Greg Sargent has a nice item up about the latest GOP debate audience gaffe: cheering Herman Cain’s taunt to struggling Americans. As Cain put it, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

Greg did a great job on demolishing the claim that the unemployed are to blame for unemployment (see also Steve Benen), so I’ll shift to the other part of it: that everyone who is not rich has themselves to blame. In some ways, this is — while less insulting and presumably less hurtful — even more insidious.

Really, though, my question is to those who were applauding it. How many of them think of themselves as rich? If we believe the polling, the answer is practically none of them; everyone in the US thinks they are middle class. So what’s the deal here? Do the non-rich conservatives wildly applauding this believe they themselves are responsible for their failure to be rich? Do they think of themselves as having chosen not to do what’s needed to become rich because they have other priorities, and so they’re upset at others who (supposedly) want it both ways?

Do they believe that there are two groups of non-rich: those who play by the rules and would be rich except that they’re oppressed by Obama’s socialist government (themselves), and another group who just expects the government to make them rich?

There were lots of reporters at the Vegas debate; did any of them ask the audience about it? Seems like it would make a good story.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.