June 18, 2014

Hillary Clinton says something quite like Mitt Romney's old 47% remark.

When I opened this blog at 7:15 a.m., I said I had 2 things I wanted to write about from the Hillary Town Hall transcript. I got the first thing out at 9:27 — it's not easy! — "Hillary Clinton cannot let you hold a viewpoint about guns that is terrorizing the vast majority of Americans."

Now, it's almost noon, and I've got to tell you the other thing, which is something I am going to connect to Mitt Romney's infamous "47%" remark. You remember the "SECRET VIDEO: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters" that hurt him more than anything in the 2012 election. He said that there were "47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," who believe what they believe — "that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" — and it was his "job... not to worry about those people," because he could "never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Oh! The outrage. Romney wrote off 47% of the people. No point trying to convince them. Romney tried to explain, to reword the idea he'd really intended, but "47%" stuck, maybe because it resonated with something else people associated with him — that he's a rich guy in the party of the rich — or maybe because it's just so wrong, in a democracy, to tell 47% of the people that you're not even going to bother to talk with them — they're hopeless. A presidential candidate needs to be able to talk everyone, to make good arguments to them, even though he knows that he can't persuade everyone. He has to believe that the citizens he would preside over are real, that that they have minds capable of engaging with ideas and participating as citizens. The 47% remark was a conversational bomb of historic proportion.

So what did Hillary say at the town hall? The host, Christiane Amanpour was asking Hillary about whether some of the opposition to President Obama has to do with his race. Hillary said that she couldn't read everyone's mind but that some of the opposition is "virulent" and "quite detached" from substantive judgment on the merits, which is a way of saying without saying that maybe it is about race. She pivots to talking about herself — maybe some opposition to her is because she's a woman — and proceeds to her book title theme of "hard choices": "he has to shut out a lot of the other stuff that's going on to have the concentration to be able to make those hard choices."

And then comes the part that struck me as similar to Romney's 47% remark:
So, if someone wants to dislike the president, remember, 60 percent is a landslide. If you get that kind of vote. That means 40 percent, four out of 10 people don't like you. And you have to know that, because even if you get to 60 percent, which is hard to do, you're operating on a margin where four out of 10 are never going to be happy or satisfied -- 
It's that "never" (along with a percentage) that made me think of Romney, who said he could "never convince" the 47%. Now, Hillary didn't attribute any particular quality to the 40%, not directly anyway, the way Romney disastrously typed 47% of Americans as dependent and irresponsible. But she was answering the question about racial prejudice, she had extended the problem to gender prejudice, and she was talking about the segment of people whose opposition to Obama (and, by extension, her) is "virulent" and "quite detached" from the actual policies and issues that are supposed to be under discussion.

And similar to Romney, her point is that you have to ignore a bunch of people who are not on your side and try to move forward doing what you think is right by making your arguments the pool of possible supporters.

Now, I do see a difference, in that Romney made it sound as though it's always the same people who are in the 47% and they are stagnantly stuck there. Hillary's remark could mean — rather innocuously — that whatever you do, you're lucky — you're getting a landslide — when you have as much as 60%, so you'll almost always have to deal with at least 40% of the people opposing you. This 40% may contain shifting groups of people depending on the issue under discussion. But she didn't say 40% opposition on any issue. She said 40% "don't like you," which seems to pick up the race/gender animus idea that Amanpour brought up. And Hillary didn't say at any given moment, 40% will be displeased. She said 40% are never going to be happy, which makes it feel like a stagnant set that isn't worth worrying about. She seems to be saying that when you are President it is your job not to worry about those people, which is what Romney said about the 47%.

Amanpour felt moved at this point to follow up with "Do you think some of that is latent racism, vestiges of racism, as some people have said?" Clinton's answer was:
Well, I know that -- I don't want to -- I don't want to say that I verify that, because that would be generalizing too broadly. 
Good. Good work not taking bait.
I believe that there are people who have trouble with ethnicity, with race, with gender, with sexual orientation, you name it. And therefore, they are not developing a reasoned opinion -- even if it's an opinion in opposition, but they are a reacting [on] a visceral stereotypical basis. And that's unfortunate. 
Unfortunate... but is it hopeless

And now, it's almost 1 in the afternoon. That was — as Hillary might say — hard work.

32 comments:

deepelemblues said...

Poor Hillary. Good ole boy Bill could stumble his way through comments as badly as this and it didn't matter so much. He's just a likeable person if all you see of him is what's on TV. Hillary doesn't have even that.

