In the toxic little game the Romney/Ryan campaign is playing with its welfare attack line, the standard tactic when pressed on the mendacity of the claim is to shift to the alleged motive for the completely fabricated “gutting” of welfare reform. No less a personality than Mitt Romney himself offered it up in an interview with USAToday:

Romney defends the welfare ads as accurate, accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political calculation designed to “shore up his base” for the election.

TNR’s Tim Noah provides a translation, if any is needed:

President Obama doesn’t represent you; he represents a lot of people on welfare. And you know what they look like.

Tim mocks Romney spox Andrea Saul for suggesting Mitt’s talking not about welfare recipients, but about “President Obama’s liberal base … the people who believe the same way he does: that government is the solution to everything.”

There may actually be a grain of truth in Saul’s assertion that Romney wasn’t just talking about black folk: conservative activists have for decades argued that the “liberal base” of the Democratic Party is an alliance between a government-dependent “underclass” and “elites” determined to socialize the country who use po’ folk as their pawns. I have little doubt that one of the calculations that went into the decision to go with the welfare ads was the hope that “liberal elites” who weren’t that crazy about the 1996 welfare reform law might cheer the suggestion, false as it was, that Obama was “gutting” it, or at least foment disunity on the subject.

But make no mistake, the “top-bottom” alliance idea is an important part of conservative movement demonology, particularly for the movement’s latest cutting-edge Tea Party activists. That’s a big part of their inveterate Obama Hatred: the president is the incarnation of both the snooty secular-socialist “elites” and the minority underclass. So of course he’d take any opportunity imaginable to reflect the former’s determination to create as large a dependent class as is possible, and the latter’s antipathy to work. Both these elements of the “base,” needless to say, share a parasitical view of the good, virtuous white middle class–particularly those living out their well-earned comfortable retirement–as a cash cow for their avarice.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.