When Mitt Romney announced he was set to address the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), some people were left scratching their head. Why would Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, go to address a demographic that he simply had no chance of getting a tenth of their support let alone winning?
At first, I thought it was actually a move to signify respect to the organization. The Republican Party, in its 2012 incarnation, has taken steps to support new Voter ID laws which has had some analysts painting it as a way to disenfranchise minority voters—including African-Americans. So maybe Mr. Romney was going to attempt to “mend fences” so to speak with the community or maybe he just saw it as a way to introduce himself to potential voters who have never seen him.
Well, if those were your theories; Mr. Romney helped prove that they were wrong with his speech today.
Mitt Romney used today as a stump speech, like most candidates do in any other situation. He didn’t distance himself from his party on certain issues nor did he offer any concrete solutions to anything from healthcare to unemployment amongst any racial group. In fact, in his 24-minute speech (which at times found polite applause) Mr. Romney sounded like someone who was talking to an entirely different audience than the one seated before him.
The most memorable moment of his speech will surely be the chorus of boos that rained down on Mr. Romney after he uttered this quote:
I’m going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program I can find,” Romney said. “That includes Obamacare.
Yes, the utterance of repealing “Obamacare” (which House Republicans voted to repeal for the umpteenth time) predictably went over poorly. When used as “Obamacare”, the Affordable Care Act has a partisan meaning to it and in the context of Mr. Romney’s quote; it was clearly a derogatory statement to use.
But Mitt Romney is no idiot. He knew exactly what he was saying and which audience that quote was tailor-made for.
Let’s take a brief voyage into the political wayback machine and go to the first debate before the South Carolina Republican primary in late-January. Mitt Romney, who was thought to have won Iowa & New Hampshire, seemed like he was ready to checkmate the field in the Palmetto State. Rick Santorum’s campaign was reeling, the triumvirate of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry & Jon Huntsman, Jr. had dropped out and Ron Paul was off to Nevada to campaign in preparation for their caucuses. But Newt Gingrich had other plans.
In what was seen as a clear example of race-baiting, Newt Gingrich assaulted poverty and disturbingly made some parallels to African-Americans and welfare. While many normal people were squirming in their seats at the thinly-disguised comments, the audience in South Carolina was going absolutely gangbusters. Gingrich would later trump Romney handedly in the primary & the race was back on as they field headed to Florida.
But Romney seems to have learned from his “mistakes” (if one has the audacity to call not race-baiting a mistake) as he shifts into general election mode.
After his speech with the NAACP today, Mitt Romney made his way to a fundraiser in Montana where he offered this telling quote:
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.
Make no mistake, that line to the NAACP’s subject was not “Obamacare”. No, not at all. It was what came before it that means far much more in this current context.
I’m going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program I can find
Yes, Mitt Romney is implying everything that Newt Gingrich implied to South Carolinian voters. This was not a rebuke of the Affordable Care Act per se, but this was Mitt Romney chastising welfare, food stamps and everything else that could be associated with it.
You see when Mitt Romney says “free stuff”, he isn’t implying healthcare at all. This is implying that social benefits such as unemployment, welfare and food stamps are nothing but a free handout to the unwilling and the lazy. You see now?
This was not a speech to the NAACP….nor was it even a speech to independent voters or Republican Party loyalists. This was a speech to the dark underbelly of America, and part of me thinks the message was received by them as well.