The pressure may be getting to Mitt Romney a little bit. A South Carolina protestor asked him this morning about his agenda for helping the 99%, and the former governor got more than a little testy in his response:

“Let me tell you something: America is a great nation because we’re a united nation. And those who try to divide the nation, as you’re trying to do here, and as our president’s doing, are hurting this country seriously. The right course for America is not to try to divide America, and try and divide us between one and another, it’s to come together as a nation.

“And if you’ve got a better model — if you think China’s better, or Russia’s better, or Cuba’s better, or North Korea’s better — I’m glad to hear all about it. But you know what? America’s right and you’re wrong.”

As Greg Sargent joked, “Clearly this protester isn’t someone who wants to discuss inequality only in ‘quiet rooms.’”

The Romney campaign seems to think the candidate did a great job with the question. I don’t see it that way. The country deserves to have a meaningful, substantive debate about a generation of policies that have rewarded wealth while making conditions harder for working people. There are real issues that reflect real-world challenges facing Americans: rising income inequality, poverty, an unjust tax system, and wealth that’s increasingly concentrated at the top.

For Mitt Romney, those who even consider this a legitimate area of debate prefer, in his mind, communism.

This is nothing short of twisted.

That the reflexive “go back to Russia” attitudes are coming from a far-right politician who amassed a vast fortune after laying off thousands of American workers, wants to give himself another tax cut, owns multiple luxury homes, and stashes cash in the Caymans — all while pursuing an agenda that would make things tougher on American’s working class — makes me feel as if I’m trapped in a Dickensian nightmare.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.