Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama and the working classes

marjorie says...

Here's a clip of Obama on the Charlie Rose Show in 2004, courtesy of Talking Points Memo, in which he addresses why the working classes vote based on single issues, such as guns and religious values, rather than their economic interests. This is the same topic he addressed at the fundraiser in San Francisco, which is causing him so much grief at the moment.

In this clip, Obama gets closer to saying what Democrats should cop to, which is that when it comes to the elimination of high-paying manufacturing jobs in this country the Democrats share responsibility with the Republicans. They might not be as bad, but that doesn't change the fact that Bill Clinton ushered in the NAFTA/IMF/WTO era and continues to be one of it's biggest champions. Not to mention, while labor solidly sticks hell or highwater with the Democrats, the Democrats themselves haven't done much to improve the ability of Labor to organize, to collectively bargain successfully, or to go out on strike. In truth, and Obama says it here, the Democrats haven't offered much on the jobs front lately and working people are smart enough to know it. Instead, the D's are simply better at mitigating the pain of job loss.

As to whether or not Obama's comments show he is an elitist, I think this is a ridiculous line of attack. He isn't from rural America so he approaches the topic of describing how rural, working class Americans feel about politics from an outsider's vantage point. Doing that is always like walking into a potential minefield: the tone isn't just right, this particular word is all wrong, etc. We always like to pounce, don't we? Difference is not a bad thing, and particularly in this case we should welcome it. The ease with which George II and Bill Clinton, two white men with accents, can assume an "everyman" persona when they need to relate to the white working class should give us a clue. If anything, we should be pleased that Obama isn't an opportunist in a similar vein.

As for Hillary Clinton, she doesn't quite have the rural, gun-toting good 'ole gal role down if you ask me. Of course, she's actually an urban, high-powered attorney who has always had the best of life, including eight years living in the White House. She's also a multi-millionaire. So her current shtick in Pennsylvania is way over the top. Not to mention, she's not doing the Democratic party as a whole any favors. A big part of me really wants Hillary to recognize that Obama is the likely winner of this nominating contest. I don't blame her for continuing to try for it, but given the close nature of the race and the fact that she's the underdog, she probably ought to ditch the negative attacks on Obama. But instead, she's taken a nose-dive into the gutter. For more on this, check out Barb's commentary on DfNM.