Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elitism and Bitterness

I honestly do not have the intellectual energy or patience to spend a load of time on the idiotic accusations against Barack Obama for saying something that, not to put too fine a point on it, is pretty much fucking true. My "working class" (we were, to put it less euphemistically, "poor") background is clear and is a defining aspect of my character: my parents, who had me when they were still kids, divorced when I was young, and my brother and I lived with a Mom who worked in factories or cleaning floors or waiting tables to keep two kids fed and to keep the lights on in a house where the well sometimes ran dry so we had no water. We spent a large hunk of time at our grandparents' farm, which my dad ran. It was a small, family dairy farm, and it went belly up in the mid-1980s when running a small farm was an almost sure ticket to bankruptcy. In other words, try that elitist liberal Democrat nonsense with someone else, because it isn't working on me. And if you think there is not a great deal of bitterness among the working class, left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat, Republican, and undecided, you are living in a dream world.

Now, I would argue that Obama made an infelicitous linkage between that bitterness and the issues of guns and religion. Not because the ties are not there -- they are, in some ways -- but because the situation is more one of correlation than the causality that Obama implied. I find most amusing the question of Obama being an "elitist," which is one of those assertions so stupid on its face that it would warrant mockery were some people not levying the accusation seriously. First off, anyone at that level of politics is an elite. John McCain has been a Senator for a generation. It does not get much more elite than that. Hillary? Please. If her discomfort around real people were any more palpable she'd spray some sort of warning ink on them like an anti-proletariat octopus. But secondly, how convenient -- how cute! -- to make the black guy in the race, who has served as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago and worked as a civil rights lawyer, the elitist! To make the most demonstrably religious person in the race first a Muslim and then a dangerous uber-black Christian because of someone else's preachings, and now to imply that he is anti-religious! To make an issue of the fact that he doesn't bowl well! Without belaboring the point, I am going to have a hard time buying that race does not play a role in all of this.

So where does this issue go from here? My guess, and perhaps my hope, is that while it will be a lingering subtext that some will use to Swift Boat Obama, most people, bitter or not, won't let it have a major impact on their decision unless they were already leaning against Obama. There is a long race to go. The Democratic convention is three months from now -- what, in terms of specifics, do you remember about the various day-to-day aspects of the campaign that surely seemed like life or death matters from back in January? The general election is nearly seven months away. How much of the dynamic of the races from seven months ago is still relevant? Nonetheless, for now Hillary and down the road the McCain people will try to keep this "elitism" accusation alive, despite its absurdity, for as long as possible. This is the political environment in which we live and in which they operate. Obama's so-called gaffe is today's annoyance. But there is worse to come as the stakes get higher. This is far from as ugly as this race will get. Mark my words on that.


michele richardson said...

Fantastic!!! I totally agree and it's wonderfully written!

GoodLiberal said...

I have nothing to add, as you hit this nail perfectly on its head. Just letting you know that you did!

dcat said...

Michelle and Good Lib --
Thanks to both of you.