« The War Of Ideas | Main | HUD Secretary Jackson - Human Metaphor »

April 12, 2008

Comments

I've only just heard about this "gaffe" today, and I'm still having a hard time believing that it's anything more than politicians and journalists jousting with each other over the corpses of straw working-class Pennsylvanians. Are any actual human beings offended by Obama's statement?

Yeah, Jack, the funniest (or saddest) part of all of this is that the WHOLE coverage of it has been about whether this would hurt Obama rather than, say, tell us why what he said was wrong or even whether they were any indication people were really offended.
Talk about condescending. The whole elite is assuming PA voters will not understand in point and just get hung up on "cling" which arguably was a bad way to put it.
I wish Obama had not even given them any bone besides his great speech yesterday but I understand even he had to acknowledge his words were ill-chosen to make that true point

I don't think it's self-hating liberal phenomenon; I think it's more of a faux liberal poseur phenomenon.

The non-GOP people making the biggest fuss - Matthews, Clinton, Clinton's supporters and strategists - are labeled liberal, but have done little or nothing to show that they actually *are* liberal. Not anymore: once they might have been, long long ago, but they have long since been co-opted. They're Establishment types now, concerned mostly with protecting and furthering their own interest. They're willing and eager to throw a rhetorical bone now and then to the people they purport to champion - but on no account will they actually propose, endorse, or implement policies that actually change the country in any meaningful fashion.

Obama enrages and frightens them because he really believes all that liberal nonsense: How our politics and economy have created a closed, dead-end society; how the system is designed to screw over people on the lower rungs; and how those people, not unnaturally, realize this and are embittered by it; and, above all, how he believes that all of us, working together, can change that.

He's the real thing. That's why Clinton, as much as McCain, has to bring him down - and why the MSM is a willing tool for both of them. Their interests coincide with one another; Obama's a greater threat to Clinton than McCain is, and vice versa.

Are any actual human beings offended by Obama's statement?

My sister and her husband (avid hunter) as well as my brother and his wife – all currently living in SmallTown, PA. I had emails from them this morning (independently) saying essentially “can you believe this crap?” By dinnertime I had it in various family email chains.

I was somewhat offended on their behalf. They are typical PA rural blue collar workers. Life is a struggle but it has more to do with lots of kids than finding a decent job. They are far from bitter and they don’t have to “cling” to anything to make it through the day. They work hard and they have made a good life for their kids.

What he said was inartfully worded, but it was hardly a dismissal of religion.

In my anecdote at least, religion is the least concern. None of my family is particularly religious. It was just overall offensive. Talking to rich donors in SF and speaking this condescendingly about middle-class voters in PA is just wrong. Why are you having trouble in PA? The damned xenophobic religious gun nuts in the countryside. In terms of elitism this is not liberal vs. conservative to me. It’s just another episode of the urban vs. rural thing I’ve seen all my life. For whatever reason, urban folks tend to be more liberal and country folks tend to be more conservative.

So considering that – it may not damage him that much in PA. In terms of votes PA is Philly and Pittsburg.

The great irony here (to me) is that HuffPo broke it.

Fair enough, OCS. Are they registered Democrats or swingable Republicans?

"By dinnertime I had it in various family email chains."

They reacted that way to this?

Or did they not hear/read that part by dinner time? (If so, why not?, I ask curiously.)

Also, do you find this offensive, yourself?

Thanks. (Oh, and sorry for lecturing you the other day; I was being overly cranky.)

Jackmormon: swingable Republicans. We’ve all had enough of BushCo. I’m actually leaning towards Obama, and I’ve been subtly trying to corrupt them for months. I’ve upped that a bit since the importance of the PA primary became apparent. I was making progress.

These stupid remarks just blew me right out of the water…

Got to run Gary – back tomorrow.

This is an excellent post. Not much to add, except that Hillary's jumping on this with both feet continues to confirm what a disgusting piece of dishonest, opportunistic, Republican-lite shit she is.

So far, she has criticized Obama for casual drug use in his teens; for being against unrestricted gun ownership; for being insufficiently wedded to preemptive war; and for talking to countries who may have interests that don't coincide with ours in every respect. Except for health care and a couple of other minor domestic issues, her political philosophy is identical to that of a Rockefeller Republican

Second, I think that alot of liberals (including me) are not fearful of Obama's liberalism being exposed per se. Rather, we are fearful of the constant drumbeat of the media implying that, by virtue of his intellectual distance from the (presumably) white working class, he is not "one of them," and doesn't deserve their support. I have been home all day due to a cold, and CNN has been discussing his comments endlessly. They are looking for a reason to crucify him, as is most of the rest of the traditional media.

The media does win or lose elections for Dmocrats generally and liberal Democrats specifically. I'm not saying that we should allow that fear to control our rhetoric or our behavior, but we also need to be aware that the traditional media, along with corporate America, elements of the Democratic as well as the entire Republican Party, are all opposed to us politically, and we will have to defeat all of them in order to win in November.

OCSteve, I hope you read this tomorrow and can find a way to respond.

It is at times like this that I wish that verbal conversation was possible.

Ke4ep in mind that Obama was talking in response to a question about voting patterns and how difficult it is to get a message across to people.

He was talking about how discussing government programs or actions etc doesn't resonate very much because they have heard it all before so why should they believe it now. Instead, they tend to become voters based upon very specific issues, be they religious issues, gun owning issues, immigration issues, whatever.

What they decide to base their votes on is frequently what they are able to turn to in times of troule. There was absolutely no, none, zip, nada, zero condescension or looking down on any of those things.

Sure, I wish that he had not used the word cling, although even it is relevant as I will explain in a minute, but this was definitely not prepared remarks, like Clin6ton's Bosnia stories, nor was it really incorrect, like McCain's Iran-al Qaeda-Sunni-Shiite gaffes.

Going back to the word cling, I think we have all see a child who is scared, or nervous, or hurting clinging to his/her mother's/father's leg. o point that out is not ridiculing either the child or the parent. It is something/one the child turns to for comfort. Adults do the same thing. Every single one of us has something we cling to when things aren't going exactly the way we would like them to go. And that is not a criticism of either the person or the object of the clinging.

Both Clinton and McCain, in this instance, have shown no awareness of what people are really like.

Are any actual human beings offended by Obama's statement?

Obama and his supporters are profoundly ignorant of what many voters think. For instance, if you aren't offended the "God Damn America" stuff, you probably will not be offended about disparaging rural PA folks. I'm not going to vote for somebody who despises me. The "we know whats best for you" attitude may sell in Frisco ("don't say Frisco!") or Boulder or Berkeley, but probably not so much elsewhere. Too bad Obama didn't get out more to "downstate" Rockford, Harvard (Illinois, home of Milk Days) or Antioch when he was an Illinois state senator.

Obama's version.

Unfortunately, "Liberals" have learned to play defense far too well, as we have all seen (most recently in the FISA fight). They are so interested in "not losing" that they have forgotten how to win. Sen. Obama pointed this out in his Charlie Rose Interview in 2004 (see the video Hilary on the war on JED Report).

The fact is that most Americans have become disaffected from the political process, as is evidenced by the consistently low turnout election after election. They are not optimistic, nor do they have much faith in our government to address their problems. Far too many surveys have reported this fact. But... in keeping with the lapel patriotism meme, politicians continue to preach the "everything is fine here" line. But what's worse, they deride any one who departs from it.

But what we have witnessed in this election cycle is the re-awakening and re-engagement of large numbers of Americans, in small towns and big cities alike. The record breaking primary participation numbers in state after state is evidence of the investment many first time voters are making, because they see someone willing to depart from the old defensive politics which prizes power but not accountability.

I for one would rather have someone who would call the baby ugly, than to have someone who looks at our ugly baby and coos.

I also reject any politician, pundit or journalist who extracts a sentence or two from a much larger speech and uses it to try to paint someone with a disparaging hue.

But this is also where the rubber meets the road... now is the time to see if the Party is really ready for a change in the politics of this country. If voters reject this ploy and vote for the change the say they want... then they will get it. If they fall once again for the okey-doke of media spin and political McCarthyism, then we will be right back in the soup. It's time to show what we stand for, or fall for.

2004 election results:

[...]

