Republicans have all-but perfected the politics of theft. From Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens” to Rush Limbaugh’s entire radio career, conservatives have sought to keep their grip on blue-collar white Americans by selling a simple message: “They” are stealing from you.
Illegal immigrants are conspiring in gargantuan numbers to steal elections by voting fraudulently for Democrats. (There’s no evidence of even small numbers of people going to the polls, pretending to be someone else, but this theft must be occurring, because it’s just not possible for Republicans to lose elections in America.)
Barack Obama stole the presidency by hiding the fact that he is really a Kenyan national.(Actually, he’s not.) Oh, and he and his attorney general, Eric Holder, are totally plotting to confiscate people’s guns. (By allowing them into our national parks.)
Nebulous throngs of Muslims are conspiring to steal Americans’ religious freedom by somehow, sneakily, implementing Sharia law. (Something Muslim Americans are seriously, really not doing.)
But it is the narrative of alleged black theft that is the favorite political trope of the right.
African Americans, you see, are all on welfare (no, they’re not) — unless they play professional sports or are entertainers, and probably even then. They are on it for life — no, for generations. (The lifetime limit is 60 months, which I guess can seem like a lifetime if you can’t afford food for your kids with the wages from your minimum wage job.)
These liberal-voting (hey, let’s disenfranchise them with voter ID laws!) welfare recipients are having dozens of children (1.9 on average, just like everyone else) so they can steal conservatives’ hard-earned money. (Red states have the highest welfare dependency with the exception of New Mexico, more white than black Americans are on food stamps and the vast majority of recipients of all races use them temporarily, but you get the idea.)
It’s as if the right wing is living in the last refuge of the living (and the working, even though they’re also angry about unemployment . . . ) in a world overrun by lazy, thieving (limb-munching) zombies. Message: Guard your canned food and your gold stash (with your gun), because everyone is the enemy.
During the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich even called Obama the “food stamp president” — and Newt vowed to get the 100 percent of African Americans who are on food stamps (that’s not the real percentage) to demand paychecks instead. He was going to tell it to the NAACP in person, but somehow GOP voters forgot to make him their presidential nominee. (It was an oversight.)
Mitt Romney did make it to the civil rights organization’s annual convention, where he said the word “Obamacare” — to their faces (take that!).
Romney has apparently decided that a little dignity is a small price to pay for a chance to be president. And so, facing an ongoing storm over allegations by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Ringside) that Romney welched on his taxes for a decade, and that he would raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans in order to give himself, Lady Ann of Rafalca and their 1-percenter friends a six-figure tax cut, Mitt has grabbed the banner of racial resentment with both hands.
This week, his campaign released an ad claiming Obama is taking the “work” out of the Clinton-era “welfare to work” law.
Soon, the narrator ominously warns, people will get their government checks without working. Nothing in the ad is true, and Republicans, including Romney, have long sought waivers granting states flexibility in implementing welfare reform.
It’s as cynical a form of politics as there is, and a desperate sign from a campaign that hasn’t figured out a way to distract from the tax issue or prove Reid a liar without actually releasing Mitt’s tax returns. (Inventing the word “Obamaloney” didn’t work?)
It’s not easy running for president as a “rich guy’s rich guy,” and still keep the working stiffs on your side. (So you and your friend Paul Ryan can turn their Medicare into coupons.)
Stoking ethnic resentment, based on the constant threat of theft by “otherized” Americans has been the GOP’s go-to strategy for decades.
That gambit has now been pinched by one Willard Mitt Romney.