Mitt Romney's 47% speech dominates the news. Democrats attack and Republicans defend. Some Republicans criticize while others praise Romney's remarks. Many people suggest that Romney won't be hurt by his disdainful dismissal of 47% of America, a fraction that in truth contains many voters whom he expects to win. It won't hurt him, they say, because those Republicans in the 47% will assume that he is not talking about them at all, that he is talking about those brown people who have for so long served as Republican scapegoats. Those who say Romney might not be hurt are wrong, because they underestimate the effectiveness of the Republican message. Follow me below the fold.
My earliest memories are a jumble. A half of a twin house, now long gone, on a hillside in the worst section of my rural home town. I remember the outhouse. I remember a neighbor boy. I have a confused image of him touching me. I remember my parents bedroom; I think there were two. I remember my mother.
Our next house was another half twin with another outhouse, also long gone. My memories are fuller. I remember my father having different jobs; milkman off and on, bartender, insurance sales; two or three jobs at once, days, evenings, weekends. My mother went back to her work as a seamstress. I remember hunger. I remember my third grade teacher scolding me for wearing a tattered tee shirt to school. "Your mother didn't see what you put on today, did she," scowled the teacher. "No" I said, and I hung my head because my mother did know, and I had nothing else to wear, and I wanted to take the blame for my mother.
I remember us running out of food. I remember the fights about money. I remember my shame when I was infected by parasites. I don't know if we ever took welfare. We could have, should have.
Then things started getting better for us. We moved to another state to live with my grandparents. That didn't work out and we returned to my home town. My father got a good factory job then. Life got better for all of us. I was smart. I got good grades. They could send me to college. I got a degree, then another, then a Ph.D. I got a professional job. I married well and we live a good life. My sons live a good life. I am rich.
I don't like today's Republicans and I don't like Mitt Romney. As others have said, I didn't think I could like him less but I find I detest him now. I detest him because of the tone of his voice as he disdainfully dismisses half our nation.
For thirty years the Republican's have won power with appeals to emotion. Appeals to noble emotions like patriotism coupled with appeals to the basest emotions of hate and fear. When they say that Romney's 47% comments won't hurt him they deny the power of the emotions that they play upon.
If my Republican parents were alive today they would hear and feel Romney dismissing them, the working parents who struggled to feed and cloth their family, ashamed of their poverty and ashamed to need help. Just as I hear it, and feel again the shame of those long-ago years.
Every American who ever struggled, who ever faced fear and want, will know in their heart that Mitt Romney is talking about them.