Winning the Middle: Part XVIII: Romney Secret 47% Video

47%!: Part XVII: Romney Secret 47% Video

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I have long thought somebody should go through and annotate the 2012 Mitt Romney: Full Transcript of the 47% Secret Video. So I will now do it.

Part XVII: 47%!:

And now we come to the famous--and revelatory--47% passage. The number "47%" seems to play a very strong role inside Romney's brain. It is, respectively:

  1. the size of the Democratic base...
  2. the share of Americans who don't pay taxes...
  3. the share of Americans who are losers who believe they are entitled victims who will never "take personal responsibility and care for their lives..."

What appears to have happened to Romney is that three briefings, each of which referenced 47%, each of which he only half-understood, have collided inside his brain and formed themselves into a Monstrous Regiment named "47%" that threatens America.

The first briefing, I presume, was about the partisan polarization of America's electorate these days. People told Romney that the Democratic base was solid. 1984 was the last time that a Democratic presidential candidate wound up with less than 46% of the two-party vote. Romney has absorbed this briefing. Thus he is focused on rallying the base and winning the middle. He has been told not to go after the Democratic base and he has internalized it:

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.... My job is not to worry about those people...

The phrase that is supposed to follow here is "in the context of this campaign: I won't win their votes". And then Romney is supposed to follow that with: "But, of course, I will be President of the United States of America. As President, I will care deeply about them and strive to help them learn to live better lives..."

The problem is that Romney feels that he has to explain why the Democratic base comprises of 47% of the electorate. And so he reaches into his brain for another briefing about the 47%:

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...

Now we all know that, of the 47% who "pay no income tax", 10%-points of them are elderly and retired: they are more likely to be in the Republican base than in the Democratic base. We all know that 28%-points of them are paying payroll taxes, but because they are not making much money their notional income tax burden is covered by their EITC: a message of cutting payroll taxes would connect, but that's not what Romney means by "our message of low taxes".

But Romney has been badly briefed. His brain jumps from what was supposed to be an argument that the 47% did not benefit directly from the principal Republican policy proposal of cutting the top-bracket tax break to a belief that the 47% pay no taxes to a belief that they are moochers and takers. And then he is off and running with his description of the Monstrous Regiment of the 47%, the people who are...

...with [Obama], 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 so he washes his hands of them: social scum, unworthy of his time and attention, unreachable:

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 was supposed to be a riff about how the electorate is polarized, the race will be close, and he is focused on putting his effort where it will do the most good to win the votes he can realistically win--that riff has turned into something else, something ugly, something very revealing about Mitt Romney and his view of the world.


Audience Member: For the last three years, all everybody's been told is, "Don't worry, we'll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you've got to take care of yourself?

Romney: 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...

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