Political Animal


August 27, 2012 2:23 PM Obama’s Base

By Ed Kilgore

In the toxic little game the Romney/Ryan campaign is playing with its welfare attack line, the standard tactic when pressed on the mendacity of the claim is to shift to the alleged motive for the completely fabricated “gutting” of welfare reform. No less a personality than Mitt Romney himself offered it up in an interview with USAToday:

Romney defends the welfare ads as accurate, accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political calculation designed to “shore up his base” for the election.

TNR’s Tim Noah provides a translation, if any is needed:

President Obama doesn’t represent you; he represents a lot of people on welfare. And you know what they look like.

Tim mocks Romney spox Andrea Saul for suggesting Mitt’s talking not about welfare recipients, but about “President Obama’s liberal base … the people who believe the same way he does: that government is the solution to everything.”

There may actually be a grain of truth in Saul’s assertion that Romney wasn’t just talking about black folk: conservative activists have for decades argued that the “liberal base” of the Democratic Party is an alliance between a government-dependent “underclass” and “elites” determined to socialize the country who use po’ folk as their pawns. I have little doubt that one of the calculations that went into the decision to go with the welfare ads was the hope that “liberal elites” who weren’t that crazy about the 1996 welfare reform law might cheer the suggestion, false as it was, that Obama was “gutting” it, or at least foment disunity on the subject.

But make no mistake, the “top-bottom” alliance idea is an important part of conservative movement demonology, particularly for the movement’s latest cutting-edge Tea Party activists. That’s a big part of their inveterate Obama Hatred: the president is the incarnation of both the snooty secular-socialist “elites” and the minority underclass. So of course he’d take any opportunity imaginable to reflect the former’s determination to create as large a dependent class as is possible, and the latter’s antipathy to work. Both these elements of the “base,” needless to say, share a parasitical view of the good, virtuous white middle class—particularly those living out their well-earned comfortable retirement—as a cash cow for their avarice.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Dean on August 27, 2012 2:31 PM:

    This is a campaign of lies... I wonder why no one has asked Romney what his 'secret' plan for America is; since he refuses to share any detail of what his vision might be. I am paranoid of what delusions he may have.

    I thought the media was supposed to fight lies rather than spread them. Where is the real and honest debate of ideas?

  • FlipYrWhig on August 27, 2012 2:47 PM:

    Um, wasn't one of the waivers in question requested by the governor of Utah? If that's not the country's whitest and most Republican state, it's gotta be damn close.

  • mk3872 on August 27, 2012 3:12 PM:

    2 things that Romney was saying here:

    1. Obama's base is non-white and not the ubber-rich whom Romney represents

    2. Only big corporations and "job creators" should get gov't assistance like welfare thru tax breaks and incentives

  • RaflW on August 27, 2012 3:22 PM:

    Only a crap reporter (backed by a useless editor) can treat "accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political calculation" as a defense of Romney's welfare ads as accurate.
    The campaign played you, sucka reporter.

    Good g*d we have shitty press.

  • ericfree on August 27, 2012 3:27 PM:

    Tim mox Romney spox? Well, yeah, and Stix Nix Hix Flix.

  • rrk1 on August 27, 2012 4:22 PM:

    How many people will make the connection between 'liberal elites' and a non-white underclass is anyone's guess, but I suppose the campaign strategists think this way all the time. Whether anyone is going to change their vote, one way or another, because of this supposed connection is quite another.

    The racial dog whistle is being blown every time Ryan/Romney show their faces. They couldn't be any whiter. Their base is already fired up. They know who they are. Ryan/Romney don't have to be blatant about favoring rich white so-called 'real-Americans' over all the undeserving poor not-real-Americans of whatever color.

    Not only are rich people favored by god, but becoming rich is an example of survival, or triumph, of the fittest. So you have a religious explanation and a secular one, which says rich people are better than poor people. Forget about poor people, they are all losers.

    Social Darwinism is the Rethug mantra these days. And they're proud of it.

  • Doug on August 27, 2012 5:02 PM:

    There WAS a period when "liberal elites" united with the "underclass" - it was called the Great Depression. The last brought on by exactly the same mindset and policies that suffuse today's GOP. It also saw the beginning of a forty-year consensus about the role that government, local, state and Federal, should play in our lives. And not, I might add, a consensus today's Tealiban-based GOP wishes to revive, either.
    Which might explain the fear and hate that dominates today's GOP campaigns...

  • Robert Waldmann on August 27, 2012 6:27 PM:

    On "I have little doubt ... the hope that “liberal elites” "cheer". I tend to agree with you that this was part of the plan. But, if so, it shows the cost of running against the liberals in your head. For one thing, liberal elites tend to be fairly well informed and interested in facts. Hard to get liberal elites to fall for a blatant lie.

    For another, a very large fraction of those most inclined to denounce welfare reform are also inclined to denounce Obama (I'm thinking firebagger). Those who hate welfare reform (that is the 1996 reform which is what everyone but you means by the phrase) and are enthusiastic about Obama are not dumb enough to give them what they want (I mean name two ... I admit I am pretty big on the disunity with, well, you part).

  • Jeff on August 27, 2012 9:33 PM:

    I don't know what is more insulting, the implication that Obama's base are all on welfare, or that Andrea Saul thinks it is more palatable to imply that liberals actually want people to be on welfare. The Rs simply don't get it. They have cartoonish ideas on everything.

  • yellowdog on August 27, 2012 9:53 PM:

    Who says modern campaigns lack substance?

    Over the weeks Romney has been running these welfare lies, we've seen some of his characteristics as a leader:
    --Under pressure, he appeals to the lowest impulses and worst beliefs in society. He seeks to divide.
    --He does not want a well-informed public, or believe that facts do him any favors. If truth is inconvenient, he can ignore it. When necessary, he will just make stuff up. (GW Bush anyone?)
    --He whines when criticized.
    --He knows better, but he is desperate to win. If he is not comfortable around the crazies and the haters in his party, he has no trouble trying to use their enmity for his own purposes. (Yet those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.)
    --He is not strong enough as a leader to unit his party. In fact, he is not the leader of his party but a desperate-to-please follower of its multiple factions--and most all of them like this sort of nonsense.
    --He is not confident enough in his economic arguments to make the race about that. He knows he has to get people fired up for other reasons.

  • jpeckjr on August 27, 2012 11:18 PM:

    @yellowdog. Thank you for your insightful comment. Summed up many of my thoughts about Mr. Romney in a clear way.

  • paul on August 28, 2012 10:43 AM:

    "Top-bottom alliance" -- talk about projection. When you have billionaires convincing poor people to vote for more plutocracy because it will shaft other poor people with a different skin color or other favorite places to go sunday mornings, running a campaign based on some supposed conspiracy between the liberal elites and the underclass is, once again, a triumph.