Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What do Obama supporters want?

Michael Lind has written an interesting article over at that basically says that Obama is representative of a "Yankee" political tradtion, and that's not good enough to win elections since it doesn't connect with lots of blue-collar workers (especially in the mid-Atlantic and South). Overall, Lind's perspective seems accurate. But what's also interesting are the comments in reaction to his essay. This is typical:
I can't begin to say how encouraging

it is to hear an American politician tell the truth. It's true that our increasingly faltering economy, with its highly visible payoffs to a very few, has scared a lot of Americans and is making more and more of us bitter at our seeming powerlessness to make things right. [...]

I didn't find Obama's "bitterness" remarks offensive - just truthful. Thank you, Senator, and please give us more.

-- ridgeguy
The goal in politics is to win elections and implement policies. Telling the "truth" (whatever that's supposed to mean) can often be politically counterproductive, yet here we have an Obama supporter that sees truthtelling as more meritorious than succeeding politically, and wants more! That's not too far from the delusions of Nader voters. For them, it was more important to be morally right than to prevent Bush from becoming president.

A corollary for many who advocate the "truth" gambit is that small town America needs to be "educated" about this-and-that, and once educated, Obama's statements will no longer be seen as offensive. If that's the plan, then get the order right. "Educate" first, tell the "truth" second. Instead, now that Obama has blundered, there is a rush to "educate" Pennsylvanians over a span of 10 days, which ain't gonna happen.

Obama, and his supporters, better get real, and get real fast. Instead of "diagnosing" the problem as a pathology of small town America, how about addressing real issues like empowering labor and expanding the safety net? Literally, look at a typical household budget and see where the strains are, and how they might be alleviated. That's something people will respond to. We're talking dollars and cents; the thinking that is associated with a trip to Wal*Mart. That's how to win.

ADDENDUM: Some reasonable comments at Salon (sharing this blog's viewpoint, of course) here: 1, 2, 3.


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