Peter said...

I can see why Hillary would worried, as she really has a high "unlikeable" factor.

Gahrie said...

I am anticipating the announcement that in 2013, more than half of income tax filers paid no taxes, and a significant portion in fact got a "refund" of money they didn't pay.

Where do we go from here?

Nonapod said...

It's interesting that Hillary's interpretation that 4 out of 10 people not voting for you means they don't like you. So the only reason a person wouldn't vote for you is that they personally don't like you?

By that line of thought I suppose it's not possible to personally like someone and not vote for them or to hate someone and still vote for them? And it's not possible to find a candidate personable and charming but to decide that they wouldn't be an effective president (or at least that their opponent would be more effective).

Todd said...

Ann said:

Oh! The outrage. Romney wrote off 47% of the people. No point trying to convince them. Romney tried to explain, to reword the idea he'd really intended, but "47%" stuck, maybe because it resonated with something else people associated with him — that he's a rich guy in the party of the rich — or maybe because it's just so wrong, in a democracy, to tell 47% of the people that you're not even going to bother to talk with them — they're hopeless. A presidential candidate needs to be able to talk everyone, to make good arguments to them, even though he knows that he can't persuade everyone. He has to believe that the citizens he would preside over are real, that that they have minds capable of engaging with ideas and participating as citizens. The 47% remark was a conversational bomb of historic proportion.


That sounds EXACTLY like the current President! Not willing to talk to or work with Republicans. He wrote off Congress and is going around them. He doesn't want to have to deal with the "other". Sounds like standard Dem / lib talk. Have been hearing it for years.

campy said...

She's such a terrible candidate. And yet she is certain to beat any republican who stands against her.

Funny, that.

Doug said...

Good. Good work not taking bait.
Althouse warming to the wiles of Hillary!(R) How did you like the crease in her trousers?

hombre said...

This is an old political saw. Forty per cent are committed either way no matter what. The trick is to get a majority of the remaining twenty per cent.

Hillary doesn't have original or new thoughts.

CStanley said...

The premise of the remark was very similar but only those who gave a fair hearing to Romney would notice that. Romney didn't get that fair hearing from liberal because:
A. He is Republican
B. He is wealthy
C.. The 47% he referred to were written off not just because of any general disagreement on policy, but because of opposition to policies that redistribute wealth.

Hillary's statement about this political reality isn't as easily exploitable.

Jim said...

The 47% remark is a classic example of the aphorism that "a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth".

retired said...

You'll vote for her, Ann. You identify with her so closely.

Hagar said...

60/40% is a fantastic landslide; 53/47% is more realistic, and for the GOP these days, still a landslide.

Romney used some idiosyncratic language; perhaps he is given to that. Such as his comment about aliens - legal or illegal - "self-deporting." This was and is in fact quite common, though I have never seen it described with that term before.

Prior to WWII, I know it was common for Norwegians, especially young men - to go to America to work and save enough money to return home and buy a farm. Frequently there would be another financial panic and economic bust in the U.S., and they would go home and live on the family farm until word came that the U.S. was on the upswing again, and they would go back to America to try to make some more money.

When the Germans went to construct a large airfield on Jæren in WWII and got particular about security in the area, they found that a full 10% of the population had spent considerable time in the U.S., and a substantial fraction of those in fact held U.S. citizenship papers.

Hagar said...

And Romney is not even near to being as wealthy as Hillary! is.

n.n said...

Deja vu. She's rejecting "bitter clingers", despite identification of her moral and practical guides. However, unlike Obama, she is a bit more diplomatic in marking her opponents. Ironically, both Clinton, and Obama, are bitter clingers; but they will never admit the traditions and myths they hold dear. Let alone the capital, control, and perhaps vindictiveness, which motivate their ambitions.

Anonymous said...

I found Romney's remarks ridiculously offensive, primarily because he did not seem to understand how much the ground game has changed in the last decade or two; that people could be taking personal responsibility for their lives and choices and still need healthcare or other assistance - as I've said before - in a world where McDonald's and Walmart are the top US employers, rather than ATT&T and Detroit.

Hillary's remarks aren't quite the same although I have found the general liberal trope, a la Janeane Garofalo, that the Tea Party is only a bunch of racists that have a problem with Obama equally offensive because it shits all over people's very righteous suspicion of government and its effect on the common man. And since government is often in bed with corporations, etc., I've never really understood why progressives can't or won't understand that aspect of it.



