1) It lumps together things Obama wants us to think he thinks are good (religion) with things he undoubtedly thinks are bad (racism, anti-immigrant sentiment). I suppose it's logically possible to say 'these Pennsylvania voters are so bitter and frustrated that they cling to both good things and bad things," but the implication is that these areall things he thinks are unfortunate and need explaining (because, his context suggests, they prevent voters from doing the right thing and voting for ... him). Yesterday at the CNN "Compassion Forum" Obama said he wasn't disparaging religion because he meant people "cling" to it in a good way! Would that be the same way they "cling" to "antipathy to people who aren't like them"--the very next phrase Obama uttered? Is racism one of those "traditions that are passed on from generation to generation" that "sustains us"? Obama's unfortunate parallelism makes it hard for him to extricate him from the charge that he was dissing rural Pennsylvanians' excess religiosity.
2) Even if Obama wasn't equating anything on his list with anything else, he did openly accuse Pennsylvanians of being racists ("antipathy to people who aren't like them").
3) He's contradicted his own positions--at least on trade and ( says Instapundit) guns.. Isn't Obama the one trying to tar Hillary as a supporter of NAFTA? Is that just 'boob bait'?
4) Yes, he's condescending. It's not just that in explaining everyone to everyone Obama winds up patronizing everyone. He doesn't patronize everyone equally. Specifically, he regards the views of these Pennsylvanians as epiphenomena--byproducts of economic stagnation--in a way he doesn't regard, say, his own views as epiphenomena.** Once the Pennsylvanians get some jobs back, they'll change and become as enlightened as Obama or the San Franciscans to whom he was talking. That's the clear logic of his argument. Superiority of this sort--not crediting the authenticity and standing of your subject's views--is a violation of social equality, which is a more important value for Americans than money equality. Liiberals tend to lose elections when they forget that.
Please note that Obama's characterization of Pennsylvanians as "bitter" doesn't even make the top four. (See Instapundit: "Bitter is the least of it" Patrick Hynes: "It's not about the bitter.") At this point, the MSM and Hillary are only doing Obama a favor by focusing on the "bitter" dispute. ... Anyway, maybe he meant "bitter" in a good way!
P.S.: Andrew Sullivan and John Rosenberg both say that Obama's "cling" argument comes from Thomas Frank's economistic "What's the Matter with Kansas?"--which seems semi-tragic to me. I'm convinced that the great achievement of Republicanism over the past decades was getting average Americans to think that it was the Democrats who were the snobs. The person who convinced me of this (in a highly persuasive lecture) was Thomas Frank. Now Frank's theories--if you follow Rosenberg--are on the verge of convincing millions of average Americans that the Republicans were right, at least about the likely Dem nominee. ...
See also this 2004 interview, in which Obama appears totally aware of the condescension problem--though I don't think he avoids it there either. His now-familiar go-to idea--that men spend time hunting and women go to church because of deindustrialization, as opposed to because they like to hunt and believe in their religion--seems inherently condescending (see below).
**--You might argue that this was the same 'it-will-go-away' attitude Obama had toward the anger of parishioners of Rev. Wrights's church--which would reinforce the "he condescends to everyone" theory of Obama. But the parallel isn't there. Obama describes ongoing black anger about racism as an artifact of racism--it's an epiphenomenon only in the sense that it will eventually disappear when its legitimate cause disappears. Obama describes white anger--indeed white anger, white racism, white religiosity, white NRA membership and white opposition to comprehensive immigration reform--as an artifact of something unrelated, namely the loss of good industrial jobs. It''s fundamentally inauthentic, Obama suggests, because (unlike black anger) it isn't caused by what those who express it say it is caused by.
And Obama never describes his own views as the products of anything except an accurate perception of reality. Come to think of it, has he ever expressed any doubt about--let alone apologized for--his views? He certainly didn't apologize in his "race" speech. He presents himself as near ominscient, the Archimedian point from which everyone else's beliefs and behavior can be assessed and explained, and to which almost everyone's beliefs will revert after the revolution. ... sorry, I mean after President Obama has restored hope! ... 10:59 P.M. link
Saturday, April 12, 2008