The Real Reason Why Mitt Romney Spoke to the NAACP

By presenting himself to the nation's premier civil rights group, Romney signaled his aversion to bigotry.

It may have been a bit surprising when the NAACP held its national convention and Mitt Romney showed up. Romney, as comedian Reggie Brown put it, is "what people who hate white people think of when they think of white people." He's likely to do about as well among black voters as he is among Wiccans.

But there he was, taking precious campaign time in a vain and even humiliating search for votes. Naive folly or an excess of ambition on his part? Not quite.

Candidates normally put a high priority on assuring enthusiastic receptions and supportive audiences. Campaign managers typically prefer to avoid the risk of making the boss look unpopular. Sometimes, however, that risk is not a bug but a feature.

Republican presidential candidates never do well among African-Americans. Yet John McCain addressed the NAACP in 2008, as did George W. Bush eight years before.

They didn't accomplish anything in the way of winning over the delegates, and neither did Romney. So why did they go? Because they weren't trying to get the votes of blacks.

They were trying to get the votes of whites, particularly independent moderates who have a strong aversion to anything that smacks of racial prejudice—something not quite extinct among the GOP rank-and-file.

By presenting himself to the nation's premier civil rights group, Romney signaled his aversion to bigotry without embracing any policies favored by the Congressional Black Caucus. With a college-educated suburban woman who dislikes Rush Limbaugh, say, the gesture could only help his cause.

But things may have worked out even better than that. By condemning Obamacare, Romney offered doubters a rare sighting of the Romney backbone. By reaping a chorus of boos, he strengthened his standing among hard-line conservatives who regard the NAACP as anathema. It was political jiu-jitsu, turning a weakness to his advantage.

While Romney was confronting his foes, Obama was avoiding his friends. Though he has spoken at past conventions, including last year's, the president sent Joe Biden in his stead. Press secretary Jay Carney cited scheduling conflicts and said cryptically that his boss was busy working to help "all Americans."

The nation's most prominent black group convenes, and a brother can't be bothered? Maybe this is what actor Morgan Freeman was getting at the other day when he volunteered, "He's not America's first black president; he's America's first mixed-race president."

Rabid right-wingers imagine Obama as a militant, white-hating champion of black power and racial reparations. In fact, he has always underplayed his skin color, and he has generally steered clear of racial appeals. On the rare occasions when he has waded into racially tinged controversies, Obama has sometimes gotten burned.

In 2009, after a black Harvard professor was arrested by police who took him for a burglar, the president said the cops had acted "stupidly" and noted "there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

After a flurry of negative reactions, the president was forced to retreat -- expressing regret for his choice of words and inviting the professor and the arresting officer to the White House for a "beer summit."

This year, after George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, Obama said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." That comment elicited ostentatious outrage from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, the latter of whom accused him of "divisive rhetoric." Obama's comment played into the hands of those who would like to portray him as a sworn enemy of anyone with a pale complexion.

Staying away from the NAACP isn't likely to cost Obama any African-American votes, but it serves to assuage fears among whites that he may owe too much to liberal black interest groups. He knows drawing attention to his complexion is a net liability.

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  • AlgerHiss||

    Romney at the NAACP: That’s just like when Obama spoke at the NRA convention.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Romney is racist for speaking at an organization that has "colored" in the title.

  • NotSure||

    Well if they used the new political correct label, they would be called
    "NAAAAP", hardly the best of acronyms.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Plus it would bring about the return of "NAAAPy head" as a racial slur.

  • Loki||

    Drop the "P" att the end, since "African Americans" implies "people" it's not really necessary. Then they could be the NAAAA.

  • Rhino||

    the P could stand for Progressives. not exactly inappropriate.

  • ||

    Well if they used the new political correct label, they would be called
    "NAAAAP", hardly the best of acronyms.

    It's a great acronym if you're trying to shake loose sponsorships from mattress companies.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    These idiots have no clue what they're doing. They've convinced themselves that they COULD win votes by preaching their platforms at the NAACP.

