An Elitist? Are You Kidding Me?

Have I been transported to an alternate universe or something?

The reason I ask, of course, is that the campaign events of the last several days sound as if they are coming out of the "Twilight Zone" or something.

Let me get this straight; a black man of relatively modest means in the United States of America is being called an "elitist" by a white woman who used to be the First Lady, and who, with her husband, made  $109 million in the last 7 years. 


Oh, but it gets better.

The pundits in the mainstream media are having a field day, trying to puff Barack Obama’s words into a major gaffe, which could cause him the presidency. These pundits, who are almost to a person white millionaires, often refer to Obama as "elitist."

You know, the concept of any rich white person referring to a black man — any black man — as "elitist" ranks up there with Geraldine Ferraro’s reference to Obama as "lucky" because he happened to be born black. It’s absurd on its face. But the thought that Obama somehow made a mistake in what he said is also ridiculous, and I can’t believe this absurdity is being perpetuated the way it has.

Let’s start with what Obama actually said;

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. 

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you’ll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.

The strange thing about all of this is that no one argues whether or not any of the above is true. The argument is over whether or not people who live in what has been called "the Rust Belt" for decades are "bitter." Now, I would argue that the word "bitter" is probably a little strong, a fact that Obama has since admitted. But it’s only strong because these people are numb. I mean, there is a reason why Hillary Clinton chose to smear Barack Obama over NAFTA during the Ohio primary (and lied about both her stance and his to boot, by the way), and that is because the loss of jobs overseas rubs a raw nerve in some states and in specific areas of those states.  People in places like Allentown may not be bitter, but his point was, they don’t trust the government to come through for them, and they are rightly cynical when any politician promises to do something for them. If that’s not "bitterness," it’s something close. 

There is no way Obama could possibly be elitist. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible for any black man to be an elitist, because of the black man’s status in society. If Barack Obama wasn’t running for president, and surrounded by Secret Service, he would be just as susceptible to being stopped by police for "driving while black" as any other black man. 

The concept of elitism requires that someone lack humility, and I’m afraid that any black man in the United States who lacks  humility is probably plain stupid; a quality that cannot be ascribed to Barack Obama. Contrary to Ferraro’s assertion, Barack Obama’s main impediment to the presidency is the color of his skin; that fact was made clear when he was attacked in the wake of the controversy involving his pastor. The racial component of that controversy was inescapable, to be sure. Among John McCain’s strongest supporters are pastors and religious leaders who say hateful things about Catholics and gays, and who think gays themselves caused the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet, the same people who are trying to tar Obama with his pastor’s words excuse John Hagee’s and Rod Parsley’s deep hatred by citing the "closeness" Obama had to the church, despite the fact that McCain’s endorsements of Hagee and Parsley (yes, you read that right; HE sought out THEIR support) came long after Rev. Wright retired from Obama’s church.  The only reason this became an issue at all has to do with a syndrome that is endemic among many whites in this country, and that is an innate fear that black people might actually be angry about nearly 400 years of oppression in this country. These white people laugh off angry white people, but they are deathly afraid that an "angry black man" will someday take charge and exact his revenge on behalf of all other black people. 

If you want to talk about who’s "elitist" in the Democratic race, my dear addled pundits, you’d do best to look at the person who’s leading the charge to attempt to tag Obama with the term in the first place. 

Hillary Clinton (when she isn’t running for office, she prefers that you add in a "Rodham") is a woman whose entire political existence comes courtesy of her husband, one of the more skilled politicians in the world, and the Democratic Leadership Council, who have branded themselves as "progressives," despite the fact that they’re anything but. Their entire political philosophy can be described as "not taking a stand, so as not to piss anyone off." Their main political philosophy is all about denouncing what they see as "economic populism." Yes, that’s right; the DNC clowns who are running Clinton’s campaign believe that they know better than the people how the economy should work.

Now, in fairness, the Bill Clinton economic model did not follow that philosophy completely. Some of his ideas, most notably "enterprise zones," did quite well at bringing the poor back into the economy. But he also championed NAFTA and, worse, never tried to alter it, in order to make it more populist in its approach; he signed "welfare reform," thus effectively dismantling the only safety net the poor ever had, and making this the only industrialized nation in the country that doesn’t take care of its poor; and he helped champion the Communications Act of 1996, which has resulted in the virtual destruction of our media. 

It is absolutely insane that a white former corporate lawyer and First Lady who has been running for three years on the strength of her former-president-husband’s name can even begin to get away with calling a black man who came from modest means, and who took his Harvard Law degree and became a teacher and community organizer "elitist"  in the first place. But the fact of the matter is, she’s the one who’s been trying to battle back from a half-assed campaign, which she figured she would win handily, based on the strength of her name and her stature as First Lady, and in doing so, suggesting that the people who vote for Obama are somehow delusional. She’s the one who has adopted (as Kos has called it) the "insult 40 states" strategy, in which all of the states he’s won have been far less important in the general election than the states Obama has won. She has spent the entire campaign referring to Obama’s rhetoric as fanciful, or a "pipe dream," or unrealistic, while puffing her own resume, by touting her vast experience as First Lady as being solid political experience. 

If you’re looking for real "elitism," you would do well to look at the woman who, with her husband, has made $109 million over the last eight years, and who constantly refers to those who vote for her primary opponent in derogatory terms, as if they were ignorant children who simply don’t know better. It sure can’t be the black man of modest means, who has never referred to his opponent or her supporters in derogatory terms, can it?

No matter how you feel about what Obama said, it really wasn’t that bad, in the grand scheme of things. At worse, it was a politically poor choice of words. But for anyone to refer to it as "elitist" could be in itself a cynical political move, designed to attract the right wing. Face it; "elitist" has been a code word for "liberal" for a generation. What the Clintons and media pundits are doing is trying to brand Obama a "liberal," and attempting to poison the well for the general election, and we can’t allow that to happen. 

This is a non-issue, folks. Let’s continue to talk about how we can recover from eight years of Bushian politics. Now, if you want to talk "elitist"…

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Copyright 2008 The PCTC Blog

One comment

  1. Thanks for the analysis, Milt.
    I guess if you are of the “ordinary folk class” like me, paying at the pump (not your limo driver) or buying milk or cereal or anything else (YOURSELF not your aides), you couldn’t possibly be blamed for ignorance of the “bitter” (yes, BITTER) words that we are speaking down here in the trenches. What a joke – and that goes for the elitists on the Sunday news (?) programs who have the gall to discuss the issue.

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