Romney Laments That Voters Wanted “Free Stuff”

In a Wednesday conference call with donors, Mitt Romney blamed his defeat on the obvious culprit: all the freebies that Barack Obama gave away to Democratic voters — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

If you’re a member of one of those communities, and you’re wondering where your free gift is, it may help to understand that Mitt Romney has an odd definition of the word:

With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift. Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.

Not only are a couple of those flatly untrue (nobody forgave college loan interest. Congress just voted to keep interest rates from rising; contraceptives are only “free” for people who already have insurance coverage), but Romney’s examples of “gifts” turn out to be simply the kinds of things that Western governments do, like ensuring that people have adequate access to health care and education.

Romney’s formulation was no accident. The statement was perfectly consonant with Romney’s earlier campaign gaffes. In fact, based on this statement, it’s pretty clear that the most damaging things said by Romney weren’t gaffes at all — they were just an honest expression of his worldview.

47 Percent Free Stuff

Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe has been credited with sowing the seeds of his defeat. It’s worth revisiting, because it’s so very similar to the lamentation Romney delivered Wednesday.

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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

This is the way Romney views the world — makers versus takers. It goes without saying that the Democrats, and especially the African American and Latino communities, are the takers, demanding free stuff from captains of industry like Mitt Romney. That some people might view health care, food, and housing as less a freebie and more a basic human need seems to completely elude Romney. The idea that there’s a societal benefit for keeping the populace clothed, fed, and healthy is alien to him.

No, Romney views these things as “gifts.” As he said after his address to the NAACP, “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.”

That’s why Mitt’s complaint is so illustrative. Not because it’s new, but because it isn’t. Mitt’s anger is at people he believes are leeches on the body of America — the poor, the young, the non-white.

Romney tried very hard to avoid honesty during the campaign, sticking to platitudes and vague generalizations. But a few times, the mask slipped. When he felt like he was among his wealthy white peers, he actually said what he believed. What Mitt believed was what so many on the right believe. They usually hide it better, though.

Right Turns on Romney

Since Mitt lost, he no longer can depend on a sycophantic party to praise his every utterance. The same folks who tried to tap dance around the 47 percent comments have opened up on Romney, because they understand well that these kind of comments are not helpful to a GOP comeback.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, no mushy moderate, called Romney’s statement “absolutely wrong.” Daily Caller columnist Matt Lewis expressed hope that Mitt would soon ride “off into the political sunset.” Former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote, “Mitt Romney was very wrong to see 2012 as a referendum on ‘stuff.’ It was a referendum on the question, which candidate would do a better job promoting prosperity and creating jobs.”

Certainly, more than a few conservatives recognize Romney’s statements as problematic, and some probably even recognize them as the bigoted nonsense they are. Republicans shouldn’t kid themselves, though. Romney’s beliefs are hardly unique in the party.

Paul Ryan, who is still generally seen in a positive light by conservatives, blamed high turnout in “urban areas” as the reason he isn’t vice president. Bill O’Reilly presaged Romney’s comments, saying on Fox, “Obama wins because it’s not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority. People want things.”

Much has been made of the racial disparity of the vote between Democrats and Republicans, and Republicans are aware that they need to reach out to non-white voters. So far, that’s manifested itself in Sean Hannity’s reversal on immigration, and a boom in support for Marco Rubio in 2016. No doubt, those would help somewhat. But they aren’t the Republican Party’s central problem with race.

The Republican Party has spent the last sixty years arguing that white Americans are “real Americans,” and that everyone else is not. They’ve spent their time denigrating social spending, accusing Democrats of giving money to “strapping young bucks” who would use it to buy steaks.

The Republican narrative of the last three generations has been that African Americans and other people of color are drains on our good white society, and that we need to stop our handouts to them. Can Republicans really be surprised that their standard-bearer in 2012 views them as takers who just want free stuff?

Mitt Romney’s statements may have been inartful, but they were absolutely, authentically Republican. He assumes that people of color are just sitting around with their hands out, waiting for him to fork over his hard-earned money. It never occurs to him that the rich get plenty of “free stuff” too — or Mitt might have to acknowledge the inherent unfairness of his 15 percent tax rate. No, benefits that go to rich white people are understandable. White people are makers. Non-whites are takers.

It’s not subtle. Republicans have allied themselves with the racist strain in American politics. Until the GOP addresses that central problem, they aren’t going to win over African Americans, Latinos or any other people of color — and indeed, they’re going to lose more and more younger white voters, who have grown up recognizing a fundamental truth: society is not divided into makers and takers at all — and if our society is to flourish, everyone, from top to bottom, needs to have a decent shot at life. Until Republicans recognize that, they will continue to hemorrhage support, and they will deserve to.

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Image Credit: Donkey Hotey


sheila l6 years ago

He sounds like a sore loser and a whiner, he should have had solutions and presented a strong platform, a map on where and how he would have driven this country.
He did not do that; he was empty words and shallow.
He lost because Obama appeared to be the lesser of two evils or better the devil you know than the devil you don't. Believe me, many voted like this too.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill6 years ago

I think he was right but shouldn't have said it because it sounds like sour grapes.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown6 years ago

Wow Niles, thanks for the link, if that is true it is very disturbing stuff!

Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage se6 years ago

This is interesting: "How the U.S. Election Was Planned to Go and How the Plan Came Unglued"

S. N.
Susan N6 years ago

Mitt, Mitt, Mitt .... sigh

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

David & Susan, please try to refrain from the personal attacks, and as the recipient of that sort of thing somewhat often for speaking out in a way that sometimes is not with the "popular vote" in a topic, I "get it" how easy that becomes a personal feud. However, looking down thru comments, I fail to understand what Susan's personal eating habits has a thing to do with the topic, which is Mitt Romney being a dunce and a SORE LOSER in a political campaign.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY A6 years ago

David F. writes "It took 6 post for Susan to admit she was “disgusting, and killing defenseless animals” as she spits at others, now she blames me for her truth." You know David, I have never said anywhere that I'm a vegan. If you look at my profile, you will see that I am an aspiring vegetarian. It's not like I'm hiding it. So, I don't know what you think you "got me to admit" as it was out there for anyone to see. It doesn't mean that I take a gun and go out and kill defenseless animals for pleasure which is what you and I were discussing. Do, I like the way animals are slaughtered to provide food for humans to eat, no, I don't. If you think this makes me a hypocrite so be it. I'm at least working on it. What's your damn excuse? You're just disgusting all the way around and it doesn't appear you're working on anything. You seem to think you're just fine the way you are. I don't like you, but then I doubt that surprises you.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY A6 years ago

Green star to Cletus W.

Cletus W.
Cletus W.6 years ago

David F.: There you go again..."there existed no conservative media in 91 to challenge them."
No "conserbative" media in 1991?.....

Now, I've warned you repeatedly not to use the term "conservative", as your comments once again reveal that you have no more clue as to its real meaning than you do of the term quantum chromodynamics.

Of all the people that are now freely taking dumps on your empty head, when you can point out the true conservative, get back to us. And we might then let you expand your vocabulary

Otherwise, your pathetic used-car-salesman attempts to pawn-off on America your rightwing 'lemons', like the idea of the fair tax, and your continuing inability to defend your 'lemon' ideas by cogently responding to the points that others have made concerning your version of the fairytale.....these shortcoming once again identify you as just another mindless sucker at the teats of the rightwing underbelly.

Carla van der Meer

Amusing that Romney should be saying this, as it seems to me he was quite prepare to give very large gift to the super rich by not raising their taxes. His behavior and comments are enough to make one wonder what the temper tantrum behind the scenes must have looked like.