Saturday, April 12, 2008


I don't normally do or care for political commentary, but I just was catching up on my presidential race reading and came across the political haymaking and punditry surrounding some comments that Barack Obama made recently in California. He is addressing a California audience, trying to explain his perception of how people in Ohio and Pennsylvania feel about the politics of jobs and election promises.

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.

From reading 2 articles, it appears to me that everyone is focusing on the two aspects of what he says. The other candidates are saying he is elitist because he describes these people as bitter at the promises and no improvement in 25 years. The media is focusing on how describing people as religious, xenophobic, gun enthusiasts...all the things Californians tend not to be and can't identify with. There may be some justice in the media analysis of that situation, but is he wrong to describe working class folks in the rust belt as bitter about promises over time about the creation of jobs that haven't come true?

As I see it, his message isn't bad or incorrect. People are bitter at the politicians for not apparently doing anything to help them for a number of years and therefore turn to either blaming other groups for their situation. And he is promising to be different and see what he can do. (eg: more of the same, except for those who believe).

Other media analysis and full text of the remarks are at Huffington Post and Time Swampland.