47% High, Assessment Absolutely Correct
4 November 2012
Governor Mitt Romney overstated the percentage, but his assessment as to where he should invest campaign resources is absolutely correct. Here is what the governor said that has attracted tremendous attention and discussion:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe the 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’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….he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not. (This information from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2gvY2wqI7M. A Mother Jones video)
First, it is crystal clear to me that Governor Romney is talking about campaign strategy and not about how he would govern if elected president. Consequently, reading his statement to mean he does not care about people who do not pay income tax puts far more into what he said than is there. However, given the sound bites and constant pushing of the “Romney doesn’t care about the 47% theme” by media, the Obama campaign, and his supporters, I am not surprised that this claim would be widely accepted as fact.
Secondly, there is the matter of accuracy of the 47 percent statistic. I have no doubt that this number overstates the situation because it includes some senior citizens, military personnel, and others who do not fit the description given by the governor. I hold that Governor Romney’s conclusion is accurate. For the reasons he stated, every indication is that there is a substantial number of Americans who will vote for President Obama no matter what Governor Romney says or does. Given this fact of life, the governor concludes there is no need to invest limited resources in trying to reach this group.
Given that I see this decision as reasonable, it amazes me (but should not) that there is such an uproar about the governor’s statement. I say I should not be amazed because this is the kind of thing that routinely happens in a world replete with shallowness. That is, a world where serious thought, examination, searching for and analyzing facts seldom show their heads.
A recent experience brought these two together for me; Romney not investing limited resources in a totally no-win situation and the shallowness that pervades our nation and world. On Wednesday, 31 October, I spent three hours on air with Wes Cookman at WIDU Radio discussing the presidential election and related topics. A gentleman called in and explained that he was at a polling place encouraging people to vote for President Obama. He went on to say that he was telling senior citizens that they better vote for Obama if they want to keep their Social Security. I pointed out to him that Congressman Ryan’s (Republican Vice-Presidential candidate) proposal for reforming Social Security keeps the current arrangement in place for those already receiving benefits and would not change the benefit plan for persons fifty-five and older. I went on to say Governor Romney holds the same position. His response was that the government has failed to keep other promises and that could happen with Social Security. There could be truth in his response, but he was presenting as fact that these senior citizens will lose their Social Security if Romney is elected. As cordial as I found our conversation to be, this is a man committed to President Obama and it would be a total waste of time, money, and effort for Governor Romney to reach out to him. Further, he did not impress me as interested in the facts.
I could go on with other similar examples. The bottom line is Governor Romney overstated the percentage, but told the truth and should not waste limited valuable resources trying to reach an unreachable group of voters.
Finally, I submit that there is tremendous danger in refusing to hear and examine the thoughts of and facts regarding every candidate in a race. The danger is that the candidate you refused to hear wins and, remembering your closed mind, he or she writes you off. That is, your issues are not addressed because you are, with justification, seen as incapable of a civil and productive discussion of issues and solutions to the problems at hand. Be reminded that refusing to engage in open and honest discussion of difficult issues and topics can prove destructive to individuals, groups, and a nation—even the world.