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Mitt Romney and "Those People": Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates Weblogging

No One Left To Race Bait To  Ta Nehisi Coates  The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

No One Left To Race-Bait To: Dave Weigel points out the difference between the covert racism of a young cagey Pat Buchanan in the days of the Southern strategy, and overt racism of the pariah Pat Buchanan banished to Fox News…. Calling the first black president a "drug dealer of welfare" is… Buchanan deploying symbolism. The problem is that the world has changed, and this is precisely the kind of rhetoric that would end a presidential candidacy today.

As I argued on Tuesday, as a racist appeal becomes more abstract, it doesn't simply become "more devious, it becomes less racist, and thus less potent. Inveighing against the 47 percent isn't racist; "Welfare Queen" kind of is;  William F. Buckley claiming black people don't want to vote really is; and John Booth mumbling "That means nigger equality, by God I'll run him through" and then shooting the president in the head is straight white supremacist violence.

The Southern Strategy is… another engagement during white supremacy's fighting retreat into oblivion. The "symbols" argument can only work until people decide that the deploying of symbols is, itself, racist…. And so robbed of symbols, a previously racist attack disperses into a hazy diffusive blabbering. The most striking thing about Mary Matlin's "producer vs. the parasites" line is that she declines to say who the parasites are. Who specifically are the takers? Are they the workers who are paying payroll taxes? Are they the elderly? Are they the 6.9 percent of Americans earning less than $20,000?… By Mitt Romney's lights it's all of them. 

When you watch Mitt Romney begin to metaphorically shoot his campaign in the head at Sun Capital's Marc Leder's house:

[T]he president starts off with 48%, 49%, 40--he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And he'll be out there talking about "tax cuts for the rich". That's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people…

It is the phrase "those people" that triggers the meltdown. Before Romney says "those people", he is building up to say that his job is to focus on getting the gettable 5-10% who are undecided in order to build a winning coalition.

But once he begins talking about "those people" he is talking about something very different than political strategy:

[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives…

And I imagine--I have no idea at all whether this is true--teenage Mitt Romney listening to his Lincoln Republican father George Romney in the 1960s as they watched the Civil Rights movement and the Detroit riots on the TV. George Romney was a Civil Rights lion, but I imagine him saying "those people need our help" and "look at those people" and "we can't expect too much of those people".

Looks to me like Mitt drew the wrong lesson.