Senator Obama’s recent comments about the frustration that many middle class Americans feel were poorly worded, especially in the world of 24 hour news cycles, repetitive loops, pundits bloviating ad nauseum and where cynicism reigns supreme.
But the sentiments are right on target. Many Americans feel that their government, their issues and their lives have been long forgotten by the power elites in Washington. Both Senators Clinton and McCain qualify, in spades, as members of the inside the beltway power elite. Mr. McCain has been in Congress since 1982 and Mrs. Clinton has been in the power elite since 1992 when her husband was elected President. Let’s see that is twenty six years of inside the beltway mentality for McCain and sixteen years of the same mentality for Mrs. Clinton.
Where do these centimillionaires come off claiming that Mr. Obama is elitist? It is indeed baffling that Mr. McCain with his multiple homes and a wife worth $100 million and Mrs. Clinton who has been entrenched in the upper echelons of the Democratic party for as long as some new voters have been alive would call a man of mixed race with a single mother as elitist. Mr. McCain is the son of an Admiral who, I am sure, used family ties to enter the Naval Academy where he graduated 3rd from the bottom. Mrs. Clinton grew up in the upper middle class suburb of Park Ridge IL and went to the prestigious women’s college- Wellsley.
Mr. Obama entered a California liberal arts college before transfering to Columbia University and later became the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review. You can bet your bottom dollar none of that academic success came with the ease of a well-off middle class girl going to Wellsley or that of a well connected midshipman. Neither Senator Clinton or Senator McCain has a clue as to what it means to wonder whether or not government has left them behind. It is quite plausible-if not likely- that the black son of a white mother who was for the most part a single mom may have more of sense of how government can disappoint.
Let’s look at the ENTIRE quote- not just those incendiary sentences.
I think it’s fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government…. Because everybody just ascribes it to ‘white working-class don’t wanna work — don’t wanna vote for the black guy.’ That’s…there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today – kind of implies that it’s sort of a race thing.
Here’s how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by — it’s true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism….
But the truth is … our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. 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. So it’s not surprising then that 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.
….[Y]ou can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.
Robert Kennedy said rather similar things four decades ago when he challenged many rural Indiana voters. As I recall, RFK did pretty well when the votes were counted.
The faux outrage expressed by Senators McCain and Clinton calls to mind the emotional torment suffered 16 years ago by then-Senator, now McCain backer, Al D’Amato. Ordinarily known for his salty demeaner, D’Amato pretended to cry when his hapless opponent Robert Abrams made a clumsy remark that could be construed as anti-Italian.
Barack Obama spent years of his life organizing out-of-work steelworkers on the south side of Chicago – people just like those who live in Allentown or Erie or Pittsburgh or the Monongehela Valley in western Pennsylvania. He stood shoulder to shoulder with them, sat at their kitchen tables, spent hours in their church basements.
He didn’t do those things as a famous candidate, but as a community organizer being paid $8,000 a year by a coalition of churches. You don’t build a resume or a client list organizing unemployed steel workers. You do it because you respect the people and you care about justice.
In fact, the trademark of Barack Obama’s campaign for president is the honest, respectful way he talks to everyone — and stands up for everyday Americans.
Senator Obama has given voice to the frustration of millions of Americans. It is the height of cynicsm for either Senator Clinton or Senator McCain to feign being stunned and flabbergasted that Barack Obama would imply that Pennsylvanians are bitter over, say, thirty years of economic decline in their local communities. The fact that they are parsing Mr. Obama’s words in order to manipulate the very people who are angry to feel disrespected is disgusting and is the “politics as usual” that Senator Obama has shunned.
If they in fact believe their own press than they are completely out of touch with the anger and the disillusionment among many Americans- that is why the message of change is so appealing. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain, both of whom epitomize the power elite in Washington, are either completely out of touch or are playing purely cynical politics. You can decide for yourself which it is.