Looks like sour grapes from the recent election won’t be running out any time soon. According to the Los Angeles Times, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is now chalking up his 2012 defeat to the “gifts” he says President Obama gave to blacks, Hispanics, and young voters during his first term.
While it’s true that each of these groups played a major role in Obama’s re-election, going to the polls to support him in strong numbers, it’s clear that young voters simply favored the framework for our country President Obama touted.
The three specific things Romney mentioned—preventing interest rates on some student loans from doubling, extending health coverage for students on their parents plans until they turn 26, and ensuring contraception coverage as part of health care reform—can hardly be considered gifts. Let’s take them one by one.
In June, Congress approved and President Obama signed a bill that prevented the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, saving 7.4 million students and families from seeing an average hike in college costs of $1,000. This is a big boost to college access and affordability—but a gift? Hardly. After all, these are student loans, and students still have to pay them back. But what makes this attack by Romney truly absurd? This is a policy that Romney himself agreed with when it was proposed in April.
Next on the “gift list” to young people is the extension of health coverage for Americans under 26, allowing them to stay on their parents’ health plans. Thanks to this provision of the Affordable Care Act, 6.6 million young adults have been able to gain or keep their health insurance. What Romney didn’t mention was that while governor of Massachusetts he enacted a very similar provision that allowed young people up to the age of 26 to get reduced benefits plans through the state’s newly created health insurance network.
Finally there’s the expansion of access to free contraception, also part of health care reform signed by Obama. Taking effect in August, it guaranteed that insurance companies provide members with options for free contraceptives. This was a significant victory for women’s reproductive rights, but also women’s economic freedom. And for all Romney’s radical moves to the right during the campaign, he himself said he doesn’t think politicians “should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not.” He added: “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
But far more significant than the fact that these policies are ones Romney has either enacted or supported, his “gifts” attack sounds very similar the now-infamous comments he made behind closed doors to donors about the “47 percent” of Americans he claimed are “dependent upon government.” Which points to this being the real Romney and the kind of approach he would have employed had he been elected.
President Obama wasn’t buying votes by giving certain demographics “gifts”—rather, Romney presented a vision that was unappealing to many Americans, contradictory to positions he’d previously held and one that suggested we should be a country of “every man for himself” as opposed to one that believes we are stronger as a nation when everyone has the opportunity to succeed. It was this clear contrast voters faced that decided the election.