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Reasons to Believe

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Who knew that being an elitist was far worse than being a racist?

When Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama refused to disavow his pastor and campaign faith adviser, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, it ended up being a mere blip in an overlong and over scrutinized campaign. Obama more or less turned the Wright sound bites to political advantage by using the dustup as a springboard for a major speech on race. The Obama speech got great marks from the media elite, but like the Wright comments, it didn’t really move the needle much either. Maybe because he’s African-American, the electorate had already baked in the notion that sooner or later he’d discuss race issues. In other words, yawn.

On the other hand, suggest that the reason he’s not getting any real traction with angry White voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other industrialized states is because they are too busy clinging to their guns and their religion for refuge and suddenly you have a public relations disaster of the first order. Interesting what a 24-hour news cycle and an endless supply of bandwith will do for the political process.

Think what you will about Obama, but he’s no more of an elitist than anyone who ran for president during this cycle, save for maybe Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. That’s hardly a sin. Americans expect their president to be from the moneyed and educated upper class. If they didn’t, Kucinich and Paul wouldn’t have been considered such jokes.

The real problem with Obama’s comments in San Francisco is not that they revealed him to be an elitist. It’s that they revealed most of the rest of us as myopic about the real problems facing this country and that’s a reality we’re not ready to face. At its core, Obama on the one hand and his critics on the other hand seemed flummoxed that bitter White guys in middle America aren’t instead taking refuge in the affairs of their own country. Why should they?

Eight years under George W. Bush is more than enough to convince anyone that their government is not in touch with the hopes and dreams of the average American. It’s not just that Bush came into office under the dark cloud of an election that seemed rigged that makes them cynical. It’s also not just that Bush stayed in office under the dark cloud of a war that will inextricably tie future generations to massive foreign policy failures. It’s more like the fact that the government’s response to domestic tragedies like Hurricane Katrina make too many think that the government can’t meet their basic needs. In that context, why would anyone take refuge in Washington?

The average person turns on CNN these days and is bombarded with economic news that they can’t comprehend, except at its most basic level. The weak dollar doesn’t mean much to the guy who will never travel overseas, but he understands $3.50 for a gallon of gas. He also understands that the government seems powerless to help in any meaningful way. The subprime mortgage crisis is a Gordian knot to most, but the family that can no longer make its house payment understands the anxiety they feel as they wonder where they’ll live while the government debates its response.

People who can’t turn to their government for answers, let alone relief, are going to turn somewhere. Human nature being what it is, people will not countenance a lack of information. They’ll fill in the blanks as best they can. If that’s through the Bible or from the counter attendant in the Wal-Mart gun department, so be it. You can manage expectations like any other process, but if you simply ignore them, as this government has done for the last eight years, it doesn’t mean they’ll go away. It just means that you lose the right to complain about the way they’ve drifted.

Obama may be too polite to say it in mixed company, but his campaign’s mini-crisis over what were really fairly benign remarks is Exhibit A in his speech on race. For reasons as varied as they are mysterious, the bitter White guys, to the extent they’ll ever vote Democrat, would pick Hillary simply because a White female is more palatable to them than a Black male. If they really had their druthers, bring on the same old White guy, just like the Republicans.

For all its flowery language, Obama’s speech on race still didn’t give those bitter White guys who would vote Democrat the information they really seek. It was too guarded, too scripted, to be effective. If Obama is really serious about it, he’ll have to go to the belly of the beast and make his case directly. He’ll need to challenge the racism that still permeates too many pockets in this country by challenging their most basic fears about his potential election. He’ll have to demonstrate that his election won’t be at their expense, but in everyone’s best interest.

In short, if Obama, or Clinton for that matter, really wants to get to the heart of the issue, they’ll both need to stop borrowing from the Republican playbook that wins elections on fear. Instead, if they really want to win over the bitter White guys, indeed the majority of the country, they’ll need to give them a reason to believe in their government again.

