I don’t think there is anyone in the US that isn’t aware of Mitt Romney’s writing off of 47% of the American electorate, I don’t wish to dwell on this act of gross stupidity, enough has been said and it is my belief that Romney is now an absolutely flawed presidential candidate and quite possibly unelectable. In describing nearly half of the people of the US as ‘moochers’, Romney has inadvertently attacked over 40% of the Republican base that were expected to vote for him in the November election. Of the 47% around 130 million people that don’t pay income tax, 60 million are seniors and further 57 million don’t earn enough to pay federal income, they do however pay payroll taxes, property taxes and sales taxes, the rest are people that are unemployed, the disabled and those who have fallen out of the system. The problem with Romney’s remarks is that at least 40% of the people he referred to are Republican voters and many of them are exactly the people that attend Tea Party protests and feel that their ‘country is under threat’.
Republican ‘Red State’ USA, is engaged in the kind of cognitive dissonance that makes Europeans like myself exclaim ‘Only in America’. Right to work legislation and the lack of a social safety net, in Red State America this has lead to the incomes of unskilled and semi-skilled workers declining by around 40% in inflation adjusted terms since 1980, people that were the American middle class are now the working poor, they are struggling, they are disaffected and they have been manipulated into the kind of thinking that destroys hope and belief in the American dream ideal that anyone in America through hard work and perseverance can progress financially and socially.
Educationally America is falling behind, the greatest demographic shift is in the attainment of the children of white, blue collar workers that live in Red states, the high school drop out rate is higher amongst this group than any other group, higher than African Americans, higher than latinos and nearly 37% higher than than that of those from similar socio-economic backgrounds in Europe. Thirty years ago there were jobs and opportunities for those with little formal education, America needed unskilled and semi-skilled workers, however today those jobs and that kind of production has been off-shored to China and to developing nations, American production cannot compete on that kind of cost basis. America needs skilled, educated workers that can embrace the challenges of global production, young people that are mathematically and scientifically literate to work in industries that are high wage and high skill. This is the future and this is the vision of America that we on the centre left have to sell to the American population has an whole.
Unlike Mitt Romney we cannot turn our backs on the poor and disaffected, even those that are adhering to the Tea Party ideology, they are our people too. Since the end of the Civil War, the American political right and vested interest groups have managed to stall social and economic progress by using divide and rule tactic of the fear of the other. African Americans, the Irish, Mexicans and other immigrants are presented as coming to take ‘Our Jobs’. Latterly we have this notion that Christianity is under threat from gay marriage and women’s rights and this completely false idea that minority groups are living in the lap of luxury at the expense of the American tax payer. It is our duty to address this ignorance and confront the vested interest groups, demonstrating exactly what the Koch brothers and their ilk have to gain from the Tea Party agenda and show these folks that are being manipulated by people that have no interest in their well being. Yes, this is possible.
The God, Guns and Old Glory agenda is predicated in fear and of the loss of economic status, it becomes much easier to blame ‘The Other’ an African American president than look for the real problems and find answers that benefit the whole of society. A second Obama term offers a real opportunity to address this once and for all in American society and a chance for the social democratic centre left to make real progress, if those who are currently supporting the Tea Party agenda can be made to feel that their children and grand children can be given greater social and economic opportunities and prosperity then maybe some of the more prejudicial beliefs can be tackled. But the single most important thing that we on the centre left must never forget is that all people are our people, they may support ideas that we find repellent, they maybe plagued by racist, sexiest and homophobic prejudices but they will always remain human beings and deserving of humanity. Unlike Mitt Romney we must not exclude and reject a significant proportion of American citizens.