Drago said...

campy said...
She's such a terrible candidate. And yet she is certain to beat any republican who stands against her

It certainly helps that 95% of media are completely in the tank for Hillary.

That is a astounding advantage and basically acts as a continuous media in-kind contribution to the Hillary campaign.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The problem with the 47% remark was that the implication that all the people getting a check for the government vote for the Democrats just wasn't true.

A lot of Republican voters fall into the 47%, from veterans benefits to social security. For every one of them, there must necessarily be an offsetting number of Democratic voters who are in the 53% that don't get checks from the government.

So Mitt Romney managed to insult both idle Republicans and hard-working Democrats, not to mention a lot of independent voters who might vote either way.

Moreover, the Democrats had the remark on tape for several months before they decided to use it, which gave them time to figure out how best to exploit it.

BDNYC said...

The problem with Romney's comment is that it's basically Marxist in its assumptions about people's narrow material interests, and therefore highly insulting. It's actually the kind of shit Democrats think (and sometimes say). To a Democrat, people vote their interests unless they're stupid (in which case they desperately need education), and Democrats fashion their gift-giving platform accordingly. That's the essence of redistribution.

What Romney failed to realize is that many of his voters indeed "vote against their interests." Likewise, many Obama voters vote against their interests, for any number of reasons.

Romney's comment comes from a real concern about takers and makers, but he thought about the problem like a Democrat.

Todd said...

Left Bank of the Charles said...
The problem with the 47% remark was that the implication that all the people getting a check for the government vote for the Democrats just wasn't true.

A lot of Republican voters fall into the 47%, from veterans benefits to social security. 6/18/14, 2:19 PM


Don't confuse getting a check from the Government with getting a EARNED check from the Government. If someone works their entire life and paid taxes and paid into SS and Medicare, they earned their draw. If someone went into the service and got injured or retired. They earned their draw. Most folks have no problem with someone getting "back". It is the expectation of "give me" with no contributions ever going in that is the rub. That is what (I think) he meant about the 47%. Those drawing from the Government with not having put into the pot. That "pool" of folks are the "free stuff" crowd and they are never, ever going to vote for someone that promises to shut down the free stuff, even if the alternative is no more free stuff cause there is no more money. They will take until the last dime is gone (which might not be long now). The in-fighting has already begun and it is only going to get worst. It will wind up tearing the Dem coalition apart.

campy said...

"It certainly helps that 95% of media are completely in the tank for Hillary."

Yes, it certainly does!

readering said...

I don't think there was much more to Hillary's use of 60 per cent than the point that even the best baseball team loses 40 per cent of its games. Even the best candidate has 40 per cent of the country not wanting him or her to be president.

Eeyore Rifkin said...

Romney conflated 3 numbers: (1) reliable Democratic voters; (2) people who pay no net federal income tax; and (3) people who receive government benefits, including Social Security income. Then he said they were all of them lazy and irresponsible.

For about a number of days after the recording was released Romney hemmed and hawed and claimed to be misunderstood. Finally he issued an apology. Several weeks after he was soundly defeated at the polls, he walked back his apology, reiterated a version of the 47% argument, and claimed to be both misunderstood and maligned.

Conclusion: Romney is intellectually lazy, irresponsible, petulant, dishonest, and politically stupid. Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, this much is true: she's not politically stupid.

Heyooyeh said...

@readering -- that line of thinking makes too much sense.

wildswan said...

Seems as if we ought to be able to tie this story about the immoveable 40% to the story further up about the roads and how the more roads you build, the more you need. Like - the more programs the central government passes the more programs it needs to pass because more people pour into the programs. And to handle those new people you need more new programs - and so on. And you have to do something because 40 to 47 percent of the people are against you no matter what you do and you have to keep that number at 40 to 47 percent by showing activity. So, to sum it up, the project of centralized scientific government is over, it's gone as far as it can go. In the 19C the politicians looked back to simple yeoman farmers, in the 21C they look back to simple proletarian factory workers. What comes next? Globalized IT workers sabotaging the snooper state?

Hagar said...

Bill Clinton can dance and think on his feet, but Hillary! has to be programmed.

Kieth Nissen said...

Contrary to a remark above, I do not think Hilary is widely "liked" by the media. She is frequently presented as experienced and intelligent but, at the same time, insincere and conniving. She will not get the free pass that President Obama has gotten.

traditionalguy said...