VOTE BY SIZE OF COMMUNITY
TOTAL Keyes Obama
Urban (31%) 19% 80%
Suburban (47%) 27% 70%
Rural (22%) 40% 58%

[...]

VOTE BY REGION
TOTAL Keyes Obama
Chicago (20%) 11% 88%
Cook County Suburbs (20%) 23% 75%
Collar Counties (23%) 32% 65%
Northern Illinois (24%) 35% 62%
Southern Illinois (13%) 36% 61%

The vote by county. Counties by the numbers.

Obama carried every county in Illinois. No county was too rural or "downstate" not to vote a majority in favor of Obama for the U.S. Senate.

But, yeah, they really hate him out there in the sticks.

he funniest (or saddest) part of all of this is that the WHOLE coverage of it has been about whether this would hurt Obama rather than, say, tell us why what he said was wrong
Do you really need it explained?

Like OCS, I was offended on behalf of my rural family. They support gun rights and love Republican Jesus; and not because they don't have hope or because Obama isn't president, but because they believe their positions are correct.

And Obama would have no problem with that, since he agrees with you jpe. In fact, that is exactly what he said.

" I'm not going to vote for somebody who despises me."

Seems pretty reasonable (unless you have good reason to believe they'd nevertheless support policies that help you and your values, but that's a tricky thing). I think the question here is: who it is that you think is despising you? There's no evidence in your comment that can be used to identify such individuals - are you simply making a general statement of uncertain relevance? You mention the "'God Damn America' stuff," but whether or not Rev. Wright despises you (probably not), he doesn't appear to be running for office.

It's understandable to be offended by a "we know whats best for you" for attitude - you must love doctor's visits - but if that's a major factor in your thinking, you surely must be planning to sit out most of American politics, and will not be having any measurable effect on the coming election, no? After all, once again I'm unsure who this is supposed to apply to, as none of the relevant politicians seem to be much above average on this score -if anything, Obama seems to be lower on both despising and patronizing than his competitors.

I was raised in small town Pennsylvania, but I can't stand how racism and xenophobia are held up as a badge of working class authenticity. Respect for the working class doesn't mean you should have to tolerate racism or xenophobia.

In Obams'a first political campagin, he managed to run unopposed:

when Barack Obama won his first election in 1996...he was the ONLY name on the ballot! He literally had his four opponents disqualified based on technicalities and ran unopposed.

Obama was also very lucky in 2004 when both his Democrat and Republican oppenents had details of their personal lives on the front page of newspapers.

So Obama's avery lucky guy. Running against the carpetbagger Alan Keyes. And the fact that a VERY GOOD senator, Peter Fitzgerald did not run because the Republican party in Illinois was so messed up by that saint, George Ryan.

It's a lot harder to convince someone they've bought a lemon than to sell them the lemon in the first place, because by then they're invested.

Since 1980 on, maybe since 1968 on, the people Obama was talking about have been buying lemons, the same brand, wholesale. I would expect their resistance to being so informed in proportion to the lenght of time and the number of lemons.

but the Great Dirty Hippie never escaped their "mind."

Funny how publius wants to glom on to this "hippie" business. Did Ken Kesey or The Grateful Dead want more government interference in their lives? I once heard the song "Uncle John's Band" and once read the book "Sometimes a Great Notion", and I never got the feeling that "the hippies" were in favor of in the government controlling more of our lives.

Maybe that has changed, and these "new hippies" that want to keep us from smoking cigarettes and driving cars (take that, Jack Kerouac), take away your guns, make you pay more taxes, and want the rest of the world to be run by anti-American dictators; maybe these guys are the Real Hippies. I'm such an old fogey that I wouldn't know.

My almost-eighty Mom thought Obama's comment one of the best she's heard since the collapse of the New Deal. She grew up in Ventura, CA, in the Depression, and never lost her working-class perspective on American politics. It's true, poor and working-class people are facing a whole generation of vigorous neglect from Washington - often not just silence, but active hostility to the idea that they deserve any help for their real needs. She comments that while she has no use for the NRA or gay-bashing groups, she can understand how someone who just wants to be heard and see some results once in a while and who is more concerned about either might well turn to them.

She has great contempt for all the well-to-do people rushing to explain how this guy who's spent a long time actually working with poor people and the marginalized of many kinds on their real needs knows so much less about what's happening down the economic ladder than the pundits and long-term pols do.

Works for me.

jpe-

Take the time to actually read Obama's comments and response from today in Indiana. He didn't say that "people believe X because they are bitter," he said "people seek refuge from their economic distress through their belief in X because they are bitter at the failures of government to be on their side."

It's fine if you take offense at that position. Just take offense at what he actually said. Do you?

I'm not going to vote for somebody who despises me.

The party that despises average Americans is the party that eagerly does the bidding of the wealthiest among us, with the result that large corporations and wealthy businessmen take your tax dollars and stuff them in their pockets. See David Cay Johnston for details. See also the GOP's loving proposals for privatizing Social Security, etc.

... and want the rest of the world to be run by anti-American dictators

I'll apologize in advance--sorry DaveC--but this is prima facia evidence of cognitive disfunction. Where were you when the Republican party was aggressively propping up right-wing dictatorships in Latin America and around the world?

'Liberals' who opposed the invasion of Iraq did so not out of a belief in Saddam's legitimacy, much less a "desire" to keep him in power. (Good grief, do you really believe that?!?) We opposed the war, broadly, because a) we didn't and don't believe in unprovoked aggression, because b) there was ample expert opinion warning that to decapitate the Iraqi regime would unleash a pandora's box of ethnic rivalry and because c) we didn't want our young men & women in uniform getting bogged down, trapped and killed in a vicious quagmire.

Loneoak, I think that this is exact quote:

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. 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 anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

"Our faith is the faith of our parents and our grandparents."

[Get it?]

"It is a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe."
-Hillary Clinton today

As the fur flies.

Ok, so liberals are just opposed to Arab Liberals, and freedom in the Middle East. I believe that The War Has Come To Be One Between Liberalism and Fundamentalism, and oddly enough, I come down on the side of a Middle East liberalism, albeit a different kind of liberalism than most commenters. Liberals used to believe in freedom and weren't "realists" like today. Same kind of deal with the "hippie" stuff, liberals for a short period of time used to be libertarians, not so much now.

I can't understand what anyone is upset about because what Obama said is largely true and no one should be offeneded — unless indeed one thinks that attacking gay rights is more important than feeding your kids.

Mattski, DaveC is a self-professed troublemaker. He regards ObWi as a game, basically, and does whatever he thinks will get a rise out of other posters. He has no interest in any of us as people, nor respect for whatever we may be thinking or feeling. Like Gary Farber and perhaps others, I fail to understand why he's continued to allowed to post after an admission like that, but it's not our authority to change it, so we settle for pointing it out.

If you feel like playing a game back with him, fine, but never expect integrity or humanity.

unless indeed one thinks that attacking gay rights is more important than feeding your kids

Do you think that it is the federal government's responsibility to feed your kids? or that there should be special "gay rights"? If gays really need the government to mandate that they are good people, then what is next? Should hillbilly snake-handling fundamentalists be given the right to have Snakes On A Plane?

Whoever figures out how to put some real, robust life back into all of the run down, played out old blue collar manufacturing towns in this country deserves, and hopefully will receive, the undying thanks and loyalty of the nation as a whole.

Don't know if that's Obama or not, but at least he's talking about it in something approaching real terms. "Bitter" and "cling" are probably a couple of steps too far, but the basic issue of how to regenerate the old rust belt communities is kinda real.

As always, John Cole has something relevant to contribute.

Talking to rich donors in SF and speaking this condescendingly about middle-class voters in PA is just wrong.

Hey OC, as always you have a good point, but I'm not sure the middle class is what he's talking about.

I have family in and around Akron OH and Butler PA. They're all getting by, and some are doing quite well. And, they're doing so without clinging to their guns or their bibles. But things have sure as hell been better.

I also have family in Phoenix AZ and the anti-immigrant and anti-trade thing is also a reality.

For whatever reason, urban folks tend to be more liberal and country folks tend to be more conservative.

That, my friend, is the real dog tip.

The "whatever reason" part, IMO, has to do with population density, and having to deal on a day to day basis with folks who aren't like you.

