For most of the campaign, the media’s focus on Mitt Romney have been almost exclusively on issues unrelated to the philosophy of governance or his specific policies. The public’s been introduced to him mostly through media riffs on his taxes, off shore investments, his time at Bain Capital or his wife’s horse. With almost no coverage of him as an actual person or his ideas and policy proposals, its a wonder he’s basically tied with Obama. His “47%” “gaffe”, however, gives his campaign a chance to break through the media and get the public’s full attention on an existential American question. He should seize it.
Yesterday, the full Democrat-media industrial complex gave themselves heart palpitations over a leaked secret recording of remarks Romney made to prospective donors. A stenographer at Bloomberg hilariously declared the election “over.” By my count, this is about the 4th time this week someone in the chattering classes declared his candidacy dead. The media is missing a larger point, however. While some of Romney’s comments were inartful and somewhat misleading, the foundation of what he said is true. It is also in-line with the thinking of most Americans.
In response to a question, Romney had spoken broadly about the challenges of the race. He noted that 47% of Americans have no federal tax liability and that a great many Americans were dependent on government support in their lives. They felt they were victims, at such a disadvantage that they relied on government for many basic necessities. He said he wasn’t concerned about these voters, politically, because it would be all but impossible for him to win their support. I think this notion is somewhat incorrect, but there certainly is some truth in it.
Record numbers of Americans are on food stamps. Same with disability. The ranks of the long-term unemployed are higher than any time in modern history. If Obama succeeds on welfare waivers, some higher number of Americans will be on the welfare rolls. This is happening not because Americans have suddenly decided they want to be dependent on the government, but because in Obama’s economy, they have almost no other rational choice.
President Obama is running for reelection because he thinks he can better manage our economic decline. He’ll provide more support to those unemployed. He’ll underwrite student loans to subsidize study of unproductive academic fields. He will comfort Americans as we slip into an era of lowered expectations and reduced living standards.
Romney should expand on his “47%” comment and use it to start this discussion. He should deplore the growing dependence on government, not because hand-outs per se are bad, but because it is sapping hope and opportunity from the American people. Obama offers nothing but more of this. Romney should articulate a strong pro-growth message that provides a clear choice for Americans.
The media’s fixation on his comments gives him a loud pulpit to lay out a positive economic agenda. In American presidential politics, the positive economic message always wins. This is Romney’s moment.