April 16, 2008


What's the Matter With Bitterness?: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are battling not just over the working-class voters of Pennsylvania but over the legacy of the Democratic Party. (Mark Schmitt, April 16, 2008, American Prospect)

Obama, meanwhile is telling another story about the recent Democratic past. His remarks in San Francisco have been taken as a version of Tom Frank's argument in What's the Matter with Kansas, that working-class whites are drawn to Republicans or conservative social causes because they are distracted from their true economic interests. There are several good responses to Frank. One is to question why people's economic interests should be seen as more legitimate than their spiritual or social commitments; this is the essence of the Clinton/McCain counterattack. The other is to ask why working-class whites, especially those in once-prosperous, now dying towns should see Democrats as supportive of their economic interests. What has the Democratic Party offered that would really address the economic crisis of, say, Hazleton, Pennsylvania? (A town I pick because it was the locus of an immigration controversy a couple years ago, and as it happens, the birthplace of both my father and the third Mrs. Rudy Giuliani.)

While Tom Frank's claim was that Republicans had, in effect, tricked voters, Obama was suggesting something different -- that the Democratic Party had tricked them as well.

Note that, as even Mr. Schmitt frames it, the core assumption of Senator Obama is that Middle American voters are so stupid that they didn't realize that when Bill Clinton ran as a moderate Republican he planned to govern like one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 16, 2008 7:41 PM
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