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My good friend Ben Keeler over at Ohio Politics linked to an article dated April, 2008 about Barack Obama's "bitter" comment spoken from San Francisco that same month. Ben didn't include the original text of what Obama actually said, neither did his link...so here it is....
"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," Obama said. "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." Link
Now here's a paragraph from Ben's link.....
In time we will know the gravity of Obama's recent comment that many Americans in the small towns across the Midwest "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment" because they are "bitter" over economic anxiety. Link
I know we haven't seen the last of the misuse of what Obama actually said and meant in his comments. In anticipation of this continued misuse, I would like to set the discussion, at the very least, on somewhat of an accurate and fair playing field of debate.
Ben Keeler's linked Real Clear Politics piece states that Obama said small town Americans were "bitter" over "economic anxieties". That is a total misuse of what Obama actually stated, as is clear from his original comment. Obama's comment theme was jobs. Presidential administration after presidential administration has promised these small towners would "regenerate...somehow", meaning economic regeneration, the creation of new jobs to replace the hollowed out manufacturing sector jobs, as witnessed here in Ohio over the last 30 years.
As administration after administration has failed to do anything to help accomplish that "regeneration" of smaller town jobs, even though the predictable political lipservice was spoken election cycle after election cycle, those small towners became "bitter" about those GOVERNMENT PROMISES and the politicos who mouth them. Clearly, in context, this is the thrust of Obama's "bitter" comment.
Not bitter about their economic anxieties....bitter about government promises to do something about their economic situation.
Because these voters have gotten so used to the same old-same old and have yet to see any fulfillment of these "regeneration promises", these voters turn to other political points to cling to in choosing whom to vote for. Those other political points have often been cultural issues, as Obama explained. Stem cells, abortion, gay rights, gun rights, prayer in public school and so forth.
Nowhere, taken in context, does Obama equate this dynamic with being "bitter" over "economic anxieties." These small towners are tough, resilient folks who don't whine about their economic fate. They are proud and savvy folks, however, and they know when they're being fed a line of crap. They know that the good jobs used to be there, and now they're not....and they know that politicians, though promising a bunch of stuff, haven't really worked to do anything about those lost jobs.
The word "bitter", though not the most appropriate word as Obama later has admitted, still applies. I have known many of these small towners and, indeed, they are cynical about politicians and their promises. They've seen and heard it all before, and when politicians make promises of "regeneration", especially over new good jobs, they know it's all bunk. These voters base their disbelief and cynicism on reality...action.
Furthermore, because these voters don't believe a word politicans say about returning jobs and prosperity to their small and rural towns, and for good reason.....these same voters tend to base their votes for future politicians on other matters. And what have we witnessed during the Rovian Regime of politicking? Major appeal after major appeal to those, often times, divisive cultural issues. Stem cell arguments, aborton arguments, prayer in school arguments, gun rights arguments, gay rights arguments, etc.
This is all exactly how it is and has been for quite awhile.
The reason this needs cleared up is because of the cancerous communications cells metastasizing around the misuse of Obama's words. Spun out from this totally incorrect interpretation are article after article saying that Obama is "detached", as Brokeback Beacon states, or "elitist" and "not one of us", "ivory towered", as many other centrist-right authors and "journalists" phrase it.
Barack Obama sought to further explain what he had said in San Francisco the very next day while in Indiana.....but it's as if it never happened....
"People don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody is going to help them," Obama told a crowd at a Terre Haute, Ind., high school Friday evening. "So people end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. They take refuge in their faith and their community, and their family, and the things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington." Link
Conservatives hoping to gain traction on cancerous disinformation, much as Bush followers hoped to gain traction with the lies and propaganda spun out of the Bush administration, will be greatly disappointed in the end...just as they have been with the results of the Bush bunch.