Yesterday in Springfield, Ohio, the crowd listening to Barack Obama booed when the President brought up Mitt Romney and the Republican Congress. That prompted Obama to say:
“No, no, no — don’t boo, vote. Vote! Voting is the best revenge.”
Romney promptly pretended to be very outraged by this. He told his supporters:
“Yesterday, the President said something you may have heard by now. That I think surprised a lot of people. Speaking to an audience, he said, ‘voting is the best revenge.’ He told his supporters — voting for revenge. Vote for revenge? Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you. Vote for love of country.”
“Did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge — for revenge...Instead, I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”
Of course, Obama was only encouraging people to vote. He was telling them that the real way to express opposition to GOP policies is to vote against them, rather than to merely boo them.
And guess what: You may have forgotten about this one, but this isn’t the first time Romney has attacked Obama for encouraging people to get more engaged in the political process. In September, Romney blasted Obama for saying that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” That September quote from Obama, however, also constituted urging people to get more involved in politics:
“The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. And that’s how the big accomplishments, like health care, got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out...something that I’d really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people, so they can put pressure on Congress to move some of these issues forward.”
Romney pretended to be very outraged about that, too, just as he is doing with regard to Obama’s perfectly innocuous “revenge” quote.
The important thing to remember here is that the GOP argument for a Romney victory rests explicitly on the hope that those who turned out to vote for Obama last time won’t be quite as engaged this time around. Republicans are hoping the electorate is not as diverse as it was in 2008, and they are arguing that the GOP base’s enthusiasm is much higher than that of core Dem constituencies. The Romney camp seems to think it will help whip GOP base voters into a frenzy — and perhaps boost turnout — if Romney casts the way Obama is urging Democratic base voters to get more involved in the process as something sininster and threatening. This is beyond idiotic; it is insulting to people’s intelligence.
The Post editorial board, in a widely cited piece, has claimed that the one constant about the Romney campaign has been that it is driven by “contempt for the electorate.” To make this case, the editorial cites Romney’s nonstop flip flops, his evasions about his own proposals, his refusal to share basic information about his finances and bundlers, and his monumental Jeep falsehood and all his other big lies. It’s fitting that Romney’s closing argument rests heavily on one last sustained expression of that contempt for the electorate — one focused squarely on a call for more engagement in the political process, i.e., on something that is fundamental to democracy itself.
Update: Post edited slightly for clarity and accuracy.