Kaus lists four problems with the Obama gaffe. Here’s the fourth:
Yes, he’s condescending. It’s not just that in explaining everyone to everyone Obama winds up patronizing everyone. He doesn’t patronize everyone equally. Specifically, he regards the views of these Pennsylvanians as epiphenomena–byproducts of economic stagnation–in a way he doesn’t regard, say, his own views as epiphenomena.** Once the Pennsylvanians get some jobs back, they’ll change and become as enlightened as Obama the San Franciscans to whom he was talking. That’s the clear logic of his argument. Superiority of this sort–not crediting the authenticity and standing of your subject’s views–is a violation of social equality, which is a more important value for Americans than money equality. Liiberals tend to lose elections when they forget that.
I think that pretty much nails it.
But I know you guys think that Obama can do no wrong, that he isn’t condescending, just truthful (thus proving exactly what the right thinks of you) and won’t be swayed by anything anyone says. That’s fine but I bet he’ll say something again that will be considered condescending by everyone but the Obama supporters (Obama will come out and apologize for it but the supporters will still defend him just as they are doing now), and I bet you guys will say the exact same things you are saying now. I’m going to note this post so I can link to it when it happens (and I will be more than happy to apologize and link to this post if he doesn’t make another elitist blunder).
And Kristol makes this point:
I haven’t read much Karl Marx since the early 1980s, when I taught political philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. Still, it didn’t take me long this weekend to find my copy of “The Marx-Engels Reader,” edited by Robert C. Tucker — a book that was assigned in thousands of college courses in the 1970s and 80s, and that now must lie, unopened and un-remarked upon, on an awful lot of rec-room bookshelves.
My occasion for spending a little time once again with the old Communist was Barack Obama’s now-famous comment at an April 6 San Francisco fund-raiser. Obama was explaining his trouble winning over small-town, working-class voters: “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.”
This sent me to Marx’s famous statement about religion in the introduction to his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”:
“Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless condition. It is the opium of the people.”
Or, more succinctly, and in the original German in which Marx somehow always sounds better: “Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes.”
Now, this is a point of view with a long intellectual pedigree prior to Marx, and many vocal adherents continuing into the 21st century. I don’t believe the claim is true, but it’s certainly worth considering, in college classrooms and beyond.
But it’s one thing for a German thinker to assert that “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.” It’s another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we “cling to … religion” out of economic frustration.
And it’s a particularly odd claim for Barack Obama to make. After all, in his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, he emphasized with pride that blue-state Americans, too, “worship an awesome God.”
Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters nationwide disagree with Barack Obama’s statement that people in small towns “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.” A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 25% agree with the Democratic frontrunner while 19% are not sure.
Partisan and ideological differences suggest that the comments are more likely to be a factor in the General Election than in the Primaries. A plurality of politically liberal voters—46%–agree with Obama’s statement while 33% disagree. Moderate voters take the opposite view and disagree by a 51% to 27% margin. Seventy-four percent (74%) of conservatives disagree with Obama’s statement, only 12% agree.
Forty-five percent (45%) say that Obama’s comments reflect an elitist view of small town voters. Thirty-seven percent (37%) disagree. Republicans overwhelmingly say that the statements are elitist and most Democrats disagree. Among unaffiliated voters, 40% say they represent an elitist view while 34% disagree.
People who have followed the story are much more likely than other voters to disagree with Obama’s statements and to consider them elitist. To date, just 25% have followed the news story Very Closely while another 30% have followed it Somewhat Closely.