I’m going to type this super slow in the hopes that it gets through to some of our Democratic leaders: You people need to learn to frame issues and you need to do it without apologizing for your beliefs.
The President had to explain Monday at the Chicago NATO Summit exactly why Mitt Romney’s history as an alleged “job creator” at Bain Capital is relevant to the 2012 election. Why did he have to explain something so obvious? Well, because some Democrats seem to be confused about what exactly qualifies as ugly campaigning, as we saw from progressive Democratic Mayor Cory Booker Sunday on Meet the Press and Monday on the Rachel Maddow Show. Sadly, Booker is not alone in his false equivocations of ugly campaigning or his reflexive cowing to right wing framing of Democrats as anti-business.
Watch the President break it down here:
The President praised Booker before getting into clarifying that this issue is not a “distraction” but an important part of the debate regarding how everyone who is working hard and acting responsibly can have a shot at success. Obama pointed out that his job as President is to take everyone into account, not just some people, “My job is to take into account everybody, not just some.”
This is how it’s done:
“And I think it’s important to recognize that this issue is not a, quote, distraction. This is part of the debate that we’re going to be having in this election campaign about how do we create an economy where everybody from top to bottom, folks on Wall Street and folks on Main Street, have a shot at success, and if they’re working hard and they’re acting responsibly, that they’re able to live out the American dream.
Now, I think my view of private equity is that it is — it is set up to maximize profits and that’s a healthy part of the free market. That’s – that’s part of the role of a lot of business people. That’s not unique to private equity, and as I think my representatives have said repeatedly, and I will say today, I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries. But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that’s not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers.
And the reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying,’ I’m a business guy and I know how to fix it,’ and this is his business.
And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off and how are we paying them for their retraining? Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters so that they can attract new businesses. Your job as president is to think about how do we set up a equitable tax system so that everybody’s paying their fair share that allows us then to invest in science and technology and infrastructure, all of which are going to help us grow.
And so, if your main argument for how to grow the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about. It doesn’t – it doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president.
My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and twenty years from now. And so, to repeat, this is not a distraction. This is what this campaign’s going to be about, is: what is a strategy for us to move this country forward, in a way where everybody can succeed? And that means I’ve got to think about those workers in that video just as much as I’m thinking about folks who have been much more successful.”
Democrats need to take a long hard look at how this President campaigns and how he leads. He is known as a “pragmatic centrist” but in reality, his beliefs are firmly rooted in economic fairness and equal opportunity for all. Obama manages to frame the issues through the prism of empathy (see bolded sections above) that is the cornerstone of liberal thought.
Obama is going to define this election in policy terms that relate to people, and yet the same individuals who have accused him of caving to the Republicans will also refuse to stand by his fair review of Romney’s job record. Why? Maybe some Republican complained, Fox News declared this an “attack on Bain” and the MSM followed, or worse, the corporate cash called.
But Mitt Romney is the person who made his leadership at Bain Capital an issue. It is, after all, all he wants to talk about. Romney no longer wants to talk about how he supports instituting Arizona’s papers please law or restricting gay rights via the constitution. He wants to talk about jobs.
So talk about jobs we will.
Brace yourselves, Democratic leaders, because at some point when discussing Romney’s actual record on job creation, you are going to feel bad. Why? Because his record is not pretty. His record is actually one of job destruction and small town annihilation.
Now, sure, this might make you feel bad, because it sucks to make someone feel bad, even a corporation — but guess what? There are real people out here who deserve to know the truth before the vote. They deserve to know that Mitt Romney thinks a $19,000/year job is a “middle class job.” They need to know these things, because they might not agree with Romney on this rather important issue.
The corporate embracing Democrats, and even the smart ones who aren’t corporate embracing but recognize the necessity of a big tent, are going to want to jump in at this point to defend capitalism. They may perceive, as Cory Booker did and Fox News does, an honest review of Romney’s job creation at Bain as “an attack on Bain”. This seems to translate as an attack on a person in some minds, and hence qualify as ugly campaigning. Thus, we had Booker (and he’s far from alone) equating the Reverend Wright attacks with the Obama campaign’s revelations of Romney’s jobs record.
But of course, that thinking is absolutely ridiculous. Romney’s record at Bain is what he is running on. He claims his experience there will help him fix our economy. Are we now to pretend that Romney’s real record is too mean to discuss and thus irrelevant? Exactly what is “acceptable”, if not his record at Bain, his leadership in Massachusetts, and/or all of the things he said in the primaries?
Democrats are rather touchy about capitalism because they have been framed by the Right and the corporate owned media as being anti-business for so long that they can’t seem to find a way out.
But Barack Obama is showing them the way out of this mess. They are not making an argument against capitalism, but an argument for hard work and fairness for everyone, whether they are a businessperson or a laborer. They are making an argument that government is not in the business of making the most profit, but of thinking about everyone. See, that appeals to common sense. It also appeals to actual live people, rather than corporations.
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant, says he offered to help Democrats with their framing problem, but they shied away from his help. You know how Democrats don’t like to be in lock step or feel as if they are manipulating things… Much better to let Republicans frame a war hero as a coward and lose elections than sift their way through the manifest differences between framing and spin.
Get a spine, Democrats. We can’t afford to lose this one and you can’t afford to luxuriate in your idea of yourselves as “nice” people as you falsely equate Reverend Wright ads with interviewing people who lost their jobs because of Romney’s leadership at Bain.
Sometimes the truth is ugly, but that doesn’t make you ugly for speaking it. In fact, if you refuse to speak the truth about Romney’s job creation record, you are part of the problem. That’s not nice; that’s a big stab in the back to the working class of this country.
If elected Democrats really stand with the people, they better try a little backbone and a lot of solidarity. Stop defending Bain Capital and start thinking about the people of this country.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.