Mostly population density, to be honest.

I'm not going to vote for somebody who despises me.

Well Dave, you have a chip on your shoulder the size of my back yard. Anyone who wastes their time trying to win your vote deserves to lose.

Did Ken Kesey or The Grateful Dead want more government interference in their lives?

No, by god they did not. So let's leave hippies the hell out it, OK?

Oh for Christ's sake, Bruce Baugh. You and all the other echo chamber liberals have run every single conservative off Obsidian Wings. When a mirror is held up to your own intolerance (clumsy as the attempt may be) you can't even see it, probably because you are a vampire or something that has no reflection.

Like OCS, I was offended on behalf of my rural family.
Speaking on behalf if my rural Indiana family, I think that this horrible gaffe will end Obama's campaign faster than talking nice about Ronald Reagan did.

I love it. Now Obama is not respectful of "religious" people. You know the right sort of religious people.

Likewise, it is amazing how PC we all are supposed to be. We shouldn't be serious. He makes a point about people being mad that Clinton and Bush policies didn't help. So what to do? Vote Clinton (in primary) or Bush II (McCain/general) since Obama was mean. The guy who actually hand's on dealt with poor people is the elitist one. Yeah right.

Books were written about this and fancy terms are used for it, but me, I think it's simply moronic. Desperate angry people can still act badly. In fact, cynical leaders use this fact all ... the ... time.

I'm with Publius here ... stop peeing in your pants about how horrible Obama is doing. Bush won twice even with all the idiotic (and worse) stuff he did. Stop being shocked he is an imperfect candidate with flaws and will say some dumb things now and again.

Grow the heck up.

Bruce, I appreciate the word to the wise.

You and all the other echo chamber liberals have run every single conservative off Obsidian Wings.

Well, DaveC, allow me to simply observe that you manifestly feel no obligation to speak carefully or truthfully. And I'd add that GWB's charming faith in violence--unprovoked violence--to produce positive change is, AFAIK, in direct contradiction of Christ's teachings. FWIW.

DaveC, are you just overworking your charm tonight? Liberals aren't required to tolerate dishonesty and malice - we can safely leave that to the conservatives who vote for old men who fondle little boys while banging on about morality, wreck the economy through incompetence, and lie about wars that result in 4000 plus American dead and counting. So, if it's looking in mirrors you want, take a good look at your own distorted, cynical reflection. Not very appealing, are you?

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Josh Marshall's "bitch slap theory". Good for Obama for not backing down.

Please take a look at what Sen. Obama said in 11/04 - long before he entered the primary - which is the very same thing he said that stirred up this particular teapot tempest...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oGF3cyHE7M

Then tell me how that is condescending or elite...

What Davis X. said.

The GOP has successfully conned its rank and file into chasing one red herring after another, for (let's say) just over twenty-five years now. All while wrecking the economy, then destroying their jobs, then stealing their savings, then stealing their children's savings... And now, finally, as inevitably as night follows day and blood draws flies, stealing their actual children.

Now it's "into the meatgrinder with you son," courtesy of the unobtrusive, small-goverment, practically-deadheads GOP that people like DaveC get all misty-eyed about. "And don't you dare complain, else your momma's name goes onto the list, and she'll never get on a plane again, and then how will she visit her grandkids in sunny California?"

Yeah, that finally put a bit of a chill in the air. A moment of fear. The killer is in the house! Get out! Now!

Or not. As it happens, nobody likes to admit that they've been conned, especially not when it's too late to do anything about it, and triply so when what they've been conned so bad that now their kids are screwed as well. You don't need to be a fancy elitist behavioral scientist to know that. Every con artist knows that. And what is politics, if not the highest aspiration of the most elite con artists?

God damn why I declare, have you seen the like;
They’re walls are filled with cannon balls;
They’re motto says ‘don’t tread on me’.

I sang that song over a hundred times at a struggling Chinese restaurant. The owner was from Taiwan and kept his business afloat with his wife’s family’s money. If we ever made it, he would have taken us all out to the whorehouse. A guy pulled a knife on me once and Tony karate-chopped it out of his hands.

Tony didn’t make it and sold my PA system to migrant onion farmers, although he eventually paid me for it; have respect for collections.

Tony ended up at the bar next door doing 360s while urinating. The world is not a nice place.

Publius says:

“This curious self-loathing — the shame and guilt associated with perfectly valid and moral views —…”

I believe that this is wrong. Socialism worked in Scandinavian countries that retained their Protestant work ethic (poof). In other historical applications, socialism tends to result in stacks of skulls. Obama maintains that big government can help people. And I fall back on the care-free days.

It seems to me that there is elitism and condescension working on two levels here:

- Obama's remarks were bad. He was condescending to the rural PA voters when he attempted to explain their thinking as seen from his perspective rather than just quoting from them directly or leaving the whole topic alone.

It is never a good idea to get into the business of psychoanalyzing other people in this way and second guessing their motives for their viewpoints. They are what they are, and that should be good enough - if it doesn't suit him then he should seek to find support from somewhere else or make an attempt at persuading them to a different viewpoint, which means speaking to them directly and not talking about them to somebody else.

For a politician to venture into pop-sociology like this is a gaffe and justly pointed out as such. You can't analyze someone else without putting yourself in a position of implied superiority with respect to them. This is the "false consciousness" argument which I've already argued against in other comment threads in this blog when accusations of sexism were being thrown around.

Obama was wrong to indulge in this kind of thinking and should knock if off pronto.

- Having said that, it is just appalling to see this gaffe being exploited for personal gain by the two other candidates who are much more elite in their backgrounds than Obama, both fiscally and socially, and by a news media which is cynically interested in stirring the pot for ratings sake and doesn't give two shits about rural America.

McCain is a scion of US Navy Admirals. He married money. When was the last time he worked in the private sector?

Hillary and Bill have 109 millions reasons why they cannot claim to speak for voters in hardscrabble rural America. Maybe if Hillary had spent some time in the last couple of decades in the aisles at Walmart rather than on their board, I could see her point. FDR she is not.

Where the heck have the media pundits been for the last 3 decades while the rust belt economy has gone steadily down hill? Fluffing for wall street and checking their stock portfolios, that's where they've been. When was the last time you saw anything broadcast on the MSM that made a serious attempt at understanding the causes of rural poverty and deindustrialization? Funny how you can't get advertisers to line up in support of content like that, huh? Especially when the advertisers in question are the same ones exporting those jobs.

So the bloviating and pontificating about this gaffe coming from McCain and Hillary and the MSM is another form of condescension and elitism, which says to rural people that they (the true elites) have the right to speak on behalf of you, and by the way we have no idea what happened to your economy but it sure wasn't us because our hands are clean so please pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The funny thing is, on main street (unlike on wall street) past performance does tend to predict future results, so this is either an admission from these self same elites that they have no control over the economy whatsoever (despite running for office on claims to the contrary), or a dishonest attempt to pretend that there are no elites here, nope, nosiree bob, nobody here but us chickens!

It is enough to make a person bitter.

The question is then, which form of elitism is more harmful to the people who are being condescended to here by both sides in this fracas. They are the only ones who have the right to make that determination, so we'll just have to wait and see what verdict the voters render on this question.

DaveC: I'm not going to vote for somebody who despises me.

Can I be the first to point out that this doesn't in fact leave DaveC with anyone to vote for?

Well, except liberaljaponicus, who isn't running for office.

Again, I agree with Left Turn. Been happening a lot lately.

There is one faint bit of light at the end of the hole Obama just dug himself into: he is now looking in the right direction. Ohio was the warning sign that this election, like all of them, really will be about the economy (stupid). Obama had not been nearly as focused on that as he needs to be to win swing states in the general election. And let's be clear, he is awfully likely to win the primary election. One gaffe is not going to change that. The question is whether he just shot the Democratic Party in the foot for the general election. Answer, probably not. He appears to now be focused on the right issues, and that is a good thing. It is too bad he started with such a dumb gaffe, but I hope he can work from there. Most people will give a politician a second chance if all he did was say something dumb. A few more months of BushCo p*ssing down their necks and telling them it's raining, and they may be willing to forgive an apparent slur on faith & guns, especially if Obama can successfully continue to tweak his rhetoric away from that and onto jobs.

