Politics Explained: The Strategic Deceit of the Democrats

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Oftentimes, liberal Democrats, such as those at Swarthmore, forget about the National Democratic Party’s constituency. Many important issues to Swatties, such as gay rights, human rights, and environmentalism, are part of the Democratic platform. However, few Americans would prioritize these issues in an election; the main concern of the majority of Americans is jobs. Specifically, there has been a rising sentiment over the past twenty years among the working class that their jobs are being exported to other nations, a factor which has contributed to continued unemployment. The Democrats have shamefully exploited this issue, accusing the Republican Party and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney of exporting corporations abroad, thus favoring corporate profits over American jobs.

First, the Obama campaign created a preposterous line of attack ads this summer against Romney’s experience at Bain: see exhibit A, B, and C.

While at Bain, Romney had no obligation whatsoever to favor American jobs over foreign jobs. His responsibility was to maximize the value of the companies which Bain Capital took on, and he performed this role very well. It would be nice if he was creating jobs in America instead of India, China, and Mexico, but I don’t fault him in the slightest in this regard, and neither should anyone else.

The Democrats did not stop there. At the Democratic National Convention, former Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland continued to promote this line of reasoning. The first half of his speech, highlighting President Barack Obama’s success in revitalizing the auto industry, was a great message about one of the unheralded successes of this administration. However, when he turned to Romney, his attack of Romney was just as heinous as those made by the Republicans on Obama. Strickland says:

 Now, Mitt Romney, he lives by a different code. To him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet.

To him, all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off. That’s why companies Romney invested in were dubbed “outsourcing pioneers.” Our nation was built by pioneers—pioneers who accepted untold risks in pursuit of freedom, not by pioneers seeking offshore profits at the expense of American workers here at home

Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation. Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.

Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it’s well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.

Strickland not only argues that Romney does not care about American jobs, he also implies that Romney’s outsourcing history at Bain and his offshore wealth makes him anti-American. When Republicans convey similar messages about Obama, as Romney did about Obama’s birth certificate, Democrats play the race card (see A and B) and rightfully so. However, Strickland’s attack is just as unfounded and misleading.

Unfortunately, it’s a pretty effective strategy. These superficially  protectionist ads appeal to a lot of white male working class voters in the Rust Belt. There’s a reason that Obama is leading by 4.2 points in Ohio and 5.8 points in Michigan. Ohio, which historically has leaned a point or two Republican relative to the country, has leaned a point or two towards Obama relative to the country in this election cycle. These attacks work. The problem is that they engender an “us vs. them” mentality that turns the aforementioned superficial protectionism into a mild sort of xenophobia on the one hand and a class conflict between the working class and the elite class on the other hand.

Ultimately, this whole line of attack boils down to simple bullet points: Barack Obama saved the auto industry. Mitt Romney outsourced jobs to China. Barack Obama wants to bring foreign jobs back to America. Mitt Romney wants free trade agreements with Central America. Barack Obama shows you his tax returns because he has nothing to hide. Mitt Romney keeps his money in offshore accounts and won’t share his tax returns. Barack Obama knows your struggles and wants to help the middle class. Mitt Romney is an elite who does not care about the average American. Barack Obama lived the American Dream. Mitt Romney is un-American. See how that goes?

The Democrats have moved to the center over the past few years as Tea Party extremists have forced the Republican Party towards the extreme right. However, if they truly want to appeal to centrists and fulfill Obama’s post-partisan rhetoric, the Democrats cannot obfuscate and mislead in the same manner as the Republican Party. The Democratic Party could move to the far left as the modern Republican Party has to the far right, but that would only increase the current Congressional stalemate, accomplishing nothing. I strongly believe that a center-left, honest Democratic Party has the power to blow this Republican Party out of the water and bring back a degree of sanity to the Republican Party and American politics.


  1. Funny… You seem as if you are writing a non partison unbiased piece on how the Democratic party has run amock, disregarding the wishes of its constituancy and swinging far to the left. You had me until the last paragraph when you mention blowing the farvright republican partynout of the water. I don’t think so. Just like there are center democrats, there are center conservatives who care not how one lives their lives, but is very interested in how government functions as laid out by our constitution. That, sir, is what the Tea Party is all about. The republicans are not focused on religion or religious beliefs, or abortion. They are strictly focusing on the economy, jobs, and the country’s fiscal health. You continue to label with deceit and deception while attempting to give the air of objectivity. Obama has failed miserably. Not one thing he toutedmor promised in 08 has come to fruition. He has allowed an uprising of anti-American sentiment in the middle east which is now spreading to other countries. His economic policy, or lack thereof, is a disaster. The definition of insanity is to continue to do something that is not working, over and over. Re-electing Obama is insane by definition. Romney will constitute real change, thereby reinstating hope, leading to a more prosperous and strong America.

