Monday, April 14, 2008

Working Class Hero

Working Class Hero

So Barack's in the soup because of a remarkably accurate descrition of the working class Tory politics of small town America. What husband of Obama's Democratic rival has said the exact same thing?
"If [Republicans] could cut funding for Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment, middle-class Americans would see fewer benefits from their tax dollars, feel more resentful paying taxes, and become even more receptive to their appeals for tax cuts and their strategy of waging campaigns on divisive social and cultural issues like abortion, gay rights, and guns."--Bill Clinton, in his 2004 memoirs, My Life

Of course, John Lennon made the same argument 38 years ago.
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and class less and free
But you're still f*king peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be

I really hated censoring that F-bomb, which in the context of the song was completely dramatically justified. But there's these filters out there.

Of course, Lennon was a rock star going through a radical-chic period, and not a politician seeking 51 percent. What Obama's really guilty of is best summed up in this must-read piece about "One Opinion Patriotism." Certain items, particularly religion and guns, are never allowed to be anything less than sacred. Which leads to ridiculous mental images like the idea of Hillary Clinton going hunting.

Here's a clue for the politicians: not everyone worships guns. A lot of folks are indifferent, and some of us hate them. My distaste began in late adolescence when the aforementioned Mr. Lennon was shot, and peaked about a decade later when a redhead dumped me in favor of a guy who worked at the NRA. Strange what drives our issues, huh.

Then some things shifted. I went to grad school at a college that specialized in natural resources and met a lot of students of the hunting environmentalist ilk. I ran for office in rural Iowa and heard about guns a hell of a lot more than I heard about abortion or evolution or gays or any of the God Cluster of issues. Guns are one of these intensity issues, where a minority with extremely strong opinions outweighs a majority with softer views.

Now I'm grappling with this one on a more personal level. I never grew up with a hunting culture -- Dad fished instead -- but my boys have hunters in both halves of the other side of the family. I used to fantasize about "no war toys" but then the reality of parenting hit me and I figured out that if you took away the kid's toy guns they'd just point their fingers and say "bang bang." And with age I've mellowed into a begrudging libertarian attitude of "OK, so maybe you feel about your Second Amendment the same way I feel about my First. Just keep `em away from me, OK?"

Not sure yet how all this plays out for Obama. No big deal in the end, I suspect. It may just reinforce the pre-existing divides. Probably more significant is Obama's refusal to play into Philly's political "street money" culture. People expect to get paid, in cash, for the doorknocking that Iowans do for free, and that history is too deeply rooted for one campaign to change it. He'll still win Philadelphia, of course, but if the margin in the black wards drops from 90% to, say, 70, that's a big hit to the statewide numbers.

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