But let's not kid ourselves, he just did himself real damage, he has not quite figured out how to get out of it, and he needs to work hard.

Obama's remarks were bad. He was condescending to the rural PA voters when he attempted to explain their thinking as seen from his perspective rather than just quoting from them directly or leaving the whole topic alone.

How do you know he wasn't retelling what PA voters had already told him? Is it ok to paraphrase instead of quoting?

It is never a good idea to get into the business of psychoanalyzing other people in this way and second guessing their motives for their viewpoints. They are what they are, and that should be good enough - if it doesn't suit him then he should seek to find support from somewhere else or make an attempt at persuading them to a different viewpoint, which means speaking to them directly and not talking about them to somebody else.

I think good politicians should spend time talking with people and analyzing them so as to design good political strategies. That's what Obama's been doing. And I also think that when donors ASK a candidate about the political challenges he faces, the candidate should be able to present their analysis.

My wife recently attended an Obama fund raiser where he came and spoke. As he was walking into the room and people where thronging to shake his hand, she told him "I don't like your Pakistan policy". He turned around and discussed it with her for a few minutes, completely focused on her arguments. This seems like a good thing: we want a candidate who talks to normal people openly and honestly and isn't so obsessed with avoiding faux pas that they never say anything interesting.

For a politician to venture into pop-sociology like this is a gaffe and justly pointed out as such. You can't analyze someone else without putting yourself in a position of implied superiority with respect to them. This is the "false consciousness" argument which I've already argued against in other comment threads in this blog when accusations of sexism were being thrown around.

I think you're stretching the phrase "position of authority" beyond any meaning at all. If I read about the state of the US Army, I'm not putting myself in command and I'm not claiming in any way that I'm better than people in the Army. In some hyper-semantic sense, you could argue that I acquire power as the doer and thus subordinate the subject, but, that's completely insane: normal human beings don't think like that.

And I don't think the false consciousness argument works here at all. It makes sense to talk about false consciousness when dealing with individuals, but when dealing with large groups, one has to construct models to represent their aggregate behavior. There are lots of people who support Obama in rural PA and lots of who don't, just like everywhere else. Asking millions of people to explain their beliefs isn't practical; you have to sample, which means constructing a model that is not going to be faithful to any single person you questioned.

Well, if we are speaking for our rural families, I will go ahead and throw out my Rural Oklahoman Family (ROF), which is sick and tired of the outrage game played in our political discourse. The ROF is also more than a little frustrated by the number of people in their communities who define themselves through wedge issues because of insecurity over change and income instability. My ROF is also pretty bitterly sad that America looks poised, once again, to get the government they so richly deserve via apathy and a willingness to buy into the pridefully stupid outrage de jour.

Then again, maybe I am just joining the many before me who seem to be projecting their own POV onto their rural families (though, of course, my family really does feel this way, including my increasingly winnable Republican sister, who comes a little more to Obama's side when she sees obvious and nonthreatening truths treated like poison by political opponents). Then again, maybe the fact that we are all college educated means that our rural credentials are revoked. I am sure there is some reason our opinion shouldn't matter.

trilobite,

thanks for the props, more evidence that great minds think alike, huh? ;-/

turbulence,

How do you know he wasn't retelling what PA voters had already told him? Is it ok to paraphrase instead of quoting?

I'm working on the assumption that if he were quoting or paraphrasing (i.e. summarizing multiple quotes into a smaller package) he would have said so by now, because that makes for a more solid defense on the topic.

I haven't heard anything from Obama to suggest that he was doing anything other than what I stated, which is peering into the heads of these rural PA voters from his perspective and trying to understand what makes them tick.

If you are going to speak on behalf of some group, be prepared to back it up if challenged by being able to produce a non-trivial number of people from that group who say the same thing in their own words.

If he can produce actual rural PA voters who told him that they are clinging to their guns and religion because they've been let down, then I'll eat my words. I wouldn't mind doing so, I just don't expect it to happen.


I think good politicians should spend time talking with people and analyzing them so as to design good political strategies.

I don't see anything wrong with him trying to understand what voters are thinking (doh!) or building mental models to organize these ideas, but he has no business holding these speculations up as explanatory rather than exploratory, and if he is going to hold a public discussion on them then that discussion needs to be carried out in the presence of the people whose views he is modelling, so he can get immediate feedback from them regarding whether his mental model is accurate or not.

The problem was, he was discussing what makes PA voters tick in CA, and in a part of CA which is very different from rural PA.

When I said "You can't analyze someone else without putting yourself in a position of implied superiority" I meant that the act of analysis implies that with a neutral perspective you have a better chance of making sense of somebody else's ideas than they can articulately present themselves. I don't see how this can be done without claiming a position of superiority. YMMV.


It makes sense to talk about false consciousness when dealing with individuals, but when dealing with large groups, one has to construct models to represent their aggregate behavior.

Historically speaking, arguments from false consciousness have been used to disenfranchise entire groups en masse with alarming frequency, by some elite claiming to speak on behalf of their true interests while proposing policies not very popular with the group in question. This was one of the central claims used by Leninists to support the idea of a vangardist party grabbing power on behalf of the working class. The political right has used this same argument as well. It is a bad argument with a terrible pedigree.

I'm not saying that Obama is one of those people, but pointing out that this is a slippery slope it would be best to avoid, and I do not trust arguments used to excuse what he said that to me smack of false consciousness. I have a big problem with the whole "What's the matter with Kansas" way of thinking, because it smells of f.c. reasoning to me (i.e., "people vote against their own interests because they are duped by propaganda" seems awfully similar to f.c.).

Again, IMHO, YMMV, etc.


It is never a good idea to get into the business of psychoanalyzing other people in this way and second guessing their motives for their viewpoints.

Sorry, but this just ain't true. Bill Clinton spent eight years very successfully telling Americans that he felt their pain about how difficult change could be, i.e. acknowledging their subjective experience while essentially explaining it away.

Our entire political culture is based on a variety of elites engaging in pop psychological and pop sociological analyses of our electorate. In recent decades those analyses themselves have come to dominate much of the public political discourse. In fact, Mark Penn has built his career on this sort of thing.

The reaction to Obama is principally about the Clinton and McCain campaigns' trying to manufacture outrage. Yes, some actual non-campaign professionals, rural and otherwise, were outraged. But many of these people are always already outraged by anything Obama says or does. The interesting questions are: Were significant numbers Obama supporters or leaners outraged? And, if they were, would they have been without the McCain-Clinton pearl clutching?

Finally, I don't think the analogy with liberal hawks going after the left--which is an interesting phenomenon in and of itself--is very helpful in understanding the Obama kerfuffle. But if we are going to discuss liberal hawks going after the marginal left, you might want to consider the actual hatred of liberal hawks for both liberal and especially left doves as an important factor. Much liberal criticism of the antiwar left flowed not from concerns about how conservatives might view liberals but rather from many liberals' wholehearted commitment to the military-industrial complex and the much-vaunted bipartisan foreign policy consensus.

Admittedly, Obama’s wording about working class Pennsylvanians was less than ideal. What’s interested me though is not so much his words, but the intensity of the reaction to them. What explains it?

Paid shills talking it up to distract attention from Petraeus lying to Congress about the war in Iraq.

Simplest explanation, isn't it?

I mean, you have a corrupt general who is a war profiteer talking to Congress - some of whom are also war profiteers - in a country where, in theory at least, the press are free to report what's being said.

If you were a war profiteer and the war that's making you rich was being discussed in public, wouldn't you rather everyone was talking about some soundbite culled from one of Obama's speeches that can be made to sound bad?

Not that I think everyone who's been talking up Obama's soundbite is a paid shill. But it's one of the blogosphere phenomena - have a few people pushing hard that this is the one thing everyone should be talking about, and soon everyone's talking as if this was really important. Which, of course, it is not: no more than Clinton's gaffe about Bosnia was.

The trials of negative campaigning against your own party...

I don't think it's so much resentment towards the "elitist" mindset in America's coastal cities that is the problem. America is a cosmopolitan place, and it's obviously going to have different cultures based on geographical location. Personally, I think that makes America more interesting. The problem lies in the fact that Obama thinks the federal government can be the cure all to everyone's problems as evidenced by his Indiana comments.