    It's convenient analysis, but they're not that devious. They're truly self-deluded, and that's the only explanation.

  • Randian||

    Occam's says you are wrong. Neither party may manifest as being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but there are (unfortunately) a lot of smart people in politics. Your explanation fails to account for any of them.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    What? Doesn't account for the smart people? Or doesn't account for the appearance?

    Cause the smart people are also deluded AND afraid to argue with the demi-urges they are fighting for. It's like when you go to basic training for the Marines. You CAN get through it without buying into the BS, but it's a hell of a lot easier if you do. Or physicists that are still christians or whatever. You can be smart and still convince yourself of some completely idiotic things.

    And Occams (to me) says that the simplest reason that these people go to things like the NAACP is that they actually think they will win votes from ACP.

  • Randian||

    That just is not the simplest explanation. You have to posit mass delusion amongst every high-ranking individual within the organization. Sorry, but claiming that the GOP nominee, election after election, does the same allegedly stupid thing for no good reason, borne from a delusion, just makes no sense.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    It is mass delusion, I can't prove it any more than anyone can prove that it isn't. Seems to me much more likely than "oh let's go talk to the NAACP to lock in the racist vote" since anyone with even an iota of sense knows that they have the racist vote locked up.

    No, they legitimately think they can win votes.

  • Randian||

    Right, so like I said, either organizations with some of the smartest people there are all slave under a mass delusion or it tries to pander to the moderates by throwing itself into contrast with the extremes.

    I prefer rationality in my explanations.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    If they think this is pandering to moderates, they're not very smart, are they?

    When an action is objectively irrational, it probably wasn't a rational decision that led to that action.

  • Metazoan||

    Except proving a negative is essentially impossible, so that's not really a good comparison. The burden of proof is on the one making the assertion.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    These idiots have no clue what they're doing. They've convinced themselves that they COULD win votes by preaching their platforms at the NAACP.

    Romney did the best that he could in that situation.

    If he had declined their invitation to speak he would have been called a racist snob.

    If he had tryed to pander to them, they would have evinced faux offense at his pandering and fed the narrative of himself as a shameless flip floppery and RHINO.

  • ||

    Romney wass trying to win some votes of non-blacks, and trying to discourage some blacks from showing up at the polls because they think he's not much worse than Obama.

    Votes come in halves:

    One of your opponent's voters switches to your side: +1

    One of your opponent's voters stays home, or votes for a non-R-non-D candidate, or doesn't vote in your race: +0.5

    One of your opponent's voters votes for your opponent: +0

    Someone undecided or who was planning to vote for a non-R-non-D candidate votes for you: +0.5

    and so on.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    NY Times says Romney is announcing his VP pick this week to deflect the Bain controversy (imho).

  • some guy||

    I'm surprised the NY Times is aware of your honest opinion. Are you on the Editorial staff?

  • Randian||

    Probably.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    He's not quite condescending enough to work for them. But practise makes perfect.

  • ||

    practise

    Another fucking Canadian?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Ah no, sorry, I work for the British so sometimes it carries over.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I'm surprised the NY Times is aware of your honest opinion. Are you on the Editorial staff?

    That's one group that would be improved by shrikes presence.

  • anon||

    Bain Controversy? There is no controversy; it's a lib talking point that holds no weight dipshit.

  • BigT||

    Romney should really go on the offensive on Bain. He should put out commercials that celebrate the hundreds of thousands of jobs created AND also indicate that poorly run, poorly conceived companies were not supported - in sharp contrast to the government's actions (eg Solyndra).

  • joeloliver||

    Not that I care what Romney does, but your premise assumes the voting populace have at least an iota of understanding of economics.

  • Rhino||

    true. we desperately need a better education system, or at least one that fosters a "life-long learner" mentality like they do in the Marines.

