By Ezra Klein
Ezra Klein: You’ve written about the revolt of the very rich against President Obama, and all the money they spent and time they dedicated to defeating him. So what’s the mood in those circles now that they’ve lost?
Chrystia Freeland: There’s a great joke on Wall Street which is that the bet on Romney is Wall Street’s worst bet since the bet on subprime. But I found the hostility towards Obama astonishing. I found the commitment to getting him out astonishing. I found the absolute confidence that it would work astonishing. On that Tuesday, the big Romney backers I was talking to were sure he was going to win. They were all flying into Logan Airport for the victory party. There’s this stunned feeling of how could we be so wrong, and a feeling of alienation.
The Romney comments to his donors, for which he was roundly pounced on by Republican politicians, I think they accurately reflected the view of a lot of these money guys. It’s the continuation of this 47 percent idea. They believe that Obama has been shoring up the entitlement society, and if you give enough entitlements to enough people, they’ll vote for you.
EK: Here’s my question about those comments. Romney was promising the very rich either a huge tax cut or, if you believe he would’ve paid for every dime and dollar of his cut, protection from any tax increases. He was promising financiers that he would roll back Dodd-Frank and Sarbanex-Oxley. He was promising current seniors that he wouldn’t touch their benefit. How are these not “gifts”?
CF: Let me be clear that I’m not defending any of them. But I think the way it works—and I think Romney’s comments were very telling in this regard — there are two differences in the mind of this class. First, they’re absolutely convinced that they’re not asking for special privileges for themselves. They’re convinced that it just so happens that their self-interest coincides perfectly with the collective interest. That’s where you get this idea of the “job creators.” The view is that to seek a low tax environment or less regulation, that’s not special pleading for yourself, it’s not transactional politics. It’s that this set of rules is the most conducive to economic growth for everybody. It will grow the pie. Now, it also happens to be an incredibly convenient way of thinking. If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.
EK: You and I spoke shortly before the election for a piece I was doing on Romney’s history as a manager. These folks, too, are purportedly very data focused, very good at assimilating new information. So I find it genuinely scary that neither Romney nor his super-rich backers had any idea he was going to lose. All the polls, all the models, all the betting markets said he was likely to lose. How did a group of people who, in their jobs, have to be willing to read and respond to disappointing data convince themselves to ignore every piece of data we had?
CF: That’s the single most astonishing thing. By his own definition, Romney’s single strongest qualification to become president was analytically based, managerial excellence. And if the election campaign were the test of that, and even if you were ideologically his fan, you should think it right that he lost. Now, how could it happen? My first thought was it was also the case that all the smartest guys in the room managed to lose a lot of money in 2008 and managed to convince themselves of a set of very mistaken beliefs about where the markets where going to go. It was a lot of the same people on the wrong side of both bets.
But I find it truly mystifying. I don’t claim to have particularly unique insight. I think it could be a combination of things. One is a generic belief that in order to run for president you have to think you’re going to win. You can’t do it otherwise. A second thing, and this is not so much about the rich guys as about the Republican Party in America, I think Republicans have felt since the time of Ronald Reagan that they are the party that represents the true America, and that the Democrats might sometimes win, but it’s kind of an aberration. And when it comes to the super-rich guy dimension, and I imagine this has happened to Obama as well, when you’re a rich and powerful guy, it can make it hard to see reality, especially when you’re paying your campaign staff great salaries, as Romney was.
By Josh Marshall
Josh’s blog posts recently from TPM readers JT, JB, and KE struck a nerve with me, especially the one from KE on being Asian-American and taking it personally when Republicans and conservatives attacked Obama. I am Indian-American, born and raised in Iowa (my childhood in Ames and Marshalltown and college years back to Ames) to immigrant parents. Obama’s heritage and identity as a racial minority is a big deal to me, no question, and was an attraction to me in 2007…he is the only Presidential candidate ever to get my money in a contested nomination fight, before he was the presumed nominee.
There is no question the Obama Presidency has exposed a lot of racism and xenophobia and religious bigotry among Republicans and conservatives, disturbingly more than I would’ve guessed. PPP was mocked early on in 2011 for their polls testing whether GOP primary voters in various states believed Obama was born in the U.S., whether he was a citizen, whether he was a Muslim…even whether he was the anti-Christ! At first I was dismissive of the some of the results because I’m well-aware that people are willing to give ridiculous answers to ridiculous questions. But then after one GOP Presidential primary debate, Frank Luntz on Fox News had a majority of Iowa GOP focus group members raise their hands in earnest when he asked, in earnest, whether they believed Obama was a Muslim.
