Sunday, April 13, 2008

An "Elitist" State of Mind

This latest uproar about Sen. Obama's words has been both interesting and problematic - for him and for me. Here's the link to the whole thing: Obama Exclusive (Audio): On V.P And Foreign Policy, Courting the Working Class, and Hard-Pressed Pennsylvanians When I heard him say what he said, I bristled. But my response had more to do with where he said what he said and how he said it, than what he said.

Frankly, I believe he's right, given the tin ear and blind eye government has turned to a lot of people's concerns. Plenty of people are bitter and cynical and deal with it in a variety of ways! But why did he wait until he left those - "bitter" Pennsylvania voters - to speak before a decidedly non-working-class San Francisco fundraiser, to say what he said? Couldn't he find any of his prolific, "I feel your pain words" to share with the "bitters" directly?

Was it because no one on the Pennsylvania campaign trail ever raised the issues of joblessness or dissatisfaction with government to date? Or, was it that he felt more comfortable saying what he did to this particular group? Being the great orator that he is, I don't believe he misspoke when he said, "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 anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

What I heard were the words of one who feels so socially and educationally superior he would not deign to deal with bitterness in such a manner. What I heard was the elitism about which so many are up-in-arms. And before anybody gets their panties in a bunch, I do not feel he always has to be perfect in his delivery. He is, after all, human. But what I DO expect and look for as he speaks, is as much honesty as he can muster as a politician and consistency in his message.  When I listened to the actual audio, I heard some of the former and less of the latter.

Something about the introduction by Sheila Jackson Lee immediately gave me pause though I'm not sure why. I'd like to have actually seen the group to whom he spoke, because I got the feeling he was among people with whom he felt comfortable enough to speak unfettered. Much like the "two-ness" W.E.B. DuBois wrote about in his "Souls of Black Folks," this conversation is reminiscent of those some Black folks had, and still have, when there are either no whites around, or no whites around who are like-minded (Latinos can be substituted for, or included with, "whites" in that statement as they were also a group in front of whom most Blacks wore the "mask" back in the day).

Some of us dispensed with that kind of dual-personality disorder as the times changed which required it (or we just grew to know ourselves better). Some of us have not. The media continuously stated, it was a "closed" fundraiser. That fact, along with the price of admission, was also very telling -- after all, what working-class person can spend a grand or more for one night of mingling? Let's be clear, this was not a "regular fella" fundraising event.

Now, is every person with a lot of money elitist? Not necessarily. I know a couple people with a few pennies to rub together who are not. For me, elitism rears its ugly head when people believe the having, which gives them more access, somehow makes them superior to those who have-not. I believe the senator from Illinois has an elitist state of mind and I'm not mad at him for it. I just wish he'd be whoever he is and let the people decide if they want to vote for that person or not.

(P.S. A word to the wise for Sen. Clinton: He's laid a golden egg at the right time and the right place for you. Don't wear this gift out by harping on it. Take the gift, say your piece, don't brandish any more weapons, don't throw back any more shots with beer - just move on. If you keep throwing it in his face and bringing it up ad nauseam, it WILL backfire on you!) Correction: The introduction was made by Rep. Barbara Lee not Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I find it fascinating that folks want Obama to lessen his tone or choose his words wisely or know his audience better. When will folks realize that Obama will be attacked no matter what he says. This is politics and it's a dirty game. And anyone who chooses to become a politican knows this going in. So please with all the blogs about this subject, aren't there other stories that piss us off besides following mainstream medias lead. We all know the game and aren't as niave as they think we are. I say "To hell with all the wordplay, speak the truth and shame the devil".

Deb said...

anonymous...thanks for stopping by.

You said:
"I find it fascinating that folks want Obama to lessen his tone or choose his words wisely or know his audience better."

I never said that. As a matter of fact, in the paragraph before the P.S., I said exactly the opposite.

You're right, politics is a dirty game and anyone who chooses to become president, INCLUDING Sen. Obama, knows ths is going on.