The problem lies in the fact that Obama thinks the federal government can be the cure all to everyone's problems as evidenced by his Indiana comments.

What Obama said was:

And what we need is a federal government that is actually paying attention. A government that is fighting for working people day in and day out making sure that we are trying to allow them to live out the American dream and that's what this campaign is about.

How do you read "paying attention" and "fighting for working people" as "being the cure all for everyone's problems"?

The notion that Democrats believe that the federal government is the cure-all for everyone's problems, while the GOP believes in minimizing the role of the federal government, is an incredibly tired, old Reaganite talkingpoint that no longer bears much relation to reality. Especially given how far the Democratic Party has moved to the right (and how far the Republican Party has embraced statism as the solution for what it perceives to be the nation's problems), it's long past time to retire it.

Gary: They reacted that way to this?

The follow up spin? No, the original remarks - although I did send them a link for that.

Also, do you find this offensive, yourself?

Not really. To me it’s just the normal “attempt to remove foot from mouth” procedure. Again, family and others I know in SmallTown PA are not bitter or frustrated and they don’t cling to anything as a means of making it through the day. They just deal with it. They work hard and for the most part make a good life for their kids.


John: What they decide to base their votes on is frequently what they are able to turn to in times of troule. There was absolutely no, none, zip, nada, zero condescension or looking down on any of those things.

I do think it was condescending. The context was responding to wealthy SF donors about why the rubes in PA just are not lining up to vote for him. You adjust your talking points to fit the audience, and in this case it was a perfect fit. I’ll bet most of the audience was knowingly nodding their heads as he said it.

It’s not a deal breaker for me. I understand that campaigning is tough. Day after day trying to make your points and trying to make it all new and interesting for yet one more audience. And this is the longest election cycle ever. I’ll bet the dude is just exhausted.

One of the things I've liked about Obama is how he generally refuses to oversimplify matters at hand -- see his nuanced response to the Rev. Wright flap. Another example appears in one of the comments above, where Obama paused and discussed Pakistan policy with Turbulence's wife.

Now, I agree that his phrasing in the current kerfuffle was unfortunate in that it looked like a hasty generalization. Of course he knows there are rural folks who don't cling to guns and religion. That doesn't make what he said untrue. The cost to him is having to go around splitting hairs to make his meaning clear (more than he already has). And I have no doubt that he'll do that, just fine.

A White Bear had a wonderful post about Obama's rhetorical skill:
"To this rhetorician, watching an Obama speech is like taking a class in the epideictic craft. He deploys historical commonplaces in brilliant ways, concedes points without conceding ground, and makes agreement an almost viscerally pleasurable option for the listener." (http://istherenosininit.wordpress.com/?s=rhetoric) I think that this quality -- coupled with the fact that the media, even as they try to stir things up around him, can't seem to get enough of him -- will give him ample opportunity to be heard, ultimately, on his own terms.

Oversimplification seems to me to be the GOP's (and -- hate to say this -- HRC's) weapon of choice. Hell, oversimplification (which too often translates as dehumanization) is this administration's modus operandi.

Its opposite: "And what we need is a federal government that is actually paying attention." Paying attention. Which does NOT translate to that GOP bogeyman, Big Govmint.

I think -- I hope -- that this "paying attention" is the new thing that Obama brings to the table. But he has to keep showing he means it.

Publius, you are doing the liberal thing of taking responsibility. Liberals are not responsible for the tendency (right here on this thread) for some folks to assume the worst and put the wprst construction on something a liberal says.

years ago the Republicans decided that since they can't win races on policy or ideas that htey would win on tribalism and negative emotions. So they set out to devide and conquer. One aspect of that was to use the media to promote the myth of the liberal elitist who looked down on small town Americans. The other side of it was the myth that small town Americans are somehow more real and more American than peoplenot from small towns--the cult of Middle America or the Silent Majority.

It's a geat set up for creating lots of faux victimization. Look at all the examples on this thread. He's sneering at us!Poor us! Us poor put upon victims!

Well he didn't. he stated a fact about much of America--people are geting screwed and they are getting mad and they turn to the institutions near to them for support and sometimes turn against other people.
And that's exactly how Republicans want things to be because the Republican mesage is that the "other" they should turn against is liberals.

I see that every day when I go to work at my working class job in my working class community. We've got it all--fundamentalist churches, rightwing radio, high unemplyoment and underemployment, tension between the Spanish speking comunity and the English speakers, the tendency to vote rightwing in response to wedge issues, and lots and lots of ovrstressed tired economically marginalized people, many of whom have bought into the myth that they are being sneered at by liberals when its the republicans who are laughing all tha way to the state legislature.


The lst thing in the world Republicans want is for the people who are getting screwed to get mad at the peole who are scfrewing them.


The only thing wrong with what Obama said is that "bitter" isn't the right word. Americans are propagandized from birth in the myth of our exceptionality which makes it hard for peolpe to conceptualize how much better life could be or to recognize how bad life here is. So there is lots of sgtress over things like working too many hours to have a family life or worrying about bills or worrying about how to get the kids prepared for careers or how to afford to retire--stres, stress, stress,--which manifests itslef in the crappy statistics about health problems divorce etc, but not enough anger in my opinion., Getting good and mad about the conditions of low paid working life would be a healthy response if the anger was directed at the preditory class.

Among conservatives, Obama’s words provide a pretext to hammer him using the “elitist” narrative that has worked so marvelously over the years. Sure, some conservatives were genuinely and sincerely upset. But most just smelled the opportunity to use their weapon of choice. And the reason that weapon often works is because it’s abundantly clear that liberals are affected by it.

The problem is, there's a fair amount of truth to this narrative. From what he's said in his memoirs and his speeches, I don't think Obama particularly looks down on working class, rural, or red state voters - I think this was just a bad choice of words. But a lot - A LOT - of liberals do, which is why this is so potentially damaging. I've spent a lot of time in liberal enclaves in the U.S. (NYC, Berkeley, San Fran, etc.), and in my observation Republicans, evangelicals, rednecks, and the like are the only people it's acceptable to express open bigotry toward in those communities. And if it's not outright bigotry, it's condescension and elitist tsk-tsking. Democratic politicians are generally careful not to express such attitudes (and who knows, maybe not many of them feel them), but the popular culture is dominated by coastal liberals and the contempt for middle America which is common among them often seeps into its output (Stephen Colbert once noted that for a long time the shorthand way of telling the audience a character is stupid in Hollywood has been to give him/her a southern accent). Contrary the stereotype, though, people in flyover country aren't stupid. They recognize contempt when they see it, and the know an attempt to cover it up with insincere pandering to their cultural sensibilities when they see one (e.g. Kerry's hunting gear photo op). publius, I'd think this would be easy for you to figure out. You're from Kentucky, and you've noted yourself that liberal elites often privately feel scorn for bastions of red state culture such as religion. Why is it surprising when people see through attempts to hide such scorn?

Americans are propagandized from birth in the myth of our exceptionality which makes it hard for peolpe to conceptualize how much better life could be or to recognize how bad life here is. So there is lots of sgtress over things like working too many hours to have a family life or worrying about bills or worrying about how to get the kids prepared for careers or how to afford to retire--stres, stress, stress,--which manifests itslef in the crappy statistics about health problems divorce etc

I can't say this about everywhere, but I've lived in two countries other than America an in my observation this is true of other countries as well. Everybody struggles with economic anxiety, health problems, family stress, etc.

I also don't think Americans have it nearly that bad. Firstly, even the poorest American is better off than probably 80% of the world's population, and secondly, there are poor, miserable people in every country. That doesn't mean we can't do better than we are in making our citizens' lives better (I think we can), but I don't think we're nearly as bad off as you suggest.

Alterman's latest book devoted a lot of space to this very issue: "why are liberals afraid?"

Didn't a great liberal once famously aver that "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself"?

"But a lot - A LOT - of liberals do, which is why this is so potentially damaging."

Unverified, and frankly unverifiable BS. If I claimed, having lived in rural areas, I witnessed 'A LOT' of hatred, bigotry, closed mindedness, and prideful ignorance, coupled with open contempt for modernity, tolerance, and a firm belief that a tiny minority of 'like folk' is entitled to 'run things', you would fall all over yourself and feel guilty, right?

Somehow I think not.

