Sunday, September 23, 2012

When our Politicians Speak Honestly...

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on September 21, 2012

By Bill Gouveia

​Four years ago Barak Obama had an embarrassing moment at a private fundraiser when he was caught on tape making controversial comments. The future president remarked that some voters “cling to their guns and religion”, a line Republicans (including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan) continue to use against him to this day.

​But open microphones are completely bipartisan. They do not discriminate between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, rich and poor. If you are seeking public office and have something revealing or stupid to say, you can rest assured there is someone out there ready to share it with everyone.

​Just ask Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor was shown in a relatively rare moment of candor recently. He too was recorded at a private fundraising effort, but the impact and scope of his words may affect this presidential race far more than Obama’s influenced the 2004 campaign.
​Romney is heard on tape making the following statements: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing”

​The former Massachusetts governor goes on to say his job is not to worry about those people. “I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5% to 10% in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful."

​Speaking from a strictly political standpoint, Romney is correct in part of his analysis. This election will be determined by the small percentage of people who are as yet undecided on how they will vote. And Mitt would indeed be wasting his time by trying to convince the 47 percent (his number, not mine) he claims will support the president no matter what.

​But it is not because they are “dependent” on government as Romney claims. There are many people who support President Obama, yet still manage to earn their livings and feed their families independent of their local, state or federal government. There are also many voters with limited means across this country who staunchly back the Republican ticket. Both sides tend to base their support on the fact their candidate’s vision for America most closely matches their own.

​When Romney said it was not his job to worry about nearly half the country, he probably meant it in the political sense. It would be hard to believe he just doesn’t care about those who see the world through eyes other than his. But his recent political strategy (and that is a charitable description of what he has been doing) is reflective of what our electoral process has become, nationally and locally.

​Elections today are all about dividing us, chopping us up like so many parts on a stolen car. Candidates make us afraid. They instill fear of the opposition rather than confidence in themselves. They ask for your vote not because of what they will do to help you, but because of what the other person will allegedly do to hurt you. And this is not unique to any one party or group.

​That’s why you are told Americans are wrong to think they should be “entitled” to decent health care. It’s why you constantly hear parents are overly obsessed with providing their children with a good education. It’s why your local selectman candidate tells you he or she needs to “save our town” from those who would bring change you fear.

​We demand so little of our leaders these days in terms of what they will do for us. We choose them as the least objectionable alternative. Maybe that’s what elections have always been about, and it is just more obvious in this modern world of high-tech communications. Either way, it stinks.

​It is a sad commentary that the only time our politicians seem to be completely forthright about their views is when they think we aren’t listening. Or in some cases, maybe it’s better that way.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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