It has seemed to me for a while now that there is a central issue in this election, and this clip gets right to the heart of it. About a year ago I happened across a tweet that referred to comments sections on the web as "the bottom half of the Internet," which struck me as a wonderful phrase. I read a lot of news online, and inertia usually leads me to scroll down to the comments, and I nearly always regret it. No matter whether it's the web site of a city paper, or ABC News, or Yahoo, or pretty much any site you care to name, you can rely on the comments to sound like Mitt Romney does above. Sure, you might expect that sort of thing when you've got, say, a USA Today story about people reaching the end of their unemployment checks and still not being able to find a job: There's always someone hiring! These lazy thugs just want to sit on their asses watching BET on their plasma TV, and Obummer just keeps extending the payments so all his buddies can keep sucking the system dry! But this kind of rhetoric finds its way into the comments of virtually every article, no matter what the topic. A story in the New York Post about a couple of children getting mugged for their jewelry on the way to school: Bling on little kids? While the mom is using the WIC program most likely. I cannot fathom the stupidity of these ghetto dwellers. I grew up poor and we never took welfare, ever. Now these EBT card carriers flash iPhones and gold chains, and get all surprised when the sub-human animals they live around steal from them just like they steal from the taxpayers? Yahoo Sports posts an article about a football player paying back child support: Just another nignog making babies while not taking care of them, and another gold digging b-tch who got a lottery ticket to pay for that beamer and that weave. But hey, live off the govt your whole life and big surprise that you don't learn to take responsibility for yourself. And now Barry wants to increase the child support age from 18 to 26!
These are composites, but that just goes to show that it's not a lone crank making these sorts of statements. Comments sections are saturated with them. Really, there seems to be a sizeable segment of the population for whom every single thing they see in the news is an infuriating reminder that hardworking Real Americans are getting robbed by the government so that a bunch of inner-city mongrels can live on easy street. The cognitive dissonance on display is often fascinating: these commenters will talk about "the projects" as a byword for abject poverty, and at the same time grumble about the sweet life urban minorities are living in their subsidized housing. What's even more interesting is that since the economic collapse, many people who talk this way have fallen into poverty themselves, and have experienced firsthand how meager the safety net is in the U.S., and yet this doesn't moderate their rhetoric at all — if anything, they're even more outraged, because now they're poor too and yet the government hasn't presented them with the free Cadillac and T-bone steak that Ronald Reagan swore everyone on the south side of Chicago was getting. Perhaps the most famous recent example of this sort of thinking is Craig T. Nelson's rant on Glenn Beck's show that "I've been on food stamps and welfare — anybody help me out? No!" The notion that those were the help — that the meager subsistence they afford is what he is now begrudging others — seemed genuinely not to have crossed his mind.
I remember that the 2004 election was contested over the issues of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the extraordinary measures taken by the Bush administration ostensibly in the name of combating terrorism, over the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy, and, stupidly, over John Kerry's stint in Vietnam. Then Election Day arrived, and voters answered exit polls about what issues they had based their decisions on, and the most commonly chosen response was, of all things, "moral values." Apparently this was a major concern of the Republican base, and the mainstream media had missed it. This time around I've had the thought a few times, reading the bottom half of the Internet, that while Mitt Romney and Barack Obama sparred over top marginal tax rates and Medicare privatization and Bain Capital and health insurance mandates, a big chunk of the Republican base, quite possibly the biggest chunk, would be voting to strike a blow against mythical welfare queens. So it's been interesting to see this come out into the open.