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About Gary D. Benz

  • Doug Hunter

    Republicans run campaigns on fear?

    I thought fear is indoctrinating children that we’ll all die from a couple degrees of climate change. I thought fear was telling blacks that whitey is really all about getting you (it’s just secret and passive). I thought fear was telling you that despite trillions of $$$ of spending on social programs that our government doesn’t care for people. I thought fear was about calling people Nazis and Fascists and babbling oddly about stolen elections and such stupidity.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    i like elite in my presidential candidate…check your dictionary: “the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons”…

    just because the word has been wined, dined and slapped around by vocabulary-challenged morons who now think it means “prejudiced” or “out of touch” doesn’t mean the definition has changed…

    elite is good…a president who says he hadn’t heard gas might reach $4 a gallon is bad…

  • Baronius

    Gary, I disagree with most everything you’ve written, but let’s focus on one point: that bitter White guys are racists. Please define the group you’re talking about, and present proof that they are racists. Without support for that accusation, your article falls apart.

  • Gary Benz

    Diana: I agree and tried to say so. Most people associate “elite” in terms of people as upper class, moneyed, maybe snobbish. I’m not sure that I agree, but I also believe that as much as people talk about a populist candidate, the truth is that they like to think their president wasn’t a “C” student with an associate’s degree from a correspondence school.

  • Gary Benz

    Baronius: I don’t think, generally speaking, that bitter White guys are racist, certainly not overtly racist. But there is an undercurrent of racism that manifests itself in many forms, mostly subtle. And I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that even in this day and age, there are pockets, perhaps large, perhaps not, that are uncomfortable with the idea of a Black president. None of us may want to admit it, but the various polling results from the primaries certainly suggests otherwise. The overall point of the article, even if you completely dismiss the race aspect, is that the reason the bitter White guy referenced supposedly clings to religion or guns or whatever is because they don’t see clinging to their government as an option. There is a real detachment in this country at the moment, with people feeling like no one cares about the real problems that are affecting them–high gas prices; housing slumps; etc. It’s not even so much that the government has actually turned its back on them, but it’s their perception that it has.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    $3.50 for a gallon of gas…

    Ah, those were the days.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    gary, my apologies…i completely misread/incorrectly scanned your article…i’d love to say i was sick, distracted or something of that nature, but no; it was just me…

    my comment would’ve been more appropriate for the article i read right before yours…it said a few things i most certainly did not agree with – the misuse of the word “elite” being the most glaring…

    i’m going to stand over here now; don’t mind me…

  • Bennett

    Thanks Gary, I enjoyed reading this and think the points you make are valid.

    Especially reguarding the effect that the last eight years had on the enthusiasm of American voters to believe in their government. The whole Terry Schivo episode, Karl Rove, gutting environmental protection, Homeland Security, Plame-gate, and Iraq of course…

    You’re right, we do need hope.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Arch Conservative

    “In short, if Obama, or Clinton for that matter, really wants to get to the heart of the issue, they’ll both need to stop borrowing from the Republican playbook that wins elections on fear. Instead, if they really want to win over the bitter White guys, indeed the majority of the country, they’ll need to give them a reason to believe in their government again.”

    Oh so when liberals claim that Mccain will start more wars and repeal the draft it’s not fear mongering? When econut leftists claim that the Republicans are hell bent on destroying the global ecosystem as fast as possible it’s not fear mongering? When liberals talk about eveil corporations and how they only exist to screw the average Joe that’s not fear mongering?

    I consider myself an average white guy Gary and you knwo what would make me want to vote for Obama or Clinton. If they could show a sincere committment to the statement “that government is best which governs least.” Do you think Obama and or Clinton could get on board with that Gary? Can you? I doubt it. When all the political theatre and empty platitudes are stripped away Obama and Clinton are revealed for what they really are…..leftists who believe that more governemnt is the ONLY solution to every problem whether social, fiscal or otherwise. If that’s all the Dems hve to offer year in and year out it is not wonder they lose national elections under such favorable circumstances. In case you haven’t noticed mainstream, ubiquitous, sociliasm hasn’t become part of the collective American psyche yet despite the far left’s attempts to brow beat us into it Gary. If you desire it that much you can always emigrate to Europe.

