April 17, 2008


What ‘Bittergate’ reveals about the 2008 race: Barack Obama’s views about rednecks clinging to guns and God are certainly offensive. But he isn’t the only Democrat who holds them. (Sean Collins, 4/17/08, Spiked)

All in all, Obama’s comments make him appear aloof and uninformed about the people he claims he wants to represent. Obama comes across as more Anthropologist-in-Chief than presidential candidate. At his fundraising event, he seemed to be explaining the strange ways of some unusual tribe to friendly San Francisco liberals who just cannot fathom why white working-class people would not simply automatically vote for Obama.

Given these problems with Obama’s remarks, it may seem obvious why they have caused a hail of protest that has yet to subside. But it isn’t obvious at all.

Why are his comments viewed as outrageous, when they have been commonplace within the Democratic Party for many years? That workers have been misled by ‘values’ issues like religion is, as Democratic pundit Arianna Huffington puts it, a party ‘article of faith’. In San Francisco, Obama was speaking in Democratic Party shorthand.

The contempt for the working classes among sections of the Democratic Party is quite amazing. During the 2004 presidential election, Huffington herself referred to voters ‘reacting not with their linear and logical left brain but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain’. After John Kerry’s defeat, many turned to Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? for an explanation. Frank’s condescending thesis was that workers are so thick that they don’t know their own interests. They are duped by the conservative PR machine into voting for Republicans; so it’s nothing to do with the lack of big ideas and inspiring politics in the Democratic Party, then. Obama’s latest comments seem to be built on Frank’s arguments.

Since the defeat of 2004, Democrats have been searching around for their own ‘values’ that could, opportunistically, connect with the lizard brains in the working class. And it keeps finding more of these types in new places. Indeed, it was (Bill) Clinton operative James Carville who, in 2006, discovered that Pennsylvania was full of rednecks. Carville observed that Pennsylvania, although in the Northeast, is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in-between.

These anti-working class views have continued up to today. For instance, some, such as former Clinton labour secretary Robert Reich, claim that everything Obama said was true. Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show (one of the most-watched ‘political’ TV programmes), believes Obama was being too forgiving: ‘These people don’t turn to God and guns and mistrust of foreigners because of a downturn in the economy. Those are the very foundations those towns are built on.’

...it's the comic who gets it right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2008 8:41 AM

If McCain wins 35-40 states, it will be highly amusing to watch the Dems come up with their next muse in January/February 2009. They've gone from Judis/Texiera to Naomi Wolf to Dan Rather to George Lakoff to Franks to Obama, and each vision is flimsier than the last.

One might say that they are easily swayed and do not want to do the hard work of self-confrontation. Pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as it were. You know, what people in the small towns of America do every day.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 17, 2008 6:23 PM