Viewpoint: Newfound respect from Romney’s 47 percent gaffe

By Jocelyn Fowler

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney tasted the proverbial foot last week when secretly recorded footage of his speech at a private fundraiser held last May found its way onto the Internet.

In signature Romney style, the presidential hopeful attempted to convince the wealthy donors present at the event that he was primarily concerned with winning over the “5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents.”

Of course this is an obvious strategy for a Republican candidate who probably can’t depend on the support of Democratic voters. Romney’s political gaffe came when he discussed a specific group of Obama supporters, or as they have affectionately been nicknamed, “the 47 percent.”

According to Romney, “There are 47 percent of the people who vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon the government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”

Romney’s “47 percent” includes about 76 million Americans who do not pay federal income taxes and are a lost cause in his esteemed opinion. In the words of the presidential candidate, “And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Naturally in a country where about 49 percent of the population receives some sort of federal assistance, Romney’s comments ruffled a few feathers. Insulted voters have yanked Romney/ Ryan signs out of their yards, tsked their disapproval at the candidate and in extreme cases, donated a few dollars to the Obama/ Biden campaign.

While some may be organizing mobs as I type (pitchforks and lighted torches included), I have developed a new respect for Mitt Romney. Inarguably Romney’s message lacked an appropriate amount of tact, but I think there is some value to be found in the underlying principles of his message.

If you look up America in the Great Book of Clichés it is “the land of opportunity.” Anybody can make it here in the land of tanned fist-pumpers and mini pageant queens willing to “holla for a dolla.” Yet this image is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain when nearly half of all Americans are on the receiving end of a federally funded program.

The staggering figures, be it the 99 percent, 47 percent, or 49 percent (seriously America, stop with all the percentages), beg the question, where has all the opportunity gone?

I think Romney’s campaign has given us the best answer to that question. The opportunity has not disappeared, but the incentive and determination have. Romney points at a population with a sense of entitlement and an officious government as the source of many citizens’ woes and I’m inclined to agree with him.

It never ceases to amaze me how disgruntled and upset so many students become at the end of a semester when final grades have been released.

Students just can’t believe their professors “gave” them a “C” when they so obviously deserved an “A.” Yet these same students fail to mention that they rarely came to class and when they did they were only able to contribute hazy memories of their weekend at Scruffy Murphy’s to class discussions.

As a single mother I have personally witnessed just how unhelpful the government’s help can be.

Raising a child and attending a private university have been expensive to say the least. Even with a job of my own, family support and careful budgeting, costs can often become overwhelming.

Since asthma and a heart murmur have left me unable to sell any useful organs, I had few options other than seeking government assistance. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that I was ineligible for any of the programs available. And the rationale behind the rejection: Program participants must devote 40 hours a week to “seeking employment” and full-time students are unable to do this.

His method of delivery may be off, but Romney’s message has a certain truth.

Americans must stop expecting success to waltz through their front doors and should become more adamant about pursuing it. Furthermore our government needs to stop cultivating an environment in which citizens must choose between critical help and the opportunity to secure future success in their lives.

Jocelyn Fowler is a senior political science major from Liberty. She is a lab reporter for The Baylor Lariat.