Tag Archives: Republican presidential primary

Romney: ‘Not Concerned About the Very Poor’

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Well, these are certainly some odd values, aren’t they?

In an interview with CNN earlier today marking his Republican primary win in Florida, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he was “not concerned about the very poor,” and said the nation provided an “ample safety net” to those in that category.

“You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus,” Romney said.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney ain't none to worried 'bout 'dem po' folks. Says dey's gonna' be jes fine, yessuh. (Source: nmfbihop, from Flikr)

(By the way, Romney’s income over the past two years has come to more than $42 million.)

Rather, Romney said, he plans to focus on the middle class, which has been squeezed mightily in the last decade-and-a-half.

Just where do we think the once-proud denizens of the middle class have gone? Up the economic ladder? No, they’ve fallen further and further behind, with high unemployment and stagnant wages and an ever-growing cost of living taking larger and larger bites out of their plans for the future. Once-stable two income households are making hard decisions to get by with one.

Add this to the chorus of his concerns about getting a “pink slip,” even though he hails from a very wealthy family and is himself a millionaire several times over, and his defense of his work at Bane Capital, a venture capital firm that, along with acquiring and successfully reorganizing a number of firms, also liquidated quite a few others, leaving many unemployed. What is emerging is a portrait of a candidate who is far more Herbert Hoover/Warren Harding than Ronald Reagan.

I know a thing or two about the plight of the poor, having been poor for a considerable portion of my life. It isn’t easy. They turn off your electricity. Sometimes there’s not heat in the winter, and when there is, it’s turned up just high enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Sometimes, that’s not a concern, because the water’s been shut off. There are resources – heating assistance, assistance from utilities, etc. – that can be accessed, but these are very limited and I couldn’t begin to tell you how to access them or what the criteria are. Most of these have a cap – a number of people they can help at a given time. If you’re outside that limited number, you go cold.

America is experiencing very little growth except in one area: the poor. There is a vast and swelling population of dissatisfied Americans living in a land of milk and honey, a land of plenty, but barely getting by with precious little. It is aggravating to worry constantly about how you will feed yourself or your children, which bills you’ll pay from month to month and how you’ll keep yourself sheltered. A lot of people have known nothing but, and others are experiencing this for the first time. They were raised in the middle class, pursued their education, gained experience, and are now struggling mightily. They played the game according to the rules, and their parents’ promises were for naught. It is one thing to have been raised on the government’s tit (which is still not a good or comfortable life), but quite another to go hat-in-hand to ask for assistance for the very first time.

I remember my grandfather telling how his own father had to go into town one day for government assistance. My great-grandfather had been a successful man, a merchant who owned his own shop in Winston. When the Great Depression came and his customers could not afford their purchases, he let them buy things on credit, including food. When he could no longer pay his own bills because his customers were unable to pay theirs, he lost the store and had to turn to sharecropping.

My great-grandfather had one of the first, if not the first, automobiles in the county – a Ford Model T, which he used to haul merchandise from the rail station to his store. Penniless after losing the store, he could not even afford the gas to drive his car into town, and so walked from Winston into Douglasville to seek government assistance. They provided him with a sack of flour and a side of bacon, which he carried on his back and shoulders back down Bankhead Highway to feed his family. My grandfather told of how grateful they were for the food, but how ironic it was that, even though he was one of the few people to own a car, his father was not even able to use it because they were so poor.

Of course, Romney would not be very concerned about people like my grandfather. Hoover wasn’t, either. But my grandfather kept a framed portrait of FDR hanging in his living room, and often would point to it and say, “that man saved my life.”

“We will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and there’s no question; it’s not good being poor. And we have a safety net to help those that are very poor,” Romney said. “We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle-income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now.”

You’re right, Gov. Romney. Middle class Americans are struggling. Because they’re poor.

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Cracks (And Crackpots) in the GOP Conglomerate

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Bachmann

This is Michelle Bachmann. She's crazy as batshit. And some Republicans wanted her to be president. (Though, mercifully, not many.) (Credit: AP)

We independents like to whine and moan about the abominations of our nation’s two-party system, but it is increasingly evident that the two-party system is a lie. It is a myth we told ourselves to make ourselves feel better. Just because every time we go to cast a ballot, each candidate has either a “D” or an “R” next to his or her name does not at all mean that the choices were so simple as one or the other; rather, it seems, the race begins much earlier, in small contests in America’s backwoods to which we have traditionally paid very little attention. Until it is too late.

That fact has become ever more apparent now, with the close of the Republican caucuses in Iowa last night that brought former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a fire-breathing moderate, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, an iconoclastic fundamentalist, within eight votes of carrying the first contest of the 2012 presidential race.

And in third, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a one-time Libertarian Party candidate for president who has his very own wing of the Republican party.

