Mitt Romney’s speech before the NAACP couldn’t have been a more perfect comedic performance. It was as if he were a character in a Dave Chappelle sketch, or trapped inside a very special episode of Good Times (you know, before James died). He was awkward, condescending, insulting, arrogant, and distant. It was if here a caricature of a white politician drawn out of a Spike Lee joint. And he was a complete success.
The operative word there being “was.” Romney went in front of the NAACP national convention in Houston and delivered a version of his stump speech that mentioned all of his key points. He told his audience that President Barack Obama was no good for the economy, and that his plan to declare China a currency manipulator and slash taxes for the most wealthy would create millions of jobs right here in America. He vowed to fight for school vouchers and increased enrollment in charter schools, and to promote family through “traditional” marriage (in front of an organization that had just declared its support for marriage equality, but I digress). And he repeated his desire to repeal “Obamacare,” which the first and most sustained booing of the short 30-minute speech. The staccato organ that played him off during various portions was simply the icing on the cake.
Through all of that, Romney still appeared to be homefree. He accomplished what he was truly there for: he hit all of his points in front what was assumed to be a hostile crowd, saving face for independent white voters who may have started to think his affiliation with Tea Party-backed Donald Trump might mean he was harboring hostilities toward African-Americans, and got a few soundbites to play in front his supporters to show that, hey, those guys just don’t get it. He was having a productive day. Then he opened his mouth a step too far.
Later in the day, at a fundraiser in Montana, Romney addressed the booing he received because of his stance on “Obamacare,” saying: “Remind them of this, if they want more free stuff from the government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.” He came so close to using the term “welfare queens,” it’s like he may actually be the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
Romney told the uninterested audience at the NAACP convention that he would be the best president for African-Americans, urging them to take a look at him. He knows full well he won’t receive any substantial amount of the Black vote, but statements like the one above are not only cause for Black people to not take a look at him but deliver him a record low percentage of the Black vote of any GOP candidate in history. And if this story takes hold, he may lose those independent white votes he was courting that want to comfort themselves by feeling as if they’re not voting for someone even a tinge racist. It’s an interesting political strategy, to say the least, in a country with shifting dynamics, to court only white voters who wouldn’t mind voting for someone who openly espouses racially divisive viewpoints. Yet, here is Romney, reading straight from his script.
Damn, damn, damn, Mitt.
Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer, social commentator and mental health advocate. Visit his official website or follow him on Twitter.