Good grief. In a phone call to donors, Mitt Romney explained his defeat by referring to the “free stuff” that Democrats give their constituencies. He said that Obama’s strategy was to “give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government.”
I don’t deny the importance of pork. I lived for 20 years in Nebraska, and so I’m not unfamiliar with the “extraordinary gifts” known as agricultural policy. But it seems that today’s Republican Party is dominated by a perverse economic materialism that’s positively Marxist in its mechanical determinism. The idea that black or Hispanic voters tilt heavily Democratic because they’re “bought” by government handouts reflects a mentality that is extremely ideological. Hasn’t Mitt Romey ever heard of Lyndon Johnson. His “gift” to blacks was the Civil Rights Act. Or Barry Goldwater, the Republican who ran against him in 1964. He voted against the Civil Rights Act.
What today’s Republican Party can’t seem to get its mind around is that globalization has disoriented and disadvantaged large portions of American society, just as industrialization did more than one hundred years ago. Democrats aren’t “creating dependency” by inventing social programs, they’re responding to the social reality in the way progressives have for more than a century. I’m not in favor of the progressive approach, but the fantasy that politics is simply about everybody getting the best deal for themselves is absurd. We have an instinct for solidarity, not just self interest.
David Axelrod is right. Romney’s post-election remarks suggest that he’s stuck in the 47% mentality. It’s a gray place, one that essentially says that Blacks, Hispanics, and other who voted for Barack Obama aren’t concerned about the common good, but just about themselves. Not a message likely to win their votes any time soon.