will bitterness sink obama?

Posted on April 12, 2008

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Just when it looks like Senator Barack Obama is closing in on Senator Hillary Clinton in the upcoming Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, his “bitterness” remarks comes to light and now, it seems like he will not be able to close the deal, once again.

While there might be a grain of truth to people being bitter about job losses, as Obama was saying when he spoke those fateful words to a group of donors in San Francisco, the associations he painted with these people were unfortunate and even inappropriate.

“In a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long,” Obama told the donors.

“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 going to regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama is probably right that these people are angry and bitter at being left behind. But why did he in the next breath suggest that they are gun-crazy, xenophobic and insular? It might not be as “elitist” and “out of touch” as the Clinton and McCain campaign had said Obama is, but it shows a serious lack of understanding of Middle America.

People go to church because they truly believe in God, not out of desperation. And the attitude towards guns is that it is a way of life for many people who cherish their Second Amendment right.

Lots of people might agree that the country is on the wrong track and be frustrated, a staggering 81 per cent, according to the most recent poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News.

Yet despite this, Americans like being known as optimistic and having a can-do spirit rather than be painted as bitter and irrational. Clinton and Obama might also have been concentrating a lot of their firepower on trade and its ill effects on jobs and the US economy but surprisingly, more people, 58 per cent, still believe that trade is positive for the economy on balance.

Obama has painted himself as the unity candidate, the Washington “outsider” who will bring Americans together and clean up the mess that has been created by Washington D.C. His message is one of hope. Unfortunately, those remarks do not reflect his platform. They will set him further apart from blue-collar voters and are unlikely to convince undecided voters that he understands them. Just watch the attacks of his attendance of Ivy-League universities Harvard and Columbia being trotted out as proof of his inability to connect with Middle America.

Will superdelegates, who will inevitably determine the nominee for the Democrats, lose confidence in him? Perhaps. The undecided ones could be swayed on the argument that he cannot win in the general election against McCain.

Obama has tried to do damage control by expressing regret for his wrong choice of word (“I didn’t say it as well as I should have”). But the damage is already done. Together with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy, this latest flap might still allow him to be the Democratic nominee, but would definitely come back to haunt him in November. The longer this primary race stays alive, the more Obama might just sink himself.

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