The way the two parties have managed to secure their stranglehold on the American politic has been by holding up a wide umbrella – or casting a wide net – to usher different beliefs into the fold. This means that people often affiliate with one party or the other for fundamentally different reasons. Civil rights, abortion rights, populism and a secular government are the reason many become Democrats. Evangelical Christianity, socially conservative principles and fiscally conservative principles are among the leading reasons that people become Republican.

But these standards are frequently in conflict. Black Christian congregations have not taken a shine to abortion rights, and many leaders in the black Christian organization have said that they do not consider the quest for gay marriage or gay rights to be the same as the quest for civil rights. The party was all but ripped asunder in 2008, with a white woman (many women vote Democratic) and a black man (again, many blacks are staunch Democrats) vying for the party’s presidential nomination. Many debated which deserved to head a major party ticket for the first time in history, just as many debated whether blacks or women should first get the vote a century before.

In the end, Barak Obama got the Democratic nomination and Sarah Palin became the Republican candidate for vice president, in order to woo all those disenfranchised women who believed that Hillary Clinton ought to head the ticket.

(Indeed, this played out within my own house; I was partial to Obama, and my wife to Clinton. Though, it turned out, her affinity was not due to Clinton’s policies or even her gender, but because my wife happens to own an autographed copy of Clinton’s memoir, which sits on the bottom shelf of an upstairs bookcase and that I’ve never once seen her open, except, oddly, to make sure the signature is still there.)

But in the Republican Party, the ties that bind seem to be absolutely strained to the point of snapping. In 2008, the Democrats had Obama, about whom everyone was excited – young, articulate, attractive, and vigorous. The Republicans compromised with each other and gave the nomination to John McCain, a candidate about whom no one was excited and who likely ran because, well, it was his turn (see Dole, ‘96). He wasn’t especially socially conservative, religious or fiscally conservative. He was, you know, the other guy.

Democrats turned out in droves to vote for Obama. I waited in line for more than an hour. With a baby. During early voting.

Hardly anyone came out to vote for McCain.

In 2012, the Republicans want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. They want a candidate all their members can be excited about. The problem is, what each sect of their party wants is not wholly embodied in a single candidate, and in fact, some strands of the fold are feeling so disenfranchised by the party that they may be inclined to run their own third-party candidate (see Roosevelt and Taft, 1912), which could split the vote and give President Obama a clear course to a second term – and possibly even a perceived (though fictitious) mandate (see Bush, 2004).

Santorum opposes a woman’s right to choose, believes that church has an important role to play in the affairs of the state and appeals to people like the Duggars, who have something like 19 kids and (obviously) don’t believe in birth control. Romney was governor of Massachusetts, a notoriously liberal state (elected Ted Kennedy for, like, what? a century?) and whose “Romneycare” reform in Massachusetts was the basis for the now much-decried “Obamacare,” and who used to support a woman’s right to choose and was OK with gay people but now says not so much.

And neither has especially broad appeal. Romney is a quintessentially Republican, er, Republican. Owns a few houses, has a lot of money, is “pro-business” (whatever that means), doesn’t like high taxes, goes to church a lot and has beautiful hair. Santorum is a fundamentalist Republican – without compromise on “traditional” beliefs to which a “Christian” nation such as ours ought to adhere (see Huckabee, 2008 – but without the charm or sense of humor).

Iowa Caucus Results

Results of the Iowa Caucus. A lot of Republicans think Ron Paul is batshit crazy, too. And they voted for him for that very reason. (Credit: Google, AP)

Then there’s Paul wants to close all our military installations overseas, shut down a whole bunch of government departments, make everyone pay the same tax rate, rich or poor, and do a bunch of other stuff that scares the hell out of anyone who’s not part of his messiah-like following. And he finished third. And not a distant third, either! He had more than 21 percent of the vote! Romney won the thing with barely more than 24 percent!

The only thing these candidates really have in common is that, well, they don’t really want Obama to be president anymore. And it’s nothing personal; they don’t want any of the other guys to be president, either. But the vision they have for the nation is very different, because at the heart of it, the Republican Party is very different.

This is not a single party – it’s a group of parties who pool their votes to be stronger en masse than they are individually. And the strange thing is, they act like it’s some kind of a big secret. Some Republicans will whisper to you, their voices low, that they’re really Libertarians, but they know the Libertarian Party doesn’t have a chance, so they vote Republican so they can elect politicians who might help move the Republican party in a more fiscally conservative direction. Some Republicans will say, “I really wish Sarah Palin would run,” but they don’t know why, nor can they name one policy position of hers with which they were familiar. Some Republicans will say, “well, the Democrats want to let gay people marry, and I just don’t think that’s right,” and will be in direct contrast to the Libertarian Republicans.

The Republican Party is actually the Republican Parties. And in some instances, when it comes to treating corporations like individuals, Republican Parties, Inc. That the group has tried to corral so many separate and distinct ideologies under one banner for so long – without giving any one of them what they’ve asked for in exchange for their vote – is bound to be the party’s undoing.

So, next time someone says they’re voting Republican, ask which one.