    You and your leftist ilk can spin until the cows come home about how any and all votes against Obama are motivated by some form of racism but in the end it will be Obama’s actual views/beliefs/actions of lack thereof that lead most not to vote for him and not the color of his skin. I’m sure that won’t stop his moronic minions from claiming racism when he loses in Novemeber, after all they’re part of the same crowd that’s still ranting about the 2000 election being stolen. So enjoy it while it lasts Gary……I encourage you to scream your loudest from the tallest rooftops “yes we can,” “change we can beleive in,” and whatever other empty platitudes have been dvised at Obama central. Savor every second of it because after November all you will have is your conspriacy theories of racism and rigged elections and while those are easy to come accross it’s actually pretty hard work getting a large number of rational thinking people to by into them.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    In case you haven’t noticed mainstream, ubiquitous, sociliasm hasn’t become part of the collective American psyche yet despite the far left’s attempts to brow beat us into it Gary.

    You’re projecting again, Arch. Show me where Gary mentioned or even alluded to socialism in his article.

    If you desire it that much you can always emigrate to Europe.

    Now this is a fine example of arse-uppards logic. Assuming Gary does have a sincere desire for his country, America, to be a certain way, why would he want to emigrate to another one?

  • Arch Conservative

    “You’re projecting again, Arch. Show me where Gary mentioned or even alluded to socialism in his article.”

    He advocates candidates for president that advocate actions carefully disguised as mainstream American but which in reality are incrmenetal steps toward mainstream socialism.

    “Assuming Gary does have a sincere desire for his country, America, to be a certain way, why would he want to emigrate to another one?”

    His desire is 180 degrees from what his country has always been and what the majority of his countrymen desire that it should remain.

  • Gary Benz

    I don’t think my desires for this country are 180 degrees from what it’s always been. To the contrary. It’s just that the tendency is to think the way things currently are is how it’s always been. If that really were the case, then why would so many be so frustrated with their government? Whichever side of the political spectrum one resides, it’s beyond dispute that there is massive disenchantment. Look at the approval ratings for Bush and Congress. People want to believe in their government and working to make that happen doesn’t make one a socialist nor should it banish one to another country to find that satisfaction. That’s the problem with political dialogue these days. Rather than address underlying problems, it’s best to just name call, brand the dissenters as traitors, wash our hands and then pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We’ve had 8 years of that approach and the underlying problems have worsened not improved. Good point. Stay the course.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Arch, as has been pointed out before, you (along with several others on this site) wouldn’t recognize a real socialist if one bent over in front of you and farted in your face.

    Let me put this in perspective for you. For the year and a half or so that I’ve frequented BC, I’ve watched you consistently railing against big government, abortion, illegal immigration and liberalism in general.

    All of those things are still around and don’t show any signs of going away any time soon.

    So, by your own principles, am I to take it you’ll be packing your bags and jetting off to more convivial political climes?

    Or will you be staying and fighting for what you believe is right for your country?

    You want the America you believe in and so does Gary. Just because you think he’s wrong doesn’t give him any less entitlement than you to wish for change.

  • Arch Conservative

    “People want to believe in their government and working to make that happen doesn’t make one a socialist nor should it banish one to another country to find that satisfaction. .”

    No but thinking that more governemnt and more taxes are the ONLY solution to ALL of our problems does.

    Dr dreadful..you, like Ruvy, compare American politics to the rest of the world. Of course Obama and Hillary aren’t socialists when you’re comparing them to European world leaders. However when one is strictly dealing with American politics, both Obama and Clinton are far closer to being socialists on the political spectrum than anyone I would ever support.

