Mitt Romney was widely lauded yesterday for venturing into the lion’s den and telling the NAACP what it didn’t want to hear. He’s not a pandering politician after all! What a profile in courage!What hogwash.
In truth, Romney used the NAACP as a foil. His main aim was not to win over black voters (an impossible task), but to show white suburban swing voters that he’s really an inclusive guy who means well (the same tactic employed by George W. Bush in 2000). And his secondary aim was to demonstrate to restive conservative Republicans that he’s willing to echo their orthodoxies even in front of boo-birds.Romney is already DOA with blacks; according to the latest bipartisan NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, his share of those voters is one percent. That is not a misprint. That is the lowest projected share for any Republican nominee since polling began – understandably so, given his support for the Paul Ryan budget plan, which would shred the safety net; and his support for slashing public sector jobs. So he really had nothing to lose yesterday by showing up at the NAACP confab. By vowing to kill the “nonessential” health reform law, and by milking the resultant boos, he won cheap points for courage.Some commentators with no sense of history somehow likened the NAACP episode to Bill Clinton’s “Sister Souljah” moment in 1992, when the Democratic candidate attacked violent rap music lyrics in front of a black activist audience that featured Jesse Jackson Sr. That’s flat wrong. On that memorable day, Clinton dared to criticize his own base; Romney has yet to do anything remotely like that. True courage is earned when you diss your own side. If Romney wants points for true courage, he would tell his own base what it doesn’t want to hear. He’d stand in front of a tea party audience and laud his signature gubernatorial achievement: the health coverage mandate in his popular reform law. Or he’d stand in front of an evangelical Christian audience and insist that gay American citizens are equal to all other citizens. Or he’d stand in front of an immigrant-bashing groups and confess that his “self-deportation” policy is unworkable.But no, it’s way easier for him to say impolitic stuff to a slice of the electorate that has already written him off. For that, he doesn’t warrant a JFK profile in courage award. He’s more in the mold of Machiavelli, that cynical master tactician. Using one audience as a foil to impress another audience is squarely in the Machiavellian tradition.By the way, the NAACP speech never mentioned the new voter ID laws. What a pity. That would’ve been an even better way for Romney to demonstrate his “courage.” He could’ve told his black listeners the cold truth, that his prospects for winning are enhanced if black turnout is successfully suppressed. But I suppose that his prime intended audience – the suburban swings – would have found such remarks to be insufficiently inclusive.——-
Meanwhile, Romney’s recent statement about Bain – that he stepped down as boss in 1999 – turns out to be a lie. What a shock. This story will drive the news cycle all day.
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