GOP’s worst déjà vu ever: Another incredible “47 percent” meltdown

Bob Beauprez joins the "47 percent" all-stars. Here's your ultimate guide to the big world of 47 percent antagonism

Topics: Bob Beauprez, Mitt Romney, Thom Tillis, 47 percent, Class warfare, Republicans, 2012 election, Income Tax, Government Assistance, Tom Tancredo, Politics, Editor's Picks,

GOP's worst déjà vu ever: Another incredible "47 percent" meltdownMitt Romney (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Leading up to the June 24 Colorado gubernatorial primary, Republicans were concerned that the party would end up nominating an unlikable extremist. Tom Tancredo, a former congressman and one of the more disgusting anti-immigrant voices in the nation, stood a credible chance of actually pulling out a win and forcing the party to get behind a nominee who has gone on record supporting literacy tests as a prerequisite for voting.

But in the end, the Republicans got the candidate they wanted. Former congressman Bob Beauprez edged out Tancredo by 3.6 percent, and put to rest any fears the party might have had about nominating a bomb-throwing lightning rod of a candidate.

Well, those fears are back. Last week the Denver Post (with an assist from the Colorado Democratic Party) reported on a video of Beauprez shot in 2010 in which he railed against the “47 percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax,” thus making him the unlikely prequel to Mitt Romney’s campaign- and legacy-defining gaffe from 2012.

Ever since Romney made 47 percenterism a known commodity, it’s been popping up all over Republican politics. But there are subtle variances and nuances to the different flavors of “47 percent” antagonism that may not be apparent to the casual observer. So, as an act of public service, I’ll break them down here to foster understanding of the specific ways in which Republican candidates denigrate nearly half the population, and rate them accordingly.

THE ORIGINAL

The variety of 47 percenterism most of us have come to know and resent was elucidated by Willard Mitt Romney as he spoke to a gathering of well-heeled donors at a campaign fundraiser in Florida in May 2012. Romney’s remarks cast the “47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax” as mooches on the government who could never be cured of their dependence and would vote for Barack Obama as a way to keep the entitlement train rolling. That rendered them, in Romney’s view, beneath his attention: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”



So the Romney flavor of 47 percenterism has a heavy dose of patrician condescension, and assumes that the deadbeats who collect some sort of government benefit are a natural constituency for the Democrats, lost souls who merit (at best) benign neglect.

RATING: For its sneering contempt at the less fortunate and assumptions that people end up on government assistance owing to their personal failures, Romney 47 percenterism is awarded 4 out of 5 Judge Smailses.

IT’S A CONSPIRACY!

Now we get to Bob Beauprez, the newest 47 percent all-star. According to the Denver Post, Beauprez spoke to the Denver Rotary Club in April 2010 and let rip with his own riff on the 47 percent that was slightly different from Romney’s. Beauprez’s approach was more overtly class warfare-ish – he played to the crowd of wealthy people by congratulating them on being rich.

BEAUPREZ: I see something that frankly doesn’t surprise me, having been on Ways and Means: 47 percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax. I’m guessing that most of you in this room are not in that 47 percent — God bless you — but what that tells me is that we’ve got almost half the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill, and most of that half is you all.

And while Mitt viewed the 47 percent as a natural constituency of the Democrats, Beauprez laid out an argument that the existence of the 47 percent is actually a plot by Democrats to seize power forever:

BEAUPREZ: I submit to you that there is a political strategy to get slightly over half and have a permanent ruling political majority by keeping over half of the population dependent on the largesse of government that somebody else is paying for.

So the Beauprez flavor of 47 percenterism casts the wealthy and fortunate as obviously superior to the parasites that subsist on their unfairly confiscated tax money. And all of this is, of course, one great big plot by Obama and ACORN (probably; they were still around then) to implement big government socialism forever.

RATING: For assuming that moral superiority is derived from financial success and spinning a loopy conspiracy theory about Democrats, Beauprez 47 percenterism is awarded 4.5 out of 5 Donald Trumps.

THUNDERDOME!

TWO POORS ENTER, ONE POOR LEAVES” was basically what North Carolina Republican Senate nominee Thom Tillis was advocating when he offered his own take on the 47 percent in a 2011 speech. Tillis laid out his vision of a world in which people on government assistance warred with each other, thus allowing conservatives and Republicans to “divide and conquer.”

TILLIS: What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice, in her condition, that needs help and that we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘You’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you.’ And we’ve got to start having that serious discussion.

When you say it like that, it sounds monstrous. And Tillis knew at the time that what he was saying would be problematic if it ever got a public airing. “One of the reasons why I may never run for another elected office is that some of these things may just get me railroaded out of town,” Tillis said.

So the Thom Tillis flavor of 47 percenterism casts the less fortunate as pawns to be exploited as part of a secret and (admittedly) morally vacant scheme to ensure the political dominance of Republicans and conservatives.

RATING: For viewing people on government assistance as people to be manipulated and controlled by pitting them against one another and nurturing resentment in a cold-hearted and despicably Machiavellian strategy of dominance, Thom Tillis 47 percenterism is awarded 5 out of 5 Lucille Bluths.

Simon Maloy

Simon Maloy is Salon's political writer. Email him at smaloy@salon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SimonMaloy.

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