Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Elitism Charge is a Smokescreen

I tried to find a full transcript of the comments Barak Obama made a few days ago, in which he discussed the "bitterness" of those who "cling to guns and religion." It's hard to locate.

But let's cut to the chase here. I heard the full transcript today, read by Randi Rhodes on her new flagship, The Nova M Network. As is typical where Barak Obama is concerned, his comments were anything but off-handed and ill-chosen. Mr. Obama spoke of things that he felt he needed to say, and he said them in a way that few public speakers in our time care to or dare to match.

Obama is erudite, but that is only a surface description of his character. Notice that I didn't say, "that is only the surface of his charm," or "that is only the surface of what attracts us to him." This comes down to character. And it is very important that we realize it is a distinct difference from what makes him electable or un-electable. That is an entirely different concern.

Beyond Barak Obama's intelligence is his ability and his propensity for honesty. Pardon the inappropriateness of this, but I have to say that Barak will call a spade a spade. In fact, I am pretty darned sure that any time he makes a public apology for his, or a compatriot's, comments, it is by sheer force of his campaign management team. Reverend Wright was right. And so is Obama in his assessment of America's working class. Some of the words, phrases, and sentiments of both Wright and Obama are hard pills to swallow, but that makes them no less true. In fact we ought to listen to their message all the more.

Hillary Clinton, standard bearer and apologist for the Neo-Conservative Right, latched on Mr. Obama’s wise comments and turned them around, entirely out of context, and accused him of being elitist. John McCain, so close on Hillary’s heels that the appearances are of a single camp in lock-step solidarity, seconded this accusation.

And ever since, the media has been either, a) accusing Barak of this elitism, b) asking if this charge of elitism will affect his candidacy, or c) defending his elitism, either by trying to prove that it wasn’t elitist, or by trying to show that elitism is what we need to turn the corner on an America gone horribly off-course.

Okay, so much for preamble. Here’s the rub.

The press has fostered the assumption that Clinton’s and McCain’s elitism charges are aimed at discrediting Obama’s campaign. This is a reasonable assumption; Hillary wants to beat Obama at all costs regardless of the harm to the Democratic Party, and McCain wants to run against Hillary because the Republican machine has fully stocked arsenals with Clinton’s coordinates pre-loaded in the smart bombs’ cross-hairs.

However, neither of these candidates is really concerned with discrediting Obama in this particular instance.

Yet discredit is the game.

Let’s pay more attention to Obama’s message (this is why I tried to find a full transcript of it). Barak took pains to describe the way in which the American populace has been disappointed so often by candidates and by seated representatives. He took pains, not so much as to separate himself from this bunch, but to define them. To his great credit he didn’t spit out platitudes regarding how different he was from that fray. He gave credence to the anger, the skepticism, and, yes, the bitterness, of the American public. He didn’t condescend to them. He said, “this is your voice!” And then he indicated that he believed that together we could change things if we were honest with each other.

And it’s that message both Hillary and McCain want to discredit. Neither of their campaigns stretches very far beyond Washington as Usual in their portrayal of how they will command this country. Both campaigns are about entrenched paradigms.

It takes a hell of a lot of energy to beat inertia, and to beat entropy. Obama knows this. He isn’t unrealistic about the odds of his success. But he is certain of this: you cannot and will not make any forward movement without an honest assessment of the realities you face. You must be willing, and even compelled, to level with the public, and to elicit the public’s reciprocal response, if we are to actually achieve anything that isn’t merely another glossy-looking lie. Another glossy-looking lie like NAFTA. Or another glossy-looking lie like, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

If you respect the citizenry you are asking to vote for you, you have to entrust them with the truth. And you have to respect them with their assessment of the same.

And it is that truth that neither Clinton, nor McCain, can allow the American Public to be privy too. Because both of these inferior candidates are sold out entirely to the vested interests that feather their nests, and that have defined nearly every minute of their sold-out lives.


Beth said...

I think democrats and repubs are just wired differently. When I heard his remark, I understood exactly what he meant. I took him to mean 'that working class whites have been disappointed year after year after year by the promises made to them by politicians - so they cling to the things they know the republicans are going to shout about - gods, guns and gays (obama left that out). I did not for a moment think he was putting down anyone but stating what has been factual in past election cycles - that there is a certain base of people who are moved to the polls on those issues....it happened in Ohio that last presidential election when the Secretary of State put the anti gay initiative on the ballot. McCain has a lot of nerve to call someone elitist. He has been an insider his whole life. His father was a freakin' Admiral, his first wife a model and his second wife an heiress to a fortune! I doubt McCain has any clue what regular folk go through.
Glad you're back!

Dostoy said...

Very well written. Thanks for posting this.

Yar said...

Thank you dostoy.

Brandy said...

I think this is the whole thing ^_^

Full transcript:

OBAMA: So, it depends on where you are, but 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. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. 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 (laughter).

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, 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.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you 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.