Romney reveals the vapidity of the modern GOP

Sometimes a single statement can say everything.  Often these statements come as off-hand remarks, or in a setting where the speaker does not believe he or she will be recorded.  A recent example from the 2008 campaign was Barack Obama’s infamous “bitter clingers” comment, which is still repeated today by his critics to depict him as elitist and disdainful towards many Americans.  And now the 2012 race has its counterpart.

In comments recorded secretly from a private event, Mitt Romney laid out his assessment of 47% of America, and it’s a doozy:

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 the 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…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Let’s leave aside the wild inaccuracies here for a moment and reflect on the statement itself.  Those of us who follow conservatives on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and on talk radio have heard this 53%/47% meme many times before.  It has become conventional wisdom on the right that the country is divided into the “makers” and the “takers.”  The former group consists of good, hard-working, God-fearing patriots who contribute to society by paying part of their hard-earned income to Uncle Sam.  The latter, of course, is the other half - the moochers who wake up every day thinking how much they can suck from the teat of government.

To say the least, this is a depiction that has literally no basis in reality.  Yet it serves a simple purpose - to make conservatives able to feel good about themselves.  By accepting this meme, they are reinforcing the idea that no one would vote against their policies unless they were motivated entirely by selfishness and envy.  On the flip side, of course, are the folks motivated by nothing more than sheer patriotism and goodness.  It’s a formulation that helps to polarize the country, and therefore is often repeated on partisan blogs and talk shows as a way to reassure the right that they are the good guys.

And in this day, that’s basically all the GOP has - slogans that contain just enough fact to be digestible by the right-wing masses, but that do not hold up given even the most basic scrutiny.  The 53%/47 % meme breaks down upon the application of any reasoning, once one learns that the s0-called “moochers” are not that at all.  They are largely retired folks and students or miltary who don’t make enough to pay income taxes (but still pay other taxes).  They are also millions of lower-income folks that have jobs but don’t pay any tax because of the Earned Income Tax Credit (which GOPers have repeatedly expanded).  Sure, some of them are lazy and just want their benefits.  But many used to be in the “53%” or hope to be someday.

But in the modern GOP, this is all we have.  They talk of limited government as if it were just a catchphrase, not living up to it in the least.  They deride class warfare tactics by the Democrats, then play the same game by trying to divide people based on the arbitrary distinction of income tax liability.  Instead of making the case for how free-market ideas can help the 47%, they are writing them all off as dependents who cannot see beyond their own lives.  If that is the party’s grand strategy, then I sincerely hope they fall flat on their face.

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