As we saw during Tuesday’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney’s answer to concerns over the “47 percent” video is to insist on his concern for “100 percent” of Americans. The problem is that this concern only seems to manifest itself when he’s in public. Behind closed doors, or when talking to like-minded people, he’s more willing to express his contempt for their situation — “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” — or their autonomy.
The latest: In These Times has discovered audio of a call from Romney to the conservative National Federation of Independent Business, where he tells a group of business owners that they should “make it very clear” how they feel about the candidates to their employees, and alert them to how their jobs might be affected by who wins in November. Here’s the transcript:
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope — I hope you pass those along to your employees.
He goes on to reassure the business owners that there’s nothing “illegal” about doing this:
Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.
It’s true that Romney is not partisan with his recommendation — he also tells empoyers who support Obama to talk to their employees about that. But this is still disturbing because of what it says about Romney’s view of the relationship between employeers and workers. Implicit in the request for business owners to “make it very clear” to their employees what is “in the best interests of your enterprise and thereofre their job” is coercion. When a friend says, “think about who you vote for,” it’s a piece of advice. When your boss says “think about who you vote for,” it carries the weight of a threat — after all, your boss can fire you.
Romney complains that he’s been caricatured as a heartless plutocrat, but he seems intent on proving it. In fundraisers, he expresses his disdain for the less fortunate. On the trail, he pushes policies that would shift an ever greater share of national income to the wealthiest Americans. And when speaking to like-minded business owners, he shows his contempt for the autonomy of ordinary workers. Mitt Romney is exactly who we think he is, and if he’s elected president, those are the values we should expect.