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Joe Klein on Why Nobody Has Any Business Voting for Romney

Joe Klein:

Bitter Clinging Moochers: The greatest similarity… is… Democrats [were] boggled by (mostly white) working-class people who don’t “vote their economic self-interest” [and] Republicans [are] convinced that they are carrying a nation of (mostly minority) freeloaders and government employees on their backs. The greatest difference is that Obama was describing a part of the country that actually exists… and Mitt Romney was giving credence to a statistical chimera… slagging off a majority of his most devoted supporters….>Obama was talking about small town America…. Obama was right about the larger picture: there was a fear and bitterness in white small-town America that had its roots in the changing economy, and expressed itself in anger that some people–immigrants, welfare recipients (and especially, now, those on social security disability) and those lazy folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles–were getting over. Those sentiments, obviously, gave rise to the Tea Party. They are undiminished today. And clearly, Obama was saying something he really believed, although–to borrow a Romney locution–inelegantly.

I’m not so sure about Romney. I’m pretty sure that he’s smart enough to know that the 47% he summoned was in the category of “damned lie” statistics. I’m pretty sure he knows that the vast majority of those people work their butts off, pay federal payroll taxes (and a raft of state and local levies) or are senior citizens receiving social security and medicare. I’m not sure that he has put two and two together: that a great many of the 47%–the white working class voters and senior citizens–are Romney voters. Or that they don’t pay income taxes because of Republican tax cuts and Republican child- and earned-income tax credits….

The exigencies of fund-raising have forced him to spend more time with plutocrats than average citizens this year. It’s not surprising that he’s lost track of the world as most people see it. Hell, he’s spending today–the day after this momentous gaffe–fund-raising, rather than trying to change the topic. That’s the biggest difference: Romney was playing to the fantasy prejudices of fatcats; Obama was trying to explain the very real prejudices of the white working class, especially–and this absolutely essential part of the quote was not picked up–their “antipathy toward people not like them.”…

Romney’s adoption of the Fox-Rush neo-libertarian sensibility, and the remedies that it assumes, is the main story of the 2012 campaign. He will have to defend his fantasy in the debates. He will have to say why he believes that 47% of the American public doesn’t want to “take responsibility” for their lives. He will have to say why the Republican policies at the heart of this problem–eliminating income taxes for the working class, expanding food stamps (a George W. Bush initiative), expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs (Bush again)–are bad for the country.

Romney has placed himself in an impossible position and he’s gotten there the old-fashioned way: he’s earned it by pandering to the worst elements in his party, by embracing a phony narrative…. All this has rendered his campaign a parachute jump into quicksand, and he is sinking fast.

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