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Monday, April 14, 2008

What's the Matter with Barack Obama?

John McCain scares the hell out of me, so I've been keeping fairly silent on Barack Obama, and what I believe are his fatal flaws as a candidate in the general election. But I can't let this latest gaffe go by.

By now, Senator Obama's jaw-droppingly tone-deaf remarks in San Francisco have made it to your ears or eyes, I don't doubt. But I just wouldn't be a campaign-obsessed bloggista without making my own commentary, now would I?

Obama's remarks were made as an explanation of why he is not connecting with working-class Democratic voters in Pennsylvania. I'll just let you read them again, and shake your head in amazement.

Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
First of all, may I just say that I am incredibly sick of Obama's attempts to rewrite history when it comes to the Clinton administration. I was there, Barack. I know how much better it was in those days of peace and prosperity, when our President's biggest failures were private and didn't kill anyone, when we still had a working Constitution and Justice Department, when we actually stopped terrorist attacks before they happened, and when our economy was strong and it was easy to get a job. It was completely different during the Reagan-Bush years, during which I was also alive and conscious and struggling to make it; yet you make it sound as if the economy had steadily downturned from Reagan-Bush, through Clinton, through the Deciderer's reign of error.

In fact, the working class always does better under Democrats. It's one of the real differences between the parties. We know this. And I suspect you may know it too, but you don't seem to care.

Do you really wonder why working-class Democrats over 30 don't vote for you? And why we don't trust you? And why we resent the hell out of you? Here's a clue, Senator - we don't appreciate your smearing the only successful Democratic President we've had since FDR. To put it in terms you might understand, you are destroying our brand for the sake of your own personal ambitions. Gee, you're doing exactly what you and your supporters accuse Hillary of, every second of every day. Projection - it's not just for film booths anymore!

Second, your explanation of why people don't vote for you is nonsensical. I mean, literally - the entire paragraph doesn't make sense. I actually have no idea what you were trying to say when you claimed people are bitter because they can't find work, and then you say that's why they "cling" to God, guns, xenophobia and anti-trade policies? (By the way - that last little bit about anti-trade policies is very interesting. Sounds like you're not so against NAFTA afta all.)

Some Obamans have claimed that Senator Obama was trying to make the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" argument. Well, I've actually read that book, and the argument is not that people cling to their religious beliefs out of bitterness and that's why they vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Do people not know how to use their brains anymore? Will they accept anything Obama says as gospel, no matter how ridiculous?

The essential argument posited by Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" is that movement conservatives (Republicans) have, through a process called "backlash," convinced the working class in places like Kansas to vote against their economic interest and focus their votes on "social" issues like abortion, which Republicans have convinced many people that only they are addressing. He is explaining how states like Kansas went red, when 100 years ago, they were fiery populists and champions of working class values.

Again, this book is about why people vote for REPUBLICANS against their economic interests. Senator Obama was talking about Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, right? These are registered Democrats who are voting in the Democratic primary, right? They are voting for Hillary over Obama, choosing between two Democrats, right? So how in any way do his remarks refer to Thomas Frank's thesis? These people WANT TO VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT. They are not voting for Republicans. Grasping at straws much, Obamans?

By the way, Obama's on his millionth "explanation" of his remarks now, with no end in sight.

Sen. Obama on April 13:

Well, first of all, you know, Scripture talks about clinging to what's good... What I was saying is that when economic hardship hits in these communities, what people have is- they've got family, they've got their faith., they've got the traditions that have been passed on to them from generation to generation. Those aren't bad things.
Oh my. Golly gee, Senator, I'm so glad you feel that religion and family traditions aren't bad things. However, that's not remotely what you said, and you know it. You said that people cling to religion and guns because they are bitter and want to explain their economic frustrations. Enough said. After such an inflammatory statement, why in the world didn't Obama just apologize and move on?

Unfortunately, the only explanation I can think of is because he genuinely feels this way about working-class Americans. Obama is showing us that he is, at heart, an elitist Democrat, the kind of Democrat that Left Blogistan accuses Hillary of being; the kind who wants to unify with Republicans and put them in his cabinet; the kind who is more comfortable with Wall Street than Main Street.

