Bitter words in a bitter campaign

Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton says words don’t matter in an election campaign — unless those words provide fodder to attack an opponent and she and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain are teaming up to try and make Barack Obama pay for his "bitter" words about small-town voters.

Which puts Obama on the defensive, a place he doesn’t want to be as he tries to seal the Democratic nomination and put Hillary away.

In this case, Obama’s words came back to bite him when, at a San Francisco fund raiser, he made these comments about Pennsylvania voters:

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. 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 a way to explain their frustrations.

Clinton pounced. So did McCain. Both campaigns called on Obama to apologize. He finally admitted his words were "ill chosen."

But is the damage enough to cripple his front-running campaign? Probably not. And the furor overlooks a sad, but simple, set of facts:

  • Small town voters in Pennsylvania are bitter.
  • They do cling to their guns and religion.
  • Too many of them are also ignorant, intolerant and racist.
  • And they are just the kind of voters Hillary Clinton needs.



  1. zagg

    I bet if a candidate came away from campaigning in San Francisco, then gave a speech where he made cracks suggesting that Californians are, at heart, deeply unhappy people, pathetically unhappy really, and that’s why they cling to their silly little vanities – their desperate need to pretend they’re intellectually superior and culturally sophisticated, their material obsessions, their obsession with status markers – and their Prozac – it might be true, but so what?

    This example was based on what Californians I know claim to hate hearing. Like all generalizations, they’re unfair. The point is, nobody likes to be mocked.

    And it’s not rational to vote for a candidate who expresses contempt for you. It’s especially not rational in this case. Obama’s whole platform is that we’re all fed up. We want to “unify” around the desire for “change”.

    The problem with that kind of talk is that it requires a scapegoat.

    (What, did you think he is offering to pull loaves and fishes out of a hat? No – no, I think his followers know exactly what he’s offering.)

    He’s going to do what people always do when a prophet arises to lead the people: he’s going to have a purge, a sacrificial victim to cleanse the nation. After whipping up all the rage and hate, it will have to go somewhere. He’ll encourage everyone to pour all their rage and fury THERE.

    In this case, it’s “patriotism”, it’s “whites”, it’s “the working class”. These are the people who “don’t understand”, the ones who deny the messiah’s greatness and refuse to join in the unity.

    And the people who are going for it are the ones who desperately need to believe that they are smarter and better and more virtuous than those dumb racist hicks who ARE the reason America is so messed up.

  2. staunchdem

    Ill advised choice of words for sure, but hardly earth shattering.
    It’ll blow over quickly and then we can get back to the larger issues that really matter.