Dominion of New York


September 19, 2012

Romney’s Tone & Style Are Not the Problem — His Values Are

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Written by: Kelly Virella

Mitt Romney. Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Austen Hufford/Michigan Daily


n the wake of Romney’s characterization of 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and other prominent conservative opinion writers have suggested that he change gears and find a new message to articulate his wonderful conservative political philosophy. Ha!

Romney IS being a toad — I’ll grant them that. But his political philosophy can’t redeem him. In fact, it the basis of his baseness.

In principle, progressives agree with Romney that Americans should take personal responsibility seriously. My entire life is a testament to that. I grew up in a working class household that never drew one cent of welfare and I turned my father’s meager income into a solid middle class life. I also believe that business and job growth are the keys to national prosperity. But there’s more to conservatism than that.

Listen to what Romney said yesterday in defense of his insulting remarks:

“I think a society based on a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America.”

What troubles Mitt Romney about America — what appears to be his raison d’etre for running for President —  is the massive wealth redistribution that he believes is going on here. Simply put, he’s running for President because — at all costs — he wants to protect the wealth of the wealthy.

It’s a myth that the poor and middle class don’t pay their fare share of taxes. As the Economist reported in July:

The fact of the matter is that the American tax code as a whole is almost perfectly flat. The bottom 20% of earners make 3% of the income and pay 2% of the taxes; the middle 20% make 11% and pay 10%; and the top 1% make 21% and pay 22%.

Yet Romney and the rest of his party persist in perpetuating the myth that government is Robin Hood. The myth is a key tenet of conservative political philosophy. And no matter how you package it, it is repugnant to a lot of hardworking people who’ve seen their salaries and earnings shrink, even as corporate profits rise. It is repugnant to people who bailed out Wall Street and the other banks that keep mega-corporations afloat and lost their homes.

David Brooks said of Romney:

Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?

Peggy Noonan said:

It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change…An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.” 

Noonan thinks a campaign rally in New York City might be the missing ingredient from Romney’s campaign.

Wade into the crowd, wade into the fray, hold a hell of a rally in an American city—don’t they count anymore? A big, dense city with skyscrapers like canyons, crowds and placards, and yelling. All of our campaigning now is in bland suburbs and tired hustings. How about: New York, New York, the city so nice they named it twice?

Both of them are in denial about the bigger problem Romney faces — the moral bankruptcy of the political philosophy they share. Neither Noonan nor Brooks would be as dismissive of half the United States as Romney is. But Brooks concedes:

there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. (emphasis ours)

Romney, Brooks and other conservatives seem to believe that people who’ve worked hard and paid payroll, disability and unemployment taxes don’t deserve to take advantage of the social safety net when they need it. And for a lot of voters, that’s precisely the problem. It’s not just Romney’s tone and style that turns them off. It’s his values.


About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Official portrait from his tenure as US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.