Mitt and Big Bird

If you wait around long enough, Mitt will give you something to talk about.

Mitt Romney just can’t win.

When people say Mitt Romney is out of touch, it goes so much further than the man being rich, or having an elevator in his garage, or making a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry.  It goes much further than Romney not understanding the problems of the middle class and making derisive comments directed at 47% of the population. 

No, it’s deeper than that.  And the evidence is sort of writ large on the internet.

Consider that Mitt Romney probably "won" the first presidential debate.  I wasn’t surprised that Romney was declared the winner (I actually said he would by default).  I was, however, surprised how flat Obama was.  I don’t fully believe he threw the debate-- but if I were in Obama’s strategic circle and you told me he threw the debate, I’d believe you.  He certainly didn’t look and act and sound like the orator we expect. 

That leaves pretty much two things:  either Obama really was rusty and unprepared for Mitt’s hard, fast run at the middle (wherein he more-or-less changed his position on the political spectrum in front of our eyes), or he purposefully wanted to give the appearance that he was treading water. 

And, though I don’t want to weigh in on this too heavily—because there’s really no evidence he threw the debate—there are strategic reasons and upsides to doing such a thing.  The first is that, the more Mitt talks, the more people perceive him wedging his foot into his mouth next to his silver spoon; and one could see how it might be effective to just let that happen and accumulate fodder for the campaign trail (more on this later). 

The second is that, for Obama, any performance you give in debates two and three naturally shift the focus and momentum back in your favor.  You drive the narrative.  It’s almost inevitable that the media will discuss how “the real Barack Obama” showed up in the second debate, provided he simply go over the very low bar he set for himself Wednesday.  Any momentum Romney had in debate one is negated in debate two, and we’re that much closer to the election.

So, there are reasons to do such a thing.  I’m not saying he did it, and I’m not apologizing for his performance.  But it’s silly to dismiss it as though there isn’t any strategy behind such an idea. 

And that brings us back to Mitt putting his foot in his mouth, and being out of touch.

What I don’t think Mitt Romney understands—and what Barack Obama didn’t understand at the beginning of his term—is that you can have a 90-minute debate where you impress people with your parries, jousts, and pivots.  You can drop all the zingers and stretched facts and policy details about the tax code you want.  You can drop numbers and buzzwords and economic statistics. 

You can do all that, but all some people are going to hear after the debate is over is: “He wants to kill Big Bird.” 

All they’ll take away from the whole thing is, “I don’t understand that other crap.  But I know Big Bird.  I’m going to look smart by walking around my office water cooler and saying, ‘Did you hear about how Romney wants to do away with Sesame Street?’”

There was absolutely no reason for Romney to attack PBS and the debate moderator (and PBS employee), Jim Lehrer.  It was a move where the upside was a dog-whistle to conservatives about cutting funding for public television, and the downside was a strategic catastrophe.  Showing the country what it looks and sounds like when you fire someone—and allowing people to make the connection that, in the same stroke, you’re also going to put down Mr. Snuffleupagus – has way more downside than up.  Even people who do care, and do understand, all the policy details Mitt dropped are going to have a good time with the internet meme that “Romney the Grouch” is against Ernie and Bert.

Two full days after the debate, and Big Bird is still a top trend on twitter. On social networking sites, doctored pictures of a foul-mouthed Elmo wielding a switchblade directed at Mitt are everywhere.  People are going to trade memes and jokes on this for a week.  The conversation, a mere 48 hours after the debate, is Sesame Street—not Mitt Romney’s plans for America.  Debates are often remembered for that one, succinct moment or soundbite.  Mitt has to understand that.

So, yes, Mitt Romney won the debate, but only to the people who are interested in the art of debating and politics.  History shows us that debates are won and lost not by scorecards and pundits, but by perception; and if one of the few concrete things people walk away talking about is that Mitt Romney went after their childhood icons, that is a tainted win he cannot afford.  



This blog was brought to you by: @PatrickInPublic, and the number 47.

