Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Feminist Icon

Hat tip to Feministing.

What's the matter with Democrats?

It could be that my bachelor’s degree, non-profit job and home in the heart of the Midwest have turned me into an elitist, but I think Sen. Obama is right:
So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work -- don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.

Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back,
you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, 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. So it's not surprising then that 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.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing.

- Barack Obama at an April 6 fund-raiser in San Francisco
Recent years have not been kind to the middle and working class. For eight years, these groups have been crushed under the weight of the Bush administration’s failed economic policies. And the despair started much earlier for folks in those Pennsylvania industrial towns. Like the people in the steel town where I grew up, they saw prosperity leave in the Reagan years, never to return.

When people have their way of life threatened, they become the most tribal, the most cynical, the most religious, the most xenophobic, the most fearful, the most concerned with protecting what is theirs. It’s not pretty, but it IS. This does not mean that guns, God and patriotism are not valid parts of our culture, just that in certain times they achieve greater significance.

A lot of people ARE bitter about the state of our country. Hell, I am bitter about the state of our country and, I think, justifiably so.

In 2004’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” Thomas Frank explained “an upside-down world where blue-collar patriots recite the Pledge while they strangle their life chances; where small farmers cast their votes for a Wall Street order that will eventually push them off their land; and where a group of frat boys, lawyers and CEOs has managed to convince the country that it speaks on behalf of the People.”

Obama’s comment last week sounded like a passage from Frank’s New York Times bestseller, which was hailed in liberal circles and even by George Will of all people. Now folks are acting as if the idea of a fearful class, disenfranchised and closing ranks, is some demeaning fantasy of the Obama campaign. Ever the opportunist, Hillary “Annie Oakley” Clinton jumped at the chance to curry favor with Pennsylvania voters:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton activated her entire campaign apparatus to portray Mr. Obama’s remarks as reflective of an elitist view of faith and community. His comments, she said, were “not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans.”

Mrs. Clinton suggested that Mr. Obama saw religious commitment, hunting and concern about immigration as emotional responses to economic strain rather than as deeply embedded values. “I grew up in a church-going family, a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith,” she said at a rally in Indianapolis. “The people of faith I know don’t ‘cling to’ religion because they’re bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich.”

Later in the day, in Valparaiso, Ind., she reminisced about her father teaching her how to shoot when she was a young girl.

Although she has been a strong supporter of gun control in the past, urging Congress to “buck the gun lobby” as first lady, Mrs. Clinton said, “Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a constitutional right; Americans who believe in God believe it’s a matter of personal faith.” (SOURCE)
And this morning, on Meet the Press, that weevil James Carville was carrying on about his love of the Lord and a nice 12-guage so much that I thought for a moment that I had mistakenly turned to Fox News.

The Republican Party has a knack for preying upon a nervous electorate. They have made great inroads with “common men and women” in recent years by pretending to be one of them and capitalizing on exclusionary religion, xenophobia, and fears surrounding safety and race. By leveraging fear, they have convinced many people to vote against their best interests.

So nice to see Democrats like Clinton and Carville using Republican tactics to bludgeon other Democrats, trotting out the not-Christian-enough, too-elitist, not-like-us charges. The greatest offense is that I think that Hillary Clinton, James Carville and a host of other Democrats agree with what Barack Obama said. His comments revealed a sociological truth that can be easily proven. But in this presidential contest of Dem vs. Dem, It is better to co-opt Republican talking points and win, than stick to liberal principles and unify. Proof again that Hillary Clinton represents politics as usual.

CHECK OUT: Bitter Voters for Obama (Hat tip to Jack and Jill Politics)

Just priceless...Bill Clinton in 1991, while running for president:
"The reason (George H. W. Bush's tactic) works so well now is that you have all these economically insecure white people who are scared to death," Clinton was quoted saying by the Los Angeles Times in September 1991. SOURCE
Will the Clinton camp put away the fake outrage now?
UPDATE: Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas," weighs in on the "bitter" flap.

UPDATE: dnA breaks it down at Jack and Jill Politics:
But this is how white folks "keep it real," by demanding that Rhodes Scholars tell folksy stories to hide their intellect, by rewarding New England blue bloods for wearing cowboy hats and talking in affected southern accents, by punishing C students as elite because they ordered Swiss on a cheesesteak. Prioritizing cultural norms at the expense of a substantive debate is no less a hustle for Clinton and McCain than it was for Marion Barry.

If there's a lesson working class white folks can learn from the black community, it's that these people are hustlers, and just because they look, talk, or act like you, doesn't mean they will do a thing for you.

It bears mentioning that any sociologist or historian will tell you Obama is factually correct. There is a reason the Ku Klux Klan's rise and rebirth occurred during the two most economically depressed moments in the history of the American South, Reconstruction and the Great Depression. There is a reason radical Islam appeals to the destitute, and there is a reason Louis Farrakhan and Chuck Colson find so many converts in prison. (SOURCE)


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