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Mitch on Mitt

As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal,  Ricochet’s own Mitch Daniels, in his final month as governor of Indiana, speaking last Friday at a forum sponsored by the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale:

Gov. Daniels said, “In one of those imaginary private occasions that no longer exist for people in public life, Governor Romney memorably discussed the 47% of Americans who, he said, are dependent on government and therefore would never vote for him. In his post-mortem after the election, he reportedly extended this theme, saying that too many people had allowed their votes to be bought with promises of someone else’s money….”

“I believe that the self-inflicted fatal blow of Mr. Romney’s statement came among Americans who find themselves in receipt of some form of government transfer, but reject or even despise the notion that they are permanent parasites for doing so. Think of people on Social Security earned through a lifetime of honest toil; of men thrown out of work by a reeling, mismanaged economy and desperately trying to find new employment while on unemployment insurance; of young families, including active duty military personnel, working hard but still accepting food stamps which, for the moment, they legitimately need to provide adequately for their families.”

Said Mr. Daniels, “My take, as a practitioner, is that millions of Americans thought they heard Mr. Romney label them as parasites on society, and said not ‘Yes, and I deserve it’ but ‘Hell, no, that’s not me.’ Whatever he intended, the candidate deeply offended countless citizens” and “the blunder was never corrected and in fact was exacerbated, by a staggering tone-deafness to the language and the fears of average Americans….

“And in language that entirely overlooks and omits the most powerful appeal available: ‘We believe in you, and your ability to decide for yourself, and they don’t.’”

Which, come to think of it, represents the best succinct test of rising Republican talent: Who has the guts and forthrightness to say “We believe in you, and they don’t”?  Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Kelly Ayotte, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley–that’s half a dozen right there.

Mitch may be departing from the public theater–next month he’ll become president of Purdue–but by his own standards those entering, so to speak, stage right, look good.

  1. Salamandyr

    The 47% line may have been blunt, but I think it’s essentially true.  The critical problem the GOP has is not to abandon that truth, but to make it somehow palatable to the citizens of the US.  Because we cannot afford any more of “I deserve this!”.

  2. Mendel

    What still frustrates me about the “47%” remark is that for the life of me, I cannot believe Romney meant it.  Simply based on the depth of kindness and humanity the man exuded toward his fellow human, it is inconceivable to me that he actually held so many of his compatriots in such low regard.

    I fear that, as so often, the politically insecure Romney felt he would be best served by telling an audience what he thought they wanted to hear, regardless whether he agreed with the statement or not.  “Let Mitt be Mitt” might have been a good strategy for private events as well.

    Water over the dam, obviously.  But it still hurts to think he may have blown the election by being too insecure to be himself.

  3. BrentB67

    There is a lot of truth in the 47% statement and while certainly not all of those in that group are ‘parasites’ there are a very large number that are. I refuse to believe that in the most prosperous nation on earth there are more people than the population of Spain that can’t feed themselves and receive food stamps. 99 weeks of unemployment? Everyone can do something. It may not be glamorous and pay a lot less, but laying the hammock for 99 weeks is the definitition of parasite.

  4. Leslie Watkins

    Frankly, I don’t find Mitch’s insight very insightful. Kind of easy, actually, however much one agrees that the positive case was not made, or at least that it was not made well.

  5. I. raptus

    The main issue with the 47% comment is that, no matter whether he meant it or what he meant by it, it’s a huge turn-off, even for a lot of people who are not receiving benefits.  It was a dumb thing to say, and he should have known better.  And, as Gov. Daniels says, when caught on it, he doubled down, rather than clarify in any useful way.

    Was it the statement that lost him the campaign?  Maybe, maybe not.  Is it going to be remembered as it?  Probably.  Is it indicative of why he lost?  Yes.  Gov. Romney is a (very) rich guy who said a bunch of off-putting things emphasizing his wealth and talked an awful lot about not hiking taxes on the rich and businesses.  I agree with those policies, but you have to talk about the little guy more.  Romney couldn’t do that often enough or convincingly, and gaffes like the “47%” comment were disastrous since they emphasize that stereotype.

    Come on.  If you’re a Romney supporter and you didn’t facepalm at the “47%” comment, you’re not seeing how people need to get elected in general elections these days.

  6. Nick Stuart

    If Daniels is so very smart, and knows so very much about it, and has the whole scene covered, and has absolutely nothing in his past that he has ever said or done that the Obama smear machine could have distorted and dropped into the mainstream media echo chamber, and would have been so much more successful, he should have run.

    But he didn’t.

    It’s very easy and very cheap to micturate on the loser from the comfort and safety of the bleachers.

  7. Lucy Pevensie

    We were talking over on the Member Feed about Bruce Bartlett who, by his own account, apparently got himself frozen out of the Right and then found an intellectual justification for moving to the Left, kind of after the fact.  CoveredUp points out that this is the reverse of what we usually think happens–that we think we come to our judgments through reason, not through emotion.

    But here’s the lesson I draw from this; if you tell people in effect that you don’t like them or approve of them (47%, anybody?) then they are unlikely to want to believe your ideas or arguments.  You absolutely have to start by liking, accepting, or empathizing with people. 

    Salamandyr: The 47% line may have been blunt, but I think it’s essentially true.  The critical problem the GOP has is not to abandon that truth, but to make it somehow palatable to the citizens of the US. 

    But it isn’t really true, as Mitch Daniels points out.  Loads of people have their backs against the wall because of this economy, and it’s both wrong and self-destructive to start out by alienating them.

  8. I. raptus

    [Sorry, removed; got my browser tabs mixed up while replying.]

