The recent Romney video distributed by Mother Jones magazine shows the Republican presidential candidate expressing contempt for about half of his constituency. He goes on to say that “these people” will continue to vote for Obama because they expect entitlements from the government.
His analysis almost couldn’t be more incorrect demonstrating even more strongly that he is truly out of touch with the voting public. In fact the 47% to whom he refers are likely people who live in so called ‘red’ states who voted largely Republican 4 years ago and will likely vote Republican again. And they are doing so not, I believe, because they expect entitlements but because they don’t believe in the Democratic party. It was the party who, in 1964, gave voting rights to blacks. President Johnson predicted correctly that signing the voting rights act would lose the Democratic party the support of the southern states.
The problem is that there are voting blocks which vote on emotional issues even when their vote is likely to work against their own interests. People in unions, working class folks, teachers, firemen, policemen, homemakers and others of the “middle income” group should logically be concerned about issues like health care, job creation, lowering their taxes, getting the rich to pay their fair share. But logic and reason are not what drives elections in this country and probably for many countries. Emotions, prejudices, long held beliefs are the driving factors.
I fully expect working class people in these red states to vote for nearly anyone but Obama even though recent history shows that this is probably not a good idea. The constant presence of the media and local traditional beliefs are repeated and believed, seldom investigated or questioned. I wonder how many generations are willing to sell themselves and their families down the river because they still hold in contempt the party they once embraced until about 1964. Perhaps they will never embrace that party again.
Instead we have the Republicans creating the story of a “post-racial” America, a story that does not hold up beyond it’s telling. But, because it is what they wish to believe, they believe it. Because this story essentially forgives them for their racist leanings by denying that they exist, that they are problems of a previous generation, not the present one. And, no, I am not saying this election is “just about race and racism” but the incredible amount of denial is so overwhelming that racism hardly gets mention in the mainstream media. So I am mentioning it here.
So along comes this secretly taped video of the Republican candidate clearly expressing contempt for half of the country. And when confronted he refuses to distance himself substantively from the statements he made. It is clear that he has contempt for the poor, those who have not had his success. And he suggests that they “take care of themselves”, get their own health insurance, get their own food, find their own jobs and essentially be made to suffer for not being rich and clever like him (though I don’t think there is anything clever about inheriting money).
In a logical world this video with it’s disparaging comments would be the death knell of any campaign. The candidate clearly does not have the interests of the working class in mind. So in the remaining 49 days until the election we can watch to see if these disenfranchised folks will vote for someone who has said essentially that he does not like them or vote for another four years for the black guy, a man from a group of people that their parents and grandparents thought should never have been given human rights. President Obama’s platform and record are hardly discussed in factual terms in these places. But will they really settle for someone who has so blatantly said he doesn’t like them?
This is a great historical moment. Just like the “post-racial” fable they can construct another fable to the effect that the election of Barack Obama was an error. They can tell future generations that they did indeed elect him but, as they expected, he was no good. So they proceeded to correct this error. And even if this results in abject poverty and suffering they will have done so for the greater glory of their beliefs, their version of history. The question is not about entitlements or laziness it is about stubbornness and the long held embrace of hatred. The president represents for these people the sustaining of these emotional truths or their destruction. They can have survived the election of a black president if they see it as a mistake that they can correct.
The outcome of this election especially in light of this contemptuous video will tell us as a country what progress we have made in equality for all Americans. Electing Mr. Obama for a second time will be a significant outcome in our history. And electing someone who has contempt for at least half of his constituents would also be a significant historical outcome. Which one would make you the most proud?