Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Oftentimes, liberal Democrats, such as those at Swarthmore, forget about the National Democratic Party’s constituency. Many important issues to Swatties, such as gay rights, human rights, and environmentalism, are part of the Democratic platform. However, few Americans would prioritize these issues in an election; the main concern of the majority of Americans is jobs. Specifically, there has been a rising sentiment over the past twenty years among the working class that their jobs are being exported to other nations, a factor which has contributed to continued unemployment. The Democrats have shamefully exploited this issue, accusing the Republican Party and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney of exporting corporations abroad, thus favoring corporate profits over American jobs.
While at Bain, Romney had no obligation whatsoever to favor American jobs over foreign jobs. His responsibility was to maximize the value of the companies which Bain Capital took on, and he performed this role very well. It would be nice if he was creating jobs in America instead of India, China, and Mexico, but I don’t fault him in the slightest in this regard, and neither should anyone else.
The Democrats did not stop there. At the Democratic National Convention, former Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland continued to promote this line of reasoning. The first half of his speech, highlighting President Barack Obama’s success in revitalizing the auto industry, was a great message about one of the unheralded successes of this administration. However, when he turned to Romney, his attack of Romney was just as heinous as those made by the Republicans on Obama. Strickland says:
Now, Mitt Romney, he lives by a different code. To him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet.
To him, all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off. That’s why companies Romney invested in were dubbed “outsourcing pioneers.” Our nation was built by pioneers—pioneers who accepted untold risks in pursuit of freedom, not by pioneers seeking offshore profits at the expense of American workers here at home
Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation. Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.
Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it’s well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.
Strickland not only argues that Romney does not care about American jobs, he also implies that Romney’s outsourcing history at Bain and his offshore wealth makes him anti-American. When Republicans convey similar messages about Obama, as Romney did about Obama’s birth certificate, Democrats play the race card (see A and B) and rightfully so. However, Strickland’s attack is just as unfounded and misleading.
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty effective strategy. These superficially protectionist ads appeal to a lot of white male working class voters in the Rust Belt. There’s a reason that Obama is leading by 4.2 points in Ohio and 5.8 points in Michigan. Ohio, which historically has leaned a point or two Republican relative to the country, has leaned a point or two towards Obama relative to the country in this election cycle. These attacks work. The problem is that they engender an “us vs. them” mentality that turns the aforementioned superficial protectionism into a mild sort of xenophobia on the one hand and a class conflict between the working class and the elite class on the other hand.
Ultimately, this whole line of attack boils down to simple bullet points: Barack Obama saved the auto industry. Mitt Romney outsourced jobs to China. Barack Obama wants to bring foreign jobs back to America. Mitt Romney wants free trade agreements with Central America. Barack Obama shows you his tax returns because he has nothing to hide. Mitt Romney keeps his money in offshore accounts and won’t share his tax returns. Barack Obama knows your struggles and wants to help the middle class. Mitt Romney is an elite who does not care about the average American. Barack Obama lived the American Dream. Mitt Romney is un-American. See how that goes?
The Democrats have moved to the center over the past few years as Tea Party extremists have forced the Republican Party towards the extreme right. However, if they truly want to appeal to centrists and fulfill Obama’s post-partisan rhetoric, the Democrats cannot obfuscate and mislead in the same manner as the Republican Party. The Democratic Party could move to the far left as the modern Republican Party has to the far right, but that would only increase the current Congressional stalemate, accomplishing nothing. I strongly believe that a center-left, honest Democratic Party has the power to blow this Republican Party out of the water and bring back a degree of sanity to the Republican Party and American politics.