Stick a fork in it, it’s done.
After months of campaigning, negative ads, multiple frontrunners and more mistakes than Prince Phillip making a speech in front of the United Nations, Rick Santorum has announced he is suspending his campaign which leaves Mitt Romney as the inevitable Republican nominee for the general election. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are still technically, but to be honest I think Gingrich is still running to keep his name out there and to sell books and as for Ron Paul, his delegate strategy has failed to come anywhere close to what he needs to compete with the big boys.
So now the conversation can change from the primaries to the general election, and, more importantly to Romney, how exactly he can win. This is not a question so easily answered. In order to get the lead he now has, he has had to cozy up to a lot of controversial groups and politicians, such as Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who is currently facing a recall election in June for a bill that stripped unions of their collective bargaining rights among other things, and the National Organization for Marriage, who endorsed Mitt not long after Santorum suspended his campaign. NOM have been in a lot of hot water since internal documents were released that detail their campaign to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” and “accomplish a sophisticated cultural objective: interrupt the attempt to equate gay with black, and sexual orientation with race” in order to break up the democratic vote and more easily pass their anti-gay legislation. He also has the support of former Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce who crafted Arizona’s controversial immigration law who himself was subject to a recall election (and was ultimately voted out of office).
Romney has gone so far to the right in the primaries that if he tries to court centrist or independent voters in the general election he will risk alienating his far right supporters and be yet another extension to the problem that has dogged him for years – that he changes his opinion depending on who he’s talking to. Never was that more clear that when senior Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom was asked on CNN whether Romney had moved to far to the right for the general election. He replied “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign…Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”
But let’s forget his previous opinions, numerous as they are, and instead concentrate on the positions that he has taken this time around, and the problems he faces in trying to pull himself back from the precipice of another Republican general election failure. In order to win the presidency, he will have to either stick to his guns, pull back some of these opinions or just flat out say he doesn’t have those beliefs anymore, none of which play well with certain parts of the electorate.
Lets start with Latinos. Early in the year during a presidential debate Romney was asked about his plans to deal with illegal immigration and he said “Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide that they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.” I don’t know how this would work exactly, but according to Eric Fehrnstrom this would work by cutting off their employment, their benefits and any in state tuition they may receive.
Seeing as Latinos are the largest minority group in the US with some 47 million people and 32% of Latinos say they know someone who has been deported or detained by the federal government in the past 12 months this policy could be seen as cruel, a further demonization of illegals and the wrong way to go with regards to immigration reform, especially as 53% think unauthorized immigrants should not be deported. Any support he gets from the right over this issue looks like it will be cancelled out by Latinos who have firsthand experienced discrimination, prejudice and had friends and family detained and views this as more of the same placating to the anti-immigration crowd. If you add to that the 81% who believe that life in the US is better than their home countries of countries of their ancestors it’s hard to see how Romney’s plan could work out. Add to that the endorsement of Russell Pearce and you have a man who desperately wants to be seen as super tough on immigrants.
He is also against the DREAM act and has said, as President he would veto the law if it passed congress. The DREAM act lays out a path to citizenship for illegal minors who serve in the military or attend college. You would think having more educated hard working young men and women in the services and/or at college would be a good thing but Romney doesn’t. Defending his stance he said “”I think people, whether they’re Hispanic or non-Hispanic, I think people agree that we’ll enforce immigration laws in part to secure legal immigration as an important pathway to this country…I like legal immigration, I want more legal immigration. But illegal immigration has to be stopped to make legal immigration possible.”
So apparently wants more legal immigration but would veto a bill that would make a lot of illegal immigrants legal? Even immigrants who fight and put their lives on the line for that country? Isn’t that the least we could do for them? Newt Gingrich, for all his faults, has been the only republican presidential candidate who supports this act and one of the only times I would agree with him on something. 54% of Americans support this bill, they agree that if you are willing to educate yourself and become a productive member of society and/or go overseas, protect the country and risk your life then you should be allowed to become a citizen. I hope this gets brought up before the election because it will be fun to see how Romney reacts to trying to win the votes of more than just a very select group of Republicans.
Onto his tax plan. Anyone who shows even a cursory interest in American politics will know that Republicans are primarily the party of big business, the party of the rich, so it seems fitting that the richest man who has ever run for President multiple times over, a man who cut his teeth in the private equity sector would be in the Republican camp. In recent years we have seen an even more aggressive stance on tax cuts for the rich; from trying to make the Bush tax cuts permanent to painting the wealthiest millionaires and billionaires as “job creators” and “small business owners”. Romney has been cozying up to U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the author of the controversial Republican budget plan which would try to solve the problem of an ever-growing deficit by hitting hard a lot of programs used by the poor, including food stamps and education, would give those making more than $1 million an average tax cut of $265,000 and down the line would change Medicare to a voucher system where people would have to buy private insurance on their own and spending would be capped. Ryan and Romney campaigned together extensively in Wisconsin before their primary and Romney has said that he and Ryan are “on the same page.”
This shows in Romney’s tax plan which would make the Bush Tax cuts permanent, reduce the top rate of tax from 35% to 28%, cut the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% and would scale back “tax expenditures”, whatever they may be. As you can probably gather this is not going to go do much for the poorest Americans, but it’s even worse than that. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which is “one of the nation’s premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals”, analyzed Romney’s proposals and found out that for people earning less than $10,000 a year taxes will actually go up by $113, for those earning between $10,000 and $20,000 taxes will go up by $174 and for those making between $20,000 and $30,000 taxes will go up by $13 dollars. On the other side of the divide, those making more than $1 million will see them gain an extra $250,535.
