Romney’s “47%” scandal is about campaign finance, not presidential politics
The remarks Mitt Romney made at a Florida fundraiser - that 47% of Americans were dependent on government and would vote for President Obama no matter what - were not surprising in their substance. This is a line the right has been pushing for at least the last several years, and continues a long-running strategy. Nor is it surprising that Mitt Romney would adopt this line while talking to a group of rich conservative donors; Mitt Romney is not exactly known for his ideological consistency, and probably any presidential candidate would throw out the most red-meaty line they could at a big-money fundraiser. When Obama refuses to gladhandle big gets in this way, after all, we freak out about him not being good at fundraising.
And that, way more than what he said, is the problem. Presidential campaigns are now so long and so expensive that candidates have to push on donors harder and harder and harder, and so turn to language that goes far beyond their official positions - language that, in the age of digital technology, almost inevitably ends up being visible to the wider public. Some seem outraged that Mitt Romney would feel this way, but since when have Mitt Romney’s statements meant much beyond an indication that such statements were politically expedient at that particular moment? (A lot of the coverage is using the video as a way to advance the “Romney is toast” narrative rather than critique the points.) The problem, instead, is that money is now so important that he has to spend more time saying these sort of things in private than he does giving his official policy positions in public. The influence of big-money donors distorts what positions get heard, driving the way we talk about issues into these weird, freaky-outy corners. There are legitimate differences between the Democratic and Republican positions, ones that should get hashed out. But as long as our economic debate is framed by what 25 rich assholes in some hotel conference room want to hear, that’s never going to happen.