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TheGreatHoax October 10, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Have you heard about Obama's "Regional Redistribution Plan"?? Those living in the suburbs will have they're property taxes "redistributed" to urban areas. This plan will was apparently very close to passing in Columbus Ohio. This is on his Agenda for a second term. Research it for details and verification. Do you want to support the takers in urban areas with your hard earned tax dollars? Know what your voting for this November!
Watts October 11, 2012 at 03:18 PM
"Do you want to support the takers in urban areas with your hard earned tax dollars?" - More of the dog whistle racism of the extreme right. Yes, go research it and you will find this conspiracy connection being made, all tracking back to a number of article written by (or using as their point of reference) Stanley Kurtz, who is a famous within conservative circles for his 2008 harping on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Also know for his anti-gay articles. So yes, if you research this, you will find it, but never stop at researching to find something, continue through to research the source of what you are finding. And realize that TheGrapeHoax is using the old "urban" code to tap into the darkest side of our society, trying to use racism to create fear. Always beware of anybody trying to get your vote by using fear and paranoia.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Welcome back, Watts. LOL I haven't researched this, so please don't challenge me on that. But, just reading what both of you have written, couldn't one simply be against their own community's property taxes, which in Ohio go to your own city, subsidizing other cities without it being a racial issue? I mean, keeping the tax dollars within ones own city where the real property is taxed and located. Each city has its own separate and individual rates and votes for certain levies for that community. So, I don't think this necessarily has to be a Rep or Dem, or white or black issue. Just one where I vote YES for a tax increase on my property and want those taxes to remain in my city.
MZ October 11, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Watts, since you have clearly researched the "dog whistle racism" issue, perhaps you could provide a list of words or phrases that should be considered racist. It seems to change all the time and I have a tough time keeping up. Since I cannot hear the dog whistle and rarely if ever consider someones race I would have missed that using the word "urban" was some type of code word. If you could help me out, I am sure it would be a great public service for anyone reading the patch. Thanks in advance!
Watts October 11, 2012 at 04:44 PM
@MZ I should hope that "urban" wouldn't be too hard to recognize. This has been so widely used to identify predominantly African American communities that it even had mainstream acceptance for years as Billboard Magazine famously had the "Urban Chart." In the UK, they still use "urban charts" to identify releases predominately released by black artists. Actually, this is barely dog whistle. @lyn Nothing wrong with that belief, as long as you understand that the connection of this that ThGrapeHoax was making, is fictitious. And as somebody who has dabbled with some fiction writing yourself, you should be able to pick this out pretty easily ;-)
MZ October 11, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Watts, Thanks for your response but I still have many questions. How about the words "Chicago" or "apartment"? Chris Matthews recently claimed that both of these words are racist/dog whistles. Can I refer to my son as my "boy" or is that a dog whistle? If the previous quote that you mentioned had just said "Do you want to support the takers with you hard earned tax dollars" would it have still been a dog whistle? So many questions, so little time.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Watts- Not sure if you are reading between the lines or I should be reading between the lines. But, going with what I said, if you want to take from my community, in the suburbs, and give this city's tax dollars to another city who has less - that will usually be an urban community. So, just because you use THAT word I don't think makes it a racial argument. Just that I want to keep my city's tax dollars here. I never knew urban was a "bad" word. I always thought you used the words rural, suburbs and urban to describe the area. Can't it also just merely be that, or do you think I'm being to naive.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 05:29 PM
And, regarding this idea of "redistribution" of property taxes that people have been kicking around. Where I live, we are voting on a school bond issue which would add to our real estate taxes - it would cost homeowners $95 a year for every $100,000 in home valuation. Now, how many people do you think would vote for this if they knew some of their property taxes would go out of our city?
Watts October 11, 2012 at 05:48 PM
@ MX and lyn 1) I am not Matthews, so don't expect me to speak to what he says, but I am prone not to believe what you have posted here, as it is stated, as it either sounds like fiction or so completely out of context, that it is misrepresenting what he actually said. You can provide a link if you want me to comment on that. 2) I am really not sure if the two of you are playing dumb for rhetorical purposes or if this really is such a mind blowing concept for you. The words Urban, boy, apartment, Chicago, etc., in and of themselves, have nothing wrong with them. Urban is the how regions of certain density population are defined. I took an "Urban Planning" class and that was about street grids, etc. It is all about the context, within which they are used. That GrapeHoax post was crafted in a way to elicit the connection between traditionally African American communities and "takers." Similar to "foodstamp" president. Both the profile of urban areas and the recipients of foodstamps have changed dramatically, but for the base that these messages are targeting, these are coded to elicit the old "black versus white," "us versus them," dichotomy. And the reality is that urban areas generally are now far more diverse with multiple ethnicities and a huge influx of white America moving to the cities. But these current realities haven't disseminated to most suburban or the vast majority of rural Americans. That is who is being targeted with these messages.
