"ROSEN-GATE" WASN'T ABOUT WOMEN -- IT WAS ABOUT CLASS
I took the Hillary Rosen/Ann Romney dust-up a lot more seriously than most people on the left did. The reason I took it seriously was not that I think it's a huge game-changer (though it did give Romney's campaign a good day at a time when he was continuing to struggle, and it threw the Obama campaign off stride). The reason I took it seriously was that it plays into a narrative that's worked for Republicans in the past, and I can't be sure that it won't work again.
You see, our side talks about fat cats getting tax cuts. Our side talks about the 1%. Average Americans sometimes respond to that talk -- but more often in recent years they've responded to a right-wing redirection of class anger, away from the obscenely wealthy and toward people who are merely well off. The villains in right-wing narratives are people who are very well educated, hard-charging, usually coastal, and not cultural traditionalists -- people like, y'know, Hilary Rosen, Democratic operative, former head of the record industry's top lobbying organization, and lesbian mother.
Republicans have been really adroit at getting heartlanders to look at people like Rosen -- and people like you and me, who mostly aren't movers and shakers but who perhaps eat arugula once in a while -- and make us the Mr. Potters in a warped version of It's a Wonderful Life. In this narrative, we're the ones who wish them ill. We're the ones who make their lives miserable. We're the ones who insult them and work the levers of power so they suffer while we frolic.
It's bullshit, but a lot of people believe it. The key is that it's a way of making sure that heartland anger is never directed at the people who actually run everything. People like, say, the folks at Bain Capital.
I don't know that the Romney campaign can work this narrative consistently. I'm not sure the narrative even has the power it's had over the past couple of decades. But it worked for the teabaggers and Glenn Beck enough to blow the Democrats out in the 2010 midterms (Obama was the Hilary Rosen then, the object of anger not for pro-fat-cat policies but for daring to try to give uninsured people health care, the damn egghead social engineer!). I think the narrative worked for the Romneyites today. Ann Romney, if only temporarily, looks (at least to some people) like an Everymom who happens to be financially fortunate. Democrats look (at least to some people) as if they'd urinate on a Norman Rockwell painting sooner than hang it on the wall.
I think Democrats have contained the damage (deploying Joe Biden and Michelle Obama was wise), and I think Team Romney just got lucky. But I'm not ready to assume that this can't work for the Romney camp again. I know who really runs America and so do you, but a hell of a lot of our fellow citizens don't. When they get upset, it's still way too easy to make people like us the culprits.