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Condescending to Tell People You're Not Condescending is Still Condescending

April 14, 2008

Or, Not Condescending: Ur Doing It Rong.

OBAMA SPEAKS to the ruling class (donors!) about the people they see out their car windows; and said a very bad thing, meaning he used the B-word. (No, not that B-word; “bitter.”):

“You go into 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.”

Your Montag will assume that the focus groups indicate that the key Pensylvania Democratic primary voters:

  • have guns
  • are religious
  • are antipathetic to people who aren’t like them
  • possess anti-immigrant sentiment
  • aren’t sure about all of these international trade deals

Why else would Obama have to try and explain them to his donors?

So, yeah, Obama was condescending. And I’m pretty sure he’s wrong that more than one or two of these five traits are symptoms of economic-related “bitterness.” (And that people who are religious or value the 2nd Amendment may object to the idea that “bitterness” has fuck-all to do with it.) And I’m pretty sure “anti-trade,” is more disingenuous rhetorical turn than, you know, accurate description of the rubes’ position on trade deals. But the guy’s gotta get money, right?

Hillary Clinton speaks to the political class (voters!) about how great they truly are, but isn’t condescending at all. Not a bit:

“I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around this beautiful, historic state… I have a great deal of affection for the state and for the people and this campaign has been a privilege and a joy. It’s being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who’ve faced hard times are bitter. Well, that’s not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive who are rolling up their sleeves. They’re working hard every day for a better future for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them.”

Vote for me because I like you, and I would never, ever call you something horrible like “bitter.” No I wouldn’t. You’re so sweet and good! I won’t mention international trade deals if you don’t.

The McCain campaign speaks to no one in particular Politico, and says nothing at all of import, and barely condescends enough to be condescending:

“[Obama’s statement] shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.”

“More out of touch” than what?

[MSNBC: HRC: OBAMA SAYS PENNSYLVANIANS ‘BITTER’]

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5 Comments
  1. April 15, 2008 8:54 AM

    Obama : Bad sociology there, Senator — badly expressed.
    Clinton : Trademarked Standard Pander.
    McCain : Yeah, what she said.

    I’m bitter…. because of all the stupid!

  2. April 15, 2008 9:49 PM

    It’s the stupid, stupid!

  3. MR Bill permalink
    April 16, 2008 5:35 AM

    Well, I mean, Obama can’t just come out and say “Y’all are cuttin’ yer own throats and killing yer kid’s chances for middle class life just to vote for cynical panderers who play to yer cultural prejudices…””

  4. Fehlleistungen permalink
    April 23, 2008 12:58 PM

    Haven’t thought this out clearly. But might the shockingly impermissible aspect of Obama’s comment (as far as the donors and/or media are concerned, i.e. the people who aren’t bitter because they have money and position) be this: that he assumes economic standing as the basis of purportedly “cultural” beliefs? That, per Marx, the economic is “basic” in Obama’s comment, and the cultural is superstructural? That “tradition” (gun-toting-ness), religious beliefs, and racism/xenophobia are based in the condition of economic powerlessness and not in some essential backwardness and/or alternative belief system (to be “respected” and tolerated/treated with contempt)? And his comments a threat because in pointing to this base they at the same time imperil the super-focused “tolerance” (denial) aimed at these cultural-religious beliefs as a way of avoiding just that economic determination? (“I’ll respect your gun-toting ways, your conservative Christian beliefs, and your racism, so long as we don’t talk about [per Montag] international trade deals and the decades-long decline in American industry…”) To put it another way, Obama’s comments threaten the fantasy which sustains the idea of the noble American patriot-laborer whose beliefs are more important to him/her than the capacity to put food on the table or gas in the car.

  5. April 23, 2008 8:26 PM

    something even less clearly thought-out: i think [fear of/dislike of/discomfort with] uncertainty may be the underlying aspect of human nature that would cause folks to cling to guns or religion or antipathy…

    of course, economic concerns, especially ones at the level of putting food on the table or gas in the car, create a whole fucking lot of uncertainty, especially in this society where one’s ‘sense of community’ barely entails a vague awareness that there are other people outside one’s car/house/cubicle/ipod headset.

    but, yes, the Power Seekers live and die by the fantasy of the “consent of the governed;” and the roughly half of the electorate whose patriotic sense of duty still compels them to bother to pull the lever (ie: “the noble American patriot-laborer whose beliefs are more important…”)

    oh, for goodness’ sake, just go. read. IOZ. before i embarrass myself here.

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