]e jumbled together three different groups (the almost half of the country that’s going to support Obama no matter what; the roughly half of households that get government benefits; the half of “ tax units” that don’t pay taxes). Since we’re all in amateur-political-consultant mode, I would counsel disentangling and better explaining what he was trying to say about each of those groups.
The reality, of course, is that Romney cherry-picked one tax – federal income taxes – which happens to be one of our more progressive taxes. It accounts for 42 percent of federal revenues. A more regressive tax, paid by almost every working person -- but not the super-rich who live off of their investments -- is the payroll tax, which accounts for 40 percent of the government's take. And, of course, the idea that the 47 percent of households that don't pay federal income taxes are Democrats is just silly – they're heavily concentrated in red states and a fifth of that group are elderly, a demographic that tends to skew Republican.