You have a right to think my post is "following the mainstream lead" but I assure you, I don't need to be led. I think about a lot of things that interest me - whether they're in the msm or not (next post will be a good example).

You and I are in total agreement on one thing: To hell with all the wordplay, speak the truth and shame the devil" - that goes for the senator from Illinois as well.

The First Domino said...

Deb, as usual, a great blog entry. Let me give you my take on Obama's supposed word-choice fiasco.

Deb:
Couldn't he find any of his prolific, "I feel your pain words" to share with the "bitters" directly?

My take: After his words produced a dust up, the timing of his followup remarks gave him an opportunity to gauge the reception of his remarks.

If he waited, there was always the chance that, once the dust settled, his opponent would be slapping more dust from her attire than he.

If more of the dust landed on him than on her, other occasions could be used to dry clean the damage.

Which he did.

It's just that he didn't use a local dry cleaning service.

Deb:
What I heard were the words of one who feels so socially and educationally superior he would not deign to deal with bitterness in such a manner.

Deb, in all honesty, I didn't hear this.

What I did hear was someone trying very hard (perhaps too hard) to connect, to overcome what some might perceive as elitism--someone who didn't want a negative image (stereotypical for sure) to get in the way of the message.

I think that he sees, at times, his Harvardness as an impediment: that he's not being perceived as folksy enough.

This may be his perception, or the perception of his image makers. It doesn't matter, since he's bought into this image makeover (obviously for a select number and type of voter, mainly white working class voters).

His next round in the election process will take place in areas with large rural populations, a group with which Hillary has done well thus far.

I believe that he wanted to cut into that given with a speech that spoke directly to their pain and their state of mind--"bitterness towards a government that supported NAFTA"--the action of which is gradually, but eventually, leading to the demise of their economies.

How do you do that if you're cast as this out-of-touch, you're-not-one-of-us, how-can-you-tell-how-we're-feeling Harvard grad?

You do it by showing that you understand the mindset of those you're trying to reach, and telling them in their language, if possible, and not in academic terms.

You do it by showing your empathy, and not your Harvard degree.

You do it by drawing as sharp a contrast between you and your opponent as possible, showing that you're engaged, and that you know their pain, and will not, unlike your opponent, ignore it, but will seek to reverse the damage.

"As your president, I will take your bitterness to heart. I will do what's in my presidential powers to right the wrong against you...this grievous wrong that has caused your bitterness, and have you clinging to your guns and Bible for a measure of hope and security."

Deb:
He's laid a golden egg at the right time and the right place for you.

It may go "gold" for her, but I'm thinking it could, just as well, go "platinum" for him.

Deb said...

the first domino...Hey! I had to read your comment over and over again to make sure I got it! I did.

"It's just that he didn't use a local dry cleaning service."

I think the local drycleaner will remember the slight. She, on the other hand, better cease and desist - blowback is a horrible thing.

"Deb, in all honesty, I didn't hear this."

We can agree to disagree on this one.

"What I did hear was someone trying very hard (perhaps too hard) to connect, to overcome what some might perceive as elitism..."

Possible, but connecting to the San Fran crowd for dollars vs the PA crowd for votes does not a nominee make does it?

"I think that he sees, at times, his Harvardness as an impediment: that he's not being perceived as folksy enough."

I don't think it's the Harvardness that haunts him, I see a boy in his face, looking for a place to "belong" though. It makes my heart ache for him for my own personal reasons.

"...the perception of his image makers."

Those image makers, no matter how skilled they think they are or have been in their prior lives, are his number one problem in my opinion. They really don't get, or refuse to acknowledge the Black guy in him. They have a concept of how a Black guy should appeal to white and Black folks that is couched in white thinking and you're right, he's bought into this image makeover - at times, to his detriment. And again, you're right, the upcoming contests with the exception of NC will be PA writ large. You really should contact the campaign because you get how it needs to go from here - they need that I think.

"It may go "gold" for her, but I'm thinking it could, just as well, go "platinum" for him."

We'll see. I think the PA primaries will tell that story.

Thanks for dropping in!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...