Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 14, 2008
POLITICS: My Beliefs, Your Prejudices

Mickey Kaus absolutely nails what's so condescending about guys like Obama:

He doesn't patronize everyone equally. Specifically, he regards the views of these Pennsylvanians as epiphenomena--byproducts of economic stagnation--in a way he doesn't regard, say, his own views as epiphenomena.** Once the Pennsylvanians get some jobs back, they'll change and become as enlightened as Obama [and] the San Franciscans to whom he was talking. That's the clear logic of his argument. Superiority of this sort -- not crediting the authenticity and standing of your subject's views -- is a violation of social equality, which is a more important value for Americans than money equality. Liberals tend to lose elections when they forget that.

Read the whole thing...this is exactly it, and is one of the signals of Obama having been raised by a sociologist and educated in Ivy League institutions that are famous for this kind of thinking and its close cousin, the "false consciousness" arguments of Marxists and "Crits" (critical race/gender academic studies). I mean, all of us believe that we are not just right but use better reasoning to get there, but it's another matter to take the view that my beliefs are the product of pristine process of logic and empathy, but your beliefs are just prejudices to be explained away by circumstance, and unworthy even of refuting. And, of course, Kaus' social-egalitarian point harks back to the point I have been making for some time: Republicans, even ones born to wealth and privilege like George W. Bush, end up making more convincing and less phony populists because it's easier to run as a cultural populist against people who really do look down on you for the things you share in common with the average voter, than to run as an economic populist when you yourself don't share much or anything in common with the economic circumstances of the average voter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:37 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)

This is getting ridiculous. Obviously Obama put his foot in his mouth. THIS is the most important issue of the day? The economy is failing, the war is costing hundreds of billions of dollars and people can't pay their mortgages, and the Republicans focus on this "elitist" statement. Don't Republicans make stupid comments, too? Tell me, Crank, who during the early days of the Iraqi insurgency said to "bring 'em on" as American soldiers were being killed? GWB did. Which statement is more offensive?

Posted by: steve at April 14, 2008 2:04 PM

Maybe you are right, and instead of his public statements we should just judge Obama on his resume and record in office? Oh, wait...

Posted by: The Crank at April 14, 2008 2:06 PM

Jesus, Steve. That was pathetic. We're not supposed to notice that The Candidate thinks voters who don't support him are inbred yokels? And how about this excuse-making anyway? We heading down that road with this guy?

And doesn't it matter to you caring leftists that Obama said this sotto voce to some of America's richest elite? How about that anyway? Why can't you guys find a candidate that cares about your issues but doesn't think Americans are just too bitter and stupid to sign on? Why can't your candidates be actual populists instead of elitists?

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 14, 2008 2:41 PM

Yes, Steve. Since there's only room on the internet and in newspapers to talk about one thing at a time.

We'd be much better served by some more puff pieces about how transcendent and glorious Mr. Obama is.

And I continue to be entertained by liberals' reflexive impulse to make a "Bush is way worse" argument. You can't help yourselves. But he's not running for President, and he is absolutely beside the point in this argument. If the best thing you can say about Barack Obama is that he's better than George W. Bush, you've set the bar unfathomably low.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 14, 2008 3:28 PM

This is rich, coming from a group of people who painted war opponents as terrorist/ Saddam loving, tree-hugging, commies.
So much for the open, honest debating style of Conservatives.

Joel B.
George W. Bush isn't running for President, but his enablers are. The people who backed his policies to the gills, and shouted down those who questioned them.
And, you're right. The bar is set unfathomably low. So let's make the point: McCain (who graduated 2nd to last in his class at Annapolis) is Bush without the C+ average.

Posted by: Robert in BA at April 14, 2008 3:54 PM

Oh come on. On the one hand, republicans are saying that voters are too easily swayed by Obama's eloquent speeches, and on the other, saying that he is not engaging to the electorate because he is an elitist. Pick one, but not both.

Also, it's more likely that George Bush got elected in spite of his frat boy life, not because of it. What exactly is appealing to the masses about a rich playboy who drank his way through college and didn't work very hard? Luckily for Bush, he didn't suffer by comparison. Al Gore had no personality whatsover.