The contempt expressed by Xeynon is misplaced. Most people live in cities and their associated urban surroundings. Most people have more or less liberal values. Yet the exhalted rural 'flyover states' have, due to our constitutional arrangements, out of proportion political power, and thus are pandered to shamelessly, and their predjudice against urban area held up as some kind of pure beautific ideal.

So tell me, sir, who is the 'elite' here?

"And if it's not outright bigotry, it's condescension and elitist tsk-tsking."

As opposed to outlandish, but apparently socially acceptable, expressions of pure unadulterated hate and actual physical violence inflicted on "outsiders" so common to rural areas, right?

Hey. I've witnessed A LOT of this, so obviously I can generalize this to apply to all rural areas and condemn social conservatives accordingly.

I'm just playing by your rules, sir.

. . . I don't think Obama particularly looks down on working class, rural, or red state voters - I think this was just a bad choice of words. But a lot - A LOT - of liberals do . . .

Yeah. Remember the whole kerfuffle back at the beginning of the primaries when Mike Huckabee's candidacy got a boost because it became clear that the Republicans had made it policy -- voiced outright by Karl Rove -- to cater to the religious right and (gag) "values voters" with a lot of flowery promises about enacting their agenda, then giving them the shaft?

It's OK. Apparently neither does anyone else.

Stephen Colbert once noted that for a long time the shorthand way of telling the audience a character is stupid in Hollywood has been to give him/her a southern accent

Clever enough as far as it goes, but I can produce in about 15 seconds hundreds of counterexamples in both directions (smart people with Southern accents, dumb people without them), so ultimately pointless.

the popular culture is dominated by coastal liberals and the contempt for middle America which is common among them often seeps into its output

Oh, this is just pernicious nonsense and a lot of mind-reading to boot. For every example you think you can name, I can again come up with hundreds of counterexamples.

Every group thinks the popular culture is against it. Republicans, Democrats, men, women, gays, straights, blacks, whites, Hispanics, atheists, Christians, Jews . . . you name a group, they'll be able to tell you reasons why the popular culture and the media is biased against them. And they're all equally right and equally wrong.

Stephen Colbert once noted that for a long time the shorthand way of telling the audience a character is stupid in Hollywood has been to give him/her a southern accent

Homer, in the Iliad, had two characters portrayed as 'wide walkers' to suggest they were country bumpkins who walk was dictated by stepping over furrows. Every country tends to ridicule people from the agricultural areas, Bavaria for Germany, Ch'tis in France, Newfies in Canada, Isan in Thailand, Tohoku in Japan. Yokel, country bumpkin, hicks, and a number of other words predate any notion of liberal Democratic politics. It's a natural outgrowth of increased urbanization, and aggrieved protests about how liberals ridicule country folk represents an absence of deep thought about why it occurs and the nature of the relationship, because for every 'stupid hick' joke, there is sly reversal of the country bumpkin pulling the wool over the eyes of the city slicker.

Gaffe my ass. My grandfather worked in a steel mill for much of his life and after it was shuttered and the government let his town die he was pissed until the day he died. He was African-American so he wasn't a "wedge-issue" or "single-issue" voter described by Obama but the anger at the government was the same.

The people who are making this an issue are showing that they're the out of touch ones.

Just to remind folks about rural areas as conservative/traditional values.

I think the word “pagan” was developed to talk about the rural folks who clung to the old religions of Rome while the urban areas were becoming Christian. Kind of ironic, it was the urban Christian elite who were dumbfounded by how backward thinking rural folks were, “Why would they cling to such depraved and degenerate religions?”

Then again, it always seems to be a very inventive urban Christian elite who tells folks why and how rural folks believe.

Gods, Guns and Gays was Rove’s mantra for a winning strategy.

Oversimplification, anyone? Turning people into cartoons?

What would a politics of respect look like, I wonder.

I think that using rural locations for stories makes it easier to understand the characters. Hence the success of the Andy Griffith show, which wasn't really about making fun of the rednecks. That said, I preferred Green Acres, which argued that all the world around you is so insane that it makes some kind of sense to have to climb up the telephone pole to answer the phone. I think that there was some kind of zoning ordinance involved.

This is also why the argument 'Because it's ok to make jokes about group X, that means that prejudice against them is worse than it is for group Y, because jokes about group Y are socially prohibited' doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The fact that one can't make jokes about certain groups signifies a societal understanding that the social position of group Y is so weak that making jokes about them isn't really funny.

I've spent a lot of time in liberal enclaves in the U.S. (NYC, Berkeley, San Fran, etc.), and in my observation Republicans, evangelicals, rednecks, and the like are the only people it's acceptable to express open bigotry toward in those communities. And if it's not outright bigotry, it's condescension and elitist tsk-tsking.

I've lived in liberal areas and conservative ones, and there's plenty of condescension and misunderstanding going both ways, and if you don't think there's bigotry in conservative circles you're wrong.

One of the more annoying atitudes, as evidenced by your use of the phrase "liberal enclaves," - not "liberal areas" - that people who live in the cities are somehow not really Americans, but a small isolated group. New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle. Not "America."

"Hence the success of the Andy Griffith..."

As opposed to the utter failure that was "The Honeymooners" or "Friends".

It is never a good idea to get into the business of psychoanalyzing other people in this way and second guessing their motives for their viewpoints.

'Psychoanalyzing' is a fancy word for interpreting, which is a necessary and essential part of politics. It can be done well or it can be done poorly, that is the only question.

They are what they are, and that should be good enough - if it doesn't suit him then he should seek to find support from somewhere else or make an attempt at persuading them to a different viewpoint, which means speaking to them directly and not talking about them to somebody else.

This doesn't hold together at all. It is a politicians job to listen to people and try to understand their reality. Clearly, that is what Obama was up to. Clearly, he made a poor choice of words, but his effort to understand and interpret was well motivated and basically sound.

For a politician to venture into pop-sociology like this is a gaffe and justly pointed out as such. You can't analyze someone else without putting yourself in a position of implied superiority with respect to them.

There is no way around the following conundrum (and I'm indebted to Davis X. Machina's eloquence up above): ordinary citizens, rightly, want their leaders to be chosen from the cream of the crop but they don't want the cream of the crop to lord their superiority over them. Duh.

The job of telling the average GOP voter that there is a large emblem-of-GOP-man-hood requiring removal from their rectum is a delicate one.


[It is never a good idea to get into the business of psychoanalyzing other people in this way and second guessing their motives for their viewpoints.]

Sorry, but this just ain't true. Bill Clinton spent eight years very successfully telling Americans that he felt their pain about how difficult change could be, i.e. acknowledging their subjective experience while essentially explaining it away.

Ben Alpers,

The difference in your example is that Bill Clinton was generally speaking directly to the people whose pain he claimed to feel, not talking about them behind their backs to a different group.

For me that is the biggest problem with Obama's remarks, not so much what he said (although I thought "cling" was an especially poor choice of words) but where and to whom he said it.

Consider a hypothetical: what if one of the other candidates (say McCain) had been speaking in rural PA and when questioned about his foreclosure policy and its effects on the high priced housing markets in CA, had given a little speech about how historically since 1849 CA has tended to have an volatile economy based on booms and busts, as a consequence of which the people in that state tend to invest wildly and irresponsibly during the booms and then cling to their overpriced properties during the busts, so it is hard to get votes for a sensible economic policy from people who don't understand that everyone will be better off if they are foreclosed on now rather than later.

Do you think that hypothetical speech would go over very well in CA?
Even if true, isn't this a speech which perhaps should be given in Sacramento rather than in Scranton?

I don't want to get into an extended slam of Obama here because I admire the way he is counter-punching on this issue and trying to turn it into a broader discussion of deindustrialization which I think is a very important issue that needs to aired in this campaign. I do think that the people attacking him are also elitist, as I described earlier, but it seems kind of tone deaf not to understand why his remarks could be taken as condescending by some of the people he was talking about.

I really think we need to wait and see what the actual people of rural PA think about this and I'm not going to speculate on how they might or might not take offense, nor do I trust blogs to provide a representative sample of public opinion on this issue.

