Will Anyone Defend the Rich?

If Mitt Romney won't defend capitalism and those who've thrived in it, who will?

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If Mitt Romney won't defend capitalism and those who've thrived in it, who will? Rich people, especially those from the financial sector, have felt kicked around ever since the Wall Street bailout, getting attacked by the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and both political parties. JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon, Washington sports team owner Ted Leonsis, investment fund executive Barry Wynn are some of the few who've complained about the attacks on "success," not to mention wealthy Romney donors, who chafe at being insulted by "the common person." Finally, for the first time in decades, the presidential nominee of a major party is a man whose biggest successes came not just through business, but from that very same financial sector. Surely the wealthy will have a spokesperson for their generous contributions to society? Nope. He's running in the other direction.

Instead of defending Bain's business practices against the Obama campaign's assaults, Romney's campaign has tried to deploy a series of distractions. He told five broadcasters on Friday that he had no control over the firm when it did the things like close factories and offshore job from 1999 to 2002, and therefore bears no responsibility for what happened — implicitly denouncing what his firm did while he was still listed as CEO. Romney is not defending Bain, not defending private equity, and not defending outsourcing.

"I find Romney’s timidity about defending the industry he helped create and the career he has been running on maddening," wrote The National Review's Jonah Goldberg. Making the kind of argument Goldberg might like to see come from Romney's mouth, his colleague Michael Tanner wrote, "Contrary to the president’s complaints, outsourcing is generally good for America." It makes society more efficient, he explains, "but for some reason, on this issue as on so many others, Romney has been unwilling to make a full-throated defense of capitalism." But it's not just his candidate's silence that bothers Tanner. "Worse, Romney has indulged in his own demagoguery, attacking the president for being 'the real outsourcer-in-chief.'" The Washington Post's editorial board agrees that this debate is "beneath" both the candidates. "In an ideal world, the president and his challenger would acknowledge that 'creative destruction' is part of what helps an economy grow," they wrote, "while discussing the most cost-effective means of limiting and healing workers’ short-run pain." Even some liberals have wondered why Romney won't make the case for outsourcing. Slate's Matt Yglesias writes, "Romney’s unwillingness to make the case for outsourcing reflects, in part, political timidity. But more broadly, it underscores that although he’s been an eager participant in contemporary capitalism, he’s not willing to mount a policy response to its vicissitudes."

The Weekly Standard's John McCormack is not as enthusiastic about Romney defending the rich. He notes that points out that Romney recently told donors that Republicans are accused "of being the party of the rich... And it’s an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich." McCormack doesn't think "the party of people who want to get rich" is much of a distinction. "What about the troops? Stay-at-home moms? Teachers? They, and countless others, are not exactly in it for the money."

This points to a divide between what the coastal elite think is good campaign strategy and what actually plays well in Middle America, as Newark Mayor Cory Booker's nausea at Obama's Bain attacks shows. Making fun of rich people is popular. Just look at this new Tumblr titled Rich Kids of Instagram, which is dedicated to making fun of rich kids on Instagram. A Pew Research Center poll in June showed that only 25 percent of swing voters say they "admire rich people." Romney's own campaign ads show he knows it pays to bash outsourcing, because an ad airing in Ohio promises he will "stand up to China." Romney has repeatedly said he's "not ashamed to say that I was very successful." He's not ashamed to say Obama hasn't been: "President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success, and I will change that." But going much beyond that is trickier. If Romney can't pull it off, who does that leave? Donald Trump?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.