So, Barack Obama has kinda, sorta apologized for his comments on voter bitterness. Some did not find the comments offensive, others have been less generous in their interpretation. So, was it a telling gaffe or an innocuous comment that Obama opponents have spun to their advantage?
First, itâ€™s not about the bitterness. Sure, people are bitter, thatâ€™s apparent to anyone paying attention. Whatâ€™s disturbing about the comment is the â€œclingingâ€ statements. People in floods cling to trees not because those trees are wonderful places to be but because they canâ€™t find anything else. If we gave them a boat, theyâ€™d use the boat. So, when Obama says people â€œclingâ€ to guns and religion, anti-immigrant feelings and anti-free trade sentiments, what heâ€™s saying is that, if we only gave them better lives (cured their bitterness), theyâ€™d let go of these inadequate, insubstantial matters.
I donâ€™t know how else to interpret the use of the word â€œclingâ€ but as condescension. Itâ€™s a word of pity â€“ we feel sorry for those who have to cling. So, yes, Obama was being quite condescending to frame peopleâ€™s religious beliefs and NRA memberships as things to which people must hold on to because they have nothing better available to them. Obama is displaying the elitist liberal tendency to see blue-collar and rural â€œredâ€ voters as misled people who would surely vote Democratic if only they were better enlightened. Then they wouldnâ€™t cling to such unnecessary matters as religion and guns.
I canâ€™t use this one comment to brand Obama as undoubtedly elitist, but at the very least, it shows how, when going off-script, heâ€™s likely to reach for the elitist liberal ideology to frame his opinions. His own experiences show he understands the value of religion and his opposition to NAFTA shows he doesnâ€™t really think anti-free trade sentiments are merely something to cling to (unless heâ€™s a hypocrite, which is possible), but this comment is nevertheless revealing.
As Iâ€™ve said many times before, this is the problem with Obamaâ€™s inexperience. He simply doesnâ€™t have a deep enough public record for us to know who he truly is and where he truly stands. Heâ€™s highly scripted, so when he goes off-script we have to give those remarks real weight. Is he a liberal elitist at heart? I donâ€™t know but I suspect heâ€™s much closer to being one than his unity rhetoric leads some to believe.