THE BLOG
09/16/2013 06:40 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2013

47 Percent Anniversary: Gospel, Not Gaffe

The MVP (Most Valuable Progressive) of the 2012 election is unquestionably Scott Prouty, the bartender who recorded Mitt Romney's 47 percent remarks at a May 17th fundraiser. With the help of James Carter & David Corn, the infamous 47 percent comments were released to the public on September 17 and full tape on the 18th.

Of course, many of us on Twitter knew him as @AnneOnymous670, as 'she' was disseminating various clips of the 47 percent tape to many of us weeks before it went national. Days after Anne joined Twitter on August 28, 2012, I made a personal blog post with all the videos and started tweeting the link out as much as I could. Once Romney's 47 percent comments went viral, they remained an incurable virus through his campaign.

A year later, is the virus still active? Is it the case that Romney's comments reflect GOP gospel as opposed to being an hour-long gaffe or a series of ineloquent remarks flabbergasted to be in each other's presence? To answer that question, let's review a few of the GOP's policy positions and remarks over the past year.

"My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." - Romney on the 47 percent

The prescience of that remark as we enter the budget and debt ceiling negotiations cannot be overstated. The rhetoric surrounding the debate has already begun, with right-wing pundits Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly taking aim at impoverished Americans who utilize safety net programs. Such sentiments have been echoed all year in suggestions for handling sequestration. While Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and economic security programs took heavy cuts, many Republicans were concerned with White House tours. Despite some Republicans' condemnation of Romney's 47 percent comments, they seem to reflect a predisposition for passive apathy (if not active antipathy) towards the less fortunate among us.

"... had he been born of Mexican parents I'd have a better shot at winning this..." - Romney commenting on his dad not being Mexican.

As offensive as this remark was, it was only the icing on the indelicate cakewalk that began in the primaries (self-deportation has to go down as one of the greatest hits). Once again, there is evidence to suggest that Romney's comments reflect the Republican Party's views towards non-White immigrants. The most extreme examples include Representative Don Young's (AK) racist slur when describing Latinos and Representative Steve King's (IA) unrepentant string of racist comments regarding DREAMers and Latino Immigrants.

Putting those extreme actors aside, it appears that the GOP in general is rescinding their own pledge to appeal to the Latino community. Rather than support immigration reform and try to curb their losses among Latinos in the 2012 election, they appear to have made the calculation that reaching out to a larger share of the diminishing White vote will be more conducive to electoral success in 2016. As noted in an exceptional National Journal piece by Ronald Brownstein, the GOP will seemingly shirk any minority outreach until shifts in national demographics require it for self-preservation.

There are positive and negatives to this for Democrats. On the positive side, it means Democrats will likely control the White House for 12-16 straight years as the number of minority voters becomes a larger share of the electoral vote in 2016 and 2024. In fact, LGBT voters are the only Democratic voting bloc that won't grow in that time period. Moreover, the voting population beyond 2028 will nearly be majority-minority, as nearly half of five-year-olds today are minorities. If they're age five in 2013, then they'll be voting in 15 years in 2028 at age 20. As the disparity in demographic diversity grows between parties, the GOP will either have to adapt their policies in regards to minorities, or concede that the only races they can win are House races in non-diverse districts.

On the negative side, however, it means that the concerns of minority voters will be ignored during times of divided government. For example, the GOP has almost no comment on the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act ruling, and likely no plans to restore it as they have already given up on Black voters. Similarly, if the GOP gives up on reaching out to Latino voters following consistent election landslides, they may have no plans to fix our Immigration system. The same is likely to happen with Asian voters and LGBT voters.

"I wish they weren't unionized, so we could go a lot deeper than you're actually allowed to go." - Romney commenting on unionized workforce.

This sentiment is reflected in the anti-Union policy initiatives of Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Ohio's John Kasich, and Michigan's Rick Snyder. Romney's desire to 'go a lot deeper' in cuts to the unionized workforce is consistent with Republicans' desire to reduce the size of government (with a third of federal workers represented by unions), their heightened concern for the welfare of corporations, and lack of concern for the welfare of workers. In fact, this lack of welfare for workers is embedded within another comment Romney made -- the comment I always found the most appalling (and the media appeared to overlook or ignore)...

"... when I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there, employed about 20,000 people, and they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23." - Romney on Global Tech, the Chinese Sweatshop he bought

Asian girls aged 18-23 working in huge factories for hours at $.24 per day, "bunk beds on top of each other," using "little bathrooms," and fitting "12 girls per room." Romney's casual description of the factory was disturbing, and likely didn't help the Republican Party with Asian voters.

We are fortunate as Americans that our labor unions have fought to give us rights and protections that the global tech workers still don't have. The most pertinent issue for our low-wage workers today is the fact that minimum wage lags behind the living wage. The political implication of this becomes unequivocally clear when considering the GOP's opposition to modest increases in the minimum wage, as stated by Annie Lowrey in a NYT piece. Indeed, just a month later, the House GOP unanimously voted against raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

Taken together, it is clear on this anniversary of the 47 percent tape that many of Romney's comments reflect core Republican Party values, which have continued to undergird policy positions and statements throughout 2013. In short, it seems more like GOP gospel than an accidental gaffe at a fundraiser.

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