Paul Krugman nails it:
But as many commentators have pointed out, Romney was just encapsulating the prevalent worldview on the right. Some of us see an increasingly, radically unequal America, with rising inequality actually reinforced by public policy, with tax rates on the rich lower than they have been in many decades and the overall redistributive effect of government down substantially since the 1970s. But the right sees an entitlement epidemic, in which the big problem is that too many people are getting free stuff.
It’s important to understand the roots of this stuff. It began as a deliberate appeal to racism, with explicit condemnation of Those People as welfare moochers. Then it became more coded; Rick Perlstein posts the original, famous Lee Atwater interview containing the memorable passage,
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
What Mitt Romney is now complaining about is the horrifying reality that many people who aren’t black see themselves as victims of those “economic things” — and as a result anti-government rhetoric is turning into a way to lose elections rather than win them.
And I don’t think the Republican party as currently constituted can change this: after 45 years of the Southern strategy, this stuff is what defines the party’s soul.