Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 31, 2008
By: Hilzoy

FERRARO AND RACE...

Geraldine Ferraro wrote a horrible op-ed in the Boston Globe. She says a number of things about the effects of sexism on the Clinton campaign, which I do not propose to consider here. But she also claims that the concerns of Reagan Democrats have not been heard:

"As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama's historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you're white you can't open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory "Our Time Has Come" they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.

Whom he chooses for his vice president makes no difference to them. That he is pro-choice means little. Learning more about his bio doesn't do it. They don't identify with someone who has gone to Columbia and Harvard Law School and is married to a Princeton-Harvard Law graduate. His experience with an educated single mother and being raised by middle class grandparents is not something they can empathize with. They may lack a formal higher education, but they're not stupid. What they're waiting for is assurance that an Obama administration won't leave them behind."

I'm going to accept Ferraro's claims about Reagan Democrats for the purposes of this post, not because I believe them to be true, but because I'm interested in the state of mind that would lead her to write this. I'm sure that some such people exist -- when Ferraro says that they have stopped her on the street, I have no reason to doubt her. I am also sure that her all Reagan Democrats are not as she describes them, both because no such simple picture could cover such a diverse group of people, and because hers seems to me slanted in some specific ways. But leaving aside the accuracy of her sociology, and focussing on Reagan Democrats as she imagines them:

Reagan Democrats, Ferraro assures us, do not expect to be treated fairly by Obama. Why, exactly, is that? "Because they're white" isn't enough of an answer; they have to have some reason to expect that Obama, in particular, will treat whites unfairly. Why might they think this? Ferraro says it's because they don't think he understands them or their problems. His positions won't help here, she says, which is a pity: one of the first places I'd look for reassurance is at a candidate's positions, and the issues he has made a priority. Neither will his biography: also a pity, since a lot of it consists of sticking up for working men and women. They can't empathize with his upbringing by middle-class whites, though Ferraro doesn't tell us why not.

It's odd that Reagan Democrats, as Ferraro describes them, are so uninterested in a candidate's history and positions, and so curiously unable to empathize. Still, Ferraro tells us that there is one way to reach them: they are, she says, waiting for an assurance that he won't leave them behind.

You'd think that this might have done the trick:

"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze -- a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns -- this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding."

Though Ferraro says that Reagan Democrats want assurance that Obama understands their problems, apparently this isn't enough. Nor is the fact that Obama has gone out of his way to have an inclusive message, to reach out to all kinds of people, and to try to treat everyone with respect.

But if neither his positions, the things he says, his biography, or quite explicit assurances can reach the Reagan Democrats Ferraro imagines, then what could reach them? Frankly, it's hard to imagine.

And what is it about Obama that makes it impossible for him to reassure Reagan Democrats, whatever he says, whatever he does, and whatever positions he holds? Ferraro says this: "They don't identify with someone who has gone to Columbia and Harvard Law School and is married to a Princeton-Harvard Law graduate." But that can't be right: surely Reagan Democrats don't have such a finely-grained view of the distinctions* between Ivy League law schools that while Obama qualifies as an elitist, someone who went to Wellesley and Yale Law School and is married to a Georgetown-Yale Law grad counts as the salt of the earth.

It's very hard to avoid the conclusion that Obama cannot reach the Reagan Democrats in Geraldine Ferraro's head, that they don't think he will treat them fairly or understand them or their problems, because he is black.

Consider this passage from her op-ed: "when he said in South Carolina after his victory "Our Time Has Come" they believe he is telling them that their time has passed." I went back and looked at Obama's South Carolina speech. Here's the only place in which Obama said anything about our time coming:

"Over two weeks ago, we saw the people of Iowa proclaim that our time for change has come. But there were those who doubted this country's desire for something new - who said Iowa was a fluke not to be repeated again.

Well, tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina."

The "we" whose time for change has come is not blacks, in this speech. It's all of Obama's supporters, black and white. (It's proclaimed by the people of Iowa, for heavens' sake; not the people of East Saint Louis or Newark.) But for some reason, the Reagan Democrats in Ferraro's head didn't hear it that way. When Obama says "we", he couldn't possibly mean a "we" that includes them. He couldn't mean "the people of this country", or "the people who want change", or even "my supporters". They heard him say: our time -- blacks' time -- has come. Your time -- whites' time -- has passed.