    In fact one a global scale America can be said to be a right of center nation. It’s what makes us different, and in my opinion, better.

    Gary and others are free to express their leftist views and try and bring about more socialist policies and the rest of us, the majority, are free to do all that we can to prevent this.

  • Arch Conservative

    “Rather than address underlying problems, it’s best to just name call, brand the dissenters as traitors, wash our hands and then pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.”

    I forgot this little nugget. I thought we were addressing the underlying probelems Gary. Are you honestly goign to tell me that if Clinton or Obama get elected we will not see a significant raise in taxes? Let’s not beat around the bush, that’s with a small b. We all know that both Clinton and Obama are going to inject as much government as possible into everything because that is what they beleiev in. This can be seen by their plans to bail out all of the morons who got into mortgages that they couldn’t handle. Both Clinton and Obama have proposed bailouts of these idiots in which taxes would be raised on the rest of us to pay for their stupidty. I’m sorry but this goes against everything I believe in Gary. unlike Obama, Clinton and just about every other Democrat I actually believe that people should have to suffer the consequences of the poor decisions they have made for themselves and if someone running for president is telling (not ins o many words but it is basically what they plan to do) that more of my income will have to be taken so that a bunch of people who got themselves in over their heads can keep their homes I am going to call that candidate ames and deride them Gary, They deserve it.

    I am so sick of this let’s all get along bullshit. It’s completely unrealistic when you consider you have milliosn of Americans,many of whom have diameterically opposing political, social and economic views. I don’t have to nor do I want to get along with everyone Gary. In fact I generally have nothing but contempt for people on the far left. If you or anyone else doesn’t like it that’s too damn bad. You can call me whatever you liek but I’m a realist whereas you’re waiting for something that’s NEVER going to happen….some politician to come along who everyone loves and supports.

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • REMF

    “Are you honestly goign to tell me that if Clinton or Obama get elected we will not see a significant raise in taxes? Let’s not beat around the bush, that’s with a small b. We all know that both Clinton and Obama are going to inject as much government as possible into everything because that is what they beleiev in.”
    – Arch Conservative

    So will the raise in taxes match the $500 billion we’ve poured into that quagmire called Iraq?

    —————————

    “This can be seen by their plans to bail out all of the morons who got into mortgages that they couldn’t handle. Both Clinton and Obama have proposed bailouts of these idiots in which taxes would be raised on the rest of us to pay for their stupidty.”
    – Arch Conservative

    Yes, those “idiots” and “morons” are far worse than the Chickenhawks.

  • REMF

    “Arch, as has been pointed out before, you (along with several others on this site) wouldn’t recognize a real socialist if one bent over in front of you and farted in your face.”

    What are you trying to do, Doc, give him a stiffy?

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption

    Are you honestly goign to tell me that if Clinton or Obama get elected we will not see a significant raise in taxes?

    Arch,

    YES. You don’t really stay on top of things do you?

    This entire campaign both democrats have said they will not raise taxes on people making less than 200,000 dollars. That’s less than 5% of the population. Unless you individually make more than 200,000 dollars you will not have a tax increase under Clinton or Obama.

    They were asked this as a direct question last night and both gave direct, essentially read my lips answers, pledging not to increase taxes on individuals making less than 200,000.

    Obama even stated that he would give tax CUTS to those in the lower and middle class (under 100k I assume).

    So yeah, by getting out of Iraq Obama will save the country about 200 billion dollars a year. Then there is a tax increase of about 100-130 billion tax increase on the top 5%. (I estimated this number on the fact that income tax after credits for the top 5% dropped from 553 to 473 billion from 2000 to 2001 b/c of the Bush tax cuts.. when in every year previous it grew 40-50 billion. So if the Bush tax cuts hadn’t been enacted the top 5% would have paid 603 billion in taxes, but instead paid 473 billion.