It's apparently okay to talk about why some black people subscribe to ridiculous conspiracy theories regarding AIDS--it's an understandable reaction to real life discrimination and we can say this without fear of being accused of liberal elitism. Apparently, though, it's condescending to talk about conservative whites as though some of their beliefs might be irrational, but understandable reactions to real life stresses. It almost looks like two different standards are being employed.

TLTinABQ: not talking about them behind their backs to a different group

"In this day and age" (as my dad used to say when he was still around to be saying things), it's next to impossible to say anything behind anyone's back. Everything anyone says, never mind presidential candidates, can potentially land on everyone else's screen within minutes. This is a quibble in one sense, I know, but in another sense, while it might be accurate and possibly even relevant to say that Obama was talking about certain people in the third person, he certainly wasn't talking behind their backs in the sense of having any expectation that they wouldn't hear about it.

'Psychoanalyzing' is a fancy word for interpreting

mattski,

I am 'interpreting' the word psycholanalyzing specifically to include the extra dimension of taking into account the unconscious motivations or impulses of a person or group of people which they themselves are not aware of.

That is where the sense of superiority comes from, the idea that you can see something in my mind why I myself do not have the capacity or willingness to perceive. However true that may be in a factual sense, it isn't a fair basis for a dialog between you and I unless I get to return the favor in your direction, and it is a highly impolitc thing to talk about if you want me to support you.

Obama's "cling to guns and religion" remark (which was a very small part of an otherwise reasonable speech) was venturing into this dangerous territory - he wasn't describing their behavior, but speculating on their motivations without quoting or paraphrasing from them directly.

I don't like that approach to politics. I don't want our leaders to speculate on our unconcious motivations (which may nonetheless be a factor) when they can be much more direct and just ask us what we think, and then paraphrase as needed in a different context.

In other words, if you are asking to be my leader and are going to propose a theory for why I do the things that I do, either quote me or be prepared to take some heat from me for taking liberties with the way you have chosen to re-present my thinking.

LeftTurn,

I think we share the view that Obama chose his words poorly. I just don't buy your larger narrative about where he erred.

In real life we are always attempting to ascribe motivation to each other. Our friends, our adversaries, everyone. It can be done well and it can be done not so well. That is all.

I really think we need to wait and see what the actual people of rural PA think about this

The problem is that the main determiner of how rural Pennsylvanians think about this is how the media tell them they should think about it. Yes, occasionally the people react in a way that surprises the media, but not often, because in cases like this people's experience of the "event" is the media coverage. There is nothing else.

I don't believe that Obama despises DaveC, but I certainly hope he isn't wasting any time on a futile attempt to get DaveC's vote.

I've spent a lot of time in liberal enclaves in the U.S. (NYC, Berkeley, San Fran, etc.), and in my observation Republicans, evangelicals, rednecks, and the like are the only people it's acceptable to express open bigotry toward in those communities.

I've lived my entire life in those 'enclaves' -- NYC, Philly, and Boston. You're right, Republicans, evangelicals, and rednecks are commonly made fun of and looked down on. Evangelicals less so nowadays, because they've become kind of mainstream, but you still have a point.

I also have lots of family in 'flyover' America and can tell you that folks from the coastal cities are commonly seen as snobbish, obnoxious brats who don't have the good sense God gave a turnip.

It's sad but true that folks tend to look down on other folks who aren't like them.

I, personally, have no particular beef with folks from other parts of the country, but I sure as hell am sick and tired of hearing about 'the heartland' and 'real Americans'.

Add up the populations of just the three places I've lived -- metro NYC, Philly, and Boston -- and you're talking about 1 out of 10 people in the whole damned country. That's a pretty big 'enclave'.

My family roots are in Brooklyn, Orange NJ, north central PA mining country, and rural GA. It's all real America.

So IMO it's time to give the 'real American' thing a rest.

People from NY think folks from the sticks are goobers. Folks from the sticks think NY'ers are congenital assholes.

Maybe it's time for us all to get over ourselves and find a way to get along.

matt, jamie, KC, ben, et. al.

Thanks for your criticism and responses. Reasonable people can disagree here I think.

I've said enough (some may say too much) on this topic already, but don't interpret silence on this thread from me as an indication that I'm ignoring you - I'm not doing that at all, just lurking. I'm not trying to get the last word in here, just letting you know that I've read and appreciated your comments and look forward to more of the same. Please carry on.

I've spent a lot of time in liberal enclaves in the U.S. (NYC, Berkeley, San Fran, etc.), and in my observation Republicans, evangelicals, rednecks, and the like are the only people it's acceptable to express open bigotry toward in those communities.

Fair enough. On the other hand...

1) A lot of evangelicals deserve contempt. Their theology is, to put it mildly, reactionary and their stances are chosen accordingly. And I say this with a number of close evangelical friends, not that that mitigates the sting I'm sure.

2) A lot of Republicans deserve contempt, nowadays at least, for continuing to support the Bush Administration. Same disclaimer as above.

3) Name me one instance -- one -- wherein a major Democratic politician publicly slammed, on a national stage, the South as being "un-American" or something equivalent. Republicans do this to California and Massachussetts all the time. All. The. Time. Hell, this was actually an explicit part of Bush's stump speech in 2004; a uniter indeed.

3') Why do you say "liberal enclaves" like they're an aberrant species in the midst of Real America? I'm guessing it was just a figure of speech here, and fair enough, but it's anything but from the majority of the (vocal) right.

4) Which reminds me: if one more Beltway-insider Republican politician claims to speak for the Real Americans against those DFH Liberals, I swear I'm gonna punch him or her in the mouth. Especially if it's a Southern politician talking about the Midwest.

5) If you think open bigotry towards "Republicans, evangelicals, rednecks, and the like" is bad in the "liberal enclaves" -- see above -- I'll take it you don't have much familiarity with the contempt expressed in the "conservative enclaves" for, I dunno, liberals, gays, atheists and godless heathen sodomites (as we're typically called). In fact, name me one part of the liberal movement that is as persistently hateful towards your list as the evangelical megachurches -- or the vast majority of ordinary evangelical churches, come to that -- are towards mine. Not just contemptuous: hateful. As in "They're going to burn in hell and aren't we sad about that *tee hee hee*".

6) The same goes true for conservative politicians, btw. I actually do live in a liberal enclave, and it's not only par for the course that conservative politicians will bash is, it's essentially impossible for conservative politicians to get elected without vilifying us as hard as possible. In fact, there are a couple of state politicians who were re-elected explicitly on the platform of "sticking it to the liberals in Madison". [John Gard, memorably described as "the kind of kid the other College Republicans would have beaten up for being a tool", I'm looking at you.] While I'm sure they exist, the proportion of liberal politicians so elected is dwarfed by the number of conservatives so elected.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: (from trilobite ) Again, I agree with Left Turn. Been happening a lot lately.

Just wanted to note that I think your comments here have been very moderating. And IMO spot on.

Again, I’d note that this is what politicians do. You adjust your talking points to the audience. I hate public speaking and when I think about having to do it day after day and somehow try to make it fresh for each new group I just shudder. Just kill me now… So I really do understand that this campaign is really really frackin’ tough. And there are months to go yet. Clinton and McCain have certainly said plenty of dumb things already. I really do like the guy, but I think its starting to add up to “not quite ready for prime time”. Not that I’m going to vote for McCain or HRC…

BTW – this clip on Politico kind of defines this whole thing I think. Those rubes just aren’t going to listen to a black man – listen to the audience…

Those rubes just aren’t going to listen to a black man – listen to the audience…

I gotta say, OC, that FWIW I'm just not hearing what you're hearing. I don't get anything about "rubes" in Obama's comments, and I don't get anything condescending in people laughing at his comments.

WTF does Barack Obama know about the lives of older, white, rust belt folks? That's the joke, and he's telling it on himself.

IMO everybody needs to grow themselves a thicker skin. My two cents, FWIW.

russell: IMO everybody needs to grow themselves a thicker skin. My two cents, FWIW.

Oh you are 100% correct. I certainly need to, no argument there. Being offended by someone somewhere can be a full time job. So I do need to stick a sock in it on occasion. ;)

BTW – I for one really miss you ending your comments with your signature “Thanks”.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I certainly don't think you have said too much. I always enjoy your comments and often they enrich my own thinking.

