Mitt Romney's recent release of his tax federal tax filings reveals a real problem for him and the Republican Party. It's not just the amount of his vast wealth, or his former Swiss bank account, or his money stashed away in the Cayman Islands. The problem is that these three elements combine to reinforce the narrative that Romney is the living embodiment of a political-economic nexus that creates few winners and an increasing number of losers. He is the fat cat who is so despised by many Americans. The fact that he is still the likely nominee, with his moderate record, a healthcare plan that is the basis of the national reform law hated by most Republicans, and a religion many fundamentalist Christian conservatives view as a cult, shows just how desperate the Grand Old Party is to unseat President Barack Obama.
There is a difference between capitalism and vulture capitalism. Romney is on the wrong side of the divide and reasonable people can see the difference. Romney's brand of capitalism has helped to create a chasm between people and the country and is more responsible for the job loss, growing inequality, and societal anger. And yet, the Republican establishment is bending over backwards to help ensure he overcomes Newt Gingrich's onslaught.
His campaign and likely nomination will make it far more difficult for Republicans to make the argument that they have the ideas and positions that will create real opportunity for Americans. They have never been the party of regular, working class people, notwithstanding their mendacious rhetoric and their policies. American voters, who need a reality check on what "middle-class" really means, will not need much priming to be reminded that the Republican nominee is an ultra rich guy who sees more than $300,000 in speaking fees as "not much" money.
His belated response to all the talk about his taxes -- own his success and highlight his charitable donations -- is too late to help. Saying, "Yeah, I'm rich," is not the way to win friends and influence people. But it is completely in line with Republican orthodoxy.
Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of public policy at George Mason University. He specializes in party politics and African American politics. He blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com.