  2. The Democratic party in the US is hardly far left; in any other western democracy they would be conSidered centre or right of centre.Be that as it may, there’s nothing wrong in ackNowledging that human rights are an integral part of the party platform. The GOP has no problem in making their eXtreme views known in their party platform & it doesn’t appear to drive away their Loyalists. Of greater concern than even the Economy is the future vision of the country. Does the US strive to be inclusive & invest in the future of all Americans or do we prefer a ” you’re on your own approach” ?

  3. The loss of jobs overseas was accelerated by NAFTA, which occured under Bill Clinton.

    “uiladoras (Mexican factories that take in imported raw materials and produce goods for export) have become the landmark of trade in Mexico. These are plants that moved to this region from the United States, hence the debate over the loss of American jobs.” (wikipedia)

    It is very rare to find a US corporation that has not outsourced. This really cannot be used as a political issue by either party, since both have actively supported outsourcing. Whether one agrees with it or not, it is legal and encouraged by laws that support it.

  4. Here’s my question to you: why is the Democrats’ claim only “superficially” protectionist? As far as I can tell, the Democrats are being very intentionally protectionist, and at least some of them are protectionist because they really do believe that it is for the good of the country that jobs be protected and encouraged here in America. Instead of claiming that the Democrats are engaging is attacks “as heinous as those made by Republicans,” could you decontruct exactly why protectionism is not a viable policy? Why is it “exploiting” the American people? Why is it that the maximization of profits – which you say was Romney’s responsibility at Bain – is necessarily a worthy goal while protecting the domestic economy is not?

    • I personally oppose protectionism and generally support free trade (although I don’t lean strongly towards either side – there is a place for tariffs) for the reason that protectionism hurts consumers by increasing the prices on the products in question moreso than it helps American producers. I do think it’s absurd that we subsidize exports in many areas, and that’s something I’d love to see ended. And I was not saying that protectionism exploits Americans, but rather that Democrats’ attacks on Romney as someone who would export American jobs to foreigners for corporate profit as president is exploiting his record at Bain (that was written misleadingly though, my apologies). Finally, maximization of profits in the private sector is a legitimate goal, but no individual company has a responsibility to protect the domestic economy. The government, on the other hand, does; but I don’t think Romney’s outsourcing at Bain is a valid extrapolation of what he would do as President (nor do I think that his success at Bain is also worthy of being a major plus for what he’d do as President).

  5. “When Republicans convey similar messages about Obama, as Romney did about Obama’s birth certificate, Democrats play the race card… However, Strickland’s attack is just as unfounded and misleading.”

    How are these comparable situations? The birthers are championing a cause that is 1) demonstrably false, and 2) not under the control of the President. Romney DID outsource jobs to create profits, and he WAS the one that made that decision.

    If your point was that the extrapolation that because of these allegations (or facts, if we’re referring to Romney) the candidate is “anti-American” are of similar merit, once again, reality undermines your argument. Even if Obama was born in [insert chosen foreign country], he still would have been as productive as a citizen. Many if not most naturalized citizens are more patriotic than the average natural-born citizen–they went through a laborious process to earn their status, and are rightfully proud of it. The internal logic of the birthers’ attack doesn’t even hold true.

    On the other hand, Romney’s actions had a tangible negative impact on the US economy. The defense that it was done for the sake of creating profits folds once the damaging impact of income inequality and the multiplier effect of the displaced workers are taken into account. Now, does this mean that Romney hates the US economy and is hell-bent on its destruction? No, certainly not. But it is an example of Romney’s willingness to compromised the interests of the average American in chase of profits. Maybe that makes him a good executive. But taken along with his stated economic policies, his actions while in a position to influence the business practices of American corporations are certainly a reasonable topic for discussion, and one that you correctly note is doing Romney no favors.