Hillary is a practiced politician. She can slip around a hard issue as well as Bill. Her problem is the personality that shows through her answers. She exudes the approach that she feels that she is under attack as she sees daily reality, and that justifies her going after her attackers any way she wants to until she gets them.

But that is not good approach in a political job that gives one great power over lives of others.

The worst relationship you run into is a person who distrusts you and sees the worse in you. No matter how you treat them, they will return evil for your good.

They are unsafe people.

Lydia said...

This seems small potatoes compared with The Hillary Tapes -- Clinton tells of defense of child rapist in newly unearthed recordings

The Godfather said...

I've always thought that Romney didn't mean his "47%" remark the way it came out. It was true that 47% of voters were committed to Obama, so (Romney correctly said) there's no point in my devoting resources to trying to capture those voters. Then he mentioned the 47% of Americans receiving government benefits. An accurate statistic, but irrelevant to the issue of who could be persuaded to vote for Romney (I guess I'm one of the 47%, because I receive Social Security and Medicare, but I sure voted for Romney). Romney showed a tin ear there, and a failure to promote his own case (as he later did in the debate where he allowed Candy Crowley to rule on whether Obama had lied about Benghazi). He was a poor candidate, although he would have been such a better President than Obama!

Hillary's 40% statement is different, but is interesting for two reasons: (1) it's banal, and (2) it equates "liking" the President with supporting the President's policies. Should she be elected (may God save us!), she'd better hope that her success doesn't depend on public affection.

John said...

Ive seen some vile bullshit in these comments but this has to take the cake:

Left Bank of the Charles said...

A lot of Republican voters fall into the 47%, from veterans benefits...


I assume that you are including mortgage insurance, healthcare, education and the like for non-wounded vets.

How about pensions for govt employees? Do you consider those welfare?

How are they any different from VA benefits?

Go fuck yourself LeftBank. You never served your country, did you?

John Henry
Proud veteran

Brando said...

I don't think this will get the mileage that Mitt's remarks did, for a few reasons--and not because the media is in the bag for Hillary:

1) Mitt's comments were revealed at the height of the campaign. This is still mid-2014; such comments will be stale by the timme 2016 rolls around.

2) Hillary's comments were more along the line of "you can't win over some people" which most people agree with, even if they think a candidate should care about all of the people. Voters know that candidates aim for where they are more likely to get bang for their buck--which is why they don't campaign in deep red or deep blue states which aren't going to flip.

3) Mitt's comments were controversial less because of the idea that he wouldn't care about the votes of the fabled 47% that wouldn't vote for him anyway, but more because the comments made it seem that he didn't care about the 47% who were alleged to pay no taxes (though this is just federal income taxes--that doesn't count retirees, children, and the working poor who pay payroll taxes). Mitt's comments hurt because they solidified an image that the Democrats were trying to tar him with.

If anything, Hillary's "dead broke" comments will matter a lot more, though not because it makes her seem insensitive to the poor. They'll hurt because they remind Americans that the Clintons will spew out any sort of bull that they think will help them, with no regard for the truth. This is the image she needs to overcome, and comments like that won't help.

Brando said...

The other problem revealed by Mitt's 47% comments is that the GOP is falling into the trap of coming up with a morally convenient explanation for why they're losing elections. It's comforting to think that you're a producer, a maker, and a credit to society while the people who oppose you do so only because they are jealous moochers trying to take your stuff and tear down the society you've worked hard to support.

The problem is not only that this isn't true--sure, there are moochers and makers out there, but they don't coincide neatly with Democratic and GOP voting patterns--the problem is that it ignores many other reasons why non-moochers are voting against the GOP, and thus prevents any examination on how to fix that. Obama didn't lead over half the country into some mooch-olympics; his job of getting elected and re-elected was made easier by GOP policies that alienated hispanics, blacks, gays and a not insignificant number of suburban moderates (who used to be the most reliable of GOP voters).

It was ridiculous for the liberals to put out a book like "What's the Matter With Kansas" that rested on the assumption that lower income whites were voting against their class interests when they voted Republican, because that assumption ignored that those voters may have preferred the GOP for non-economic reasons (not to mention the arrogant assumption that the GOP policies are necessarily bad for those voters and that the voters are deceived). It's equally idiotic for the GOP to assume that all "makers" will prefer their policies, and only "moochers" could explain Democratic victories.

It's about time for the GOP to reassess many of their own policies and consider what it would take to appeal to new voters.