Friday, May 2, 2008

Underwear Being Yanked Up Over His Anglophilic Ears

From Popular Will by Jonathan Chait:

Barack Obama's comments about the white working class have thrown the political campaign into particularly comic spasm of pretense and hypocrisy, but I was planning to let it go, I really was, until George F. Will decided to leap to the defense of the proletariat. Yes, that George F. Will. The fabulously wealthy, bow tie-wearing, pretentious reference-mongering, Anglophilic fop who grew up in a university town as a professor's son, earned two advanced degrees, has a designated table at a French restaurant in Georgetown, and, had he dwelt for any extended time among the working class, would be lucky to escape without his underwear being yanked up over his ears. Will devoted his column to expressing his displeasure at Obama's "condescension" toward the working class.

Obama's offense, as we all know, was to call white working-class voters "bitter" over their economic misfortune during the last few decades, and thus prone to "cling to" guns and religion. Taken literally, Obama was saying that these voters have taken up religion and gun ownership only over the last few decades--a notion so transparently false that he surely couldn't believe it. And, in fact, he doesn't: In a 2004 interview with Charlie Rose, Obama described how traditions of hunting and churchgoing stretch back generations. He proceeded to argue that, in the absence of plausible economic improvement, people in small towns will vote on the basis of those traditions that give their lives stability. This is not a controversial view among Democrats. Bill Clinton once said that Republicans "find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them"--a less respectful expression of the same analysis.

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