In describing Massachusetts’ experience with Mitt Romney, I’ve often said Mitt makes a good first impression, which is why we elected him. The second impression, though, was not so good, which is why we wouldn’t have re-elected him. The third impression is even worse, and it’s crystalized in his sore loser comments to his wealthy donors in a conference call this week.
Romney’s assumption that Hispanics, African-Americans, college students, single women and other minorities voted for Obama because of the “gifts” Democrats gave them, like his characterization of 47 percent of the electorate as moochers who’ll never take responsibility for their lives, betray more than a stunning disrespect for millions of Americans. It betrays an ignorance of life outside the comfortable circles of the top 1 percent. It strikes me that he has probably never known anyone, at least not anyone he’d consider a peer, who has used food stamps. So it’s easier for him to believe people on food stamps just want the government to give them more food stamps. He’s probably never been friends with a disabled veteran dependent on a government check, or a young women who can’t afford birth control but really can’t afford another baby. He’s never been close to a Hispanic struggling with discrimination, exploitation and the immigration bureaucracy.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he had a Mexican maid who raised him, like W. did. Maybe he saw real hardship through his church work. But if there’s an empathetic bone in his body, he keeps it well hidden when he’s talking to his donors. If he really knew people who were suffering hard times, he wouldn’t be so quick to write them off as greedy and hopeless. It wouldn’t be so easy to talk about them as something other than real Americans.
You don’t see that attitude in people who’ve seen hard times. Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson, Bob Dole and Harry Truman either lived in poverty themselves or grew up in hardscrabble neighborhoods. Barack Obama’s mother needed food stamps to tide her over and worried about her medical bills as she lay dying of cancer. Obama could have taken his Ivy League degree downtown to Wall Street, but he went to Chicago instead, to work with people broken by the crashing economy. As Obama has often said, those people in the South Side had a bigger impact on him than he had on them.
Mitt Romney has never needed government, so he has no regard for people who do. His attitude toward the 47 percent is naive, almost innocent. It’s also casual, clueless and cruel, like tying the family dog to the car roof for a trip across the country.