  9. Last Outpost on the Right
    Lucy Pevensie:   

    But it isn’t really true, as Mitch Daniels points out.  Loads of people have their backs against the wall because of this economy, and it’s both wrong and self-destructive to start out by alienating them. · 10 minutes ago

    This is exactly right, Lucy. When I first heard “47%”, I thought that it was self-evident, and that it wouldn’t have much of an effect. After all, “bitterly clinging” didn’t seem to hurt Obama at all.

    But I was wrong. Even though there isn’t much difference in those two comments, Obama made it vague enough to make low information voters feel like he was talking about someone else. 47% is half the country, and alienating that many people is a poor starting position.

  10. jkumpire

    I appreciate the governor a lot, but to single this one statement out as the reason he lost is  just not correct. That comment is just one comment of a whole series of things the Obama campaign used to rape and destroy Romney’s reputation. 

    The 2016 conservative candidate needs to use to the slash and burn tactics the scum on the left used in 2012, and before.

  11. Bob Croft

    My take on, essentially, the same issue:

    The Democrat party is built on coalitions, as demonstrated most clearly by FDR.  The Republican party is built on ideas (free soil, for starters).

    You build a coalition by promissing stuff to each member group.  Individuals within each group might not personally benefit at any given time, but the broader group does.  The normally independent minded individual forced onto unemployment or food stamps naturally fells a bit insulted when lumped into the same group with those who intend to remain dependent as long as is feasible.

    It is mighty difficult to split off groups from the existing coalition by promissing them even more; a better plan is to pluck individuals from their groups with the power of ideas.  A recent example would be Reagan, using ideas to pluck individuals, such as union Democrats, from their groups.

    Romney had available many ideas that could have made superb human interest and “in your face” TV ads (having the added benefit of getting under the president’s skin); he chose not to use them.

  12. Jacksonian Dem

    I agree with Nick Stuart. Mitch Daniels is irrelevant. His comments are beyond lame He could have run but didn’t. We don’t need Mitch to provide commentary after the fact. We needed him in the arena as a candidate a year ago. Romney was a flawed candidate who said many stupid things but at least he put himself forward.

  13. Michael Cham

    There seems to be some defensiveness on behalf of Romney going around. I’m not one to throw our candidate under the bus either but I appreciate Mitch Daniels and I like the way he puts things.

    At the very least, all Republicans need to be very careful how their comments will be percieved and Mitch gives us a good way of expressing our ideas.

  14. liberal jim
    Mendel: What still frustrates me about the “47%” remark is that for the life of me, I cannot believe Romney meant it.  Simply based on the depth of kindness and humanity the man exuded toward his fellow human, it is inconceivable to me that he actually held so many of his compatriots in such low regard.

    I fear that, as so often, the politically insecure Romney felt he would be best served by telling an audience what he thought they wanted to hear, regardless whether he agreed with the statement or not.  “Let Mitt be Mitt” might have been a good strategy for private events as well.

    Water over the dam, obviously.  But it still hurts to think he may have blown the election by being too insecure to be himself. · 3 hours ago

    Edited 3 hours ago

    He meant it or he was just saying what he thought people wanted to hear.  Which is worse?

  15. KC Mulville

    We have to make a distinction between Romney’s 47% comment and the notion of a “tipping point.” 

    When I first heard the comment, I thought Romney was clumsily trying to make the tipping point argument. But when, after the election, Romney painted the recipients as parasites because they were won over by Obama promising goodies, I started to step back from my first impression. 

    The distinction is important, and Daniels sees the difference. A large chunk of the 47% doesn’t want to be there, and recognizes that they need to get off the dole as soon as possible and start contributing. The tipping point is when the real slackers – i.e., the Julia people – see government as an ongoing extra income to which they’re entitled from others. 

    You know what’s scary, though? Romney may have been wrong at the moment … but if the Julia attitude becomes entrenched in the culture, you’ll see coming generations just assume that rich people owe them something … and then the 47% will be just as spoiled and slacker as charged.

    Romney’s wrong for now. Unless attitudes change, though, we’re heading that way.

  16. Fricosis Guy

    Ah yes, “The Man in The Arena”… Mitch delivers it so well when Mrs. Daniels lets him take his manhood off the mantle.

  17. Edward Smith

    Wasn’t he one of the A Team who would not deign to sully his reputation by running against Obama?

    The 47% statement was a bad idea.

    But here’s a good idea Mitch:  retire to private life, since you were no longer willing to grace public life with your wise and beatific presence when it was needed.

    I’m not bitter

  18. Western Chauvinist

    I was a Daniels supporter before I was a Ryan Supporter before I was a Romney supporter. Mitch Daniels could teach Republicans a thing or two about how to talk to people and how to reform government.

    My criticism of Mitt Romney, couched in the belief that he is an exceptionally good man and would have won in a less decadent age, is that he never made the conservative case. 47% didn’t help. Obviously the case for him being a better manager than Barack Obama was insufficient.

    But, I will not begrudge Daniels’ decision not to run. The Democrats have one tactic which works exceedingly well in our decadent culture: they demonize and scapegoat. If they could turn the boy scout Mitt Romney into the eeeevil rich guy, they would have destroyed Mitch Daniels and his family. Daniels made an honorable decision to protect his family.

    It’s the culture, stupid. Only a people completely biblically illiterate could fail to see the scapegoating as evil, and not the scapegoat.

  19. ConservativeWanderer
    Edward Smith:

    But here’s a good idea Mitch:  retire to private life, since you were no longer willing to grace public life with your wise and beatific presence when it was needed. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 52 minutes ago

    Don’t mince words, Edward, tell us how you really feel.

  20. Hang On
    Peter Robinson

    Mitch may be departing from the public theater–next month he’ll become president of Purdue–but by his own standards those entering, so to speak, stage right, look good. · · 18 hours ago

    Did Eisenhower depart from the public theater when he became president of Columbia?

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