Obama wasn’t all wrong, By Doug Thompson

Hold on to your hats, political fans. I’m going to defend Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. I’m going to criticize him too, but the average will still be an improvement over my usual scorn.
Obama said: “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. 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.”
He said this Friday at a fundraiser in San Francisco.
First, the praise: He started well. He blamed the Clintons and Bushes for all the failures of communities that market economics passed by. He offered them scapegoats.
Apparently, a chief function of modern government is to be a bulwark against economic reality, whether for an investment bank on Wall Street holding too much bad mortgage debt or a mill town in Pennsylvania.
I watched the Arkansas aluminum processing industry collapse. It was devastating. It was not, however, caused by presidential policy. It was because you can dig up high-grade ore in West Africa, ship it to Texas and process it there more cheaply that in Arkansas. Our state’s bauxite deposits were never very good and had all played out. Likewise, Pennsylvania’s steel industry might have lasted longer with better presidential — and corporate — decisions, but saying that doesn’t get you votes. Promising what nobody’s been able to deliver still does.
Then he went on. Adding “clinging” to guns or religion was an unmitigated blunder. People cling to guns and religion even when times are good.
This was a remark about people’s deepest convictions. Attributing those core beliefs to household income is cynical at best, arrogant at worst, dumb in any case and false. Affluent people who care deeply about religion and guns have helped beat the Democrats repeatedly in presidential politics. “Everybody would agree with me if it wasn’t for need or fear” is a classic conceit, liberal or conservative.
Then we get to the Archie Bunker statement, and my chief defense of the candidate: “…  antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
First off, I’ve known some wealthy bigots. Second, trade has closed a lot of manufacturing plants. See my earlier reference to the aluminum industry. Third, people get frustrated when anybody’s willing to work for lower wages, whatever their race.
However, Obama does have a problem worth discussing. Here I’m going to cite the “Horserace Blog” over at “Real Clear Politics” website, which did some research I wish I’d bookmarked.
Obama does very well in some states that are all white. He does well in states that are predominately black. He does well in states where whites are affluent and there is a significant minority of blacks. In states where whites are not doing well and there are a significant number of blacks, however, he tends to do poorly.
In short, he doesn’t do well in states where whites have economic problems and there’s enough of a black population for whites to use as a scapegoat. The same factor applies to immigrants, apparently.
We in the South see this divide when poor whites and poor blacks, who have more shared interests than almost any other two groups anybody can name, are divided by open white bigotry. It was poor whites that insisted most on the Jim Crow segregation laws, after all.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is bigotry in America in which economic conditions are a factor. Everybody join me for a rousing collective gasp. Maybe we can all join in a revised version of “Texas has a Whorehouse in it!” God have mercy. Save our souls.
So what are we going to do about it? Stifle any talk about it, apparently, if reaction to Obama’s remarks is any guide.

Categories: Legacy Archive