Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pundits Get Obama's "Bitter" Quip Wrong

Barack Obama might have "inartfully" described Pennsylvania voters as "bitter", but most of the pundits I read have completely botched the analysis of it. Probably the worst offender - and he's been pretty brutal throughout the campaign season is Mickey Kaus' in his blog on Slate.com - which has also slipped generally.

Kaus cites commentary by Michael Lind and calls it useful:

According to Obama, working class (white) people "cling to guns" because they are bitter at losing their manufacturing jobs.

Excuse me? Hunting is part of working-class American culture. Does Obama really think that working-class whites in Pennsylvania were gun control liberals until their industries were downsized, whereas they all rushed to join the NRA...


This reading of his statement is totally off base. Obama's not saying they're clinging to guns literally as in, they're grabbing a shotgun and hunting only because they're having problems paying the bills. He's saying they're VOTING based on issues like guns, gay marriage and religion because they've lost faith in voting the real economic issues. And they've lost faith for good reason - because politicians have lied to them. So they vote based on these narrow issues instead because at least they can agree on them.

In other words, he's not saying their culture of hunting or going to church exists only because of bitterness toward the way they've been neglected economically - he's saying that they VOTE defensively to protect what's left of their way of life because they've been given so little reason to expect improvement from government. The Clintons and Bushes despite pretending to be the friend of small-town working-class Americans have abandoned them. They vote defensively, and Obama is explaining that to his supporters - that it constitutes a challenge to his campaign.

The reading by Kaus and Lind is either deliberate spin to make the remarks sound worse, or they're both just stupid.

Also, Hillary Clinton, of course, is the one condescending to the people of Pennsylvania because she panders to that defensive voting - saying, among other things, that she believes in the 2nd Amendment. She's basically saying: "Keep voting on dumb things that aren't really helping you rather than throwing the bums out who neglected you and your families." She's trying to stoke their attachment to these more minor issues which, as Obama implied, serve to displace their real and pressing concerns about their quality of life.

This is similar to the way in which Islamic radicals stoke hatred of the West to young Arabs crushed by poverty and lack of opportunity. Their real anger is toward their governments and leaders, but the militants get them to displace that and direct it toward the West.

I don't think Clinton's strategy will work because Obama spoke the truth, and enough voters in the remaining states will get that.

1 comment:

Chris Liss said...

This is a non-story that's being spun like crazy by the media - my feeling it that it'll die down, but it's incredibly annoying that people are running with it and deliberately misinterpreting it.