The controversy stemmed from remarks Obama made at a private fundraiser in San Francisco on April 6 when he explained his struggles appealing to working-class voters by saying they were frustrated with the loss of jobs under both Republican and Democratic administrations over the last decade, adding: "It's not surprising 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."
Obama wasn't asked why Democrats have trouble appealing to working-class voters. He was asked to explain his trouble appealing to working-class voters who, rather emphatically, when they vote Democratic, choose Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama, whose support comes, to a large extent, from African Americans (from all economic classes) and better-off white Americans with college degrees. (The question commits the usual fallacy of using a term such as "working class" when what is actually meant is "white working class.") Obama's answer may or may not explain why working-class voters sometimes vote, in a "What's the Matter with Kansas" way against their own economic interests when they vote Republican, rather than Democratic. But his answer is in no way responsive to the question of why working-class voters who do vote Democratic choose Hillary Clinton over him. To the extent that voters are voting on abortion or gays or guns or immigration, they're not voting for Clinton, either.
Maybe he was too eager to get in a swipe at the Clinton administration, in a Ralph-Nader-kind-of-way: there's no difference between the Democratic and Republican administrations. That's how his answer sounded to my ears and, if that's what tripped him up, shame on him.
Maybe he was reluctant to say that working-class Americans can sometimes be racist (although then he'd have to explain why he thinks that they're more racist than sexist and I'm not sure he'd get me to agree with him on that). Fair enough, if he'd said that, even though it has an element of truth, he'd be in hotter water than he is right now. And the explanation that they're sometimes racist because they're sold hating on brown people by corporatists who want them to have an enemy other than the corporatists would have gotten lost in the sound-bites on Hardball. Running as the first genuinely competitive African-American presidential candidate is a marathon race through a field of landmines and acknowledging racism is, in the minds of Fox News anchors and squawking heads, being racist.
But perhaps he could have used the question to explain what he does intend to do for working class Americans, why he thinks that he can be more successful than his Democratic predecessors, and to begin reaching out to a branch of the Democratic party that, so far, hasn't been overwhelmed by his promises of "change" and praise for Ronald Reagan and Joe Lieberman to the same degree as college students and well-to-do Democrats. Perhaps he could have used the question to show his support among working-class African Americans and explain how he intends to build upon that to begin attracting white working class voters. There were ways to answer that question that didn't involve insulting people.
Hey, remember when we had to select Obama because otherwise the media was going to pick Clinton to death? Remember how Obama was supposed to have this amazing ju jitsu? Yeah. I do.
Susie's blog does a good job of rejecting the premise of the question, but also leaves unanswered why Clinton does so much better with working class voters than does Obama.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."