Saturday, April 12, 2008

CLASS WILL TELL. A lot of people think Obama's comments on some Pennsylvania voters were gaffish. Mickey Kaus, for example, accuses him of "gruesomely off-key condscension toward downscale Rustbelt voters." "Downscale Rustbelt voters" is Kaus' own formulation, and one that would not play well in any bar full of Yuengling and gimme caps. But let's be fair: Kaus doesn't give a shit about those people, and probably imagines his point about Obama's elitism will be made to them on his behalf by talk radio hosts and local White Pride spokespeople.

After months of hearing that the Obama campaign has no substance, you might think these upscale Rushbelt commentators would welcome Obama's bold, public analysis of how Republicans bamboozle poorer voters. They themselves talk about this sort of thing endlessly in their media control towers; were they serious about what they say, they would be delighted to see the conversation go, so to speak, mainstream and into the streets.

Of course, they aren't taking the opportunity for discussion, but for politicking -- in the precise manner Obama described. This leaves it to more sympathetic voices to engage Obama's point -- and some do, but more tentatively, perhaps shaking a little in their tweeds at the imaginary thunder out of Lancaster and New Castle. But many others punt, conceding the ridiculous Republican point ("Obama was essentially claiming that the reason people are not voting for him is because they are bitter"), and presumably hoping we can all get back to discussing the important things, like which health care plan should be offered for sacrifice to the pharmaceutical lobby, or which excuse should be offered for staying in Iraq through the next decade.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for a "dialogue on race" some weeks ago -- not sincere, of course, but at least they felt they needed to pretend. A real dialogue on class, however, is something they will never countenance. Because no matter what happens in the former case, they know (most of them) that they'll always be white, but even the most firmly esconced at the top of the class structure nurtures some fearful awareness that the great wheel has been known to spin.

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