MZ October 11, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Aren't more white people on foodstamps then black people? Couldn't the reference to the foodstamp president simply be that there are more people (of all colors) on foodstamps then ever before? Why does race have to be read into everything? Is it your belief that the vast majority of rural Americans are racist? If so, why do you beleive that? If not, why would the dog whistle matter?
lyn October 11, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Maybe more credit should be given to the masses . Maybe most people are smart enough to come to their own conclusions. You make it sound like because someone might have a hidden agenda that most of us will fall in line and be brainwashed into anothers thinking. I didn't feel any racial undertones when the word "urban" was used. Rather, I thought of a place like Cleveland,a large city nearby, which has people living there that are NOT just black. I think sometimes people try to be overly politically correct. Sometimes I have no idea what I was suppose to be offended by because I don't think people always have an ulterior motive.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 06:04 PM
And when someone says Foodstamp President, I NEVER thought it meant just 1race. Just merely that he might be responsible for more people receiving foodstamps - all colors! I remember standing behind many white people with food stamps years ago - and that is who mainly resided in my community. So, why would I now or before think only 1 race is on them?
Watts October 11, 2012 at 07:02 PM
@MZ Didn't you actually read (or comprehend) what I just wrote? Your questions are answered in the post that you are asking them about. Yes, as I said, the profile of foodstamp recipients has changed. But for the target audience, visiting cities or googling foodstamp statistics isn't part of their lives. For the target audience, these words are meant to draw from a history of popular culture to envision who these people are in the cities and/or receiving foodstamps and depending on the target person's age or life experiences those could be anything from Good Times to NWA. But the reality is that most suburbanites certainly not the vast majority of rural residents do not spend much time exploring these changing realities; first hand or otherwise. Hence, why they are the often successful targets of this type of racial coding.
Watts October 11, 2012 at 07:14 PM
@lyn I agree, let them make their own decisions. But, part of that decision making should include when somebody points out these messages being first and formost; fiction. Let's not get too far down this path of the race coding in the terminology, but let's get back to the fact that the whole premise of that post was factually false. And secondly, then we get into the use of these terms to determine who the target audience is. It is really targeting lower educated, more hillbilly type voters. People who have dug their heals into the sand and absolutely distance themselves from change. This post by GrapeHoax wasn't selling Romney, it was using fiction and racially coded word to elicit social dichotomy, to instill fear into people that their worlds are being stolen out from under them by this "other" that dwells in the cities that they rarely (or never) visit. "And when someone says Foodstamp President, I NEVER thought it meant just 1race" All that means is that you were not the target audience for that. Neither am I, but it doesn't make me ignorant of what the implications are when using this terminology. If you don't think that every single one of these terms that you hear repeated hasn't been tested and determined by renegade thinktakers to elicit some feeling to distance people from voting for a black president, then you have your head buried in the sand about how the process actually works.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I'm sorry, but I don't want to live in your world where everything means something else and where I need to look for more than one meaning in what someone says. What you say might apply to some, but I think the vast majority have a purer heart.
Watts October 11, 2012 at 07:27 PM
@lyn And not just tested by one side and not the other. Of course, the same is done on the left. But, when it comes down to racism, Republicans have a lock on that market. Just so this doesn't sound like I am calling Republicans racists (and this should also clarify things for MZ and his questions about rural Americans). Try to think back to the old logic circles that you had in high school. First of all, you have this massive circle of 55 million+ Republicans (and because of its relevance to the race discussion this circle will include Tea Party Libertarians). Now the circle of racists (anybody who beliefs that certain social characteristics are inherently tied to race) is far smaller, but exists almost exclusively within the larger Republican bubble. Not entirely, but by far enough to look at them as a subset of the base. Now similarly, you can create the smaller (based on individuals and not geographic space) bubble of rural Americans and they also fall as a subset of the Republican base. And those two smaller bubbles, each predominantly coexisting inside the larger Republican bubble, also significantly overlap. Cont...
