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Mitt Romney’s recently leaked speech where he described 47 percent of the American people as freeloaders, moochers, and bums because they are “dependent” on the federal government has spawned many questions. However, he has also presented the American people with a puzzle.

Mitt Romney believes that taxes are a horrible thing, and that they should be cut despite any harm such a move may do to the federal budget, the common good, or the social safety net.

Given this fact, why are Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans not cheering for those in the 47 percent who are not paying any federal taxes at all?

The answer has been hiding in plain sight: those people, the “takers” are coded as black and brown. The “us,” the “makers” are understood to be white.

Of course, this is a lie and a misrepresentation of reality (more whites are poor and on government assistance than any other group in America); nevertheless this fiction serves Romney’s campaign of overt and subtle racism against Obama quite well.

Romney’s narrative of “makers” and “takers” is rooted in the Republican Party’s ability to put a black and brown face on poverty in America by the use of what has come to be described as “the Southern Strategy.” Since at least Richard Nixon, conservatives realized that by linking anti-poverty programs to people of color that white support for these policies can be undercut.

The irony is harsh: more white people are on welfare and Medicaid for example; yet, white voters are driven by a fear of a black bogeyman or “illegal immigrants” to make choices that are not in their immediate or long term economic interests.

Mitt Romney signaled to this white victimhood strategy in the same speech where he decreed that half of Americans are lazy parasites. There he said that the United States would be destroyed if Hispanics followed the lead of African Americans and decided to join the Democratic Party in mass. Romney’s claim is truly onerous because it suggests that the choice to be a responsible and involved citizen is somehow toxic to the country’s civic health.

Romney’s suggestion that an alliance of blacks and Hispanics in the Democratic Party will destroy the republic is also bigoted and narrow minded, as it frames the political participation of white folks as “normal” and “ideal,” while people of color are imagined as anti-citizens and a threat to the polity.

Mitt Romney wants to lead the world’s greatest democracy. Yet, he does not have faith in either the American people or in the democratic process.

Romney’s willful lies about these (and other) matters have been repeatedly exposed by the media. He remains undeterred. In response, Romney has pressed on with this strategy in the hope that his efforts to gin up white racial resentment against the country’s first black president will mobilize enough conservatives and independents to kick Obama out office.

Romney’s hypocrisy about cutting taxes for the richest Americans while making sure that the poor, the elderly, and others “pay their fair share” is also a function of his belief in a particularly extreme version of libertarianism that is colored by the dystopian fantasies of the author Ayn Rand.

In this world, society exists to serve the rich. The virtues of the rich are demonstrated by the amount of wealth they can accrue. The remainder of society consists of “surplus” people. Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have repeatedly suggested that the federal government is an evil to be destroyed. As such, the social safety net should be eviscerated so that the rich can be further subsidized, and their wealth and job creating abilities “unleashed.”

The bizarre has yielded to the absurd, as the stuff of poorly written speculative fiction is now the official economic policy of the Republican Party and Mitt Romney.

We are left with an important question.

Why would poor, elderly, or working class conservatives back a candidate who has utter contempt for people like them?

Part of their support can be explained by what psychologists call “motivated reasoning.” This is a process where people find a way to reconcile a prior decision with new and unsettling facts in order to find cognitive and psychological peace.

History is instructive here as well. In colonial Virginia during the 17th century, white indentured servants allied with black bondsmen in an uprising called Bacon’s Rebellion. The color line had not yet hardened: class trumped race. Both groups fought against the white planter class in an effort to secure land and more rights. In response to this moment, white elites created “race” as we understand it today.

After the rebellion was defeated, poor whites were given guns, land, and eventually their freedom; blacks were made into a unique class of people who could be bought and sold as human property.

Centuries ago, whiteness trumped shared class alliances across the color line. In the year 2012, Republicans are still using reactionary identity politics in order to mobilize the white working class against their own economic interests.

For their efforts, poor whites in 17th Virginia received tangible rewards in the form of land, and psychic rewards too, what was the security that came from not being black and a slave in a society where such markers of identity and color would mean “social death.”

