THE BLOG
09/20/2012 01:44 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2012

Call Me Dependent

So Mitt Romney, then candidate and now nominee, went to one of those fundraising salons of the rich and richer this past April and told them that 47% of the country was dependent on government and would never vote for him.

I am actually being nice.

Here's the complete quote:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5-10 percent of people who are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not."

This secretly recorded confessional from Romney is now front page news.

But it shouldn't be.

Because there is nothing "new" about it.

It was my sad duty last week to attend the funeral of the wife of the federal judge I worked for in 1982-83. He was a Reagan appointee, and after getting a clerk who had knocked on doors for Ted Kennedy in 1980 (namely, me), a few more politically congenial ones followed. In fact, a whole host of them -- freshly minted graduates of The Federalist Society (and our nation's elite law schools). For the record, the judge never cared what your politics were and ours has become a close bi-partisan friendship over the years; sometimes we think we are the last of a dying breed. But self selection being what it is, the students apparently cared about his politics, and so the conservatives flocked to him. And in conversations with more than one of them last week, "dependency" was the watchword.

As in, Obama is creating "a nation of dependents."

Now at one level, this is just silly. For starters, it is plainly inaccurate. We are all beneficiaries of government programs, whether those programs come in the form of the military that defends us, the roads that carry us, the schools that educate us, or the clean air and water that sustains us. Obama did not create any of that, nor does the "dependency" it entails capture only the putative 47% who Romney claims "will vote for the president no matter what."

In other words, welcome to the club, Mitt. You too are a dependent.

But, of course, Mitt and my conservative co-clerks are not lambasting all of us. Not at all. Instead, they have a special view of dependency. As Gov. Romney himself laid it out at that April fundraiser, it's a multi-step process, the logic of which -- in a sort of Cartesian politics -- leads inexorably to dependence. So if (1) you are a victim, (2) you believe the government should feed you, house you and medicate you, (3) you think you are in fact "entitled" to all of this, and (4) you do not take "personal responsibility" for you life, then (5) you are a dependent and (6) an Obama voter, along with (7) slightly less than half the country.

Actually, however, you probably do not vote at all (that's way too responsible). You most certainly are not part of a group that shares all of these characteristics at once, comprises "47 percent" of the electorate, and is inexorably wedded to Barack Obama.

Because no such group exists.

So what gives?

This is demonization, pure and simple. Romney's April confessional unearthed a lot more than his (or the GOP's) Thurston Howell political persona. In fact, it unmasked the Willie Horton side of this campaign. To begin, note that the logic begins, and ends, with a description of the entire group of us who "would never vote for" anyone but Barack (of which, I am one).

We are all dependent bums.

It doesn't matter that I just wrote a sizable tax check to the federal government, one of the five I write each year and have for the past 25. Or that, along with many others who count themselves among the 47 percent, I pay at a rate more than double Romney's. Or that I paid off my student loans more than 20 years ago.

If you are with him (Obama), you are with them (the "dependent").

Note, secondly, the "them" you are with. As Romney more or less put it, the dependent think the government owes them food stamps, public housing and Obamacare. The specific list of entitlements he chose to pin on Obama's base was thus decidedly narrow. In fact, those entitlements benefit two -- and only two -- classes.

The poor.

And the sick.

So here's my confession, Mitt.

I'm with them.

Call me dependent.

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