    So overall the Obama plan would free up about 300 billion dollars in spending (200 billion from Iraq, 100 billion from taxes on the top 5%). The 300 billion can be invested in America, used to balance the budget (or get a surplus), or as tax cuts for 95% of Americans. And I mean real tax cuts (not the 100 dollar dinky checks the Bush administration sent out to most Americans).

    But the key is BOTH candidates have pledged not to increase taxes on anyone below the top 5%.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption

    Just to make that clear for you with attention problems:

    Both candidates this entire campaign have said and last night they gave direct, essentially read my lips, pledges to not increase taxes for those individuals making less than 200,000 or 250,000.

    Instead they intend to give TAX CUTS to most of America.

    Got that?

    Democrats = TAX CUT
    Democrats = TAX CUT
    Democrats = TAX CUT

  • Arch Conservative

    But the key is BOTH candidates have pledged not to increase taxes on anyone below the top 5%.

    And you believe that? I have a bridge in Brookyln for sale….you interested?

    Everyone also knows that neither Obama nor Clinton will pull all of the trops out immediately either.

    The Clintons are proven liars and Obama is nothing but a smooth talking snake oil salesman.

    You go on parroting the bullshit please.

    I’m not that crazy about Mccain either. he’s only my guy by default. He’s the best of the worst.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption

    But the key is BOTH candidates have pledged not to increase taxes on anyone below the top 5%.

    And you believe that? I have a bridge in Brookyln for sale….you interested?

    Everyone also knows that neither Obama nor Clinton will pull all of the trops out immediately either.

    The Clintons are proven liars and Obama is nothing but a smooth talking snake oil salesman.

    You go on parroting the bullshit please.

    I’m not that crazy about Mccain either. he’s only my guy by default. He’s the best of the worst.

    What reason do I have not to believe it?

    REPUBLICANS not Democrats INCREASED the lowest tax rate from 11 to 15% in 1988.

    The Clinton administration NEVER increased taxes on those making under 129,000 dollars.

    The fact is Democrats have never increased taxes on the middle or lower class (at least since 1980).

    The Republicans have run the ONLY administrations to increase taxes on those making under 129,000 dollars.

    And if we want to talk about SS taxes, Republicans win the taxation prize there too.

    From 1980 to 1992 Republican administrations increased the SS tax rate from 10.16 to 12.4% and raised the cap from 70,000 to 82,000.

    So for 90% of America, REPUBLICANS have been the taxaholics while DEMOCRATS have maintained or cut taxes.

  • Zedd

    Arch,

    I believe its your turn(cricket, cricket, cricket…).

  • Bennett

    Arch Conservative: (re: comment #20)

    Y’know, if sputtering was possible by typing on a keyboard, you’ve managed it. You really are starting to sound like one of those Chinese Agents over on the “Tibet Olympics” thread.

    This,

    “You go on parroting the bullshit please.”

    is not even good English.

    Please represent your ideology with a measure of panache.

    Thanks!

  • Clavos

    “Panache” isn’t good English, either…

    :>)

  • The Obnoxious American

    It’s a cute false argument. When a GOP admin works across the aisle with democrats as was the case in the 80s, to help continue to fund a failing entitlement program that was the dream of the left, that’s a bad thing. But when democrats are running on a platform for higher taxes for the middle and upper classes, that’s hope and change. Sorry but no.

    Just a reminder, in last nights debate, Obama agreed he’d raise the SS cap which is a tax on anyone earning 97,000 a year. Trust me, in the NY tri state area, 97,000 is barely comfortable (unless you enjoy eating government cheese).

    Besides the fact that the top 6% of earners – the very ones Obama wants to raise taxes on – already pay a MAJORITY of taxes collected by the government, and besides the fact that we should be fostering success and not penalizing it, and besides the fact that government (even when run by dems) doesn’t do ANYTHING well, the left keeps on with the larger government, higher taxes mantra, and some fools keep believing it. I’ve had people look at me with a straight face and say that perhaps we should all be paying more taxes. Of course he said this months ago, before he saw his tax form.