Mitt Romney is gambling that the tens of millions of white voters who he has insulted will vote for him because of racial tribalism and hostility towards the country’s first black president. Unlike the planters during Bacon’s Rebellion, Mitt Romney has nothing material to offer poor and working class voters in the Republican Party. If anything, he is proposing policies that would make their day to day lives much more difficult.

Are the psychic wages of whiteness enough? Will ginning up white racial resentment against the country’s first black president create a path to victory for Mitt Romney? We will find out in November.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have long wondered why, or how (5+ / 0-)

    it is that Romney shows strength among lower-income white males, when it should be clear to them that his policies are not in their best interest.  As pointed-out in the article, it is largely a function of racism.  I think that a case can be made for anti-intellectualism as well.

    An illusion can never be destroyed directly... SK.

    by Thomas Twinnings on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:43:21 PM PDT

  •  Nice take on this - Romney forgot he was a Mormon (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ardyess, mungley, a2nite, Larsstephens

    Distrust on the basis of religion or skin color shows how much work we have to do towards reconciliation as a culture.  In Romney's case, it appears he is behind the curve and unaware of attitudes, tacit or otherwise, regarding both minorities and Mormons.  This strategy appears overconfident in the power of racism, and neglects the negative vibes people hold about Mormons.

    This is a well-put paragraph:

    Mitt Romney is gambling that the tens of millions of white voters who he has insulted will vote for him because of racial tribalism and hostility towards the country’s first black president. Unlike the planters during Bacon’s Rebellion, Mitt Romney has nothing material to offer poor and working class voters in the Republican Party. If anything, he is proposing policies that would make their day to day lives much more difficult.

    I hate hate. I love the look in peoples eyes when they realize, for the first time, that they have power.

    by 4democracy on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:44:26 PM PDT

  •  and it is truly a Southern strategy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens

    Out west, Romney and Obama are abt. split even (Romney has a slight advantage, to be precise).

    In the Midwest, Obama leads among working class white voters.

    In the South Romney is winning them by 40 points.

    At least in the Midwest, that's really not a surprise.

  •  This... (5+ / 0-)
    Mitt Romney is gambling that the tens of millions of white voters who he has insulted will vote for him because of racial tribalism and hostility towards the country’s first black president. Unlike the planters during Bacon’s Rebellion, Mitt Romney has nothing material to offer poor and working class voters in the Republican Party. If anything, he is proposing policies that would make their day to day lives much more difficult.
    Part of our problem with this is we're expecting logic or reason to eventually prevail with this group. You'd think they'd eventually realize they're getting the short end of the stick and wake up. But that's the rub, this is also a group that Dean Wormer could've described as "going thru life fat, drunk, and stupid". I heard an obvious Romney supporter bemoaning the fact the liberals in the media were making it sound like Romney hated more than half the country. Umm, in what world is 47% more than half?

    They're called "low information voters" out of kindness, it makes it sound like they just lack relevant facts about the candidates so they can't make an informed decision. But we also have to admit, some of them are just plain stupid and no amount of information will help them make a decision.

    If we got Mitt to be slightly less dishonest and gave him some personality he could pass as a used car salesman.

    by ontheleftcoast on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:47:52 PM PDT

  •  Maybe it's because I'm older than Chuck Todd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kimbeaux, a2nite, Jakkalbessie

    But when Romney's remarks were leaked on that videotape, I didn't think of Obama's campaign remarks about angry and fearful Whites clinging to God and guns...

    For those old enough to remember, the first parallel that came to my mind was a career ending "joke" made by the Secretary of Agriculture in the Ford administration.  His joke was explicitly racist, but it illuminated the disdain that Republicans hold anyone in who isn't firmly "one of them."

    It is highly offensive, but I will quote it, because it is part of history, and shines a light on the darker continuum of GOP history in modern history, post "Southern Strategy":

    The only thing the coloreds are looking for in life
    are tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit.
    He made that remark on a commercial airplane flight in front of several people, including one John Dean, who later quoted him verbatim and outed him by name in a Rolling Stone article in 1976.

