Saturday November 17, 2012

So much for exiting the stage gracefully.

After his eloquent concession speech on Nov. 6, we had hoped that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was ready to get out of the spotlight and head to his multi-million-dollar house on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee to lick his wounds.

In a conference call thanking campaign donors, a call that was nauseatingly familiar to the speech he gave to donors during which he made the infamous 47 percent comment, Romney did what he does best: Says whatever he thinks is pertinent to the particular crowd he is talking to at any particular moment.

"The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people ...."

Those gifts?

Student loan reform for the "young people" and changes to the implementation of immigration procedures for the Hispanic community.

And for African Americans? We’re not totally sure, but given the veiled, and sometimes not-so-veiled, racist comments coming from some of Obama’s detractors -- perhaps Romney meant the continuation or expansion of welfare, unemployment benefits and food stamps?

Though politicians, political action committees and interest groups are amazingly adept at getting people to vote against their own best interests, pandering to certain demographics is as old as the tradition of casting a vote. Though studies have reached conflicting conclusions, we often assume people vote for the candidate who will most likely help their personal economic situation.

We guess you can call any candidate’s promises "gifts" if they are followed through on.

But in the world inhabited by Romney and his ilk, corporate welfare and tax breaks for the 2 percent aren’t gifts; they’re only gifts when they help out the poor, the needy, the disenfranchised or minorities.

Following Romney’s remarks, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose name has already been linked to the year 2016, was quick to wave what might be the GOP’s new banner, reminding his fellow Republican governors that they must fight for 100 percent of Americans.

"It’s certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought," he said. "That’s certainly not a way to show them you respect them, you like them. We don’t win elections by insulting voters."

Another prospective 2016 Republican candidate, Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, told C-SPAN it was about character, not gifts.

"I don’t think it’s a matter of people looking at the election and saying, ‘I’m going to vote because of gifts.’ I think they looked at it and said which one of these candidates would they prefer because of leadership considerations and also can understand their needs the best."

Susan Milligan, writing for US News and World Report, affixed the blame for Romney’s loss squarely on his shoulders.

"If Romney wanted to trim government benefit programs to rein in the budget, he could make an intellectual and fiscal argument for it that would not offend anyone," she wrote. "But his remarks about 47 percent of the country being, essentially, leeches on society, shows not a dislike of the public policy but a contempt for the actual people who receive those benefits."

The lesson?

If you have contempt for nearly half of the Americans you are depending on to vote for you, keep it to yourself, or at least don’t say it where you can be recorded (a feat nearly impossible in this age of ubiquitous personal electronic devices).

And we have some words of advice for Romney: You lost. Get over it. Move on. Go away.