The 47%: A Gaffe
By Lauren Green
Americans long for political candidates who act less like politicians. American voters desire authenticity. Personally, I've found that nothing feels better than casting my vote for someone I trust.
Unfortunately, most politicians are happy to bend the facts, “change their minds,” and present different façades at different times if it means moving forward in their career. An example of this typical behavior came this past week.
Mitt Romney faced an unflattering exposure when someone released a tape they secretly recorded at a private fundraiser. Despite the Romney camp’s attempts at damage-control, he certainly hasn’t come out of this looking more presidential. Even Romney himself, while standing by his comments, admits that his words were not delivered “eloquently.”
Some have tried to explain away Romney’s remarks, and others have exaggerated reports by insisting that Romney’s meaning was more menacing than his words actually implied. The most criticized remarks in the Romney speech were those made about Americans who Romney says have already determined to vote for Obama.
Romney stated, “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it … and so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
These comments are more incriminatory when you consider that they were delivered during a $50,000-per-plate fundraising dinner. If Romney would like to claim that 47% of the country refuses to take responsibility for their lives, then perhaps he should find a way to tell them that openly instead of behind closed doors at an event they couldn’t afford even if they saved their whole year’s salary.
Frankly, Romney made a big slip-up by deciding to be so flippant about 47% of the nation. But at the same time, you would have to be delusional to believe that Romney is the only one with similar public gaffes.
Back in 2008, Obama was the one temporarily in hot water for remarks criticizing Americans. Speaking at a San Francisco fundraiser, Obama referred to small-town, working-class citizens by saying, “it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Naturally, many took offense to Obama’s comments, because his words insinuated that America’s working class was embittered and bigoted.
Much like Romney, Obama stood by his statements while seceding that they were not well-phrased. And, much like has happened with Romney’s recent statements, Obama’s words were explained away by some and exaggerated by others. In actuality, the statements by Obama in 2008 and those made by Romney are very similar in that they expose both men to be career politicians. Both men package their message very differently depending upon the crowd they find themselves in.
Unfortunately, American voters do not have the luxury of only voting for completely genuine, totally transparent individuals. But the fact that candidates are flawed does not negate our responsibility as citizens to cast our vote on Election Day. Both Romney and Obama have made their gaffes, and they will undoubtedly make more. Both candidates will have a silver tongue when it suits them, and both will be more candid when they feel comfortable doing so.
Regardless, voter responsibility stays the same. We must examine the candidates and make a decision based on their character and the direction in which they plan to move the country. Voters shouldn’t be so naïve to believe that a candidate can avoid missteps. No one is perfect, and if you aren’t willing to vote for someone who has been caught saying something inappropriate, unkind, or just plain stupid, then you will soon find that there’s not a candidate upstanding enough to meet your standards.