The most important fact about the 2012 campaign might be:
Mitt Romney has a Marie Antoinette problem. The man who famously has an elevator in his mansion for his family Cadillacs to rise to the proper floor has now been revealed, through a leaked video, to be ridiculing and insulting one-half of the nation.
There is a widespread perception among voters that Romney is a deep-rooted elitist who does not care about their problems or champion their interests. The new leaked video is only the latest example of a problem that is endemic to the candidate (not his staff) and began long ago.
I have no problem that Romney, who derides opponents as "European," spent time during the Vietnam years living well in Paris. The Daily Telegraph and others have reported about this. This began the pattern: Romney took the easy way for himself, while others accepted and endured the hard sacrifices of those troubled times.
There has always been about Romney, to use a phrase he employs to deride those who were born less fortunate than he was, a sense of entitlement to the man's view of himself. Romney in business and politics stands for the noblesse without the oblige.
It was Mitt Romney (sounding like Marie Antoinette) who advised young people trying to start a business or attend a university that they need to be born to wealthy parents, and ask them for a loan.
It was Mitt Romney (acting like Marie Antoinette) who looked down on the British government, businesses and people by insulting them with the false charge that they were not prepared for the Olympics (by contrast with his praise for himself).
It was Mitt Romney (imitating Marie Antoinette) who insulted whole nations, cultures and peoples (including Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Palestinians) with his ignorant theory that cultural superiority/inferiority determines the wealth of nations.
This Romney-as-Antoinette worldview violates the core notion of Americanism that every individual deserves a fair chance to succeed, and should be judged (by our Maker, not by the Republican nominee) for the good or ill they do individually and not by the nation, heritage, race, religion, culture, gender, age or creed that is theirs.
Now Romney (reminiscent of Marie Antoinette) is revealed on tape ridiculing, with elitist condescension, arrogance and his Gilded Age self-image, one-half of the nation. In Romney's world (as in Antoinette's), those who were born with privilege belong to a preferred ruling class while those who were not (seniors? wounded warriors? children? homeless vets? the poor? workers fired to reap profits for Bain Capital?) are derided as inferior and demeaned as a dependent class.
In the royalist court of Romney (as in the royal court of Antoinette) speculators and greed mercantilists who obtained massive wealth while they crashed the economy and paid themselves massive bonuses to reward the damage they did to the nation are celebrated as "winners," and courted for their money. The vast multitudes who lost their homes and their jobs from these unpunished crimes and richly rewarded sins are ridiculed as losers, and demeaned as dependents (as they were by the court of Antoinette).
Mitt Romney owes an apology to the great generation of seniors, whose Medicare and Social Security he would turn into profit centers for bankers and insurers, and whom he includes by definition in the "culture of dependency" he demeans.
Romney owes an apology to wounded warriors, homeless vets and military families who served our country when others did not, whom he forgot to honor in the most important speech of his life, whose "government programs" repay only a small portion of the debt we owe them. They are heroes, not dependents.
Mitt Romney and Marie Antoinette stand for the adoration of the privileged few who prosper from great nations and a condescension toward the many who make great nations, whom Romney should salute and not insult.
A version of this column was originally published at The Hill.