However, I must say that Obama is not MY kind of Democrat, and I think most Americans are starting to understand that his promises of "change" are just empty slogans. I'm confident that in the coming primaries, Americans will state their preference loudly and clearly.

Barack Obama and his illusions of inevitability will begin to fade away, starting April 22nd in the Pennsylvania primary. And I hope and pray that the Super Delegates will soon be asking, "What's the matter with Barack Obama?"


Flying Junior said...

We've all been following the supposed gaffs in both camps. Most have been more about the campaigns or the media than anything the candidates said themselves. I was pretty much OK with Hillary and Barack personally. But this gaff was so blatantly stupid. To disparage the voters in Pennsylvania, the most important primary remaining, can only mean that he no longer even cares about their votes. He must think the nomination is already rightfully his. More to the point, if he is this clueless about real campaigning, he can't be trusted to deliver a national election. He's not coming from a place that is real. That is from the heart.

What struck me initially was the idea that he could look down on the supposed bitterness of an entire group of people as something to be pitied and feared, (not to mention stereotyped or generalized.) On another blog, I was prompted to share that most eloquent of dialogues upon the dichotomy of wealth vs. poverty, found in Robert Burns poem, "The Twa Dogs."

In that place o' Scotland's isle, that bears the name of o' auld 'King Coil", ... Twa dogs... forgather'd ance upon a time. The first...'Caesar', was keepet for his Honor's pleasure: His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs shewed he was nane o' Scotland's dogs; but whalpet some place far abroad, Whare sailors gang to fish for cod... The tither was a ploughman's collie -- A rhyming, ranting, raving billie. Wha for his friend an' comrade had him, and in his freaks had 'Luath' ca'd him, after some dog in Highland sang...He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke, as ever lap a sheugh or dyke... Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, and unco pack an' thick thegither. Whyles mice an' moudieworts they howket...Till tir'd at last, wi' mony a farce, they set them down upon their arse. And there began a lang digression about the 'lords o' the creation.

CAESAR I've aften wonder'd, honest Luath, what sort o' life poor dogs like you have; An' when the gentry's life I saw, what way poor bodies liv'd ava... Frae morn to e'en it's nought but toiling, at baking, roasting, frying, boiling; An' tho' the gentry first are stechin, yet ev'n the ha' folk fill their pechan... An' what poor cot-folk pit their painch in, I own it's past my comprehension.

LUATH Trowth, Caesar, whyles they're fash't eneugh: A cotter howkin in a sheugh, wi' dirty stanes biggin a dyke, baring a quarry, an sic like; Himsel, a wife, he thus sustains, a smyrtie o' wee duddie weans. An' nought but his han'-daurg, to keep them right an' tight in thack an' reap. An' when they meet wi' sair disasters, like loss o' health or want o' masters, ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer, an' they maun starve o' cauld and hunger; But how it comes, I never kent yet. They're maistly wonderfu' contented. An' buirdly chiefs, an' clever hizzies, are bred in sic a way as this.

madamab said...

Thank you for sharing that, flying junior. It's wonderful.

I agree that most of the "gaffe" coverage has been relentlessly stupid. I couldn't care less if Hillary misspoke about Bosnia, or if Barack bowled a 37 or got the year of his parent's meeting wrong. These are mistakes that any person could make.

But like you, I don't believe this was a mistake. I believe he actually feels that anyone who doesn't vote for him is bitter and clinging to outdated beliefs. We just don't realize the greatness of Barack Obama. It's our fault for not understanding his lofty and intellectual speech.

The worst thing, in my view, is how he is reinforcing the right-wing stereotype of the "liberal elitist" who doesn't understand the working class. As a party, we need to move away from condescending to these voters, and towards connecting to and honoring and addressing their concerns.

That's what Hillary's been doing, and that's why she's getting their votes. And that's the kind of Democrat I want to support.