Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yes to Bitterness

A lot of folks think that Barack Obama has really shot himself with his comments about "bitter" Americans:
"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."
That's the quote that everybody cites. It incited Obamafan Dave Winer to take umbrage at Obama's quote and state that "To equate geography with intellect is as wrong as to equate it with race, ethnicity, gender or age." That quote is taken from a blog post by Winer titled Is my candidate too elite?

Before I state my opinion on the matter, let's get a few things out of the way. A lot of people would say that I am the worst kind of elitist: a libertarian. I think Republicans are stupid for wanting to tell people what is right and wrong and how to live their lives. I think Democrats are stupid for thinking they are smart enough to fix everyone's lives and treating people like children. In other words, I think everyone is an idiot. I am a supporter of Obama, but only after Ron Paul fell out of things and Obama became my best bet to ending the ongoing atrocity that is the War and Occupation of Iraq.

That being said, I also consider myself to have a very scientific mind. Thus Obama's quote must be examined in context. Taking quotes out of context is the worst kind of yellow journalism (and perhaps the most common as well.) Obama was explaining why he was having a hard time winning over white working class. He used the bitterness bit as a counter to the notion that it is just because he is black.

You might be wondering what my point is. This is the kind of argument that always annoys my wife. The semantics of the statement are what is important. Obama was not talking about how certain people (white working class in the midwest) are, but why they are skeptical of him as a leader. Look at the recent history of presidential campaigns. The Republican Party has done an exemplary job of using divisive issues to win elections. What are some of those issues? Things like religion and moral values (abortion), immigration, and gun control. These are the exact things brought up by Obama.

So was Obama saying that midwest white working class people are gun toting, racist, religious zealots? I don't think so. I think he was simply stating the fact that certain issues have been effective in deciding the votes of those people. That is not a stereotype or generalization, that is a statistical fact. In the past those people have been swayed by divisive issues by the Republican Party. Now we are seeing them swayed by divisive issues by Hillary Clinton. Obama is just relating these as the facts that answer the question posed to him.

Finally, my propensity for scientific thought forces me to denounce the hypocrisy of the outrage. It is publicly acceptable to call the people on the East and West coast elitists. Everyone else says that the "liberals" think everyone else are dumb. In other words stereotypes of people in "blue states" is ok, but stereotypes of people in "red states" are not. Why is this? Because there are more red states than blue. Might makes right. This is the reason why divisive issues have worked for the GOP. They can play all of the stereotypical, prejudiced cards they want because the people who will be offended are outnumbered. Well outnumbered from an Electoral College perspective at least...


GFreak said...

Well said, Mike.
I'm still wishing for a dark-horse Ron Paul run, but not holding much hope.

The biggest thing that offends me about "blue-staters" or "liberals" is the vitriol; the 2nd biggest thing is the opinion that if you don't vote blue, your IQ is below 90. The "fact" that most college professors vote democrat (something like 85%-15%) is used as evidence to this point; to me, it's merely evidence that professors don't live in the real world.

I'm very conservative; that just means I disagree with most politicians.

When are we gonna talk about the tax code? I wish the respective amounts of tax paid to state government and federal government were reversed. (Did that sentence make sense?)

Unknown said...

Thanks Greg. It's that kind of stereotype (if you vote Republican, you must be dumb) that gets Democrats in trouble (rightfully so) and that a lot of people think Obama is guilty of. Personally I don't think that was the case, but that's mostly because I took the time to read a transcription of the Q&A he was doing at the fundraiser...

Your comment also reminded me of this poll: . What is most interesting in that poll is that a Clinton/McCain contest shows traditional splits. Democrats do well among voters without college education, who are traditionally the people who most benefit from wealth redistribution (progressive taxation, welfare, social security, socialized medicine.) People with college education traditionally vote Republican, with the exception of people with post-graduate education (a very small minority.) These are the people having their wealth redistributed!

An Obama/McCain contest does not follow these traditional have-not vs. have party lines. That has a certain appeal to me, though it is also why a lot of Democrats don't think Obama can beat McCain.