About HRC as “the Democrats’ Romney”

Most Republicans and some Democrats now appear to be policing every utterance by Hillary Clinton to see if it adds to the growing media narrative that she’s too rich and out-of-touch with ordinary people to be a credible presidential candidate–or is even “the Democrats’ Mitt Romney.”

Some of this is just a prime example of how banal self-effacing statements of politicians about their allegedly boring lives can be inflated into a major story with the right spinning. But in any event, Brian Beutler of TNR offers exactly the right rebuttal of the Romney parallels:

Romney’s weaknesses ran much deeper than tone-deaf asides close friendships with NASCAR team owners, or a car elevator. His unfamiliarity with material deprivation was badly compounded by his devotion to an agenda (and a moral belief system) that would have people like him contributing less to the general welfare, and everyone else contributing more. That mapped neatly on to a basically correct, broader perception that the wealthy and powerful use their considerable influence above all else to help each other. Being a tribune for that class was Romney’s real liability—not the magnitude of his wealth, or his inability to discuss personal financial matters with humility.

Nearly all viable presidential candidates are extremely rich. Obama is himself quite rich, though not exactly Kennedy/Bush/Kerry/Romney rich. The next GOP nominee might not be quite as cartoonish a plutocrat as Romney, but he will almost certainly be wealthy, and, crucially, will almost certainly promote an agenda that would exacerbate economic inequality. When Clinton said “we pay ordinary income tax” she wasn’t just taking a gratuitous jab backwards at Romney for paying taxes at a sub-15 percent rate. She was presaging an agenda that will almost certainly call for eliminating or reducing tax preferences that allow an entire class of people of great wealth to reduce their effective tax rates. I don’t know if she’ll propose jacking up the capital gains tax, or closing the carried-interest loophole. I don’t know if she’ll target individual tax loopholes, or advocate for capping tax expenditure benefits or anything about what her economic agenda will look like. But I am 100 percent confident it will include some measures along these lines, and nearly as confident that the Republican candidate will oppose it in every particular


This is the GOP’s core problem. Clinton’s gaffes don’t really solve it for them.

That’s definitely true. It was just Romney’s dissociation from “the 47%” that helped sink him. It’s that he was actively trying to exclude them from any role in determining national policy, even as he seemed to discount their contributions to the nation.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.