Last year, Mitt Romney told a Tea Party gathering, “I believe in free enterprise, I believe in capitalism.” Now, Romney’s practice of “vulture capitalism,” in Rick Perry’s words, is coming under attack. As Rush Limbaugh observed recently, “Here we have capitalism being attacked by Republicans, capitalism under assault by Republicans.” In the face of this assault, one of the GOP’s chief strategists is advising Republicans to stop defending capitalism.
Recall, just over a month ago, GOP pollster Frank Luntz offered strategic advice to Republican governors, in which he expressed concerns about the increasing strength of the 99 Percent movement, the Occupy protests, and the waning support for “capitalism.” Luntz told the group that the public thinks “capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”
Now, as Romney faces heat from within his own party, Luntz is worried about a “nightmare” scenario where conservatives will go “down the tubes” if they are forced to defend “crony capitalism.” Last night on Fox News, Luntz said the solution is not for conservatives to support a fairer tax system or rid corporate loopholes; rather, just change the language they use:
Conservatives should not be defending capitalism. They should be defending economic freedom. And there is a difference. The word capitalism was created by Karl Marx to demonize those people who make a profit. We’ve always talked about the free enterprise system or economic freedom. Suddenly, they’re trying to defend something that has only 18 percent support.
There’s more than a few problems here. Of course, the Republicans have been long-time defenders of the worst elements of unregulated capitalism. Moreover, conservatives have pilloried Obama for his “war on capitalism,” for wanting to put “capitalism on trial,” and for his purported lack of knowledge about capitalism. As Jeb Bush said succinctly, “I think President Obama has used the bully pulpit as a way to attack capitalism.”
Apparently, Luntz wants the public to believe that Republicans are both the defenders and the opponents of “capitalism.”