The immediate response to Mitt Romney’s 47-percent comments, not just by conservatives but by mainstream media, was to compare them to Barack Obama’s 2008 statements about those who “cling to guns or religion.”
There certainly is a superficial similarity. Neither candidate knew he was being recorded, and both would have preferred that the statements not be broadcast. Both are talking about people who are unlikely to vote for them.
The statements themselves, though, reveal entirely different mindsets. Obama’s statement brims with empathy. He recognizes the prejudices of those he is describing, but is concerned about the frustrations that trigger those prejudices.
Romney makes no effort to understand the people is describing, and is explicit in declaring he has no desire to understand them.
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them…And 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.
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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. 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.