Watts October 11, 2012 at 07:38 PM
And these realities are not simply going to be ignored by the party. Because there is yet another way of looking at the bubbles and that is changing "Republicans" to "Conservatives" and that is their potential voter base. Now with that expansion, also comes the expansion of the bubble of racists and rural residents. Now we introduce another bubble to this and that is the lower educated. These are people who statistically attain lower levels of education and/or have lower IQs. These are also statistically part of the red base areas. But these are not very motivated voters. So you can't motivate them without creating a "fear" from which they feel they will be threatened if they don't vote. So now you have three subset circles, all with significant overlap and each with outliers, as well. Now between all of these, you have a far more significant part of the potential conservative voter base, who understand and are motivated more from fear of the "other," than they ever would be with a direct argument for a Republican candidate. That is the target audience for that GrapeHoax post.
Watts October 11, 2012 at 07:52 PM
"I'm sorry, but I don't want to live in your world where everything means something else and where I need to look for more than one meaning in what someone says." Unless you are posting on here from another planet, you are living in this world. You may want to ignore it and that is exactly what these message makers are hoping for, but it doesn't change what is actually happening.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Watts- Although I avoid race discussions on public forums for fear of being misunderstood in what I say or offending someone, I will try a couple of "thoughts" in response to your comments. Why would you say that racism prevails mainly in the Rep party. I know there are people who will not vote for Obama because he is half black. But, isn't the number around 90% of the black population will vote for him, and the main reaon for many is because of skin color? Also, why do you speak of fear among white people. If they have not been subject to discrimination, then why should this color of people, white, fear? They do not have any long built in hatred or resentment of past mistreatments. Isn't that what would cause one to be more racist? I'd like to think I'm openminded on this subject. But, I do know that we all bring our own inner feelings that we may not even be aware of. I hope I treat everyone the same - regardless of color. And, that may mean I may not like someone either, regardless of color.
Murphy-Solon October 11, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I don't agree Watts. Republicans hated Clinton too.
Watts October 11, 2012 at 08:16 PM
"If they have not been subject to discrimination, then why should this color of people, white, fear? They do not have any long built in hatred or resentment of past mistreatments. Isn't that what would cause one to be more racist?" Wow...I don't even know what to say to this post. You should take some social anthropology classes or something in regards to the issue of race relations. I dont expect most people to have taken such classes, but hopefully most people still wouldn't be this oblivious on the subject to be asking these types of questions. On one side, they are almost profound, in that if these were answerable, then there would be no racism. But the fact that you are asking them here...like this...makes me believe that this is all coming from a truly naive point of knowledge on the subject. "Out of the louth of babes."
lyn October 11, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Watts- As I assume you DO live in California, and I live in Ohio - how much of that accounts for our differences and experiences from which we draw? And, as Ohio is a crucial state for this election, as you eluded to in a recent post ("with Ohio always being looked at as defining the true barometer of the nations final vote"), I assume that is why so many out of state posters have an interest in posting on this areas Patch. But maybe the comments people are posting from out of the area who do not know this area actually are not as relevant to our discussion as you think - other than to try and sway people. Well, its been more pleasant this time around. Have to go. Almost dinner in this part of the country. Lyn
Watts October 11, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I hope that you don't expect me to be able to completely answer what makes people racists. In a nutshell, it usually comes from ignorance. That ignorance isn't always education based, but can come from lack of life experience, which is also why we see it disproportionally higher in areas of both lower education and rural displacement. My girlfriends grandmother had never in her life left a rural part of Northern MN, until one day when she had to go to Minneapolis and that was the first time that she saw a black person in real life. She wasn't a bad person by nature, but all she knew about African Americans, was what she had seen on TV. And through her life, those depictions were far from favorable. So her understanding was that black people were substantially different than white. Without question, her beliefs would be considered racist, yet the ignorance from which these beliefs came, originated from her lack of life experience of interacting in an integrated society. Also, the last line of that last post was supposed to be the famous phrase "out of the mouth of babes," but the post is pending approval, so I can't fix it.
