It's the most delicious irony.
In that instantly famous video, Mitt Romney disdained America's government-dependent "victims" with their tiny incomes and their microscopic dreams.
But who made the video that may have dealt the fatal blow to his campaign?
The help.According to the NakedPhiladephian.com,
"Before Mitt Romney spoke at the fundraiser, guests were reminded that Romney's comments were off the record. Those present were asked not to repeat his remarks to the press. [Fundraiser host Marc] Leder believes that the video was made by someone who was hired to work the party. He is in the process of narrowing down the suspects and is contemplating contacting law enforcement."
The video was shot from a tight angle, but it's not hard to picture that fundraiser. The wealthy donors. The well-appointed living room. And -- because you can't expect people who give $50,000 to line up at a buffet -- a battalion of waiters, waitresses and bartenders.
Typically, that service staff is young. And because they are often handsome in the extreme, it's tempting to peg them as stupid -- as guys whose second job would be dancing at Chippendale's and as actress wannabes who will never get further than voiceovers. That's a fatal misreading. I would bet that these young people didn't become waiters and waitresses today because they aspire someday to be maitre d's. They take this work for the same reason that others in their 20s stock shelves with skinny jeans at The Gap: because the career paths they imagined for themselves when they took on a mountain of student debt no longer exist. They're making do, treading water, hoping for better. For now, they also serve who only stand and wait.
The Romney campaign is a curious one: long on fundraisers, short on public appearances in battleground states. This suggests there will be more opportunities for waiters, waitresses and bartenders to use smartphones to record Romney telling wealthy donors what they want to hear. Going forward, how will the sponsors of these fundraisers deal with the service staff? Will they pat them down before the events begin? Or insist that all devices be turned in? But nothing can really guarantee Romney a safe room. A thousand words are worth as much as a picture; a recorder taped under a table can also be a potent weapon.
A weapon? Yes, because what we're seeing here is not just a rogue waiter, but the first shot in a new kind of conflict: asymmetric media war. The Occupy Movement created a valuable shorthand: the One Percent. But there the Occupiers stalled, for this movement is, as its name suggests, ultimately about seizing and holding real estate. As a result, its confrontations are with the police, not with the rich.
To the rich, waiters and bartenders are much like the immigrant workers who gather outside suburban train stations in the morning in the hope that someone will stop his truck and give them a day's pay. But the waiters and bus boys are different, and the difference is key -- unlike gardeners and painters, they're right in the room with the One Percent.
So it's not just Mitt Romney who's vulnerable now.
It's David Koch, at a ballet gala or his own living room.
It's Karl Rove at an American Crossroads strategy session.
It's every CEO in America.
I would imagine that, across America, some of the inevitable targets of these stealth combatants have realized that the Romney video may not be an isolated event. And I can imagine their confusion. In their cosmology, the lower orders are too weak to take guerrilla action. And yet here is the help, visible at dinner, gone after the last brandy. They smile. They nod. They seem to honor the ancient code of deference and silence. But will they?
Less and less. For with the Romney video, the last of the traditional bonds has been severed. Those faceless, anonymous people the rich have hired to serve them for a few hours can no longer be trusted. The word's gone out: Until the powerful find a way to track you down, you have nothing to lose but your tray.