Mitt Romney has an opportunity to gracefully exit the national stage, transitioning back to private life after nearly six years on the campaign trail. But the failed Republican presidential candidate apparently just can't help himself.
A week after losing the presidential election to President Obama, Mitt Romney blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on what he said were big "gifts" that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies -- including young voters, African Americans and Hispanics.
In a conference call Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the "old playbook" of wooing specific interest groups -- "specially the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people," Mr. Romney explained -- with targeted gifts and initiatives.
In Romney's mind, college aid counts as "a big gift" that helped President Obama with younger voters. The Affordable Care Act was "a big gift" that led to all kinds of political support. Contraceptive care roped in young women, Romney added, while "amnesty for children of illegals" generated vote from Latino voters.
The candidate went on to say his commitment to "talking about big issues for the whole country" during the campaign "worked well," but he came up short because of "those who were given a specific gift."
So much for the graceful exit from the national stage.
My goal here is not to kick a candidate who's already lost and will soon be forgotten, but it's worth taking a closer look at Romney's remarks because I think they speak to a larger truth.
First, in case there were any doubts, it's now clear that the comments Romney made his infamous "47 percent" tape were entirely sincere. He really does embrace a divisive view of the American electorate. He really does hold millions of struggling families in contempt, wondering why they refuse to "take personal responsibility" for their lives, lamenting the notion that they await "big gifts" from politicians.
Second, there's a certain irony to Romney's whining. We are, after all, talking about a man whose life was largely shaped by "big gifts" from his wealthy and politically-influential family. Indeed, even in public life, Romney benefited from one "big gift" (taxpayer bailout of his Olympic games) after another (federal funds for his state-based health care reform initiative).
And finally, there's simply a fundamental flaw in the worldview that shapes Romney's explanation. He may not realize it, but Romney was offering a series of "big gifts" as his campaign platform; they just didn't appeal to the American mainstream -- he wanted to give the wealthy a big gift of another major tax cut; he wanted to give corporations (which are people, my friend) a big gift by slashing corporate tax rates; he wanted to give his Wall Street donors a big gift by loosening and eliminating pesky government safeguards; and he wanted to buy support from seniors by spending another $716 billion on Medicare.
What Romney is complaining about, in other words, is the notion that Americans weren't impressed by the big gifts he was offering, and now he's feeling sorry for himself while chastising the electorate for being, from his perspective, selfish.
In effect, Romney argued yesterday, "Obama used government as a tool to improve the lives of working families, and in turn, they voted for him. It's outrageous!"
What Republicans need to understand is that public officials are supposed to make a material difference in the lives of the American people. It's what "promoting the general welfare" is all about. Helping people go to college and/or have access affordable health care are not examples of wasteful government overreach; they're basic elements of modern life in an advanced society.
Obama taking steps to improve Americans' lives isn't cheating. It's not political bribery. It's not the president playing the role of Santa Claus, handing out superfluous goodies to lazy families with a parasitic relationship with government. The fact that Romney finds this confusing reinforces the impression that he deserved to lose.