Sep 18, 2012
46 notes

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.

It’s somewhat frustrating when liberal left-wing outlets make such a huge deal about the rhetoric of politicians rather than the system, the web of relations that produces the need for certain kinds of rhetoric. As Michael pointed out, the more interesting problem for the continued operation and perceived legitimacy of liberal democracy is campaign finance, not the words that fall out of candidates from our two party system. See Laurence Lessig’s Rootstrikers for that kind of stuff.

  1. mindlessmunkey reblogged this from monkeytypist
  2. jenyfly reblogged this from barthel
  3. monkeytypist reblogged this from barthel
  4. hardcorefornerds reblogged this from barthel and added:
    This is a very sensible point, but as important as it is to look beyond the rhetoric to the structures behind it, if...
  5. dropouthangoutspaceout reblogged this from barthel and added:
    It’s somewhat frustrating when liberal left-wing outlets make such a huge deal about the rhetoric of politicians rather...
  6. lastbutnotleast reblogged this from nedraggett and added:
    In 2008, I don’t remember people knowing that Lehman Brothers was the end of the McCain campaign. While I try not to get...
  7. sarahlaughsallthetime reblogged this from barthel
  8. summeromegadeth reblogged this from barthel and added:
    He’s a Whore
  9. nedraggett reblogged this from barthel and added:
    Nicely said, all in all. As Max Read was noting on Twitter last night, this isn’t the ‘game over’ moment at all, just a...
  10. peachtreekeen reblogged this from barthel
  11. barthel posted this
Nonstop Maoist hymns, patriotic power ballads & shrill exhortations at all hours. Toronto-based PhD Student in Communication & Culture @ Ryerson/York.

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