So Barack Obama was at a fundraiser in San Francisco last week, and he gave the following speech:
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.
Some people have said that he comes across as an elitist based on the comment, “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.” I’m somewhat mixed on how I feel about that. Does it come across as elitist necessarily? I don’t think so. Does it stereotype smaller towns as being either a small religious town or a small trigger-happy town, and does that seem to make him out of touch with small town America? I have to say yes to this. I don’t think he’s looking down on them as lower than him, but I do think that he’s stereotyping them.
I’ll also say that I’m offended at his stereotype of religious people. I think most religious Americans are religious because they have faith in God, not because they have a lack of faith in their government. People don’t turn to religion because government fails them.
Clinton gave a speech criticizing Obama’s statements, while she was campaigning in Indianapolis:
I am the granddaughter of a factory worker. I grew up in the Midwest. Born in Chicago, raised outside of that great city. I was raised with Midwestern values and an unshakeable faith America and its promise.
Now, like some of you may have been, I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small town America. Senator Obama’s remarks are elitist and they are out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans that I know – not the Americans I grew up with, not the Americans I lived with in Arkansas or represent in New York.
You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it¹s a matter of Constitutional rights. Americans who believe in God believe it is a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it is a matter of the American Dream.
When my dad grew up it was in a working class family in Scranton. I grew up in a church-going family, a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith.
The people of faith I know don’t “cling to” religion because they’re bitter.
People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich. Our faith is the faith of our parents and our grandparents. It is a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe.
I also disagree with Senator Obama’s assertion that people in this country “cling to guns” and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration. People of all walks of life hunt – and they enjoy doing so because it’s an important part of their life, not because they are bitter.
And as I¹ve traveled across Indiana and I¹ve talked to a lot of people what I hear are real concerns about unfair trade practices that cost people jobs.
I think hardworking Americans are right to want to see changes in our trade laws. That¹s what I have said. That¹s what I have fought for.
I would also point out that the vast majority of working Americans reject anti-immigration rhetoric. They want reform so that we remain a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws that we enforce and we enforce fairly.
Americans are fair-minded and good-hearted people. We have ups and downs. We face challenges and problems. But our views are rooted in real values, and they should be respected.
Americans out across our country have born the brunt of the Bush administration¹s assault on the middle class. Contrary to what Senator Obama says, most Americans did much better during the Clinton years than they have done during the Bush years.
If we are striving to bring people together – and I believe we should be – I don’t think it helps to divide our country into one America that is enlightened and one that is not.
We know there is an unacceptable economic divide in America today, but that is certainly not the way to bridge it. The way to do that is to roll up our sleeves and get to work and make sure we provide, once again, economic opportunity and shared prosperity for all Americans.
People don’t need a president who looks down on them; they need a president who stands up for them. And that is exactly what I will do as your president.
Because I believe if you want to be the president of all Americans, you need to respect all Americans. And that starts with respecting our hard working Americans, and what we need to do here is to take a lesson from Allison transmission.
I disagree with some of what Clinton says here – it’s not elitist, but it is out of touch. And of course it’s not representative of a lot of who she represents – she represents New York, and a lot of that population is made up of New York City, so its nothing like small town America.
While giving a speech at Ball State University in Indiana (which has its primary the same day as Pennsylvania), Obama clarified his statements:
I didn’t say it as well as I should have. But what is absolutely true is that people don’t feel like they are being listened to. And so they pray and they count on each other and they count on their families.
Lately, there’s been a little typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois, who are bitter. They are angry, they feel like they’ve been left behind. They feel like nobody’s paying attention to what they’re going through.
So I said, well you know, when you’re bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country.
The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That’s what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don’t feel like they are being listened to.
And so they pray and they count on each other and they count on their families. You know this in your own lives, and what we need is a government that is actually paying attention.
I really don’t think that this speech helped much – I think he addressed the wrong issue (which isn’t his fault – it’s Clinton’s and the medias, for portraying him as elitist instead of just out of touch. I mean, I don’t view what he said as elitist. I just view it as out of touch with small town America.
Today, the Clinton and McCain campaigns issued statements responding to Obama’s response:
Phil Singer (Clinton): “Instead of apologizing for offending small town America, Senator Obama chose to repeat and embrace the comments he made earlier this week. Americans are tired of a President who looks down on them, they want a President who will stand up for them for a change.”
Tucker Bounds (McCain): “Instead of apologizing to small town Americans for dismissing their values, Barack Obama arrogantly tried to spin his way out of his outrageous San Francisco remarks. You can’t be more out of touch than that.”
So, again, I don’t think it was elitist, but I do think he showed that he was somewhat out of touch by stereotyping small town America.
Honestly, I don’t see how Clinton is getting away with claiming that Obama’s elitist, after making comments saying that the Secret Service agenst are her “personal, trained pigs,” but, LET THE INFIGHTING CONTINUE!!!
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