by Charles D. Ellison
Despite all the poll parsing, inside-the-Beltway echo-chambering and punditry surrounding Mitt Romney’s ill-fated “47 percent” moment, there’s a silver lining in it. For Democrats and Obama lovers, it’s not that it brings their guy that much closer to re-election – no: seven more weeks of campaigning is a long time in politics, and anything – including October surprises – can happen between now and then. And it’s not that Republicans can finally point to their man as being truly red or, as he put it, “severely conservative.”
It’s that we’re finally having a conversation about “the poor.”
The injection of the ’47 percent’ brings to light a conversation candidates have avoided for quite some time in their incessant outreach to the “middle class.” Campaigns seem reticent about bringing up the poverty issue, perhaps out of a collective and unwritten sense of denial and fake good ole’ American cheerleading – talking about poor people might put the national psyche into a deeper funk, and we’ve already been through enough of that. Instead, the discussion is saved for the fringe-like sideshow of forums and name-brand hustling courtesy of Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. They’re trying.
But, it’s as if the candidates, including the incumbent, have written off the poor as an electorate. As if the middle class can only vote – or what’s left of that currently struggling through recovery. Yet, strangely enough, poverty is fairly pronounced in the United States, at least according to the Census Bureau’s recently released American Community Survey. In 2011, poverty struck 15.9% of the population, growing from 15.3% in 2010 – that’s nearly 50 million Americans stuck below the poverty line out of a population of 312 million.
Enter Romney with his very candid camera moment about the ’47 percent,’ oddly presenting it to wealthy donors as if they’re stuck in some remote, impenetrable fortress under siege from a swarm of rampaging, ragged and very poor zombies.