MANY PUNDITS have either already expressed shock over Romney's "47 percent" talk or elected to defend him as a yacht club straight-talker. From my vantage point as a Republican committeeman, it seems as if they are missing the true reasons for why this moment is so important in the long run and how it may impact the Republican Party here and now.
Our kids and grandkids will probably be reading about the leaked video of Romney talking to a bunch of well-heeled donors about the slothful, unwashed masses comprising the American electorate. I believe historians will recall this as Romney's nadir, helping put the proverbial nail in his political coffin.
Romney's comment is worth repeating for contextual purposes:
"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."
It gets worse. Romney also noted that "my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Before considering the politics of the situation, we must reflect on the actual data. According to the Tax Policy Center, in 2011 46.4 percent of American households did not pay federal income taxes. Among these households, 28.3 percent still paid payroll taxes. This leaves 18.1 percent who paid no federal payroll or income taxes that year, of which 10.3 percent were elderly and 6.9 percent made less than $20,000.
Now that we know who constitutes the 18.1 percent who paid no federal taxes last year, we can understand who the villains are in Romney World: our senior citizens and grandparents, our neighbors, college students, our co-workers, military veterans, our friends, the working poor and our own loved ones.
Romney - the man who wants to be president of 100 percent of the country - made a malicious statement about many of the people he desires to lead. If you are the recipient of student loans, Medicare, public education, government job training, incentives for homeownership or food stamps for those who may have fallen on tough times, President Romney won't be worrying about you.
Not only was Romney's commentary factually challenged and unnecessarily vicious, it was also a slap in the face of Republican leaders like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. These Republicans labored to build a party with empathy for those struggling to get by and openness for the interests of blue-collar, working-class Americans, senior citizens and other undesirables of Romney's freeloader army.
In his book The New Majority, former Nixon aide Patrick Buchanan wrote that the GOP's 1972 landslide victory presented a blueprint for a new political majority whose "backbone is working class and middle class," the very coalition that later carried Reagan and two Bushes to the White House. In essence, these are the very people Romney views as dependent slackers. With one candid-camera moment, Mitt Romney erased decades of legitimate Republican gains and insulted millions of good, honest Americans.
Politically, Romney's comments have the potential to damage him with voters in the only age group that has stood by his candidacy despite his running-mate's legislation to voucherize Medicare: senior citizens. According to a Sept. 18 AP/GfK national poll, Romney has a 52 percent to 41 percent lead over Obama among seniors. In Romney's own words, seniors who do not pay income taxes cannot be persuaded to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Why then, should any senior citizens vote for Romney?
Lastly, the callousness exhibited by the Republican presidential nominee exacerbates the challenge of rebuilding a modern and urban GOP in Philadelphia. In this city, Republican registrations has declined from around 41 percent in 1960 to about 13 percent today. How can we seriously ask the people Romney has discarded to give the Republican Party a second look?
Einstein once said that "character is doing what's right when nobody's looking." When nobody but a group of wealthy donors was looking, Romney took the opportunity to assail the patriotism, work ethic, decency and moral fiber of the people he seeks to lead. This isn't character. This is despicable. My fellow Republicans, and all voters with a sense of right and wrong, should ditch Romney. He just isn't worth it.