Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama: Elitist or just intelligent and curious?

Barack Obama is catching some flack from the media for his so-called "elitist" view expressed in San Francisco that small town Americans feel left behind by the economy and are bitter, have no hope that the government will do anything about that, and so they vote on the basis of guns, religion and opposition to "outsiders" (illegal immigrants, gays, etc.)

Rasmussen reports a poll which he says shows that "56% disagree with Obama's comments on small town America." Here is the specific wording of key questions:
2* Obama said that in small towns in Pennsylvania, people “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." Do you agree or disagree?

25% Agree
56% Disagree
19% Not sure

3* Senators Clinton and McCain said Obama’s comments showed he was out of touch with hardworking Americans. Do Obama’s comments reflect an elitist view of small-town America?

45% Yes
37% No
18% Not sure

4* In response, Obama said, “No, I'm in touch. I know exactly what's going on. I know what's going on in Pennsylvania, I know what's going in Indiana, I know what's going in Illinois. People are fed up. They're angry and they're frustrated and they're bitter, and they want to see a change in Washington.” Do you agree or disagree?

56% Agree
32% Disagree
12% Not sure
When reading Rasmussen's interpretation of the results, you have to remember that Rasmussen is a Republican pollster. He shades his comments to make Republicans look better and Democrats look worse. Also, look at question #3. It literally creates the impression of elitism by the way it is written. This is not a poll intended to determine what the voters believe. It is a poll intended to direct the voters towards what the pollster wants them to believe, and as such reinforces the similar message that the media, Hillary Clinton and John McCain all want the voters to believe. Notice how the voters change in question #4 so that 56% agree with Obama and only 32% disagree about whether small town voters feel bitter.

Consider the issue in two parts. First, Obama described how small town voters feel angry, frustrated and bitter, and they want change in Washington. There is strong agreement there, and this is not something that no other Democrat has stated. Here is a very similar statement that Senator Webb made in 2006. It is the second part that has upset a more people. That is the part in which Obama stated people “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."

Question #2 was clearly designed by Rasmussen to conceal that there really is a class-related bitterness that Obama is tapping into, as was Sen. Jim Webb before him. As you watch the various proposals from the administration, McCain and the Republicans for dealing with the current economic crisis, look at who they are helping - it's all money for the banks and investors, while (as Atrios points out:
No mercy shown for those who flee mortgage loans

KENNETH R. HARNEY | Washington Post Writers Group
April 13, 2008

WASHINGTON—The country's two largest sources of mortgage money have a blunt warning for anyone thinking about joining the "walkaway" trend, where homeowners stop making payments and months later send the house keys to their lender: You will feel the pain.

On March 31, Fannie Mae sent out new guidelines to lenders aimed at walkaways and other foreclosure situations. Fannie will prohibit foreclosed borrowers from getting another mortgage through it for five years, unless there are "documented extenuating circumstances." In those cases, the prohibition is three years.
This is designed to protect the lenders from those disrespectful homeowners who have just learned that they are stuck in mortgages that are much higher than the property is actually worth and refuse to pay and bail out the lenders who stupidly overvalued the property to make the high fees for originating a mortgage they then resold and stuck investors with.

The homeowners who were handed an overpriced home are going to be penalized if they don't bail out the lenders holding the fraudulently established mortgage contract. Fraudulently established? What else can you call a mortgage based on inflated valuations and issued just to make the excessive fees mortgage brokers get? They didn't need to worry because they immediately resold the mortgage to investors around the world (because the rating agencies gave the packages of mortgages AAA ratings. If they didn't, the seller with to a rating agency who would give that AAA rating and the first rating agency lost the business and the fees.) and got out from under any loss.

That's protecting the wealthy and their bankers from their own stupidity and greed, sticking the individual homeowner with paying the inflated costs. That's class warfare from the top down.

That's also the same people who are trying to paint Barack Obama as some kind of elitist because he is bright, well-educated and curious. They're also the same very wealthy upper classes trying to sell McCain as a war hero and as a maverick "everyman." That's John McCain, the guy who was sixth from the bottom in his class at Annapolis and whose only post-graduate education was 2 1/2 years technical training in how to fly Navy jets and 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton nearly four decades ago. The John McCain who can't remember that there is a difference between Sunni's and Shiites in Iraq, whose foreign affairs advisers are the same Neocons who got American into the occupation of Iraq, and who frankly admits that he knows little or nothing about economics (and so he depends on the advice of ex-Senator Phil Gramm who was one of the major persons who deregulated investment banks causing first Enron and now the credit melt-down.)

So the media/Republican spin is that we don't want a candidate who is bright, well-educated and curious. We want another (fake) "everyman" like George W. Bush who certainly fails in the well-educated and curious categories.

And the Republicans have just the guy for us. John McCain. Not too smart, a well-deserved reputation for an explosive temper, but carefully branded as a maverick. (See the video.) Another fake "John Wayne" cowboy. The Republicans gave us "cowboy" Reagan from California, "cowboy" Bush from Texas and now they want to hand us "cowboy" McCain from Arizona.

Keep watching the spin from the media and from Rasmussen. They are practicing class warfare on the rest of us.


foreclosurefish said...

I agree with you on the analysis of the questions. Question #4 is obviously from a larger contextual discussion, but it's portrayed as Obama exhibiting elitism by purporting to know what people in small towns think. Coming after the first two questions (especially Question #3), it exposes the whole survey as a set-up.

I'm also amazed at the success of the media branding of McCain as a "maverick." Although he may go against the Republican party line from time to time to side with the Democrats, he really defines the Washington Establishment. A lifelong bureaucrat and politician, he's always for more government intervention, more spending, more wars, and so on. He's only a maverick relative to the Republican party in his willingness to act even more liberal than other Democrats, at times.

Richard said...

They've labeled him as a maverick for at least two reasons. First, it's clearly a cowboy term for someone who is his own man, not someone to go along with the herd. The lone individual guided by his own star is an excellent image.

The cowboy inference fits well too. It labels McCain with the cowboy image the republicans have done very well with. They gave us the cowboy from California, Ronny Reagan, and then they foisted the cowboy from Texas, George Bush, on us.

Reagan got the reputation as a cowboy because of the movie parts he played (he grew up and went to college in Illinois), but Bush had to buy a fake Texas "ranch" to qualify.

The cowboy image has been very good for aspirants for the Republican nomination for President. They're going back to the well again.