5 Ways ‘I Wish I Was Mexican’ Mitt Reveals Contempt for Brown and Black People
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses a fundraising event in Salt Lake City.
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The reason, of course, is the now-infamous video of Romney's remarks to a group of well-heeled donors at a fundraising event in Boca Raton last May, in which the Republican presidential candidate, a multimillionaire, paints nearly half the American population as moochers -- people who, he said, "see themselves as victims," and believe they have a right to food, shelter and health care at government expense.
The candidate seems not to grasp that, included in the 47 percent painted by Romney as takers are senior citizens, members of the armed forces, a portion of the unemployed and others who comprise part of Romney's own constituency. The fallout is said to have set on edge the teeth of the very wealthy donors whom Romney once courted with such words of wisdom.
But nestled amid the contempt Romney shows for everyday people of all races who receive tax credits or Social Security is a simmering resentment of brown and black people. First, Romney says he wishes that he had been born to Mexican parents, rather than to an American father born in Mexico, because "I'd have a better shot at winning this."
Then, as he derides those who fall below the threshold that triggers an income-tax obligation, Romney concludes that all of those people "will vote for the president no matter what" -- presumably because the black president, as Romney has alleged in the past, is all about fostering a culture of government dependency.
Later in the video, which was obtained by Mother Jones, Romney describes Palestinians as a fundamentally violent group.
Up until this point, as I chronicled the race-baiting and bigotry of the Romney campaign, I had seen it all as a cynical strategy deployed simply to appeal to the basest instincts of the Republican base -- and not necessarily reflective of Mitt's own biases. But the video tells a different tale. There, in the well-appointed home of leveraged buyout mogul Marc Leder, Romney seems to be, at last, his authentic self, speaking in a relaxed manner before people of his own social class, giving the subtext of Romney's wish-I-was-a-Mexican remark the feel of a more authentic racial resentment.
Here are five examples of ways in which Romney has demonstrated disrespect for brown and black people.
1. Latinos get all the breaks. Early in his remarks to the Boca burghers, Romney discusses his "heritage:"
My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.
Because, you know, there have been so many Latino U.S. presidents.
Mitt's Mexican dream has given rise to all manner of hilarity on late-night shows and in the Twitterverse, where the newly hatched @MexicanMitt("I am the Juan Percent!") is presently holding court.
Viewed in the context of his later comments about Obama voters as being freeloaders, Romney's rationale for wanting to be Latino seems to be that all those moocheros would totally vote for a guy just because he looks like them, as would, presumably, all those other dependency-addicted Americans, since a Latino prez, like a black one, is, in his view, emblematic of the dependency culture. It's a novel variation on the old producerist trope that dates back to the pre-Civil War Jacksonian age, and was used as a rationale for maintaining slavery.
Poor Mitt. It's tough to be a rich, white guy these days.
2. Black people want free stuff. In July, Romney made an appearance before the NAACP's annual convention, declaring himself to be the best presidential candidate "for African American families." Then, in an apparent bid to collect television footage of black people booing him, he declared his intention to "repeal Obamacare."
At a fundraiser later that night, according to a pool report, Romney responded to a question about his reception at the civil rights group's gathering:
I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: If they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy -- more free stuff. But don't forget nothing is really free.
3. Arabs love war -- and are poor because of their inferior culture. In the video secretly shot at the Boca fundraiser, Romney offers a new twist on the Middle East peace process, basically saying the best approach is to kick the can down the road. Why? Because, Romney says, "the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace." That's right -- none of them. (This assumption, by the way, flies in the face of public polling data in the occupied territories.)
Add to that statement Romney's assertion before a group in Israel that "culture" is the reason for the wealth disparity between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and you have Romney painting Palestinian Arabs according to the racist "ghetto thug" stereotypes used against blacks in the U.S.
Romney's Israel remarks, as reported by TPM's Benjy Sarlin in July:
As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita*, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."
"Culture makes all the difference," Romney said. "And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things." Among them, he cited "the hand of providence."
4. Falsely painting black president as promoter of work-free welfare payments. Having yet to close the deal with the Republican base, Romney set out in August to provide right-wingers with a false narrative about President Barack Obama that would vindicate the racist biases of the right, especially the notion that Obama favors blacks over whites, based around the false assumption of the average welfare recipient as black, and the lie that the Obama sought to remove the work requirements from federal welfare payments.
In a series of ads, the Romney campaign mischaracterized waivers granted to several states as the undoing of welfare reform when, in fact, the waivers were granted in order to allow the states to try new methods to increase the employment numbers of welfare recipients.
5. Another twist on the "lazy Negro" theme. As I reported in July:
At the end of May, the Romney campaign rolled out a new campaign based around the theme, "Obama Isn't Working." It was a neat little double entendre, with a surface-level meaning, if one read it as a grammatically tortured kind of shorthand, that Obama's policies aren't working, while its grammatically correct meaning implied that the African American president is, well, shiftless -- a notion that is a persistent racial stereotype of American black people.
When it comes to people who aren't white, or who aren't rich, Mitt Romney, it seems, has a few issues.