Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mitt Romney's Epistle to the NAACP

If you're silly enough to buy the premise that Mitt Romney's address before the NAACP was part of some ill-conceived GOP outreach program to African-Americans, then let me please disabuse you of this notion immediately.

Nearly everything Romney said today was specifically designed to illicit as much booing, hissing and negative crowd reaction as Romney could possibly muster. It's almost a demonstration of just how weak Romney's oratorical skills are that no one jumped out from their seat's and yelled "You lie!" during the speech. Romney wasn't pandering to the crowd, but he wasn't reaching out to them either. Instead, Romney was using the NAACP audience as a prop to pander to the worst elements of the GOP: the white voters who still harbor a great deal of racial resentment oh so many years after the Civil Rights era.

How did he accomplish this? Simple: this gravely cynical maneuver is part of the "bitch slap" playbook that Romney seems to think is the only way of proving to his base that he is just as unhinged with rage as they are. Think of it as a little more sophisticated than driving the campaign bus around an Obama event honking the horn.

Expecting black Americans to split with Obama is like expecting Mormon Americans to split with Romney --  it's just not going to happen because the ties between the groups and the candidates are so personal that they transcend politics in most cases. This kind of tactic probably wasn't possible even as recently as 2008, but since political information is such a niche product today it's likely that the people Romney is actually trying to appeal to -- white, middle-aged men -- will see highlights from the speech and get the idea, probably with the assistance of the Fox News/talk radio/lunatic blogger/announcer framing the event, that Romney was speaking truth to some kind of power.

(MORE: See what I mean?)

If this sounds like a bridge too far to cross, then consider the only other alternatives for a minute: (1) Mitt Romney is actually completely clueless about a large segment of Americans that have serious issues which need addressing, or (2) he genuinely doesn't care. Suddenly the cynical political seems far more merciful.

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