by Charles D. Ellison
Despite all the poll parsing, inside-the-Beltway echo-chambering and punditry surrounding Mitt Romneyâ€™s ill-fated â€œ47 percentâ€ moment, thereâ€™s a silver lining in it.Â For Democrats and Obama lovers, itâ€™s not that it brings their guy that much closer to re-election â€“ no: seven more weeks of campaigning is a long time in politics, and anything â€“ including October surprises â€“ can happen between now and then.Â And itâ€™s not that Republicans can finally point to their man as being truly red or, as he put it, â€œseverely conservative.â€
Itâ€™s that weâ€™re finally having a conversation about â€œthe poor.â€
The injection of the â€™47 percentâ€™ brings to light a conversation candidates have avoided for quite some time in their incessant outreach to the â€œmiddle class.â€Â Campaigns seem reticent about bringing up the poverty issue, perhaps out of a collective and unwritten sense of denial and fake good oleâ€™ American cheerleading â€“ talking about poor people might put the national psyche into a deeper funk, and weâ€™ve already been through enough of that.Â Instead, the discussion is saved for the fringe-like sideshow of forums and name-brand hustling courtesy of Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.Â Theyâ€™re trying.
But, itâ€™s as if the candidates, including the incumbent, have written off the poor as an electorate.Â As if the middle class can only vote – or whatâ€™s left of that currently struggling through recovery.Â Yet, strangely enough, poverty is fairly pronounced in the United States, at least according to the Census Bureauâ€™s recently released American Community Survey.Â In 2011, poverty struck 15.9% of the population, growing from 15.3% in 2010 â€“ thatâ€™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 â€™47 percent,â€™ oddly presenting it to wealthy donors as if theyâ€™re stuck in some remote, impenetrable fortress under siege from a swarm of rampaging, ragged and very poor zombies.