It’s the Cling, not the Bitter

Can ISHum just get a word in edgewise? This crazy dust-up over this awesome Obama quote is as frustrating as it is predictable:

You go into 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 toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Obama called it like he saw it, and now he’s an elitist who disdains the working class. (the jobless working class, paradoxically)

Hillary Clinton slammed him for suggesting that the people of Pennsylvania are bitter rather than up-by-the-bootstraps optimists.  She thinks that Pennsylvanians are all pluck and no quit.  (Ha.)

John McCain took serious umbrage – check out this over the top language:

It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.

First of all – breathe.  Secondly, try Lindsay Lohan, or Jesse Ventura, or Milan Kundera.  There.  That wasn’t that hard – I mean, I just thought of three people who, if they ran for president, would be way more out of touch with “average” Americans. Of the top of my freaking head. Whoa.

It’s the “bitter” part of his comment that has gotten the most flap.  Again, the suggestion that Pennsylvanians aren’t super earnest, that they might EVER betray the slightest cynicism in the face of difficulty and seek to lay blame.  Whatever – I think that people can be bitter.

When I first read it, I admit I was a little bit scandalized by a politician using the word “cling” to refer to how people relate to their churches and guns.  (awesome, by the way.)

And what’s wrong with “cling”? I think that Ben Smith put his finger on it.

What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

I hope BO takes this opportunity to call HRC and JMC out on their cloying pandering to their imaginary blue collar worker.  They are piling on right now (and I guess I don’t blame them – that comment is pretty toxic, politically) but I bet that this holier-than-thou allegiance to the working class will burn them both in the end.  Because I bet that working class people aren’t so stupid as to think that when you say they aren’t stupid that you don’t actually mean that they are.

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1 Response to “It’s the Cling, not the Bitter”


  1. 1 Liz Coppock April 14, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Well, yeah, it’s wrong to cling — BO’s point was that people are voting for the wrong reasons, not because they’re stupid, but because they’re disillusioned with the ability of government to do what they’re supposed to do, what they’re supposed to be elected for. That’s mostly the government’s fault; saying that people are cynical totally does not make him elitist.


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