Editor’s note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs
(CNN) — By now, we all know about the not-so-secret video of Mitt Romney calling 47% of the country a bunch of losers, or how some Republicans are trying to spin this embarrassment as somehow being part of their message. So, what should we make of it?
Remember the Washington Post story from a few months ago that we dismissed as not terribly significant about Romney’s bullying days in high school?
We thought his casual “If I offended … ” apology was just a tone-deaf gaffe. The country’s attitude toward bullying is different now than it was when Romney was in school, and we just figured he didn’t get it. But who cares, right? That was so many years ago — the stuff of adolescence.
So we overlooked the fact that he deliberately held a door closed while a sight-impaired teacher walked into it. We overlooked the fact that he helped pin down a new kid in school and cut his hair. In defense of his teenage years, Romney said he’s a different person today and we said OK.
But who was the guy who said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor”?
Who said, “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake — I can’t have illegals”?
“Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”
And now this:
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, 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 that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax.”
At some point, poor and middle-class Republicans need to connect all of these tiny, seemingly unrelated dots to see the bigger picture: These are not gaffes by Mitt Romney.
This is Mitt Romney.
Republicans, especially in the South, who are not rich, better take a good, long hard look at the man and what he said in the video. It may seem like Romney is trashing Democrats at the $50,000-a-plate dinner, but really he’s talking about Republicans.
Eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of filers who didn’t pay federal income taxes are red states that voted for John McCain in 2008: Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Idaho. Only New Mexico and Florida voted for Obama. Conversely, of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of filers who didn’t pay federal income taxes, seven voted for Obama. Only Alaska, Wyoming and North Dakota voted for McCain.
So if you were at that May 17 dinner at Marc Leder’s home in Boca Raton when Romney said all of these people who don’t pay income taxes voted for Obama — he lied, or didn’t know his facts.
But of course, this should not come as a surprise. All politicians flip flop and stretch the truth — from your local city council to the White House. And Obama certainly has done his share of massaging the truth. Because of this, elections, especially like the one in November, are not about which candidate is telling the truth, but rather whose version of the truth can you live with.
Romney stood in a room full of millionaires and gave an off-the-cuff remark that called 47% of the country is looking for a handout. He said he could never convince that 47% to be responsible for their own lives and that his job is not to worry about those people. That’s his version of the truth.
The question is, does your version agree with his version?
I can remember working two jobs to pay for college and not being required to file income taxes because I did not make enough money. I don’t think working two jobs made me lazy and I am grateful that the government was there to provide student loans to help me out. Loans I have since paid back. I might be crazy, but I don’t think I’m the only person whose version of the truth looks like that.
Keep in mind a large portion of the 47% that Romney was talking about are middle- and low-income Republicans who voted for McCain. They are not Obama-loving Democrats. That’s not spin, that’s fact.
And Romney’s characterizations of people less fortunate than himself are not gaffes. They are glimpses into the mentality of a man who pulled a prank on a blind teacher as a kid in high school and said he wasn’t concerned about the very poor as an adult.
Isn’t it clear by now that these Romney hiccups are not just random occurrences that can happen on a campaign trail? What the video released by Mother Jones proves once and for all is that Romney is whom his words make him out to be.
Poor and middle-class Republicans can still vote for Romney. But they should at least know the truth about how he really feels about them.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.