The video clips of Mitt Romney delivering what James Wolcott compares to Alec Baldwin’s big speech in the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross is being parsed and parsed again sixteen ways from Sunday all over the internet today, with most of the parsing focused on why the 47 percent of the country Mitt dismisses as takers aren’t taking or if they are it’s because they really need to. It'll need Bill Clinton to sell this as a Democratic campaign theme and he’s probably gearing up to do it already. But right now it’s just wonkery that makes us liberals feel smart and morally superior while eliciting sneers from the Right, who eat hating on the poor and the needy up with a spoon.
It boils down to Mitt thinks half the people in this country are lazy bums, an appalling sentiment but half the people in this country agree! More than half. (I’m reminding myself of Bertie Wooster’s observation that half the people in the country don’t know how the other three-quarters live.) More than half the people in the country think the other three-quarters are lazy bums. Sometimes. Even good liberals think it. The lazy bums think it. A trip to the mall, a drive down the highway, a visit to the doctor’s office, dinner out at a restaurant, a wait in line at the post office or the bank, anywhere you go where you have to deal with other human beings will confirm it. It’s amazing how many people expect the rest of the world to cater to them.
I’m kidding. Half-kidding. But all kidding aside. This will help bring out the Democratic vote (I think) and turn around some independents by turning their stomachs (I hope), but good luck persuading any Republicans that Mitt was including them as targets of his contempt. More likely it will encourage them to be more enthusiastic in expressing the contempt they share with Mitt for…those people.
One of the more pernicious things about “movement conservatism” has been its appeal to the worst in people by encouraging them to distrust and despise their fellow Americans. And one of the more depressing things about it has been how eagerly so many people have been to do so.
If only millionaires voted Republicans, the GOP would poll lower than the Greens and LaRouchites. Non-millionaires vote Republican for many reasons, one of which is that they don’t like the government giving “their” money to people who don’t work or don’t work as hard as they do. In a similar vein, they don’t like that “others” are getting help they’re not getting even though they could use it too. Others don’t think anybody, including themselves, should get help from the government. They see it as charity and they don’t want charity. “I can solve this myself.” it’s what the nuns called “false pride” but it’s how they honestly feel.
But, finally, a lot of non-millionaires---mostly men, I suspect---vote Republican in order to feel like millionaires or, rather, in order not to feel like losers. The reverence for wealth as a sign of God’s and Nature’s favor was brought here by the Puritans (who, weirdly, evolved into Massachusetts liberals within a couple centuries of the Mayflower’s dropping anchor), but it has been central to Republicanism since the Robber Barons took over the party and began driving out the Theodore Roosevelts and Bob La Follettes who were Lincoln’s true heirs. And it became the guiding principle in the ‘80s when grown men began to say things like “He who dies with the most toys wins” as if it was a self-evident truth and a good thing. People who are on their way to dying with no toys, instead of thinking maybe there’s something wrong with valuing a human life only by how much money a person makes, start to wonder if they are “losers” and reject that possibility emphatically by intensifying their identification with the “winners.” And along with voting for the winners’ tribunes, this means intensifying their hatred of the designated “losers”. The “Not Me’s!” The “No Way Am I One of Thems!” Those non-millionaires are cheering right along with the millionaires for Mitt today.
Which gets at what’s reprehensible about Mitt---one of the things that’s reprehensible about him. He sees the world in purely economic terms. To him, people are economic units not spiritual beings and individuals only matter to the degree they create wealth. Those who don’t create wealth or create enough of it are, in Randian terms, moochers and parasites, takers not makers, or, to put in in a straight-forwardly materialistic Romney-ian way, people are costs to be controlled.
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.
What is that but an itemization of expenditures?
But he’s not just telling his audience to see the 47 percent as economic units that don’t pay off on any investment. He’s selling himself as an economic unit. “Vote for me! Give to me! And I’ll pay out like gangbusters!”
If it looks like I'm going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president's going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends of course which markets you're talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back and we'll see—without actually doing anything—we'll actually get a boost in the economy.
He’s really offering no other reason to vote him. He’ll be the Confidence Fairy-in-Chief.
In fact, he’s pretty much promising to do nothing as President except sit in the Oval Office and watch CNBC and giggle as the Dow Jones climbs to 36,000.
And this is where I think the videos will cost him. Besides disgusting Democrats and Independents and, maybe, a few Republicans who are inclined to agree with the sentiments but recoil at hearing them expressed so nakedly, inelegantly, and cruelly---they won’t like hearing themselves echoed by the banker foreclosing on the widow’s ranch---Mitt is revealing himself to people who are only just beginning to pay attention to the campaign and to the political press corps, who should already know but have been assiduously pretending some other Mitt Romney has been running, that not only does he have no real plans for being President, he doesn’t know or care what it means to be President.
He hasn’t given a thought to what the country needs from a President, only to what we will get if we elect him---the wonderfulness that just comes naturally from having Mitt run things. Bain. The Olympics. That state whose name he'd rather not mention. The United States of America. All we need is him.
And not only does this add to and reinforce the perception that he is just a self-infatuated, self-flattering, self-congratulating rich jerk who divides the world neatly into, as Charles Pierce says, himself and his wonderful family and the Help, that he is in fact a guy who likes to fire people and doesn’t care about the very poor or, for that matter, the not very rich, but coming on top of his reckless and destructive blundering on Libya last week, it makes it even clearer that this man has no business asking us to trust him with the Presidency.
A lot more people are looking at Barack Obama and thinking, You know, he’s pretty good at this job, maybe we should keep him.
And then they’re looking at Mitt and shaking their heads and saying to themselves, “Definitely. Not. A. President.”
And that’s how I expect he’s going to get covered from here on out.
You’ve probably already read David Corn’s scoop at Mother Jones and looked at the clips, but in case you haven’t here’s the link: SECRET VIDEO: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters.
Updated before I’ve even had a chance to post this: Jonathan Chait beat me to the punch with similar thoughts this morning at New York Magazine, The Real Romney Captured on Tape Turns Out to Be a Sneering Plutocrat.
And, naturally, Charles Pierce is way ahead of me too: The Worst Thing Romney Has Said About Americans Yet.