    That was the first thing that came to my mind after hearing Romney's comments on the "secret video."  Romney's comments weren't overtly racist, like Butz' were, but they blew the same dog whistle, and demonstrated the same contempt for any segment of America that is clearly outside the reach of GOP propaganda and unlikely to vote for them.

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:48:53 PM PDT

    •  i learned something new, cool anecdote but (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WFBMM, a2nite, CroneWit, Larsstephens

      we need to be careful with how the phrase dog whistle and subtle racism are overused as of late. this is one of the ways that the reality of contemporary racism is underplayed. saying that black people are anti-citizens and that if hispanics vote like them the country will be destroyed is not a dog whistle. it is overt racism right out of the Reconstruction/postbellum era as best seen in the hellish lie of a movie Birth of a Nation.

    •  The Butz scandal was turned into a movie (0+ / 0-)

      in 1977 with a young Bill Murray.  It wasn't released until a few years later, and was entitled "Loose Shoes".  I never saw it, but they brilliantly satirized the Butz gaffe in this scene:

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:57:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I knew this what was he was saying all along (5+ / 0-)

    When he spoke about 47%, I immediately knew he was speaking about minorities simply because he's been employing the Southern Strategy for months.  Which is why I found it absolutely hilarious that he couldn't come out and say to his base:

    "No, no, no!  I wasn't talking about you.  I was talking about THOSE people."

    Then Saturday Night Live did that skit where the comedian who played Romney said, "I'm talking about black people."

    This is why his predicament is so amusing.  He's trapped and it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.  The fact that about 16% of the US population is Latino and 12% is black shows the so-called businessman knows jack about numbers, especially when you consider the percentage of Latinos & Blacks on government assistance.  The numbers are far from 47% of the freaking country.  Like Bubba said, it's about arithmetic.  Idiots like Rmoney fail to see the white faces in this mythic 47%.

    His entire mindset is just absurd, bigoted and racist. November can't get here soon enough. This man and his ilk present a clear and present danger to this country.

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

    by WFBMM on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:52:31 PM PDT

    •  That's what gets me abt. those comments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teachme2night, WFBMM

      blacks and browns make at, what, 30-33% of the country.

      Oh, he was talking about whites in that predicament too. One would hope that they are not too dumb to see it (and by much of the recent polling that I'm seeing, they aren't

      •  I come from Appalachia (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WFBMM, CroneWit, awesumtenor

        and if you ever had an occasion to spend any time in what is commonly referred to as a Hillbilly Ghetto...poor neighborhoods surround former Rust Belt job centers, where poor Appalachians supplanted areas formerly inhabited by Blacks, or perhaps still currently quite mixed, the reality of their equal circumstances is mostly lost upon them.  They still see themselves as better, less poor, less dependent and more hard working.

        Same shit in the refrigerator, same cars in the driveway, and same toys in the front yard...same everything.  But they see a difference that isn't there.

        The GOP has been masterful at exploiting that.

        Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 02:37:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Right!! (0+ / 0-)

        And of that 30% how many are on government assistance?  The numbers just don't add up for Romney unless he's implying that ALL brown/black people are on the government t*t.  lol

        Like I said, it's absurd and now he's got to live with the fact that he's pissed off the very people he been pandering to all these months.

        Bwahahahahaha!

        “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

        by WFBMM on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 03:58:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  that is the big motivator (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mungley, brae70

    for getting as many supreme court picks as possible, and changing voter laws, the panic that soon whites will be in the minority. All those codes relate to that 'fear' of the non-white people who may actually vote for the future.  

    reelect the president

    by anna shane on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 01:59:20 PM PDT

  •  Tipped& rec'ed (0+ / 0-)

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 03:07:47 PM PDT

  •  My ongoing refrain (0+ / 0-)

    If we can separate welfare from race, simply by making the operations of welfare more transparent, then we've one 99.9% of the Presidency battle - with bonus healing of race-based divides.

    Le nirvane n'existe pas. - Etienne Lamotte

    by breakingranks on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 04:54:01 PM PDT

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