Posted by: MVH at April 14, 2008 4:01 PM

Nobody's saying he's not engaging to the electorate. Nobody. You just made that up.

He said himself that some voters are not engaging with him because they are too caught up in their Bibles, their guns and their sisters. It was dumb and he's probably done for. You can think that--and I'm sure many of you do--but you cannot say it.

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 14, 2008 4:41 PM

Bush got elected in part because he rejected his preppy past. He only holds Black-tie events at the White House when he has to, unlike Clinton. He has more ties with the fellow parishioners from his church in Crawford than his Skull& Bones brethren. PBS Frontline did a (surprisingly) respectful piece about his Born-Againness. Lots of Christians identify with that, and even those that aren't so devout respect a guy who is. Not hard to figure out.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 14, 2008 4:45 PM

I didn't make anything up. I'm simply pointing out an inconsistency. It is one thing to Republicans jump on Obama's recent gaffe (which is fine - it certainly was a gaffe), but to use that as evidence for the broad generalization that such "economic populists" are somehow less convincing than "cultural populists" is another story entirely. It is inconsistent to say that such "economic populism" isn't convincing, and at the same time bemoan that large swaths of population (across many socioeconomic groups, in fact) are swayed by Obama's message. The fact that "some voters" in Pennsylvania did not respond to that message does not make the two arguments any more consistent.

And for the record, I am hardly what you would call a hard-core democrat. I've voted republican and democrat in equal measure. I just don't like to see overreaching generalizations and inconsistent arguments.

Posted by: MVH at April 14, 2008 5:16 PM

One of the things that amazes me about he BO supporters is that they minimalize the impact of his comments in SF and say that we should focus on more important issues more important than religion, guns and illegal immigration.

What about Iraq and the economy they say. OK, fine. On Iraq, we are winning, he wants to lose. On diplomacy with enemies who have been at war with us for 30 years and are sworn to destroy us unless we submit to sharia, he says he can talk to them and make them reasonable. This is in keeping with the finest tradition of Neville Chamberlain, or to be more modern, Jimmy Carter. You can't negotiate with an entity that thinks you are Satan and by destroying you and himself in the process he will usher in the paradise of the 12th Iman.

BO's answer to an economic slowdown that follows a 5 year bull market in stocks and unemployment under 5.0% is to raise corprate taxes, raise capital gains taxes and raise personal income taxes which is all a sure way to drive the economy off the road. He's so clueless about markets that he wants to avoid letting the housing bubble burst and let prices revert to reasonable levels that are based on the market and not on mindless speculation, and at the same time oputting the taxpayer on the hook for all the bad loans. Furthermore, he screams about huge budget deficits and then wants to increase spending out the roof on new entitlements to be run by the same government that cannot manage the current ones.

BO is lucky we are focusing on the inanity of his arrogant remarks instead of the non-substance he brings to the Presidential debate. This pretentious empty suit has never run a business, never made a payroll or created any wealth in his life. He is apparently under the misconception that whatever he learned at Harvard is actually applicable in regard to sworn enemies like Iran or Al Qaeda. Just keep talking all of you. Maybe you'll learn the parable about digging yourself a hole, but I doubt it.

Posted by: NRA Life Member at April 14, 2008 5:26 PM

I wouldn't say all Democrats. Bill Clinton was successful as a populist candidate - though never in the angry, Shrumist way that Gore and Edwards ran as - because even with his Oxford education and the like, he was still able to bank on his middle-class Arkansas roots and Arkansas tastes. But guys like Gore and Kerry were laughably phony as populists.

Posted by: The Crank at April 14, 2008 5:28 PM

One might also ask: if Democratic voters think these issues are so unimportant, why not nominate a pro-gun-rights, anti-illegal-immigration pro-lifer who promises to put anti-Roe Justices on the Supreme Court? Surely you can find some such candidates who are also economic populists and Iraq War critics.

Yeah, I didn't think so. The cultural issues are just as important to the Left as to the Right. If William Jennings Bryan ran today, he'd have to run as a Republican. (Indeed, he did. He finished second in the GOP primaries).

Posted by: The Crank at April 14, 2008 5:34 PM

You're absolutely right, Robert. We should definitely be picking our president based on college class standing. I can think of no more important criterion.

