So, I finally got the new wireless router which means I have internet access in my bedroom again. As I’m still hacking up half a lung and I’m a bit self-conscious about the coughing (I’d blame my sister for that one, but I fear it’s probably just me being me), this is important – it means I have consistent internet access once again. I’m going to try to get back to people on lots of comments they’ve made over the next few days Also catch up with everyone else. Thanks to everyone who’s kept up with me.
Also, you may have heard about the attacks between Gaza and Israel. I happen to know two Arab Christian sisters, from the Tel Aviv area who have been working as kind of community organizers in the Gaza strip for the better part of the last century. I’ve gotten a belly full of stories in our regular emails, and that (along with the fact that I haven’t heard from them recently, which makes me a little concerned for their safety) has driven me to follow this news story closely. I have definite thoughts there but need to sort them out and also do a bit of research before they’re really shareable. So I won’t go into that today, except to say this: if you think this is all Hamas’s fault, or all Israel’s, you might want to reconsider that. Nothing in this region is that simple.
That’s not what I want to talk about today, though. I know the US elections are over and a lot of people are ready to let Mr. Romney slide quietly away, but he’s said something that deserves attention. Here’s how the NY Times described a conversation why he tried to explain why he lost:
In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”
Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
Ninety-second version: Mr. Obama won because he gave a series of gifts to hispanics, Afro-Americans, and young voters. Now, this is beyond rich coming from Mr. Romney (recall, he’s the guy who got caught on tape saying he had nothing to offer 47% of the country, and whose adviser said he’d just shake up an etch-a-sketch when he moved from primaries to the general election). The first characteristic that comes to my mind when I think of Mr. Romney is “malleable” – the man said whatever he thought would go over well with his current audience. I’m all for putting the common good over individual interests, but Mr. Romney isn’t one to talk on this topic.
More importantly, though, those comments simply aren’t true and are actually pretty insulting. I think I still count as a young person (I rounded thirty last summer but I’m still in grad school). Until my current degree, that was all done at state schools, and I relied on a combination of parental savings and scholarships/fellowships to pay for them. I feel the same frustration at the thought of my fellow students who opted to go to private schools having their debt wiped clear. I’m also not sexually active, so the contraception mandate doesn’t affect me personally. The extralegal bombing of Libya, the complete _____ that is the NDAA and drone warfare, the recent _____ that is the Obama administration’s statements on Israel to say nothing about the _____ing hubris it takes to arrest Occupy protesters without a single bank executive ending up in jail let alone the truly ______’d ineptitude that was their handling of deficit-reduction negotiations… if Mr. Obama had fixed even one of these issues, that would have been a motivating gift. Perhaps not for my demographic, but definitely for me.
(I try to keep the language here PG13 at worst, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to use watered-down, completely-inadequate descriptors here. Consider it a choose-your-own-profanity story.)
I’m actually aghast that Mr. Romney thinks people earning $25,000-$35,000 are Afro-American. Perhaps all the white people he knows earn seven (going on ten) figures a year, but a good number of white people around this country earn salaries in that ballpark. And white people have health problems, too. I suspect the GOP did more to drive the Afro-American vote to Obama than he ever could have, with the racist rhetoric we’ve seen on display from the Tea Party and voter registration laws that can be charitably described as a poll tax for the twenty-first century. As for Latinos, while I’m sure they don’t enjoy being denigrated by Mr. Romney’s party’s assumptions about real Americans and the need to show your papers, it’s simply not true that immigration is a Latino issue. Of the two people I know who would (and should!) benefit from DREAM-like legislation, one is Macedonian-American and the other is Lebanese-American.
But, if I may be allowed a “camera three” moment with Mr. Romney: what really goads me is your clear implication that voting for policies in your interest is somehow not legitimate. How is this any different than when rich men vote for the candidate who will give them less redundant and lower taxes, or when the Christian Right votes for the candidate who promises to overturn Roe, or when the military contractor votes for the more hawkish candidate? It’s not. These aren’t gifts, they aren’t incentives to cheat, and there’s nothing questionable about a poor person voting for his or her priorities, just as rich people almost always do.
I’m a little peeved, if you can’t tell. I wrestled with my conscious for months and voted for the man who I thought was the best candidate for the job. So did millions of other Americans. The fact that 51.4% of us didn’t vote for Mr. Romney doesn’t mean we entered the voting booth and had an “oooh, shiny!!!” moment.