Joke or insight? Whichever it is, it came from US political journalist Michael Kinsley.
Yes, Mitt Romney meant to tell his millionaire donors the truth about his view of the great unwashed US public.
Many of his donors, and other rich people like them, hold views very like Romney's. The rich deserve to be rich, the poor deserve to be poor. Most of the poor are poor because they have character flaws. They won't take responsibility. They mooch off government. They whine about not being able to afford health care. They don't pay taxes.
Is it true that Obama voters are mostly those unwashed, irresponsible moochers? No, it's a lie. The highest concentrations of welfare dependency in the US tend to occur in states that vote Republican!
And Republican poohbahs know it. They have to, so they can design misleading and effective advertising for those states.
As Paul Krugman reminds us, Orwell's Inner Party isn't supposed to get bamboozled by the Prolefeed. That's happened, and it's a mistake, but it isn't the gaffe.
Nor was the gaffe Romney parrotting the Prolefeed about the great unwashed to his donors. They mostly believe this nonsense too.
The gaffe was letting the great unwashed see the tape.
Will his gaffe bring about his defeat? Not likely. A lot of US political discourse is driven by the people and institutions who pay for it. Mainly, that's super-rich people and corporations, aka the 1%. In the next week or two you're going to hear so many US commentators express regret that Romney misspoke so insensitively.
How in the world do rightwing US politicians, who are just about wholly controlled by super-rich patrons and their lobbyists, persuade up to half the US population that they're actually interested in helping the poor get on better?
By lying. By pretending they don't hold the views we hear Romney expressing so enthusiastically.
How do they persuade half the US population that wealth trickles down from the top, that a minimum wage and good free education and universal health care and prosecution of Wall Street crooks would be bad for the middle and lower classes?
By repeating those lies over and over and over, by making it a point of honour to believe that those lies are red-blooded-true-American star-spangled truths, whereas the actual truth (which has a well-known liberal bias) is just socialist unAmerican mooching, or treason, or both.
To get a population to believe terrible lies, you just have to repeat the lies over and over. The more media you own, the easier that gets. Since the 1960s, US super-rich have gained control of most US media.
So where I live, in the Deep South, 92% of “white” people voted for McCain in 2008. Where I live, people with graduate degrees in 2008 seriously entertained the proposal that Obama was “the antichrist”. Where I live, many “white” people seriously think the NAACP are a bunch of carbetbagging troublemakers and agitators, maybe communist too.
I'm not making this up. You can't exaggerate how much pure craziness has been sown in the US population by rightwing lies sent out over these airwaves in the last fifty years.
In the country I come from, Canada, we have the idea that one good way to protect free speech is to penalise media for deliberately lying. When Fox News found that out about Canada, they withdrew their application for TV licences.
Fox News thrives in the US.
Not to be dramatic, but in the US, effective democracy looks mostly done for.