I know it was a just a snark, but it was exceedingly silly.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 14, 2008 5:55 PM

With the left wing of the democratic party, it isn't even worth debating the Iraq war. I've talked to a few of them. It's a waste of energy. Most of them oppose the use of force in just about any situation. I wish they would just come out and say it; it would save a lot of time.

I was speaking to one woman who made the off-hand comment that we should negotiate with Iran, as someone above remarked. I rattled off some of the more ridiculous remarks made by their government recently, and I asked her what exactly we should say in response. Naturally, she was stumped for answer.

Posted by: MVH at April 14, 2008 7:27 PM

"if Democratic voters think these issues are so unimportant, why not nominate a pro-gun-rights, anti-illegal-immigration pro-lifer who promises to put anti-Roe Justices on the Supreme Court? Surely you can find some such candidates who are also economic populists and Iraq War critics."

A good observation. The interesting thing is that with a few nuances, you might be a sizable group of voters in the liberal wing of the republican party and the conservative wing of the democratic party. The liberal republican wing would obviously not support the economic populist position, while the conservative democratic wing would be more sympathetic. Both would probably be ambivalent about the Iraq war, and both relatively uninterested in the social issues.

Posted by: MVH at April 14, 2008 7:56 PM

Sorry, that second sentence should read: " might be describing . . .".

Posted by: MVH at April 14, 2008 7:59 PM

Yeah Joel B.
Intellect is so over-rated.
You elected a moron for President (twice). How's that working out for you? Hint: Even you said comparing anyone to him favorably is setting the bar unfathomably low.
Keep thinking intelligence is elitist, genius.

Posted by: Robert in BA at April 15, 2008 4:22 AM

MVH, I fail to see any sort of economic populism in what BHO is selling. He's selling platitudes at this point. You know as well as I do that most of his supporters don't have a clue what his polcies are. That's not a big deal in the primaries and I'm sure he'll be called to flesh out his economic policies in the general. He's still a cipher at this point.

But you said we're claiming he is not engaging with the electorate because he's elitist; nobody said that. You made that up. We're saying Mr. Golden Tones is elitist and voters had better see through his platitudes before they elect a guy who likes to tell us what our concerns ought to be instead of addressing what they really are.

He's definitely engaging the electorate, but they hadn't heard how he speaks of them when he's chumming around with his peers.

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 15, 2008 8:40 AM

Oh how I love those GOP "men of the people." If it is not George H.W. Bush pretending to eat pork rinds and responding "just a splash," when asked if he wanted more coffee, it is Mitt Romney out "hunting varmints."

Posted by: Magrooder at April 15, 2008 10:33 AM

You will, I hope, recall that this was one of my criticisms of Romney.

Not that I'm 100% opposed to having a President who has been rich all his life, but all other things being equal it's better to have somebody who has seen the other side.

Posted by: The Crank at April 15, 2008 10:40 AM

Who said intellect was elitist? I know you're just taking a cue from the Font of Hope, assuming that no one intelligent could possibly vote against Obama, but my point was: I couldn't possibly care less what grades my president got when he was attending college 3+ decades ago.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 15, 2008 12:38 PM

I agree that it is, all other things being equal, for a President to have experienced in some way the life as most Americans experience it. All three of the remaining candidates have to some degree.

I don't think either party has a monopoly on being "real" populists. Clinton certainly had the regualr American experience and was a master at seeming sympathetic. Kerry, Gore, Dukakis (unfortunately the list goes on and on) were terribly phony. But he GOP has its own list that includes Reagan (being an actor playing the part of a regular citizen doesn't count, Bush the elder, Steve Forbes, Fred Thompson, even McCain to soem extent (it is easy to appear unconcerned with money when your wife is an heiress).

Posted by: Magrooder at April 15, 2008 4:23 PM

Reagan clearly fell on the genuine-populist side. He grew up in small-town Illinois as the son of an alcoholic shoe salesman, graduated from college in the pit of the Great Depression, led a union back when the SAG wasn't as wealthy or powerful as it is today, spent years speaking to factory audiences for GE, and perhaps most importantly his cultural tastes and beliefs were the subject of mockery from the commanding heights of the culture and academia pretty much his whole public life.

Posted by: The Crank at April 15, 2008 4:34 PM
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