Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lunch Bucket Democrats vs. Latte Sippers.

The Pennsylvania primary is slowly coming to view. After the Texas and Ohio primary there has been a long tough slog of campaign stories that are like so many biting gnats. There were a few bigger bugs that got into the ointment, like the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Mostly we have been treated with chaff; Hillary’s “sniper-fire” moment, Obama’s movie preferences, TV talking heads and others of the chattering classes opining on Hillary’s need to bow out of the race, what to do about Florida and Michigan.

The rhetoric has gotten overheated, the worst offenders being the “Progressive” blogosphere and MSNBC. Keith Olbermann has joined the rest of the he-man women haters club at MSNBC when he gave a not so “Special Comment” on Hillary. He wrongly co-joined Hillary and the KKK on that broadcast while producing some other rhetorical whoppers during the comment. His “Countdown” has become a shameless pro-Obama zone. If you are not totally in the tank for Obama, you don’t get on his show anymore (except if your name is Rachel Maddow.)

MSNBC distaste for all things Hillary is not much of a surprise. Most of the media hands hate her. Think of her as Al Gore in drag and you get the amount of animosity that Hillary engenders among the progressive elites.

It is the elites of the media and the progressive political class that have fallen for Barack Obama in a hard way. It is not so surprising, he is like them a man of great talent who got to the top of the game via his gift of language. He is one of them, one of the chattering classes. Look at the real pedigree of Obama, not the fluff and nonsense put out in his two books. All along the way he went to all the right schools and joined all the right causes. His education was top-top tier; he got into Harvard Law School and then taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He has led a very charmed life and operated in very charmed circles.

Even his “autobiography” is less a bearing of his soul than a weaving of a political tale. People are now coming out of the wood work to offer a much different story than Barack offered. The story is more and more about privilege and less and less about hard knocks. Barack comes out much more studious and much less wild then he claims. Much of the story in “Dreams of My Father” now seems to be less self-revelation and more self-serving. We are offered a “black” coming of age story that is less tethered to reality and more tethered to fiction. The book is a political document, a pitch to a segment of the public that wants to believe in the story Barack offers. For want of a better term let us call these folks “Latte Sippers.” It is an unfair and derisive label but it does capture the attitude of this cohort.

Another term has been offered is the Creative Class. It is an upper-middle class to nearly wealthy segment of the population. These are people who deal with ideas and concepts; they are socially liberal and politically moderate. Obama offers them a redemptive figure for their guilt. These people so want to prove that we are a post-racial, post-partisan nation. They dearly want to believe that rational thought and cool reason are now paramount. In short they are in deep denial about how the country really works. In their charmed circle there is no overt racism, there is no homophobia, women are judged as equals as a matter of course. The underbelly of this charmed life is that they really do have no skin in the game. None of them have to worry about abortion rights. They have the financial wherewithal to go to Canada to terminated their unwanted pregnancy. None of them lives paycheck to paycheck or has to really worry about getting pummeled to death by anti-gay thugs. There biggest worries are finding the right pre-school for children and the right house help to manage their frantic lives.

Theirs’ is highly thought out life; an information rich existence. Theirs’ is nuanced patriotism. Not for them the bombast of marching bands or flags or God Bless America stickers. They actually have empathy for the feeling of someone like Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright. They feel Barack Obama’s "A More Perfect Union" speech settles the matter. They offer countless explanation of how the black church works and how some of Wrights comments have merit. They go on to say that many of the Wright comments are taken out of context and should be seen for the whole. All of these are worthy arguments and all beside the point.

They are beside the point because they are not reaching the second group in the Democratic Party- the Lunch Bucket Democrats. This cohort used to be the back-bone of the party and the back-bone of the USA. Lately though the back-bone has gotten osteoporosis. Good paying blue-collar jobs have left the USA and decimated the union men and women who occupied them. Gone are the days of Ozzie and Harriet, both husband and wife now work to support the middle-income middle class life style. For almost a decade real wages have been stagnant; in the Bush years real wages have actually declined. For the lower reaches of the working class it has been worse. Poverty has increased and far too many people work in crappy retail and other service jobs that pay low wages and offer no benefits. Far too many families are one paycheck away from disaster.

For these folks there is no grand political compromise; they are getting screwed and they know it. These are Hillary’s supporters lock, stock, and barrel. They are the ones who delivered the crushing defeat to Obama in Ohio. They are the ones he failed to pander to with his NAFTA double speak. They want a fighter not a smooth talker. They want rock-ribbed patriotism not nuance. They are the ones who can not, will not understand any preacher saying “God Damn America.”

Barack really does not get these people. He never really had to deal with them for any length of time. He got a glimpse of their world when he worked as a community organizer but even that was a small skewed subset. Barack mostly worked with people of color, organizing the South Side of Chicago. He might have run across some old-school union organizers but only as a passing fancy. Intellectually, culturally, spiritually he was not part of their world. None of these of these union people suffered problems of “authenticity” or needed to find self-realization. They had more prosaic issues like paying for college and health care. They have bills to pay and are working two jobs each just to support themselves. They are afraid that their children will end up worse off then they are.
Thiers are bread and butter issues, they want straight talk. They don’t want to hear about transformation, they don’t want to hear about post-partisanship. They want to hear about how the candidate is going to help them and their children. All their lives they have worked hard and played by the rules. They just want simple justice. They want security. They want their children to better off then they were. These people are not slam-dunks for Obama. He has consistently failed to reach them. These rust-belt denizens are nobody’s give-me. It speaks to Obama failing to understand them that he would say they would go to him in the general.