And as time went on, it became clear in other polling that PPP early on was on to more than just snarky telephone survey replies, there really is a disturbingly large percentage of Republicans who are openly hostile to Obama specifically because of his race, his national origin, and his partial religious ancestry. That GOP electeds from Boehner to McConnell to all the GOP Presidential candidates were unwilling to call out any of it just reinforced the point, since it established they were afraid because these people were a very large part of the GOP base. You don’t worry about calling out your own party’s cranks in public if they’re marginal figures whose votes you don’t need and don’t think you’ll lose because they have no other options…Republican candidates and electeds know that they can lose primaries for openly challenging racial and other bigoted hostility toward Obama.
And all this is very personal to me. When I was a small child in Ames, Iowa, in my immigrant family, neighborhood teenagers assaulted our home regularly, pelting fruit and whatever else at our house. Several times my dad had the police come and lecture this group of kids. It was all about race, and these kids’ parents did nothing. So when Mitt Romney in a Michigan stump speech snarks that no one asked him for his birth certificate, and his GOP allies defend the racism as “just a joke,” when so many GOP federal and state electeds endorse or tacitly condone questioning of Obama’s citizenry and engage in other dog whistle racism, these are always personal attacks equally on me…if Obama is not an American and does not legitimately belong, then they’re saying the same about me.
I imagine I’m not alone, that people of color across the board see what I see, and the election results confirm this. It’s striking to me, and IMO underreported, that Obama clearly lost great amounts of white support in Florida and indeed his 37% in the exit poll with Florida whites has always been disastrous…and yet he wins the state with an absolute majority. It’s striking to me that the national exit poll has not only people of color increasing to 28% of the total, but also that it has both Hispanics and Asians giving over 70% to Obama. These things tell me that people of color across the board see what I see, an appalling racism and xenophobia in the Republican Party that is enraging.
Republicans just don’t get it
Hours after Stuart Stevens insults most Americans, Tom Davis credits Obama's victory to the "underclass"
By Joan Walsh
It was a calm, respectful conversation, until Davis volunteered that Romney lost because of Obama’s voter turnout operation–specifically, his ability to turnout “underclass minorities” and “particularly those who orient toward the city” who were “pulled out of the apartments.” Since we had been talking about the GOP’s problems with women and people of color, I respectfully offered Davis some “free advice”–that it might be time to retire the term “underclass.” It got worse.
Davis mumbled about the term not being “politically correct,” and when I referenced Stevens’s slur against people who make less than $50,000 a year, many of whom are actually middle class, Davis jumped in: “That’s not where the voter turnout came, if you know your voter stats, it was really people who were making even less than that, pulled out of the apartments…groups that traditionally haven’t voted.” (Yes, I caught the condescending “if you know your voter stats.”)
Davis’s “underclass minorities” remark has gotten a lot of attention–Salon flagged it and posted the video here–but I want to spend a moment on his concern about “groups that traditionally haven’t voted.” To be fair, Davis wasn’t accusing Democrats of voter fraud, the way other Republicans have. But he still seemed unsettled by the fact that the president turned out people who “traditionally haven’t voted”–who were “pulled out of the apartments” even! Yes, there are all sorts of hoary racial stereotypes jumbled up in those words, and class stereotypes as well.
Republicans don’t know what to do when “groups that traditionally haven’t voted” turn up at the polls. Because they know they lose. And this is an ancient struggle, predating this country’s founding but embedded in its DNA. We sometimes forget: There once were property requirements to vote in many states. It wasn’t until 1830, more than 50 years after our nation’s founding, that white men had universal suffrage (of course it took a lot longer for black men and longer still for women.) Even after that, we fought a long voting rights struggle against poll taxes and literacy tests and other ways to keep African Americans from voting in the South.
Because Republicans and the powers that be know one thing: If every eligible voter actually voted, we would live in a very different, much more just and more fair world. A world with less economic suffering and much more opportunity. Even allowing for the fact that some working class people don’t vote their own economic interests, whether because of culture or religion or race: If we made sure that lower-income people voted in the same proportion that upper income people do, the GOP would be on an even faster path to extinction than it is currently.
That’s what accounts for the new GOP push for restrictive voting laws. Republicans are no longer talking as much about “fraud,” which has been proven to be virtually non-existent; they’re owning up to the fact that the new laws are intended to suppress the turnout of minorities and poor people who came out to vote in record numbers in 2008 and then again in 2012. Those folks who were “pulled out of the apartments” by the Obama campaign.
By Jason Easley
Mitt Romney’s lasting legacy is that he confirmed to the rest of America what it had long suspected. Those old, rich, conservative white guys who are looking to buy elections view the rest of the country with contempt. When these men say they want their country back, they really mean that they think they are entitled to run the show. Women belong in the kitchen. Young people should stop being lazy and get a job. African Americans are invisible, and Latinos are criminals who should be prosecuted and/or (self) deported.
Naming Mitt Romney the least influential person of 2012 isn’t kicking a man when he is down. It is telling the truth about a presidential nominee who had done so little, yet felt entitled to so much.
O'Reilly confirms he's a racist
Letters to Romney on "stuff"
Republican says black voters = fraud
Romney: Obama gave "gifts" to win
White men lose to demographic change
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