Rather than discuss the Republican Party's extremism on social issues as a contributing factor, or his support for unaffordable tax cuts for the wealthy, or his own personal failings such as the infamous video wherein he dismissed nearly half the American populace, or his stunning lack of consistency on just about every major issue during the campaign, Romney chose to lay the blame for his loss squarely at the feet of President Obama's "gifts" to the constituencies that gave him overwhelming support. In his conference call remarks, Romney specifically mentioned the contraceptive mandate, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and DREAM Act legislation as reasons why young people, women and Latinos turned out in numbers that his campaign did not expect, and used their votes to overwhelmingly support the president:
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he 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.By viewing these issues essentially as bribes—the modern-day equivalent of Roman emperors handing out free bread to keep the rabble in line—rather than in terms of their intended policy consequences, Romney proved once again that he is completely out of touch with the economic realities of everyday Americans. The contraceptive mandate, for instance, will not only empower women economically, but also lead to a decline in unwanted pregnancies. Extending the age of eligibility for coverage of dependents will make sure that more young people, who often have a hard time finding jobs that provide health benefits, will have coverage; this is a win-win. President Obama's decision to not deport certain young undocumented immigrants at the very least allows those individuals to participate in this country's social fabric, helping our economy in the process. And lastly, on the Affordable Care Act in general, it is obvious that Mitt Romney has never had to worry about whether his family would be able to afford to go see a doctor, or known anyone who has suffered the burden of enormous medical debt because they did not have access to affordable insurance.
”The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African-American 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 voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.
“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,” he 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.”
(Continue reading below the fold.)
But let's take these obvious greater social and economic goods out of the equation. By referring to these policies as "gifts," Romney is not only seeking to deligitimize the worth of the policies themselves; he is also attempting to devalue the young voters, women and minorities who voted for Barack Obama because of exactly these policy considerations:
“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.”In other words, Romney is saying he lost because too many mooching constituencies—like women, Latinos and the youth—were too willing to fall victim to the cunning bribery of Barack Obama, rather than take a more moral perspective on what was good for the country as a whole. Anyone who is looking for the final grand irony of the 2012 presidential campaign need look no further: The nominee who selected as his running mate Paul Ryan, devotee of the objectivist philosophy dedicated completely to self-interest, is now complaining that too many people voted for their own self-interest as opposed to for the good of society as a whole.
But the most hypocritical aspect of Romney's assertions about the American electorate is that it completely ignores the obvious self-interests of his own base. Romney isn't so naive as to believe that the CEOs, NASCAR owners, casino magnates and banking industry types who funded his campaign and allied Super PACs were acting in the country's best interest. He knows that these donors spent their billions because they wanted a continuation or expansion of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and a reduction in the capital gains tax. They were not donating out of the goodness of their own hearts. They expected a return on their investment, and they didn't get it. Meanwhile, the entire strategy of the Romney campaign was dedicated to driving up turnout and racial resentment among white, working-class voters who were susceptible to the racism-tinged narrative that their hard-earned tax dollars were being wasted on freeloading minorities, and that Mitt Romney would fix it. Whether this supposed self-interest of these white working-class voters was based on facts or not is immaterial.
Either Mitt Romney is aware of his own hypocrisy and has no shame, or he has internalized that idea that voting one's self-interest is only acceptable for whites and the wealthy, while any effort to reach out to the self-interests of the youth, women and racial minorities constitutes a fractious and immoral pandering. Just like Politico's belief that only white voters constitute a "mandate," it's an idea based off of old biases, and one that doesn't reflect the reality of the new American electorate.
The Republican Party is viewed as the province of rich, old white men who are seeking to consolidate their power as much as possible; and ultimately, no matter how much money they pump into the electoral process, there will always be less of them than of everyone else. Even arch-conservative ideologues like Ramesh Ponnuru understand this dynamic, and are afraid for the future if it remains unchanged:
The perception that the Republican party serves the interests only of the rich underlies all the demographic weaknesses that get discussed in narrower terms. Hispanics do not vote for the Democrats solely because of immigration. Many of them are poor and lack health insurance, and they hear nothing from the Republicans but a lot from the Democrats about bettering their situation. Young people, too, are economically insecure, especially these days. If Republicans found a way to apply conservative principles in ways that offered tangible benefits to most voters and then talked about this agenda in those terms, they would improve their standing among all of these groups while also increasing their appeal to white working-class voters.The problem for Mr. Ponnuru, however, is that the ideas he presents—and thus, the choices facing the Republican Party—are mutually exclusive, precisely because conservative principles do not offer tangible benefits to most voters. They do not offer the most benefits to the women whom conservative leaders keep on calling sluts for wanting more access to birth control; they do not offer the most benefits to the working poor; they do not offer the most benefits to young voters struggling to pay off obscene amounts of debt; they do not offer the most benefit for Latinos who are concerned about immigration issues and their own economic realities; and they do not offer the most benefit for those who are dependent on the social safety net and are told that government has made them lazy and that cutting them off will force them to work harder for jobs that don't exist. Instead, conservative principles only offer the most benefits to suburban whites and the wealthy who seek more laissez-faire policies on taxes and regulation.
Everyone, at some level, votes their perceived self-interests. The problem facing conservatives is that there are now more of us than there are of them.