Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama finds himself in trouble for sharing at a San Francisco fundraiser the following thought about small-town Pennsylvania voters: “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 antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” According to Obama, the “frustrations” that give rise to these misplaced “bitter” feelings are rooted in the massive loss of well-paying jobs during the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
The initial attacks on Obama`s remarks focused, curiously, on his observation that Pennsylvanians were “bitter” about their economic plight. Senator Clinton, for example, counter-observed that the Pennsylvanians she knew were not “bitter” about the economy but were instead “rolling up their sleeves” to make things better.
However, it wasn`t long before the blogosphere exploded over the really important information from Obama`s unguarded reflections. The whole world has now learned that, notwithstanding a very different upbringing from that of his tony California liberal audience, the African-American Senator from Chicago apparently shared the audience`s unbridled contempt for working-class whites and their gun-toting, Bible-thumping, immigrant-bashing ways.
The pervasive contempt for ordinary white Americans among the liberal Democratic elite can be no surprise to anyone who, like me, has spent most of his or her life since high school in the company of liberals (yes, some of my best friends are liberals). However, working-class whites who do not themselves enjoy the pleasure of their company might well be surprised to find themselves held in contempt. This contempt is so deeply entrenched among Liberal literati and politicos that it rarely needs to be voiced, even in private meetings. It is simply taken for granted.
To poor Obama`s credit, he broached the topic in order to defend, in his way, the benighted small-town whites he had encountered during his stops in Pennsylvania and Indians. Elite Democrats believe that their party is estranged from the White working class because Whites who cannot manage to get a good professional job like they have are stupid, ignorant boors , subject to manipulation by Republican politicians who use guns, religion, and border control to get elected in spite of the GOP`s anti-egalitarian tax and spending policies.
Obama argued to his San Francisco audience that small-town Pennsylvanians are driven from the Democratic Party not by stupidity, but by fear—fear for their economic security in a globalizing world that poses a real economic threat to working people not shielded by wise Democratic policies. (Since Obama attributes to irrational fear their sentiments against both free trade and uncontrolled immigration, one wonders what economic forces are left to explain the loss of well-paying jobs in small Midwestern towns.)
By attributing the “bitter” feelings of small-town Americans to fear rather than to stupidity, Obama did manage to stay within the outer bounds of Liberal orthodoxy. Like the Soviet police who institutionalized dissidents as madmen, Liberals routinely attribute thoughts that vary from this week`s PC orthodoxy to the thinker`s neurosis. Thus, Americans who worry about gay marriage or illegal immigration are not entertaining points of view, they are exhibiting symptoms of “homophobia” or “xenophobia.”
The reaction of the remaining Presidential candidates to Obama`s predicament is telling. Quickly realizing that accusations of “bitterness” do not boil a Hoosier`s blood, Senator Clinton seized upon the red meat of Obama`s remarks, announcing that the “people of faith” that she knows (both of them?) don`t “cling” to their faith from fear, but “embrace” it as a “Constitutional right.”
Of course by grasping at the straw of religion, without mentioning guns or anti-immigrant sentiment, she reveals her own complicity in despising even “people of faith” whose religion has not led them also to “embrace” gun control and amnesty for undocumented workers.
And then there is Senator McCain, who has a real problem with Obama. Most Americans, including me, like Obama as a person, admire his quick intelligence, and derive some satisfaction that an obviously talented black man can have a fair try at the American Presidency. Rightly or wrongly, we are simply less tolerant of cheap shots taken at his expense. This has cornered McCain into so far challenging Obama`s amorphous platform primarily on the matter of Iraq, where two thirds of American voters have irreversibly concluded that Obama showed better judgment than McCain.
For almost any other Republican, the San Francisco gaffe would have made Obama fair game for an across-the-board assault on his evident disdain for working-class whites, without whose votes Obama cannot even win his own Party`s nomination, let alone the general election.
Unfortunately for McCain, he is hindered from exploiting this legitimate opportunity to take down a tough opponent by his own history of bad-tempered verbal assaults on Christian conservatives and advocates of immigration control.
That no one left in the Presidential race can credibly take Obama to task for insulting ordinary Americans is indeed a “bitter” pill.
Boethius works in the business world, where any friend of VDARE.com is advised not to admit it. If you want to know how much trouble you can get into by offending the orthodoxies of the day, read The Consolation Of Philospohy. Email him care of email@example.com