Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's the Matter With Obama?

The issue I discussed in my post on What's the Matter with Kansas has suddenly become much more relevant to the campaign. 

Speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco last week, Senator 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. 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

After being criticized for these comments, Obama has explained but not apologized. At least one liberal pundit found this unsatisfying: 
[Obama]'s now saying, basically, that he meant his comments in the What's the Matter with Kansas? sense -- that he was arguing that economic insecurity and frustration have been displaced onto social issues... So when he said that people "cling to guns or a way to explain their frustration," he meant something along the lines of, "displace their feelings of economic insecurity onto fears of social change." He was, he's suggesting, talking about the politics of guns or religion, not the things themselves.

The What's the Matter with Pennsylvania reading still has its problems. For one, it is a refusal to take voters' devotion to faith and guns at face value, psychologizing it instead.

And even if it was what he meant, it isn't what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there's something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It's a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

I couldn't say it better myself.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Sounds like Obama should stick with scripted speeches. Now he's gone and revealed himself as the communist at heart that he is. Too bad more people in our country don't recognize the source of his ideas and/or think communism is destructive to everything free, good and right our nation embodies. Neither Clinton nor McCain offer much better. How does God plan to pull this one out for our good, I wonder!!