Repeating his losing message
- Last Updated: 11:08 PM, November 15, 2012
- Posted: 10:09 PM, November 15, 2012
It is often said of those who lose elections that (to paraphrase Shakespeare) nothing so becomes them as the leaving of the contest — when they make a gracious concession, talk of the greatness of our system, then exit the stage.
Mitt Romney seemed to achieve this with his exemplary conduct and lovely speech on election night. Then, on Wednesday, just eight days later, he went and mucked it all up.
Thanks to a phone call to supporters in which he mused on the reasons for his defeat, the man whom many thought nine days earlier would be president is being treated with scorn and contempt by Republicans and conservatives who supported him.
And deservedly so.
Romney didn’t say on that call that the election had come out as it did because Obama’s team had outplayed and outfoxed his. He should have, because that’s the truth.
Rather, he said that Obama had won the second term essentially through bribery — or what he called “gifts.” According to The New York Times, Romney said Obama had pulled out an “old playbook” to woo “the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
Obama and his team, Romney said, were“very generous in what they gave to those groups.” He mentioned certain immigration reforms the White House designed without the need for congressional vote and ObamaCare policies mandating free contraception and extending a child’s ability to stay on his parents’ insurance to the age of 26.
By contrast, Romney said, he talked about “big” national issues: “military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.” So, compared to the “gifts,” he just couldn’t compete.
Aside from being bad sportsmanship — Romney basically said Obama won by cheating — he was displaying the same obtuseness about the wants and needs of ordinary people that did more to torpedo his campaign than any goodies Obama might have had to dole out.
Bobby Jindal, the brilliant and effective governor of Louisiana, raged against Romney in response. The former candidate was “absolutely wrong,” he said. Romney was “dividing the American voters.” Republicans, Jindal asserted, “need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream.”
As the Republican nominee, it was Romney’s job to find a way to speak to some of those groups of voters and offer practical solutions to their difficulties that both resonated with them and sounded plausible to them.
His campaign may have been about “big” issues, but the solutions he offered were more asserted than demonstrated. He was going to help create 12 million jobs, he said. He had a plan, he said. But that plan relied mainly on tax cuts, which would have little direct effect on young people yet to be employed or minorities whose incomes tend not to be high enough to enjoy a personal benefit from them.
His vision of a better America than Obama’s was one that rewarded success rather than penalized it and gave running room to entrepreneurs to realize the American dream.
But such a vision isn’t actually inclusive. It speaks to those whose energies will likely make them successes no matter what they do — and says little to people who don’t think of life in such dynamic terms.
Many people crave security and stability rather than risk-taking, and that doesn’t make them any less American. They are the workers rather than the job creators, and all societies need both.
Romney is right that the Obama vision is too centered on government. But his is too centered on the promotion of business and wealth creation at the expense of everything else.
The American dream, as Jindal said, is achieved just as readily by a person who moves from poverty into the middle class as it is by someone who builds a small business. Indeed, that social mobility is probably more reflective of the enduring nature of the American dream than an individual burst of creative success.
The inability to grasp this essential fact was Romney’s great weakness as a candidate. It implicitly led him to the signal blunder that probably cost him the presidency — the video in which he said that he couldn’t reach 47 percent of the electorate because they had grown too dependent on government and viewed themselves as victims.
His comments on Tuesday suggested that, despite two months desperately trying to convince Americans he had misspoken, the 47-percent remark was an honest reflection of his view of the electorate.
Romney is a good, intelligent, extraordinarily generous man who put on a great fight. But he didn’t understand the country or the people he sought to lead, and that is why he lost.Follow @NYPostOpinion