MAY 8, 2012 8:31AM

Watching My Best Friend Turn Into a Romney Voter

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Everyone knows someone who has done it. I mean, I kind of knew some people who had done it it in the past.

They're not close friends or anything.

 One is my grandmother, but who can expect anything less from someone who depends on a singular corporate source for all of outside information? My dad has tried it, but, after George W. Bush's first term, he didn't want to try again.

But I never suspected that it would happen to one of my best friends.

That's right – over the past year, I have watched him turn from a somewhat reluctant Democratic voter (the only kind) to a Republican... to someone who is seriously considering a vote for Mitt Romney.

Here's what I've learned from him:

1. People Who Can't Afford to Stay Their Homes Should Get Kicked Out.

My friend has the uniquely Republican complex of Personal Responsibility. That means that, since he understands the risks involved with some transactions, has never personally made a drastic financial misstep, and hasn't yet been misled by a financial representative, he freely accuses people who lost money in the recession as “being stupid.”

This could be a great angle for the Republican Party, by the way.

Since my generation takes it for granted that you need to be scared of all investments and very alert for any signs of economic turbulence, we can't relate to people who lost so much from the gold rush on the housing market. We didn't grow up in a culture where everyone knew that buying a house was a sound investment.

I've mentioned to my friend that some people have been wrongly foreclosed upon by a not-really-legal practice.

“Well, how'd the bank get away with it?” he challenged. “Why were they allowed to do that in the first place?”

“Because the regulators weren't doing a good job,” I said.

“So the government wasn't doing their job,” he concluded. “Listen, you and I aren't buying houses on our salaries. People who are mad that they can't afford their homes anymore shouldn't keep getting help to continue to stay somewhere they can't pay for.”

2. President Obama Can't Get Anything Done.

This is a common sentiment among disillusioned liberals already. People who expected Obama to upend the political-capitalistic system that has grown like a web across our country.

People who didn't expect him to be a huge fan of drone strikes and wars. People who now champion the idea of socialism, instead. Or at least the theoretical outcome of socialism, because if you think about the practice, it quickly loses appeal.

People who think they'll punish Obama by not voting for him, oblivious to the devasting domestic policies that Mitt Romney has promised.  

My friend believes that President Obama had his chance to implement legislation. “He doesn't get anything passed,” he told me.

I pointed out that this is really a problem of a Congress that agrees on only one thing: they want Obama to be a one-term president.

“Well, he can't deal with those people and they won't deal with him. Romney could obviously get some stuff through,” my friend said.

“But would he get the right stuff through? Dude, [we call each other dude, because we pretend like we're still in college] he essentially wants to abolish the EPA and his posturing on Iran could end up making us go to war.”

To this, he shrugged. “I'm not decided, I'm just saying that, what's the point of having a president who can't get anything passed?”

Honestly, has anyone actually dared to look at a comprehensive list of things that didn't happen because of Republicans?

3. Mitt Romney Has Good Business Experience

This is a typical bone that gets thrown at liberals by their conservative friends. It was inevitable that my friend brought this up, too.

I was ready for him. I shot back that nearly a quarter of Bain Capital's private equity deals made companies go bankrupt.

“That was his job and he did it,” my friend countered. “And he did it really well, obviously.”

Flabbergasted, I brought up the other valuable talking point I knew: “Right, but Massachusetts dropped ten places in job creation, from 37th to 47th, when Mitt Romney took over.”

“You can't blame a governor for something like that, though,” my friend said.

“Then why is every Republican blaming Obama for the economy?” I asked.

Really, Romney's situation as governor and Obama's situation as president have some striking similarities. After all, Romney blames a very hostile legislature for his failure to do anything to improve the economy.

Of course, the legislature wasn't too hard to bypass. Romney had some great opportunities to make extremely poor investment decisions.

During his single term as governor, Mitt Romney: 

  • Blocked stem cell research that would have spurred growth in the biotech sector
  • Declined to invest in any kind of renewable energy
  • Totally avoided fixing infrastructure, letting the sector drop into a $20 billion deficit
  • Cut $37.8 million from higher education in 2006 after increasing tuition by 15% in 2004... raising college fees by 63% from 2003 to 2007
  • Wanted to slash job training benefits by $12 million 

4. Government Aid Is Only A Hand-Out if Someone You Don't Know Is Using It.

My friend also happens to be applying to an institution of higher education. His parents saved quite a bit of money for him to make these decisions, just like they did for his college tuition (it helps that he went to a state university).

However, when he was applying to this particular institution, he got to say that his parents did not help him pay for college.

That's because the money was already established in a trust under his name.

Additionally, despite the fact he has a full-time job, he could put that he earned not-so-much money last year, because he only got the job in September.

The end result is an application that looks very susceptible to financial aid. Despite the fact that this would be totally unnecessary, given his income and his family's income.

When I said that it seemed hypocritical for him to be essentially applying for financial aid by abusing a porous system, he reasoned that he was just telling the truth that was asked for by the application.

Pretending that your parents didn't pay for college just because you can is a strategy that seems similar to the people that work just under the hourly limit so they can apply for unemployment benefits, something that makes him mad.

“You're clearly not that concerned about the federal budget,” I told him.