  • NotSure||

    For a liberal, a company that makes profits and fires people is not only ontroversial, but downright evil.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "the Bain non-issue" would be a better way to put it, shrike.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    What "Bain controversy". There IS NO "Bain controversy", unless you're talking about the President demonizing an entire U.S. industry. But, somehow, I don't see where Mr. Romney would be much interested in deflecting that scandal.

  • ||

    Republican presidential candidates never do well among African-Americans. Yet John McCain addressed the NAACP in 2008, as did George W. Bush eight years before.

    Or the more likely scenario that the NAACP was founded by a bunch of republicans.

  • DJF||

    “”’’as did George W. Bush eight years before.”””

    And Bush turned down an invitation in 2004 and he was attacked for not going there and being booed

  • Mo||

    They were trying to get the votes of whites, particularly independent moderates who have a strong aversion to anything that smacks of racial prejudice—something not quite extinct among the GOP rank-and-file.

    ...

    But things may have worked out even better than that. By condemning Obamacare, Romney offered doubters a rare sighting of the Romney backbone. By reaping a chorus of boos, he strengthened his standing among hard-line conservatives who regard the NAACP as anathema. It was political jiu-jitsu, turning a weakness to his advantage.

    Those two paragraphs don't square. Not pandering to an audience you're not targeting isn't showing backbone.

  • Skomoroh||

    " he has generally steered clear of racial appeals"

    Well, no problem then.

    Liberals are known for their moral relativism. Others who have a more defined morality might find it problematic when a president panders to racial groups no matter what the president’s race.

  • wareagle||

    The nation's most prominent black group convenes, and a brother can't be bothered?

    that's just it, Steve. Obama is not a "brother." He has no clue about the American experience, let alone that of black Americans. There is a reason why in '08 a host of black pols was saying Bill Clinton was more black than The Obama.

  • T o n y||

    What is "the American experience"?

  • T o n y||

    And is it something former presidents or current contestants for the presidency have had more of than Obama?

  • BigT||

    One might equate the "American Experience" with living in these United States, particularly the 48. Barry lived overseas and in Hawaii for much of his early life, and then had a skewed African American experience from his affirmative action education.

    Did any other President live as long overseas (not including Ike's, GHWB's, Dole's, McCain's, or JFK's years at war) or not in the 48?

    Obummer is the least American of presidents in every respect.

  • T o n y||

    I suppose, then, you question the "true American" status of one Sarah Palin, resident of Alaska?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Some of us loathe Palin, too, y'know.

  • T o n y||

    I'm specifically curious about BigT's opinion on the matter.

  • ||

    This just in: Alaska now a state!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Skewed? Thta's putting it mildly, BigT.

    Watch someone yell "racism" now.

  • T o n y||

    Yes he could have been indoctrinated into anything at those radical enclaves Columbia and Harvard. Mitt Romney also went to Harvard, except he got in because his daddy made a phone call. But that's not affirmative action is it?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    There's that wealth-envy again, Tony. The wealth-envy you claim you do not practice.

    BTW, liberals should, in theory, be against all forms of bigotry.

    In theory.

  • T o n y||

    I don't have envy, I simply note that George W. Bush and Mitt Romney have received far more "affirmative action" in their lives than Obama, so I'm a little perplexed at how it's always used as a label for him. What could possibly be the reason? I can't imagine.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "except he got in because his daddy made a phone call"

    And this only happens when "daddy" is Team Red, right?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Neither Bush nor Romney are non-white, which means AA did not factor in to either of their lives.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....ve-action/

    I know, I know... dictionary entries are "pedantic".

  • T o n y||

    Of course I'm using the term loosely, defining it as a special exception given to someone for college entrance. From what I've seen there's no evidence Obama received any affirmative action, but it's plain that both Bush and Romney did by virtue of their daddies' last names.

    Are you for meritocracy in college admissions or aren't you? Because of the three men discussed here the only one who possibly could have achieved what he did on his own was Barack Obama.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    AA is government action. Bush and Romney did not receive benefits of said government action.

