Bring It On! If Romney's Defenders Want a Class Warfare Debate, We'll Win
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a fundraiser in Dallas on September 18, 2012.
An amazing thing is unfolding in conservative circles. Not every right-winger is running away from Mitt Romney, like the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan latest nail-biting screed. Instead, some are saying there’s a silver lining in Romney’s “47 percent” remarks because finally, finally, finally there’s a GOP candidate willing to say the government can’t solve America’s misfortunes.
“A fair number of those people in the 47% are not there by choice,” writes Red State’s Erick Erickson, sounding sympathetic before resuming the partisan attack. “They are there by Barack Obama’s economic policies.”
“I went back to the news archives… This is USA Today, April 26th, 2011. Headline: "Americans Depend More on Federal Aid Than Ever.” It’s not Romney saying it. Ha-ha,” exclaimed Rush Limbaugh today, then reciting this same script. “Forty-seven percent of this country's population is helplessly dependent on the government because of policies created by Barack Obama and the Democrat Party.”
Do the GOP loyalists defending Romney really want this debate—over the true causes of middle-class drift, economic alienation, thwarted opportunity and role of safety nets for the poor, elderly and young—a debate that can only end with a majority of American’s saying they want an effective role for government, because it’s not coming from corporate America?
Apparently they do. Here’s Paul Ryan earlier today, calling Romney “inarticulate” but marching in lockstep to the GOP’s latest class-warfare meme: “The point we’re trying to make here is, under the Obama economy, government dependency is up and economic stagnation is up, and what we’re trying to achieve is getting people off of government dependency.”
The GOP's latest script should be music to progressive’s ears. Let’s have this debate—but not on the blame-the-victims and blame-the-government terms that the GOP sets. Let’s have it on our terms. Let’s resurrect the economic insecurity discussions raised by the Occupy Movement. Let’s point the finger at the causes of economic stagnation and insecurity in America, at the growing gaps between rich and poor, and at government’s—and Wall Street’s—role in creating these problems and responding.
The Romney-Ryan-Rush remedy is spread the blame and kick everyone off government safety nets. There’s nothing new there. But maybe, as the GOP’s stalwart Romney defenders are saying, there is a silver lining in his unfiltered and derisive remarks about the 47 percent, because it does reveal exactly what conservatives would do if they took power in Washington.
What could unfold in the next seven weeks could turn into the GOP's worst nightmare. The Romney video will undoubtedly be eclipsed by other news. But if we recall the most liberal speeches from the Democratic Convention—by Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren who said the economic system is rigged, by the United Autoworkers President Bob King who defended the auto industry bailout, by Dream Act activist Benita Velez who said young people like her deserved a future—they offer the best responses to the GOP's latest words. These DNC speeches were criticized by mainstream media as inciting class warfare. But no more.
Now that the Republicans have doubled down on attacking social safety nets—whether health care for the youngest and oldest Americans, food stamps and unemployment for those out of work, retirement security programs for the elderly, low-interest loans for college and university students, and more—let’s finally discuss why earning a living, buying a home, paying the bills and being self-reliant is far more difficult in today’s America than it needs to be. Let’s discuss who is to blame, where all the money is going, and whether the private sector or public sector created these problems, and their role in the solutions.
There has been no shortage of polling—for years—that finds more than 47 percent of Americans want a government that insures there will be a safety net, or floor, for basic quality of life issues, especially for people who cannot take care of themselves. Even Tea Partiers were saying, “Hands of my Medicare.”
If the remaining weeks of the presidential campaign is centered on the role of government, on who is dependent on public services, and on what caused the economic bottom to fall out on the middle class and growing numbers of poor people, then not only should Obama sail toward a second term—but Americans will be giving Democrats a progressive mandate to govern.