As a matter of full disclosure, I should tell you that my wife, a long-time Republican, has changed her party registration in advance of the Pennsylvania Primary and has appeared in public wearing “Another Momma for Obama” button.
Nothing in my life had prepared me for this. A squadron of pigs could have flown by and I would not have been as surprised. This was the woman who, when I became a citizen more than 20 years ago, strongly suggested that I might be smart to register as a Republican if I knew what was good for me. Well, I said indignantly, am I a man or a mouse? So I squeaked like any wise fellow and got with the program.
With the Momma newly converted, she pressured me to become a Democrat too, but this time I resisted. I like being one of the few remaining liberals in the Republican Party and I feel that if I hold out I’ll be granted endangered species protection and I’ll get my own national park and pretty female bird watchers will observe me through binoculars.
So as a person who thinks party affiliations pretty much nonsense, I can say the following to make the Momma happy, because it just happens to be the truth: This alleged controversy over Barack Obama’s comments about guns and religion — the so-called “bitter comment” — is the biggest load of bull fertilizer ever to fall off the back of the political truck.
First of all, let us examine what Sen. Obama actually said at a San Francisco fund-raiser on April 6. It was so shocking that apparently it took five days before anyone could denounce it.
“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 . . . ,” he said. “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
What is important to remember is that Obama was speaking sympathetically about these people. And, yes, not that it seems to matter to the nattering classes, there is truth in what he said. When people feel defeated, they do feel bitter and they do cling to the cultural pillars of their lives, religion being one of them, our help in ages past and our help for years to come.
As for guns in rural Pennsylvania and the Midwest, praising the Lord and passing the ammunition is what goes on. That’s a fact, not a judgment.
But if there is one industry still booming in this country, it is the controversy fabrication industry. Various political and media elitists fell over themselves to feed the production line with claims that Barack Obama was an elitist, the same fellow of humble origins who was a community organizer in Chicago, which I doubt he did to feel superior to the poor people he was helping.
Among all the elitists in the anti-Barack brigade, none outperformed Washington Post columnist George F. Will, who wrote: “Obama may be the fulfillment of modern liberalism. Explaining why many working class voters are ‘bitter,’ he said they ‘cling’ to guns, religion and ‘antipathy to people who aren’t like them’ because of ‘frustrations.’ His implication was that their primitivism, superstition and bigotry are balm for resentments they feel because of America’s grinding injustice.”
Really? What a mind reader. Still, I defer to superior breeding because here’s a guy so snooty that he could go to the Elitist Persons Ball and guests would say, “Who’s that elitist over there?” Here’s a guy that when he goes to the ballpark, he may eat a hotdog but he probably has his pinkie extended. You can just imagine him denouncing Obama as an elitist over a good glass of sherry, looking down his superior nose, perhaps through a monocle. The whole thing is beyond satire.
But that is life in these United States, where a politico-media babbleocracy constantly assumes that working people are a bunch of dopes to be cynically manipulated with the scares and packaged controversies of the day — gay marriage, illegal immigrants, unguarded comments, whatever serves to advance the interests of some sharp politician.
Talking about Hillary Clinton, I ask her supporters: Aren’t you so proud that her campaign rushed to take advantage of the controversy with a TV ad that offers the reality of cynicism as an antidote to the audacity of hope? Who is their Momma anyway that they insult the people’s intelligence like this?
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)