    As for college admissions, IMO anyone who can afford it, should get in. That, should be the only criteria.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    From the Stanford entry:

    “Affirmative action” means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded.

    I added the italics for emphasis, because neither Bush nor Romney are women or minorities.

    I guess it's too much to ask for proper usage of words, though.

  • T o n y||

    Neither did Obama, unless you'd care to prove otherwise.

    And how many 18 year olds do you know who can, on their very own, afford college tuition? Why should people who were randomly born to wealthy parents have more access to education than others?

    Sounds like you have a very specific issue with privilege.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    T o n y|7.16.12 @ 12:04PM|#

    I don't have envy

    Were you lying then, or are you lying now?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Sounds like you have a very specific issue with privilege."

    I would love to own a Lamborghini, but since I can't afford one, should I be given one anyway?

  • T o n y||

    The only people I'm envious of are those with better abs.

    Using your own logic, if you can call it that, it must be true that you're envious of minorities who get affirmative action. Why do you have black envy?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I don't, and don't fucking lie about my intentions..

    I'm sick and goddamned tired of you and your leftist twat buddies using under-the-doorway "call 'em racist" tactics. It's fucking disingenuous and dishonest. Save it for people who ARE racist; a Klan member, for instance.

    Fuck off.

  • T o n y||

    Who have I called racist, touchy? Though a strong case can be made for anyone referring to Obama as an affirmative action president. No code words there!

    You don't find fascinating the disparity between which forms of privilege get your panties twisted up?

  • Skip||

    Tony, how fucking stupid are you? Obama's useless daddy also went to that school so Obama could also be considered a legacy. If you have any proof Romney was a bad student, either state it or shut the fuck up!

  • T o n y||

    There's ample evidence he was a borderline sociopath as a student.

  • ||

    The same could be said for Obama... that is if he released any of his academic records.

  • T o n y||

    And given the odds of getting into Harvard with Romney's academic credentials (good but not outstanding--at that Mormon school), it's pretty much to be assumed that his daddy's prominence got him in.

  • Ragnar||

    So how much Romney pay to be "invited"?

  • R C Dean||

    In fact, he has always underplayed his skin color, and he has generally steered clear of racial appeals.

    Personally, perhaps. Via surrogates, not so much.

  • Loki||

    "Only Nixon could go to China Romney could address the NAACP."

  • Nike air max womens||

    They were trying to get the votes of whites, particularly independent moderates who have a strong aversion to anything that smacks of racial prejudice—something not quite extinct among the GOP rank-and-file.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "I simply note that George W. Bush and Mitt Romney and Al Gore and anyone named 'Kennedy' have received far more "affirmative action" in their lives than Obama"

    FIFY'd, Tony. No charge.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Oh, shit, my boss is doing that "get back to work" thing. Well, back to having his boot on my neck.

    /snark

  • 16th amendment||

    Why is the NAACP such a big deal? They like to think of themselves as representing African Americans, but in reality they're just one of many possible factions. African Americans, or the less PC term Blacks, ought to be able to subscribe to any political camp they want to. The conservative http://project21.org/ is a fine alternative too.

    Of course Romney was booed. Some of the members in the audience were members of the CBC, and I'm sure food stamps lobbyists and such were present.

    If I'm not mistaken, the old NAACP supported the Lochner court. Oh, how things have changed!

  • DarrenM||

    something not quite extinct among the GOP rank-and-file.

    Nor among Dems, rank-and-file or not.

  • ||

    Never let reality get in the way of a perfectly good political meme. Particularly when the meme is central to your unwavering support of a statist piece of shit candidate.

  • air max chaussures||

    They didn't accomplish anything in the way of winning over the delegates, and neither did Romney. So why did they go? Because they weren't trying to get the votes of blacks.

  • tee shirt pas cher||

    But there he was, taking precious campaign time in a vain and even humiliating search for votes. Naive folly or an excess of ambition on his part? Not quite.

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