5. Unemployment Benefits Shouldn't Be Extended Because They Make People Lazy. 

I'll be honest – it's tempting to be dubious about the continual extension of unemployment benefits.

One of my friends, an older woman who I used to work with at my old job, was “let go” for stealing from the store. She called me, somewhat drunk, and very elated, because the store hadn't reported her as stealing. “Now, I get to collect!” she said victoriously.

I know that her boyfriend was already collecting unemployment. I asked if she was going to find another job soon.

“Who knows?” she challenged.

There couldn't have been a juicier conservative stereotype if it was broadcast on Fox News and misrepresented for talking point accuracy.

Yet... consider my personal opinion unswayed.

Unemployment benefits are misunderstood, consistently. They're not just a safety net for people whose jobs have been outsourced or automated, they're direct stimulus packages for the economy.

Millions of Americans who would otherwise be unable to contribute to the engine of our GDP's growth – consumption - can actually buy living necessities, thanks to these checks.

They don't save it like the unhelpful 1%. After all, it's middle class consumerism that creates jobs, not the billionaires who created the industry. If there's no demand, there's no industry. If there's no middle class, there's no industry.

But I digress. My friend essentially believes that extending unemployment benefits is a terrible thing to do, because it makes people lazy and dependent on the system.

He advocates job training packages, or even legislation that would force people to work at a job they could take. No, he doesn't care about the socialistic implications of the latter solution. He's a moderate, so he doesn't draw lines like that.

The sad part is that a job training bill would be great, don't you think? Everyone, including the unemployed, would be happy that there's federal assistance for Americans trying to gain new skills or find a new career, right?

Wrong. Republicans wouldn't be. Under their proposed budget bill, nearly 500,000 Americans would lose job training services in 2013. Another 1.1 million would lose accesses to those services in 2014. By 2014, job search assistance would be cut for 4.9 million workers.

As we saw during Mitt Romney's time as governor, he believes that the way to help get Americans back to work is to cut all of the programs that would assist them.

And make it more difficult for them to afford an education. Because, heck, why wouldn't they just join the military?

Romney's budget plan is already making bold steps toward destroying other programs for impoverished Americans, too, so this would be in step with all of his other campaign threats.

But he backs that up with creative proposals that would help balance the budget, like reducing corporate taxes (increasing debt by $1 trillion) and cutting individual tax rates by 20%.

And by balancing the budget. Whoops, I mean adding $250 billion to the deficit, increasing debt to the GDP by 86%.

I don't think my friend knows about Mitt Romney's hatred for job training programs, but he does know about the budget plan.

“It will probably change,” he told me. “Especially now that he doesn't have to play politics for the base.”

Which, of course, is the heart of the argument for any almost-Romney voter:

6. Mitt Romney Doesn't Mean Anything He Says, So Maybe He'll Be a Good President. 

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Here's a video for your friend: You're So Bain
you will find that most of your friends will find it inconvenient, even painful to think and thus care for the poor, even the local poor; the mentally ill, disabled, environment, and they will adopt the prevalent posture of escapism. it is the way of the world.
Magical thinking. When there's any thinking at all.

Of course, that's why there are so many Dems outraged by Obama - their magical thinking let them down.
Damn kid... you're good! I was a hyper-libertarian Republican back when I was in high school 1964-67 and actually worked as a volunteer for Bush the First when he was in the House and running for the Senate... but I had a change of heart and now I'm a registered Green Party member who voted for Obama and felt really good when I punched the ballot! The only Republican I ever voted for was Congressman John B. Anderson (Illinois) who ran as an independent in 1980 against Carter and Reagan. He needed 7 million votes to get matching federal funds for his campaign and since Carter had degenerated into a liar and Reagan was one of the original Bonzos, I voted for Anderson and he got the matching funds.
Studies have shown that job training services render people less able to have new jobs, not more able. They are a failure, although the idea sounds good.
I commend you for talking it out with your friend. I have tried to do that and it is frustrating. We all have such conflicting facts. The world is complicated. I like no drama Obama. I think he is the wave of the future with his smarts and Romney is the back wash of the past.
Hi all, thanks for reading!

I like the idea of "magical thinking" outraging a lot of people. I think Obama had an impossible burden to bear. We expected him to repair the economy while completely beating our expectations at the same time. He got entangled in the system, but he's still better than the alternative.

@baltimore aureole - I didn't actually theorize any of that. With Point #1, I actually lean closer to my friend's views, as, I think, do a lot of other moderates who don't want to be burdened by other people's poor investment decisions.

However, I think that people who were abused by the banks should be given at least a little of a safety net, seeing as how they were lied & cheated.

As to your wealth of statistics getting worse, yes, that's all true. George W. Bush only had eight years to destroy the budget surplus left to him by Clinton, so he could only really screw things up enough for the last six months to be really bad, while the others he just happily propelled deficit spending and expanded government.

He did a good job, though, seeing as how his unnecessary wars & tax cuts are the biggest factors of the deficit today. He REALLY made sure that we had no money left.
@perdidochas - That's really interesting. I tried to find studies that indicated that job training programs don't help, but couldn't. I only found ones that support them (

Do you have any links?