I shook my head in pity the other day while reading Michael Gerson, a senior aide in the Bush White House, as he sought to convince his fellow Republicans that they’ve gotta ditch their rich white guy image. Pronto.
As if that’s gonna happen any time soon. Especially when one considers some of the elitist stuff that various Republicans have said and done lately.
Gerson, who regularly advocates for a sane conservatism, wrote this week that his party was nuts to pick Mitt Romney in ’12: “How could Republicans, as the effects of massive financial panic still lingered, have chosen a specialist in leveraged buyouts as their nominee? Romney managed to depress the enthusiasm of white working- and middle-class voters in key states.” Therefore, he argued, “The next GOP presidential nominee cannot be the richest and whitest person in the room.”
He lamented that the party has a serious “disconnect” with middle-class workers (as the Republican National Committee confirmed in a report last year), and warned that in 2016, “An establishment candidate who reinforces the perception of an elitist, out-of-touch, ethnically homogenous party is not the answer. Neither is a candidate of conservative purification who has little appeal beyond core constituencies….The task of the next Republican nominee is not only to motivate his or her party but to transform its appeal.”
But that’ll never happen as long as the Republicans stay in character, dumping on the underdog and voicing fat-cat values.
Just the other day, for instance, a Republican congressional candidate in Nevada declared that Romney was right in 2012 when he infamously assailed “47 percent” of Americans as mooching slackers who “pay no income tax” and refuse to take responsibility for their lives. If you thought you’d heard the last of Mitt’s immortal riff, candidate Crescent Hardy actually wants you to remember it – and applaud it. Here he is, in Nevada: “Can I say (it) without getting into trouble like Gov. Romney? The 47 percent is true. It’s bigger now.”
There’s little point in fact-checking a recycled brain-dead smear, but I suppose it’s worth one paragraph: Of those Americans who pay no federal income tax, roughly half earn too little to even qualify. The vast majority of the Americans who pay no federal income tax still pay all kinds of other taxes – state, local, sales, property, payroll. Tax experts affiliated with the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution have calculated that only 14 percent of all households pay virtually no taxes – and two-thirds of those households are elderly. So America’s so-called “takers” aren’t nearly as populous GOP elitists assume. (And besides, tax experts say that the “47 percent” who pay no federal income tax is now actually 43 percent, in part because of an improving economy.)
Perhaps you’re saying, “OK, that candidate in Nevada is just one guy who’s trying to keep Mitt’s elitism alive. No fair insinuating that Crescent Hardy speaks for the whole GOP.” Nope, he doesn’t. But the thing is, Washington Republicans aren’t any different. Getting hammered in 2012 (losing 11 of 12 swing states) hasn’t changed their ‘tude. Getting hammered by the Republican National Committee’s report (which says the party needs to connect with average folks “who have not had a meaningful raise in years”) hasn’t changed their ‘tude, either.
Back in April, Senate Republicans blocked incremental hikes in the federal minimum wage. And since late last year, Republicans have consistently thwarted the extension of federal jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed. Last week, in off-the-cuff remarks, House Speaker John Boehner basically told the long-term unemployed to stop being takers. He lamented “this idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple of years, that, you know, ‘I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.’ This is a very sick idea for our country.”
Boehner was naturally echoing Fox News, ground zero for elitist talking points, where a host recently said that the extension of jobless benefits is “socialism” that shifts money from “a maker” to “a taker.”
By the way, it was priceless to hear Boehner condemn average Americans for slacking off, when in fact he’s the leader of the most notorious House slackers in modern history. Counting the five-week summer recess, and measuring the span between the end of July and the middle of November, Boehner’s Republican chamber will apparently be in session for a grand total of…eight days. Apparently they’d rather just “sit around” on the taxpayer’s generous dime, the picture of white entitlement.
Granted, a few Republicans seem to have realized that the party remains woefully our of touch with the average Joe. A smattering of ’14 candidates have voiced qualified support for hikes in their states’ minimum wages. And Paul Ryan wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal that his makers-versus-takers rhetoric was all wrong: “The phrase gave insult where none was intended. People struggling and striving…are not ‘takers.’ They’re trying to make something of themselves.”
Well, that’s a start. On the other hand, Ann Romney popped up last weekend on Fox News and left the door open for 2016: “Mitt and I, at this point, are not making plans.” The italics are mine. The urge to bring back the richest, whitest person in the room is most assuredly hers.
To which Michael Gerson would say, “Uh oh.”
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