As expected, there has been much talk about Mitt Romney's inelegant but candid remarks about "those people." Those people he referred to were the 47 percent of people he claimed did not pay any income tax. As Mother Jones reported, Romney went on to say that, "those people" were "dependent on government; believe "that they are victims" and who also believe that government "has a responsibility to care for them." He suggested that these people were going to vote for the president "no matter what," because he would never be able to "convince them they should take personal responsibility over their lives."
Some believed that Romney would have to take back his statement or at least back off it a little because it seemed so damaging. Political pundits suggested that Romney could not win by writing off 47 percent of the electorate. Many said that he criticized many of his voters and by calling them "dependent" and "victims," he assured that many would not vote for him. However, when I first heard Romney's "truth," not only was I not surprised, but more importantly, in discussing the matter with a friend, I said that Romney would not back down from these comments. Matter of fact, I suggested that he would double down on the attacks and it will became a theme of the campaign.
I figured Romney would continue this line of thought because, frankly, we do not talk about the poor well in this country because we have a racialized view of the poor. While Romney did not mention "the poor" or "race," in his comments, words such as "dependent," "victim" and anyone lacking "personal responsibility" are always associated with the poor black and brown folks who somehow get over on the government. Even Saturday Night Live recently parodied this sentiment.
Moreover, since poverty and "those people" are associated with this problem of dependency, it allows people who do not want to be associated with "those people" to disregard Romney's critique -- one that he aimed squarely at them. There are many in the 47 percent who celebrate Romney's "truth" and argue that he is correct in his beliefs. They will say that government is too big and too many people are victims and dependent on the government but will not stop long enough to consider that Romney is talking about them as well. While many try to get away and not associate with those "dependent" "victims" of government assistance, many of those same 47 percent do not realize that Romney lumps them in together.
It would be nice if the 47 percent could stand together and proudly claim their solidarity with each other; the gainfully employed and the unemployed, the students, and the elderly, the veteran and the businessperson, the rich and the poor, and say with one voice, "we reject your labels." It would be nice if all faith traditions, who have a mandate to treat the poor and the least of these with honor and respect would stand together and claim solidarity with the 47 percent. However, that probably will not happen as people try to disassociate themselves from those dependent victims, claiming that Romney is not "speaking about me." It is exactly what Romney wants and that is why we will continue to see this on the campaign trail.
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