AfterWord: Romney’s Gifts and Minority Interests
A couple of weeks ago Mitt Romney, in what I would consider a fit of sour grapes, stated that Obama giving”gifts” to different demographic groups is what won him the election. In my opinion these comments reflected not only what was fundamentally wrong with Mitt Romney’s campaign, but a line of thinking in the Republican Party and perhaps in the nation as a whole that needs to be eradicated.
I believe this line of thinking was at least repudiated in the last election and I’m hoping that means that it will soon be an unwelcome sentiment if it is not an absent sentiment in the American subconscious. For further illumination on this point I would like to cite some of the things Mitt Romney said. He said that forgiveness of college loans was a gift for young people. That free contraceptives was a gift for college aged young women, and that Obamacare was a gift for young people in general because it shielded them from having to pay for their own healthcare until they were 26. I believe just reading these comments reflects strains of conservativism that are badly outdated or worse reflect a cynical political argument to manipulate people into support of the corporate interests that provide a backbone for the Republican party.
On its face forgiveness of college loans or at least a reduction in the payment amounts is not a bad thing. It is actually a good thing that might attract more people to go to college, and wouldn’t the nation benefit from more college educated young people who are not mired in debt?But if the perception is that the people who need help paying their college loans somehow aren’t the most responsible people then loan forgiveness might be a problem. More cynically, if corporations actually make money of the interest paid on college loans, then perhaps those corporations wouldn’t see college loan forgiveness in a favorable light.
Next, the idea that free contraceptives is a gift for college aged women specifically is just sexist on its face and adds further context for Mitt Romney’s much ridiculed “binders full of women” comment during a nationally televised debate.
Finally on healthcare, Mitt Romney pointed out that it was a gift not only for young people, but for African Americans and Hispanics as well, because it cut about 10,000 out of family budgets. In my opinion this is a very interesting idea, because to my mind it implies that somehow only African Americans and Hispanics are in need of that kind of help in their budgets and somehow the only unnamed group (Whites) don’t need this help. In this way, it actually supports the conservative subtext that White people pay taxes that are used to give handouts to minorities. This further pushes the idea that White people work to make the country great and minorities mooch off the hard work of white people.
Yet, conservatives who agree with this type of thinking will demand that their point of view is not divisive, and that it is actually President Obama who is divisive by offering these types of policy proposals.
Needless to say I disagree. I think the genius of President Obama’s campaign and his policy platform is that he is proposing policy that speaks to a comprehensive group of Americans. America is an interesting experiment because it is bonded by democracy. Democracy is rule by the people. However, the most interesting thing about America is that it is made up of several different groups of people. The country has different religious groups, different classes, different ethnicities, different genders, and different sexual orientations. All these groups are able to vote. As a result, I believe it is logical for a politician to develop a language that speaks to all these groups.
What makes it even more interesting is that Democracy as it is understood in America is not only rule by the majority, but it is also protection of minority interests. Aside from probably women, if we take any one of the aforementioned groups alone then we are not dealing with a majority. Therefore, the most important skill in winning public office, must be consensus building.
You must first build comprehensive agreement that you are the best person for the office you seek and then in order to govern you must build consensus that your vision is the most beneficial for the people and the policies you support are the ones that will be most effective in getting to that vision.
In the past speaking to one group of Americans was enough to win an election. It was a simply a matter of identifying who that group was and pitching proposals that would fit into that world view. But I believe the election of 2012 has shown that America has moved into a position where it is going to be necessary for politicians to articulate a vision of America that appeals to as many of the groups that make up America as possible. This is going to take a realization that there is not one America, but several, and America means different things depending on the perspective and history of the people that are being spoken to. At the same time America will always stand for the ideals that are embodied in the constitution. It will be the politicians job to learn these different perspectives and fit them into the American narrative.
Therefore one of the lessons Mitt Romney, his supporters, and the rest of the Republican Party should take from this election is that the country has shifted from one that can be bent to the will of the majority, and is now one that is beholden to minority interests and those minority interests are not what they used to be. They aren’t just big business, or unions. Rather some ethnicities and other social groups have become politically mature and are beginning to use the political process to get some things that are of some benefit to them.
Mitt Romney lost the election not because of gifts Obama gave to certain groups. Rather, Mitt Romney lost the election because he ran a political campaign that was ill-equipped to deal with the political realities of the times. Mitt Romney thought his way was the American way, and found out that America is going in a different direction. The conservative movement and the Republican party would be wise to learn the lesson.