Watts October 11, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Sorry, I don't know what that comment means. Was that a joke because some people jokingly refer to Clinton as our first "black" president?
Watts October 11, 2012 at 09:02 PM
If I were you, I would be less concerned about what I am posting here over what and why somebody like GrapeHoax is posting what they posted first. When somebody first posts something fictitious, they are depending on a complete lack of critical thinking on the part of the audience. Then, if it is racially coded, then they presume an audience that is also going to react to that (if even at a subconscious level). At least when I post something, I am not spinning some conspiracy theory, I usually try to pick the most objective and trusted sources that I can and very frequently, I can actually find what I want on traditionally conservative sites and I still hear people saying blah, blah blah because they don't even take the time to look. Why do you think that I got in your face in that other thread, when you started down that path of falsehoods against me? It wasn't just that it was being intellectually lazy on your part not to have been able to substantiate anything that you said, but because it was wholly disingenuous to me and to others on your local patch who previously thought that they could probably at least trust what you say. Now I think that you probably realize how wrong you were and that I am always up for legitimate discussions. And nicer discussion or not, guess what...I am still waiting for that apology.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Murphy- I tried.
lyn October 11, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Watts- I don't know why I bothered with you today. I thought just maybe this fellow might be interested in an intellectual exchange. But I see you would rather put down someone. I should have known you would once again continue down this road. For the last time, as I'm not going to try on any topic again with you because you seem to like to leave your "opponent" a lesser person than they may truly be,... I say I'm sorry when appropriate - not on the demands of someone who is tearing me apart and making a mountain out of a molehill. I said some peoples posts have been deleted and this is a fact. And I did not know if any of yours had or had not been - so I'm not saying I'm sorry about that! And if you think I'm lazy because I'm for not researching why those posts were deleted, go ahead and think that. If you want to know why they were, YOU look it up. I really don't care - some repeated posts across the country have been deleted so therefore, logic prevails that editors felt TOS were violated.
MZ October 11, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Watts, I would have to politely disagree with you. At least from my observations the democrat side seems to pay way more attention to race than does the republican side. My anecdotal evidence consists of having worked around union members for over a decade. These were blue collar workers who voted democrat and were some of the most racist people I have ever met. These weren't isolated incidents or from a single union or location. It was quite widespread. They were roughly evenly split between urban and rural settings. In Avon Lake (certainly not urban) I am amazed by the racist comments that come from my well educated liberal friends mouths. They vote a strait democrat ticket year after year including for Obama and still openly utter racist terms, not dog whistles but flat out racist. Conversely, most business owners that I know (and there are many) couldn't care less about the color of ones skin. Can he or she do the job and help make profits is all that matters. I think most Americans, certainly not all, judge based on character, not color. We all carry stero-types, it is only natural. But I think most are deaf to dog whistles.
Watts October 12, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Your first post directed toward me as a response to a very credible and unbiased statistical analysis from Nate Silver: "... keep your uninformed and misleading comments to your own states Patch." Your next post to me: "Go back to your own local Patch, at least your own state. I wouldn't mind if you had an interest in this area. But I have a problem with all of you spreading your garbage on other Patch networks just to promote you agendas, for free and going unchecked." Then you started down your path of multiple posts grouping me in with some subset that you defined in your own mind, along with "policies" that also existed in your own mind: "I have seen many times that a posters comments have gone from say 20 different Patch to maybe 12, which means 8 editors did the ethical and proper thing - deleted them." Then continuing your insults to me: "Problem is, you don't want to "engage", but rather you bring your own brand of "ignorance" attached to your uninformed comments." - all of which I think that you now personally know isn't true, but if you had spent even two seconds to look at my post history you could have known that wasn't true. So please tell me at what point do you feel compelled to be a decent human being and apologize? Is it only after you start to insult my family members and tell people that I worship at the alter of satan? What lines do you have to cross before you feel that an apology is due? Again, your audience awaits.
MZ October 13, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Watts, Here are some urban lefties that appear by the article to be flat out racists under the guise of helping the kids. A school board voting to have different standards based on race. Your thoughts? http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2012/10/12/florida-passes-plan-for-racially-based-academic-goals/


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