44% of me has a feeling that this election will actually be decided by this one issue—56% of me knows that I’m dead wrong. The issue I’m referring to is, of course, the Mitt Romney Tapes, a la Romneygate or GaffeGaffe2012, or whatever punchy name you’d like to call it. 47% of people in this country don’t pay taxes? Au contraire, etc, etc, here’s a list of links and whatnot that will get lost in the shuffle of both the news cycle and how “things just aren’t interesting anymore,” put so delicately by my roommate.
Rehashing can be like regurgitation—things have to be digested twice and they also tend to smell. Why, as you may find yourself asking repeatedly as you realize the tactic of bait and switch, do I even bring it up?
Because it’s important, and why it matters to policy is a secondary matter of, largely, opinion.
The most important part is the thinking that it reveals about Republicans in general—and don’t jump ship just yet, because it’s not so much a smoking gun rather than a window into the soul1.Suspend your judgment if you will, for a moment2, and take a step back from the knee-jerk reaction of gaffe-spotting.
“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 that 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. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like.” –Mitt Romney, courtesy of MotherJones.com
A couple key points stand out here—and speak to the Romney mindset about entitlements and social welfare in general. Most importantly, Romney mentions that 47 percent of people are dependent upon government for their well being. He follows this statement by saying this dependence on government has been gifted to them, and because this government support is adequate, they have no ambition (or reason to have ambition) to change their station in life. Most importantly, he says that this lack of ambition and responsibility—and consequently, lack of “hard work”—disqualifies their opinion from playing into his formulated policy on social reform.
This last point is a bit of a jump, but I don’t mean it as an attack. Romney is actually embodying what one could call the traditional “American Dream”—the indoctrinated idea that enough hard work enables you to make it in America. Those who work harder, or more effectively, are more successful. Therefore, it follows that if the backbone of your beliefs coincide with this idea of personal responsibility and ambition above all, the policies you propose would be not only imbued with this ideal, but forged from it.
The American Dream is a pervasive and often suffocating5 paradigm—but also one that made the millionaires dominating the top 400 list in Forbes today, the one that made Gangs of New York a reality, the one that caused Obama to circumnavigate Congress to pass (in practice) the DREAM Act. The popular narratives in our lives are not trivial—in fact, they are quite essential to understanding what pushes decisions and are indispensible to empathize with others. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods wasn’t blowing smoke in comparing the stoic and mysterious inherited history of the “Old World” to the abrasive, kinetic and somewhat homogenized “one-size-fits-all” cultural narratives of modern-day America. Reconciliation of the two6 creates the boisterous, quick-to-ignite and seemingly irreparably wide divide in debates on America’s “best way forward”.
This is why Democrats and Republicans (occasionally, quite literally) come to blows about social welfare programs. There is a fundamental disconnect between the two schools of thought—one favors the hope for personal enterprise, the other embraces the roadblocks to personal enterprise. There is no one-size-fits-all to be had. There is no way that either view—and the myriad of views that fall in between and out of bounds when real people are considered, rather than political parties—will be effectively abridged into the other. But that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? Differing viewpoints evokes innovation and effective policies. That’s the theory.
As Bill Clinton recently said, “Politics doesn’t have to be a blood sport.” And as Ainsley Hayes7 once said, “Say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out but…their intent is true…they are patriots.”
(To be continued).
Currently Listening To: It’s Time – Imagine Dragons.
1 Cough. Brain.
2 I say this having just perused an article on “newsbusters.org”, a conservative “liberal media takedown” site which, I have no doubt, after reading their analysis of the Newsroom as being a liberal circle jerk (well, this one declaration was in the comments3), would declare this blog not only left leaning, but also “disguised as to fool the reader into thinking they, the blog, are impartial.” Pronoun number agreement aside, for clarity’s sake, I should own up to the fact that I am probably the perpetrator of such a sin or greater4 and our site’s only visitors are liberals or conservatives we’ve duped.
3 The dregs of the internet. Let’s be real.
4 Not actually though, because we truly believe in people understanding whether they’re getting the whole story or not. Opinions have a place and time, but facts and good challenges to thinking are important (and often neglected). Although you should probably be thinking through our logic critically anyway, because you’re your own person and you can think and decide on opinions for yourself (and when you do, please contact us because we’d probably like to hear what you have to say and, if you’re also committed to well-thought out arguments or overview pieces that people can use to make well thought out arguments, we’d also probably like to see what you can do).
5 See also: in film, American Beauty, Desperate Housewives, Garden State, Modern Family and the Simpsons, just to name a few; in literature, Little Women by Lousia May Alcott, Sister Carrie by Theodore Drieser and, more recently, the post-modernists. As a bit of a stretch, also check out the modernists, particularly Faulkner.
6 And a healthy dose of living out their own experiences. That’s a big ingredient, especially for you folk who don’t buy into the whole Literary and Cultural Studies mumbo jumbo.
7 The Republican lawyer in the highly Democratic Bartlet White House. Of course. Don’t you watch TV?