Don’t give Mitt Romney any credit for speaking to the NAACP on Wednesday as a GOP presidential nominee. He merits none.
After all, the organization has a longtime tradition of inviting candidates from both parties to speak at their annual convention, one that started back in the 1920s. Many of them accept the invitation and speak, just as Sen. John McCain did in 2008. President Bush moseyed on by in 2000 with his Texas presidential candidate swagger, but didn’t return until three years into his second term after Hurricane Katrina became Bush’s “come to Jesus” moment.
But this isn’t the same contest from eight years ago, or even four years ago. Not in the least. You see, Romney wasn’t speaking to the annual convention to extend that ever elusive Republican olive branch to black voters in attendance.
He was speaking at them. Because the real audience is the one that I wagered Romney would actually address: a flock of tea party sympathizers who, for the most part, happen to be white.
Now, you know me at this point (and if you don’t here’s an introduction), I tend to err away from lumping all people into one silo for the sake of simplicity. But since Romney went and played the race card via race baiting, we’re just going to have to take the gloves off, but only for the sake of showing the reality of what we’re hearing.
So this is a man, a former governor and business owner, who has the audacity to enter the NAACP’s convention and sit on the typical stump message of repealing the healthcare law. Did he expect to get booed? Oh, I’m sure he did! He’s in cahoots with with folks like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who didn’t make constituent service his top priority, but rather to get Obama out of office. He has said it time and time again.
At least Sen. McCain and his campaign in ’08 had enough self-awareness (well, at least before selecting Palin as a running mate) to address the NAACP convention in a different way. He fully acknowledged the historic nature of the campaign and focused on an issue largely agreed upon by blacks from either party: education reform. McCain came in with a message with implications for closing the achievement gap, bridging economic disparities and other tangible issues remedied to some degree by improving the education system.
But again, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to how blacks responded. Per most reports, 95% of black voters did what most folks thought they would do in the voting booth. Even knowing that, Romney and his handlers threw caution to the wind and dared to enter in the NAACP’s house and dis their guy.
Take a look at what he said at a rally stop in Montana later on that day:
“By the way, I had the privilege of speaking today at the NAACP convention in Houston and I gave them the same speech I am giving you … When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.”
So Romney just continues showing how heartless he can really be. Then again, I thought of him during the GOP primary as the Tin Man, and you can probably guess who played the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.
But, for now, let’s put aside for a second the actual letter of the law itself. The nuts and bolts of the policy itself aren’t at issue in Romney’s statement, especially since he continues his speech discussing his vague laundry list of things “I am thinking of cutting.”
And then Romney chose a few big mouths to many too do his dirty work, cause some of those 200 conservatives ‘black VIPs’ he allegedly planted for some good ‘ole crowd control unwittingly blew his cover. (Then again, one such VIP canary – Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll – is currently embroiled in scandal for allegedly blowing things little too much…)
I wonder how much that must’ve cost him to get all those folks there as a bloc? Then again, he’s got some serious class privilege issues that he hasn’t come to terms with, so perhaps his alleged deceptive tactic aimed at skewing public perception for the price of lunch money was merely an afterthought.
But what’s clearly deceptive is how he accepts an open invitation to speak from the NAACP, one always extended as a courtesy to both party’s candidates, only to bait them for a “boo” and then go and whine about it later among folks who just want to hear some good news about their families, their livelihoods and their futures.
And instead of politely shrugging off the “boos” and staying on message, which hasn’t changed before or after his unlikely convention address, he instead slides in the stereotype of blacks as welfare mongers just itching for a government handout. The way he talks, you’d think all black people never worked a day in their lives for anything. Let alone if you’re from Montana, a state with .05% black residents. That’s about 5,000 out of nearly 1,000,000 residents. Mhmmm.
Even though he addressed a likely crowd of tea party sympathizers, it’s important not to necessarily lump them completely in with Romney on this one. It’s easy to trudge up stereotypes to folks who may very well not understand or be educated about black history other than the obvious (i.e. slavery and segregation). While Obama’s entry into the White House is a narrative even folks like “Joe the Plumber” could understand in terms of historic importance, it takes time and open discussions to bridge those gaps of (mis)understanding.
Although the Montana audience sure enough wanted good news on the economic front, there’s a problem when the weatherman is getting the forecast wrong. You just can’t follow a leader who’s about as jaded, jacked up and unjust as they come when it pertains to alleviating economic disparities through sound government policy, let alone one who stoops to racial tropes for vote building. That or Romney just can’t make up his mind over whether or not he’d like to play angel or demon with his pandering, flip-flop politics on healthcare reform. He’ll do just about anything and spend just about anybody’s money to get a position to which he feels entitled.
If Romney got elected (ha!) I wonder if he’d feel that the White House is just a shack. Then again, that’s something he would get FOR FREE from taxpayers by virtue of being POTUS. Would he pay for his own stay and expenses as the lavish White House? Probably not.
Perhaps Romney – and the rest of us – can take a cue from Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor and the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you!
But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.
But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Editor’s Note: Thank you all for your patience as I begin regularly posting again. I’m excited to return to my keyboard after some time away for the holiday and other life transitions meriting another brief hiatus. This post was edited to reflect the address occurring on Wednesday, rather than yesterday (Thursday).