These are the so called “Regan Democrats” and they are being slowly turned off and turned away by the Obama crowd. Their sense of fair play is being abused by Barack’s stance on Florida and Michigan. Their patriotism is being mocked by Obama’s connection to Wright and the Weather Underground guy. They know a seedy operator when they see one and Rezko definitely fits the bill. Obama has still failed to explain himself in any of these issues. His supporters have been even worse. They have been overbearing jerks. Their tone has been demeaning; they have issued gross appeals to getting on an inevitable bandwagon of hope with out offering any real details.

Barack’s younger supporters just don’t understand how many times the older, less affluent voters have been burned by some one saying “trust me.” Regan Democrats believe in “Trust but verify” Again they have seen far too many snake-oil salesmen to trust any glad-handing pol. They do not give a fig about position papers, nor websites, nor grand ideas. They hate being called “low information voters” they know this is a politically correct way of calling them ignorant. They want to know about Obama’s character not his stance on the war.

This is where the good Senator has failed. In part, it has been deliberate; Barack has ardently strived to be a Tabula Rosa. He has been the political equivalent of an etch-a-sketch- you get to draw pretty much what you want on his screen. Problem is, the drawing does not last. The other problem, as Wright proves, is that Barack is no longer in control of the drawing. There was already a Republican meme questioning Obama’s patriotism because of the lapel pin nonsense and the hand-over heart silliness. Reverend Wright just added fuel to that fire. The man gifted a freaking forest to be exact. We also have the weirdo religion aspect to look at again. The Muslim angle was always a non-starter; but this black empowerment and black liberation theology is a totally different matter.

The slime machine is already in high gear. Unfortunately it has cropped up in Larry Johnsons’ No Quarter. In a featured post by someone named “Fleaflicker” we are treated to an appeal to the reptile brain. In a sloppy, disjointed, poorly sourced, and fallacious post we are invited to fear and hate. No link will be provided; it is a horrid post that should have never seen the light of day. But it is a small taste of the kitchen sinks that will be tossed Obama’s way by Republican 527’s in the general if he is the Democratic nominee. Barack will be painted as a combination of Osama Bin Laden and Huey Newton. He will be cast as an undercover operative of the New Black Panthers. You will be seeing You Tube after You Tube of angry black men screaming “kill whitey” being linked to Obama via Rev Wright. Every ill-tempered bit of vitriol every uttered by Wright, or the Weathermen, or god only knows who else will be repeated Ad Nauseum Infinitum. Once again our candidate will be forced to play defense. Once again the Democrat will have to try to torpedo legions of swift-boats.

Maybe Barack will make his move for the lunch bucket crowd after North Carolina. He needs the black vote and hence the black church to win in N.C. Look for a reappraisal of the good Reverend by Barack once that primary is done. Obama will have to do something to wink and nod to the black voters to say “look I got to pacify these kooky white folk” It will be a high-wire act tying to keep his black follows energized while somehow reassuring whites that his 20 year association with Wright was strictly spiritual. He has to come up with something better than the crazy uncle explanation. Barack is probably now regretting that he did not follow his grandfather in to the Unitarian-Universalist church. U-U’s might be weird but they are mostly harmless.

The challenge for Barack is really making a play for the Regan Democrats. He really needs to court them. His record here is atrocious. He lost John Edwards easy endorsement because he ignored Edward’s core issues of poverty and a fair shake for the working stiff. He angered Elizabeth Edwards with his health care stance. For a supposed unifier he really manages to irritate and antagonize people. It is an odd thing for a man who started out his career as a community organizer. How did he develop such a tin ear for certain sections of the population? Why is the man so obviously arrogant? There really seems to be a sense of entitlement that exudes from the man. Outside the embrace of the black community and the black church he just does not connect with the working class. He seems to have a real disdain for the rough-and-tumble that is part and parcel of the blue-collar world. There is a disconnect that is profound and dangerous especially with the electorate in such a foul mood.

There is some light for Barack in PA. He is gaining among males a 12 point shift over the last week. But polls are very dicey this year and the election in PA is still a long way off. The real question for Barack is how badly he will loose in PA not if he can win. The crystal ball is otherwise clouded and cracked. Clinton is definitely behind in the delegate count and either behind or ahead in the popular vote depending on if you count FL and MI. We are talking tiny percentiles either way; less than 1%.
There is an almost even split in the Democratic Party. Hillary has the old-line union vote and the FDR coalition. She does well with the security crowd and lower income voters. Barack on the other hand has youth, the creative class, and the black vote. Clinton does much better among Latinos with only the Latino youth breaking Obama’s way. Except for the black vote Obama has very upper-class, very educated cohort voting for him.

Without the black vote Obama would not have a prayer. It carried most of the south for him and almost did in Hillary in TX. Hillary was saved by one of the stronger and expanding sets of the lunch-bucket crowd: the Latinos. Look at the statistics of all the people who are part of the middle-income cohort, the Latinos are least economically secure. They are middle-income but not yet middle class. These are the people who broke massively for Clinton. The question is, why is the great unifier not getting through to these voters? Why is Hillary better able to communicate to these voters? With the economy as the major issue in the 2008 election Obama better find the answer to the riddle of the lunch bucket set. Once again, just like with Bush the elder it could be “it’s the economy stupid” all over again.
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