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Talking in code: Why Romney blamed Obama's 'gifts'

Commentators across the political spectrum have offered their views on why President Obama won.
Mitt Romney conceding the election to President Obama on November 7, 2012 in Boston.  (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney conceding the election to President Obama on November 7, 2012 in Boston.

Commentators across the political spectrum have offered their views on why President Obama won. Mitt Romney has now weighed in with his own analysis, blaming the loss on "the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people" receiving "gifts" from the Obama administration.

In a taped conversation with donors (yes, again), Romney singled out the folks he believes caused his downfall:

In a conference call Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the “old playbook” of wooing groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people”— with targeted gifts and initiatives."In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said.

There's more:

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African American and Hispanic voters. “You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

I don't so much care about the fact that this comment can be construed as racial code. Frankly, I think African-Americans, Latinos, and young people would love to take credit for defeating Mitt Romney. What really is remarkable here is that Romney appears to think that the sectors of society that supported Obama are somehow illegitimate; that responding to their needs (unlike the needs of, say, millionaire bankers) is a perversion of the political process.

Imagine voting not only to protect the social and political gains made in your interest, but also to prevent those who pledged to erode those gains from taking office! How uppity!

To put all of this in the proper context, here's the explanation presented on Monday by Congressman Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, in an interview with WISC-TV:

"The surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race."

No, Congressman Ryan wasn't correct in saying that, but seriously? "Urban areas?"

The racial meaning that has been welded to the word "urban" needs no explanation--particularly in light of The Nation's publication on Tuesday of the entirety of the oft-cited, but never heard, 1981 interview with the late Republican campaign consultant Lee Atwater. In an interview that many Republicans had long contended was fictional, Atwater laid out the basis of the "Southern Strategy," in which racial epithets and overt denigration (another coded word, by the way) of Democratic opponents was replaced by nicer-sounding language about states' rights, busing, taxes, and such.

That Atwater interview was dug up by James Carter IV, the same presidential grandson who helped deliver to Mother Jones the startling tape of Romney's "47%" comments, caught on video by someone at his private Florida fundraiser earlier this year. After originally standing by his comments, Romney and his campaign pivoted to the message that he cared about 100% of Americans. That may have been true, but he's apparently still upset with those who didn't vote for him.

Romney, in the course of his "47%" rant, said that he would "never convince [the 47%] they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Romney and Ryan have yet to "take personal responsibility" for their defeat. They'd have to admit they ran a cynical and deeply dishonest campaign.

Listen to a portion of Romney's latest remarks below.

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