    An attack from the left that would truly correspond with the birther nonsense would be, “Romney’s family built massive estates in 1950 that displaced thousands of low-income Americans.” An allegation of impropriety that that Romney had no control over, is fundamentally unimportant, and is patently ridiculous. No one would take it seriously. That’s why the birther sham is so outrageous, because so many people take it seriously whether they are debunking it or proclaiming it, they all fuel the fire and give the appearance of legitimacy to a unbelievably stupid idea.

    The left haven’t made any attacks that are even close to the absurdity of the ones being lobbed from the right. Stop lending credence to these right-wing reactionaries by pretending the other side is just as crazy. Because that simply is no longer true.

    • Joseph, I agree that the birthers’ cause was demonstrably false and not under the control of the President. When I say Strickland’s attack was misleading, I’m not referring to the fact that Romney outsourced jobs, because that’s true. The anti-American aspect is what I meant, which you addressed. You’re right that Obama could be a good citizen even if he were born abroad. However, Strickland’s anti-American attack on Romney is on equally poor ground as well – just because you did something that favored the international economy over the American economy does not make you anti-patriotic at all. I also disagree with the insinuations of this: “The defense that it was done for the sake of creating profits folds once the damaging impact of income inequality and the multiplier effect of the displaced workers are taken into account.” Romney, in his private sector role, does not have any responsibility to rectify income equality or consider the damages of displaced workers. That falls more on the government (that’s my opinion, some people don’t think it should be anyone’s responsibility but the person themselves) than on the private sector. I don’t think that Romney’s work at Bain with outsourcing is indicative of what he would do as President (nor do I think his private sector experience which he touts as a qualification is indicative either).

      And lastly, I’m not trying to say the Democrats are as crazy as the Republicans. I think a lot of Swatties are aware of misleading Republican attacks such as birtherism, the welfare ads (although this might need to be covered), and others, but this issue of Romney’s economic patriotism get less press in a community dominated by liberals, and it was something I wanted to talk about and hear feedback on.

      • I don’t understand your point (in the comment above) that Romney’s time at Bain isn’t a good indicator of what sort of President he would be. His role as a business executive has absolutely shaped who he is as a person, and who he is as a person undoubtedly influences what kind of president he would be. Right? I agree that he shouldn’t have been expected to save jobs at Bain, but the fact alone that his job was to put profits before people is something of importance and relevance to people voting in this election. There is a human element there that you can’t just ignore because of “oh, it was free-market economy bro. it was his job, no hurt feelings”. He hurt people’s livelihoods in his quest to maximize profits, and that’s what the Democrats are focusing on. They are definitely beating it over the head, but this is politics 2012, the party that convinces the most people on their narrative wins.

        Maybe your point was that his time at Bain doesn’t mean he will outsource jobs (can the prez do that??) like he did at Bain, which I agree with, because that would be political suicide. But in each one of those ads that you posted, no where does it say that he WILL outsource jobs. All it does is point out his history of outsourcing American’s jobs for profits, which is absolutely true and relevant to voters. Where is the deceit?

        As for Ted Strickland, he used fiery language in a DNC pump-up speech, what do you expect? He said “If Mitt was Santa Claus”….. I wouldn’t read into that portion of the speech as indicative of THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OBFUSCATES STUFF.

      • Following up on Charlie’s point:

        Romney has two “qualifications” to be president; his time at Bain, and his time as Governor of Massachusetts. Considering how much daylight Romney has put between himself and his signature accomplishment as Governor, health care reform centered around exchanges and an individual mandate, Romney has basically disavowed his time as Governor as a qualification. This leaves his time at Bain as his sole positive claim to the presidency, which leaves his record there as a perfectly legitimate attack opportunity for the Democrats. Hand-waving and saying his time at Bain won’t be the same as his time in the White House is disingenuous, since his entire campaign is premised on the idea that as a businessman he created jobs and can do the same for America as president.

  6. Everyone has addressed the problems in the article pretty well, but I’d like the tackle the claim that “few Americans would prioritize these [social] issues in an election; the main concern of the majority of Americans is jobs”.

    I can’t speak for all Americans, but I will not be voting solely on jobs. I do prefer Obama’s stance on the economy, but his stance on queer/reproductive issues are equally important to me as they affect also my day to day life. Saying that they are important but jobs are MORE important just shows the privileged position you’re speaking from.

    • While I agree with you 100%, I think the author of this article is pointing out that the candidates are focusing on the economy during this election. Whether or not they should is another discussion.

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