This doesn’t surprise me; Mitt is clearly looking out for his uber-rich friends and allies who fund his campaign. Mitt comes from a privileged background; he is so out of touch with the average American he thinks joking around about when his father closed down a factory in Michigan is an acceptable thing to do. He travels around in rich circles and has absolutely no idea what it’s like to be poor and live from paycheck to paycheck. Coming off as aloof and distant has followed him for years and he’s never really learnt how to relate to anyone that doesn’t have a beach house in Maui.
I really hope this point gets a lot more traction in the coming months. Everyone should see Romney’s plan to increase taxes on the poorest Americans while giving the wealthiest a massive tax cut. Millionaires and billionaires may have the most money but they only have one vote each. I defy any poor American to vote for Mitt Romney knowing under him they will have to pay more in order that the wealthiest citizens have an extra quarter of a million dollars.
And how would he pay for these massive tax cuts you ask? Well speaking to his rich buddies at a private estate he said he would look to the department of education and the department of housing and urban development for cuts. Because if there are two things people don’t need, it’s education and housing! Honestly, I don’t see how cutting education and urban housing can be anything but a bad idea. The US is already 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics according to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment report; does Romney want America to slip even more behind developed countries? Educating the young and giving them the skills and tools to succeed in life is good for them, good for the economy and good for the country overall, and that is the part of the budget Mitt Romney thinks needs cutting in order for the richest people to buy another Ferrari.
The same thing with urban housing. Getting people into sustainable affordable housing will give people the confidence, safety and security they need to get on with life and contribute more to society, what’s not to like? But then, this is a program that helps the poorest Americans, perhaps Mitt just thinks “I don’t see what the big deal is, why don’t they just go and move to their second home?” Romney is going after things he thinks his donors and supporters would like, that seems to be the only reason because seeing as education and HUD combined is less than 5% of the budget it won’t even make a dent, especially when he wants to increase defense spending.
This is a guy that doesn’t worry about the poor because they have a safety net. This is a problem I think a lot of Republicans have. They seem to have this idea that poor people are getting money hand over fist from the government and live in some kind of TARDIS-infused housing where they look shabby and derelict on the outside but on the inside are as lush and opulent as any house in Beverly Hills. 46.2 million people are in poverty, they don’t want to be there, being poor is not a glamorous lifestyle. Mitt Romney is gravely mistaken about the lives of the poor and it’s gonna cost him (no pun intended). Also, if he doesn’t worry about the poor because of the safety net why is he trying to tear bigger holes in it?! He also said he isn’t worried about the very rich which gave me a chuckle, but let’s move on.
So that’s Latinos, poor people and anyone who wants their children to get a decent education, what about women? He has said he supported adding a constitutional amendment that defines life at conception, eliminating all forms of abortion and even some birth control options. It has also recently come out that while speaking to a Manchester audience he thinks poor mothers who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits should be forced to work or else lose their benefits. “Even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work” Romney said. He also remarked he wants women “to have the dignity of work” which is rather strange given the extreme push-back that the Romney campaign gave to Hilary Rosen, a democratic strategist on CNN who said that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life”. “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work” said Ann Romney on twitter. She also said on Fox News that “we need to respect choices that women make”; something that her husband obviously doesn’t believe in. This brings up a question: does Mitt think his wife lacks dignity as she has never entered the workplace? Ironically he seems to use the word ‘work’ as flippantly as Rosen did while assuming people knew the context of what he meant, he then attacks her for it. Double standards anyone?
Unsurprisingly Mitt wants to eliminate yet another choice for poor women and force them to work. This seems to be yet another example of alienating voters and being completely out of touch. Evidently women are only allowed to stay home and raise their kids if they have tens of millions of dollars in the bank. If you are broke, living in a 1-bedroom apartment and get assistance from the government? You need to work for that pittance!
Onto gay marriage. He did support full equality for gays and lesbians while seeking a seat in the senate in 1994 (he famously said he would be better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy), but in a turn that will shock no-one, he has now ‘come out’ against gay marriage and has said he wants to add yet another amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as a union between a man and a women. It’s odd then that some of Romney’s donors do actually support same-sex marriage and have actually given money in order for it to be passed. This is probably the position I think has the least chance of moving because the base is so vehemently opposed to such measures that any change could be very well be the last straw for them in voting for him.
However on the plus side it does seem like at least some evangelicals are lining up behind Romney, presumably because he is the lesser of two evils. Robert Jeffress, The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas has just endorsed him even though last year he referred to Mormonism as a cult. He, along with others such as Rob Schenck, the president of the National Clergy Council have gotten behind Mitt Romney even though they have the same reservations about him a lot of others do. From questioning his policies to outright attacking his religion, evangelicals have made it clear the problems they have with him. Whether they will turn out in droves for Romney remains to be seen.
Is it any wonder that with so much to hate for so many in a new poll Obama is leading Romney by sixteen points among women and nine points overall? Granted it should be more, but I’m hoping once people realize what Romney would really be like as president and what he would enact gets more airtime that lead will increase dramatically.
It does seem like Mitt is in a tug-o-war competition between his past and present, fighting for the prize he has wanted for years, if not decades. It’ll be interesting to see how Mitt Romney pivots from the things he said in the primaries to trying to win over more moderate Americans. What will he say? Will he take back anything back? How far to the centre will he go? Only time will tell.