    If I falsely promised to provide security and services, with no actual guaruntees and SLAs I wonder if those on the left would hand me a regular stipend as well.

    I won’t be replying here again, it’s just too idiotic, and im sure the lefties will say thats a lack of a solid argument, it’s actually a lack of interest in arguing a silly point. And this article is offensive crap. I could care less about Obama’s color. It’s the things he says, the things his wife says, the things his preacher says that turns us off. But go ahead and claim that’s just racism.

  • pleasexcusetheinerruption

    When a GOP admin works across the aisle with democrats as was the case in the 80s, to help continue to fund a failing entitlement program that was the dream of the left, that’s a bad thing.

    Bullshit. The increase in SS taxes was part of Reagan’s economic agenda. And it wasn’t an attempt to fund a failing entitlement program. SS wasn’t even close to failing in the 80s. The increase rate from 10.16% to 12.4% merely enabled the GOP to skim off the top of SS. The fact is SS then and now has a HUGE surplus and is merely used as a regressive income tax. It’s nominal distinctness from the federal budget is just that, nominal. Your claim that dems wanted it to fund SS is a lie you just made up on the spot. It is absolutely not true. Reagan then turned around and used this money to drastically reduce taxes on the rich from an 80% rate to a 35% rate, meanwhile raising taxes on the poorest Americans with a bottom tax rate increase from 11 to 15%.

    If you want to delude yourself into thinking that this was somehow related to the democrats during the peak of Reagan’s power, go ahead and delude yourself.

  • Clavos

    Here’s a witty view of the “bitterness” of the Democratic contest from Jim Morin, the Miami Herald’s Pulitzer Prizewinning editorial cartoonist.

  • Bennett

    “Panache” isn’t good English, either…

    Yeah yeah, but it’s the last word in one of the greatest plays ever written.

    ;-]

  • The Obnoxious American

    I said I would not post again here, and I am a man of my word. However, when people claim that I make stuff up, I have to come to my own defense.

    “Bullshit. The increase in SS taxes was part of Reagan’s economic agenda. And it wasn’t an attempt to fund a failing entitlement program. SS wasn’t even close to failing in the 80s. The increase rate from 10.16% to 12.4% merely enabled the GOP to skim off the top of SS. “

    Says you, but USAToday agrees with me:

    “Despite a bipartisan Social Security fix in 1983, Republicans still remember their political pounding in the Reagan years for cutting programs for the elderly. ”

  • Zedd

    Ummmm, how are you a man of your word if you posted AGAIN.

    Is it me??? (snicker)

  • Condor

    Why are all the bitter whitey states called red states? On military tactical maps, red is the color of the enemy. Are all those bitter whitey dudes tired of being minimalized as the “enemy”… Just a thought, please continue…

  • Dan

    My guess is that red and blue are the two non-neutral colors of the flag. Red is also identified with communism, which is a little to close to the Democrat agenda.

    If red were used to label Democrat states, there would be a lot of clucking from Democrats (always the color conscious ones) about conspiracy to conflate them with communists.

  • Dan

    “REPUBLICANS not Democrats INCREASED the lowest tax rate from 11 to 15% in 1988.”

    The lowest tax rate, charged to the poor, is zero. Actually it’s a negative rate if you factor in Earned Income Credit. A minimum wage worker pays virtually no Federal income tax.

    If a minimum wage worker were to work a lot of overtime and earn around 20,000 a year, they would pay maybe 3-5% unless they had dependents. In which case their miniscule tax liability would be easily nullified by the $1000 Child Tax Credit, and possibly Earned Income Credit.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Minimum wage making $20K a year? At $5.85 an hour that’s more than 65 hours a week for the entire year!!! That would most definately suck! No vacation…hardly any time off at all! All that and probably no beneifts or anything else…might as well do something to get fired and collect unemployment!!!