Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why Obama erred

First off: He was right. Historically, people under economic duress look for bogeymen. Just look at the immigration issue alone: from "No Irish need apply" to modern times, everything from rhetoric to violence against immigrants ratchets up during hard times.

But he blew it by expressing it aloud. Here's why.

Nobody--and I mean nobody--likes hearing sentences that begin with "You only feel that way because..." So when Obama said "They only feel the way they feel about immigration/guns/fundamentalism/gays because times are hard and they're lashing out," it doesn't matter that he's right. It matters that he's alienated an entire bloc of potential voters (and yes, I do believe he could have gotten them to vote for him...until now).

Let's examine a liberal example. "You only feel the way you feel about global warming/abortion/pulling out of Iraq because you want to fit in with a certain group and because it's assumed in your circles that this is what 'smart people' believe." Is this true? Occasionally. Does it matter? No. Liberals who hear this will be too angry ever to recover.

I hope that Obama's speaking abilities will get him out of this. But I fear they won't. He was suspect to the swing voters in key states to begin with, and now that he's all but clinched the Democratic nomination...well, he's branded himself as an elitist who talks down to rural, working-class voters when they're not around. This is in part his own fault, for saying what he did where he did how he did. This is also partially the fault of my party, whose Achilles heel has always been displaying a horrific patronizing you're-too-stupid-to-know-what's-good-for-you elitism...and then wondering aloud why the voters they talk patronizingly about don't vote for them.

So I'm seeing McCain over Obama seven months hence.

Welcome back to my default state--pessimism.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Darn near every working-class person I know is bitter.

That doesn't make them all neocons. (In fact, almost none of them are.) So I think you're right to point out the problems with "you only feel..."

But what struck me was how much Clinton and McCain were focusing on that word "bitter", as though he'd called them a name. (c.f. the unhelpful phrase "you're just bitter.")

Hit back, Barack. Say "The folks working on my campaign are showing that you can channel your anger, and yes, your bitterness, into change. Mister and Missus Hundred Years War over there are afraid of your energy, and that's why they don't want me to talk about it."

Two lawyers and a guy who's been in Congress for 26 years arguing over who's elitist. It is to laugh.