There was a mindboggling moment during last nights’ Republican Debate when Anderson Cooper asked Herman Cain whether he stood by a remark he made a couple weeks ago that the unemployed can only blame themselves for their predicament. After Cain responded that he meant what he originally said, the crowd erupted in a roaring applause of approval. Watch:
This scene has become all too familiar throughout this campaign cycle. First it happened during a previous CNN debate when the crowd cheered the idea of letting a person without health insurance die because they couldn’t afford life saving medical care. Then during a Fox News debate, the crowd booed an active duty gay soldier serving in Iraq who posed a question to Rick Santorum about how a Republican president would approach the reality of gays and lesbians serving in the military. The worst part about that instance was that the usual and compulsory “I’d first like to thank you for your service to this country” was missing from any of the candidates responses.
In a post written today on this topic, Greg Sargent at the Plum Line notes that President Obama should use these dramatic displays of apathy to frame the difference between Republicans and Democrats. He writes:
Obama and Dems have seized on other reactions from audience members — the “let him die” moment, the booing of the gay soldier — to build a larger case about the clash of visions and values the 2012 election campaign will embody. Obama has taken to claiming that “we’re all in this together,” and has framed his call for tax hikes on the rich as an argument over national unity and the social contract, while deriding GOP opposition to shared sacrifice as a Darwinian “you’re on your own” worldview.
If Obama hopes to contrast his call for a larger, inclusive, charitable vision with the fundamentally exclusionary and meanspirited one he accuses the GOP of harboring, this video seems like a pretty good data point.
I’m in complete agreement with Sargent on this one. Obama might not be able to keep his change message this time around, but he will definitely be able to continue to raise the banner of hope. The Republican candidates as well as the Republican audiences at these debates have consistently proven time after time that they do not care about the interests of marginalized populations such as the unemployed and uninsured. And with 9% of Americans unemployed, it’s startling that the Republicans would push away a major bloc of fed-up voters who in alternate reality might think that a Republican presidency would make them better off.