This has been bothering me for a while.
Last week, GOP presidential frontrunner and serial adulterer Newt Gingrich said this at a campaign event at the Nationwide Insurance offices in Des Moines:
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”
And then he said this:
Adding that he thought child labor laws to be “truly stupid,” he continued: “And let me get into the janitor thing. What if they became assistant janitors, and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?”
The media pundits point to this as Newt misguided rhetoric on child labor laws, since he said about a week earlier:
“Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they’d have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”
Everything neatly follows. Get rid of unions, use kids as janitors. Very simple message that appeals to the rich. Why pay adults a full salary when you can get a kid to do it for half the price. But those evil liberals won’t change the law to allow it.
That’s the message to one Republican constituency. But that’s one percent of the vote. So what will appeal to the 99 percent of the Republican base?
Think Lee Atwater and pull out your right-wing translation book. So when Newt says, Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods, the base hears: Really poor neighborhoods are in the inner cities where there are black people. So when Newt says, no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, the base hears: lazy black people. So when Newt says, So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day, the base hears: Black people don’t want to work. So when Newt says, They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal, the base hears: Black people are criminals.
Newt knows what he’s saying, and he knows what his base is hearing. He’s a master at the art of giving the base what it wants while fooling the “pundits” on what he means. So when he says: What if they became assistant janitors, and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom, the base hears: Black people shouldn’t be anything more than janitors.
Compare that to Michele Bachmann last week on another issue dear to the base. In Iowa, she was asked why can’t same-sex couples get married?
They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.
No double entendre. Straight out discrimination. Red meat for the base. But unfortunately for Bachmann, the pundits clearly understand what she’s saying as well.
Here’s the thing about Newt. He says a lot more than you’re hearing. You have to listen closely.
- Gingrich Touts Controversial Janitor Proposal (huffingtonpost.com)
- Newt Gingrich: Poor kids ‘have no habits of working … unless it’s illegal’ (dailykos.com)