I went out and did some errands after I wrote earlier, musing while I rode around the countryside about how complicated language, interpretation, and we human beings are. You were reflecting on the layers of meaning and effect of something Obama said, and I was reflecting (in a much more casual way) on the layers of meaning in something you said. How will people interpret "cling" (prompted by the media or not)? How might people (maybe just me) interpret "behind their backs"? In some sense, Obama was purporting to read the minds and hearts of some people in PA, and talking about it to some other people in CA, and you were purporting to read behind the surface of Obama's words, and talking about it to us....

For me, "behind their backs" carries a connotation of snideness that I personally didn't see in the remarks. Unconscious condescension is a different thing, and I'm not sure about that one in this case. Given Obama's history, I doubt it's there, but as many people have said, that doesn't make much difference given the manufacture of a big controversy by the MSM.

Despite the fact that I agree that we could all grow a thicker skin, and could all benefit from cultivating a greater willingness to give each other the benefit of the doubt, it's not a simple matter, this business of interpreting each other. That was really my underlying point about "behind their backs" -- a sort of meta-point, but I didn't explain it clearly as such the first time. (Maybe not this time, either. Oh, well.)

Bugger, I got cut off mid-thought. Anyway, to finish my post above: I agree that Obama's remarks were insensitive and, in some respects, just plain dumb. That said, I think there's a real point buried in there -- someone made it above, that in times of crisis or despair we cling/cleave/adhere to things which give us comfort (even if, as in the case of the GOP, they're not actually in our best interests) -- and I hope he gets a chance to make it.

I'll also add that, while of course I hope Obama doesn't condescend, I'm getting a little bit tired of being told that I have to respect Southerner's/rural folk's/conservative's/whoever's "feelings", like this was some touchy-feely new age seminar. I find it particularly distasteful from people who deride that sort of attitude in liberals unless it's directed at poor, pitiful them, and there's an element of that here. Not from people in this thread, I think -- I'm pretty sure that no-one here is faking their outrage -- but from a couple of the commentators I've read.

To wax philosophical, sometimes you gotta tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may. The key distinction to me is between respect and sycophancy; if I can't tell you that you're full of shit when I think you are, then one of us doesn't respect the other -- and that cuts both ways. What I'm seeing at the national level is a requirement that liberals not just respect, say, the South -- which they damn well better -- but that they grovel, for lack of a better word, in getting their votes. I haven't seen that from the left in a while, though I don't doubt OCSteve et al. will inform me otherwise :)

Contrary the stereotype, though, people in flyover country aren't stupid. They recognize contempt when they see it, and the know an attempt to cover it up with insincere pandering to their cultural sensibilities when they see one (e.g. Kerry's hunting gear photo op).

Whaaaaa??? The GOP has treated them with contempt for decades and they bend over and say "More, please!" And the admiration for Commander Codpiece (talk about jumped-up photo ops) didn't come from the "liberal enclaves". The fact that these states are still "red" bespeaks a certain amount of political naivety, if not outright stupidity.

I do think it was condescending. The context was responding to wealthy SF donors about why the rubes in PA just are not lining up to vote for him.

The reason that Obama's words were poorly chosen is that this is a reasonable interpretation of that paragraph, if you analyze it in isolation. If you read, or hear, more about him on this subject, the condescension just isn't there. Far from being about why rubes aren't lining up to vote for him, he's been saying this sort of thing for a while, pointing out to Democrats that they have to take these people, and their concerns, seriously, if they want their votes.

The YouTube link above from 2004 is an example. This is a subject that is touched upon in numerous places in Dreams from My Father. The most recent large scale example is, of course, Jeremiah Wright. Obama essentially said exactly the same thing about Wright, a man he clearly respects. Wright holds views that strike the rest of us as anything from bemusing to offensive, precisely because they provide Wright comfort in the midst of a good deal of bitterness.

Barack Obama is not saying that rural people are rubes. He's saying that they are human. Like everyone else, you need to take them seriously. Of course, Obama also talks about themes that don't fit into a paragraph. Yes, he expressed himself clumsily in this instance. It may hurt his campaign. However, those of us here on Obsidian Wings should be willing to not let a single paragraph lead us to a conclusion about what Obama thinks.

I really do like the guy, but I think its starting to add up to “not quite ready for prime time”. Not that I’m going to vote for McCain or HRC…

What are your options then? If Obama wins the nomination, will you vote for him? If Clinton does, are you thinking she's just as bad as McCain, and not vote at all? I'm just wondering what your thinking is.

We better all get used to looking up the full clips/text of what is said before even beginning to discuss why it was so bad. Here is BHO in Indiana:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc9PepjyDow

BTW – I for one really miss you ending your comments with your signature “Thanks”.

second that thought.

Anarch: I haven't seen that from the left in a while, though I don't doubt OCSteve et al. will inform me otherwise :)

I respect you enough (and most folks here) that you are free to tell me I’m full of shit whenever you like. ;)


Jeff: What are your options then? If Obama wins the nomination, will you vote for him? If Clinton does, are you thinking she's just as bad as McCain, and not vote at all? I'm just wondering what your thinking is.

Sitting it out I guess. I’m leaning Omaba, there is no way I’ll vote for McCain or HRC.

I'll preface my remarks by saying I'm voting for McCain, but I don't really get the antipathy to Clinton. If Obama could point to something that he has actually done, besides speeches (per HRC), then I could see the reason for enthusiasm. Now, part of the deal is that Obama has almost caught lightning in a bottle and has to go for it, but he simply doesn't have a track record. If he had been governor of Illinois or mayor of Chicago, then we would really know what he's about. Taxes are really hurting the middle class in Chicago, with the highest sales tax in the country, a state income tax, all kinds of fees tacked on to everything, and Mayor Daley is talking about increasing the property tax. Earlier this year Governer Blagojevich proposed a 3% tax on gross revenues for all businesses.

All this is driving businesses out of the state, and you cannot simply refuse to let the businesses leave. That's impossible to do in a free market. Things have to be made attractive to job providers.

Obama asked for Honda to build a plant in Illinois

That Honda plant is in Indiana.

BTW – I for one really miss you ending your comments with your signature “Thanks”.

Third that thought. But mostly I'm just glad to have you around commenting, so it doesn't bother me too much.

Third that thought.

Hey, thanks for the very kind words.

I dropped it so it wouldn't seem sarcastic. I'll put it back.

There's probably enough snark in the body of most of my comments to make the question moot, anyway. :)

Thanks -

What’s interested me though is not so much his words, but the intensity of the reaction to them."

I suppose ignoring his words is one way to approach the subject. It wouldn't be my approach.

Perhaps one can only understand that approach if they have a special relationship with Obama.

Heads in the Sand

That's almost laugh outloud funny after that opening comment.

If Obama could point to something that he has actually done, besides speeches

Have you read Hilzoy's series on that, or do you just come by to vent in the comments on bad days? And what in particular is it that McCain can point to that makes you want to vote for him?

Dripping great gobs of the stuff.

Yeah, me too fourthing or fifthing. I really was sorry you’d taken it off, but life went on and I enjoyed your remarks as much, so I got used to it. Rock on.


DaveC, hilzoy did at least two exhaustive analyses of his record. That’s how I came across Obsidian Wings, and life has been better because of it. So don’t piss on her shoes like that. You’ll piss me off, for one.

I know it’s something you’ve dwelt on before, but...what was your reaction to those pieces? You must remember them.
The thing that stands out in my memory is his work on eliminating nuclear arsenals in the Senate. You did read them?

I tried conjuring up Thullen on t’other thread. We could start a pool over him rising to the bait. I’m putting down a nickel on undecided.

Not to worry, there are no dangers of nuclear arsenals in the Senate. You may stand down, gentlemen.
Women too, if they wish to. Otherwise I don’t mind.

Above gobs refer to russell’s snark seen three previous.

I’m leaning Omaba

One or both of us has had too much to drink.

I skimmed 'em.

Senate records don't mean that much to me, and this is a knock against McCain as well, but at least he is more experienced and has to take some heat for various things like McCain - Feingold. But I'df rather see a governor or big city mayor as one of the candidates. I think Clinton actually does have the edge on the experience side, even though she didn't make the ultimate decisions, she probably was in on quite a bit of stuff.

And she has been burned, which will tend to make her more cautious when crafting policy.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad