Recently at a campaign event Barack Obama made the following comment about the dying Rust Belt towns in Pennsylvania:
You go into 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.
I couldn't agree more (except for the gun part. People like guns, because like cigarettes, they're cool). The goal of this blog is to channel working class bitterness away from religion and xenophobia into actual constructive action (I admit it's a long term project). According to a McCain spokesman that makes me a latte-drinking, New York Times reading, Volvo driving liberal freak show:
"It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," [Steve] Schmidt said. "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."
This from a candidate that thinks everything is going great in Iraq.
Hillary, who's made 109 million dollars since leaving the White House, also disagrees:
"Well, that is not my experience," she said. "As I travel around Pennsylvania I meet people who are resilient, optimistic, positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard every day for a better future for themselves and their children"
Move along. Nothing to see here. Everything is fine. People are working harder, but for a lot less then they used to. Not for a better future, but just to keep their heads above water. Obama with his typical silver tongue, fired back in Indiana:
"When I go around and I talk to people there is frustration and there is anger and there is bitterness. And what's worse is when people are expressing their anger then politicians try to say what are you angry about? This just happened - I want to make a point here today.
"I was in San Francisco talking to a group at a fundraiser and somebody asked how're you going to get votes in Pennsylvania? What's going on there? We hear that's its hard for some working class people to get behind you're campaign. I said, "Well look, they're frustrated and for good reason. Because for the last 25 years they've seen jobs shipped overseas. They've seen their economies collapse. They have lost their jobs. They have lost their pensions. They have lost their healthcare.
"And for 25, 30 years Democrats and Republicans have come before them and said we're going to make your community better. We're going to make it right and nothing ever happens. And of course they're bitter. Of course they're frustrated. You would be too. In fact many of you are. Because the same thing has happened here in Indiana. The same thing happened across the border in Decatur. The same thing has happened all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up- they don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody's going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington. So I made this statement– so, here's what's rich. Senator Clinton says 'No, I don't think that people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack's being condescending.' John McCain says, 'Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? You know, he's obviously out of touch with people.'
"Out of touch? Out of touch? I mean, John McCain–it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he's saying I'm out of touch? Senator Clinton voted for a credit card-sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I'm out of touch? No, I'm in touch. I know exactly what's going on. I know what's going on in Pennsylvania. I know what's going on in Indiana. I know what's going on in Illinois. People are fed-up. They're angry and they're frustrated and they're bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that's why I'm running for President of the United States of America."
As I've said before I like Obama's populist rhetoric. It will probably carry him to the White House. His actual policies, however, aren't much of a change from the liberal consensus. So when he says "And so people end up- they don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody's going to help them." he's not quite right. The working class can't vote their economic interest, because even Democrats, like Obama, believe that the market is a force of nature. You may be able to cover people's head, but you can't stop the rain from falling. Us working folk shouldn't expect the government (or religion, or nationalism) to save us. So we'll have to find another way.