And since that's just self-evidently not what Obama said, I find it very hard to see how anyone could have interpreted it in that way if race was not already on his or her mind.

***

I do not, at this juncture, want to get into the question whether or not these Reagan Democrats are racist. For one thing, they exist in Geraldine Ferraro's head, and there's a limit to how much we can infer about them. For another, I think that the word "racism" has outlived its usefulness. Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why:

"There is peculiar bit of jujitsu that white public figures have employed recently whenever they're called to account for saying something stupid about black people. When the hard questions start flying, said figure deflects them by claiming that any critical interrogation is tantamount to calling them a racist, which they most assuredly are not. [There follows a long list of people saying outrageous things and then reacting with horror at the thought that they might be racist.]

All of this leaves me wondering, Who does a guy have to lynch around here to get called a racist? If twice claiming that a presidential candidate is only in the race because he's black doesn't make you racist; if shouting, "He's a nigger! He's a nigger" from stage doesn't make you racist; if calling an accomplished black woman "the cleaning lady" doesn't make you a racist, what does?"

Coates is right: this is just a game. And it's a game I have no particular interest in playing. If people want to redefine the word "racist" so that only actual slaveholders count, let them. I'm more interested in the "critical reflection" Coates rightly says that the "I'm not a racist" move is designed to shut down; in asking: does race play a role in someone's thought and action that it ought not to play? rather than in asking: does that role reach whatever bar of horrificness s/he wants to say it would have to meet to qualify as "racist"?

It seems obvious to me that race does play a role that it should not play in the thought and conduct of Ferraro's imagined Reagan Democrats. It's not just that they listen to speeches that have nothing to do with race and imagine that they do; that when they hear Obama say things like "our time for change has come", they assume, on the basis of nothing whatsoever, and in flat contradiction to what Obama is actually talking about, that he is dissing whites. And it's not just that they find themselves in the peculiar position of thinking that Obama's Harvard Law degree makes him an elitist with whom they cannot identify, whereas Clinton's Yale Law degree has no such unfortunate effects. It's that race makes it impossible for them to seriously consider one of the two candidates for the Presidency of the United States.

This is an incredibly important election. Our country is facing unusually serious challenges. And the choice between the two candidates is unusually stark. Obama and McCain differ on almost everything: the conduct of the war, foreign policy, the economy, health care, the works. This is a choice we should take very seriously, and make on the best possible grounds, after thinking as clearly and carefully as we can.

Ferraro's imagined Reagan Democrats cannot do that. Whatever Obama says, they will see him through the prism of their fears. There is no assurance he can give them, and nothing he can say that they will not be able to hear as threatening to leave them behind. (Really: anyone who can hear what Obama said in his South Carolina speech as "telling them that their time has passed" can project race onto anything.) There is nothing Obama can say that can reach them. And that is true just because he is black.

As I said, I have precisely no interest in debating whether or not this is racist. Personally, I think it is. But at this point, that question has become a distraction. Whether or not Reagan Democrats, as Ferraro imagines them, qualify as racists is, to my mind, much less important than convincing them that race is playing a role in their decisions that it ought not to play. Because the consequences of their decisions for all of us, black, white, Hispanic, Asian-American, native, whoever, could be enormous.

Ta-Nehisi again:

"Racism has tangible costs for blacks and whites. Deciding your president on something as stupid as race could mean (for instance) that you have less access to health care, that your children work in a stagnating economy, that your neighbors kids will die in a stupid war. Or maybe not. Maybe the white guy is completely right. But if you're a racist, you will never know.

Let me be utterly candid her and speak for myself. I grew up in de facto segregation. I didn't have a white classmate until I was in high school. I didn't have any deep relationships with anyone who wasn't black until I was in my early 20s. I also had some very retrograde views about gays (I'm probably most ashamed of that). When I started working in Washington, I had some truly beautiful colleagues, many of whom I'm friends with today. But when I started the gig, I wouldn't hang out with them after work; I thought something might happen if I got drunk around them. That didn't change until my job hired another brother and he informed me of how ignorant I was. A short time later, I moved to New York, and was shocked to live in a place where the black/white dichotomy didn't really exist. I mean it's here, but not in the same way.

My point is this--it's quite likely that had I not been shaken out of my ignorance, had I not let go of my prejudice, you wouldn't be reading this right now. It was not simply ethical for me to become a more open person--it was to my advantage. I know that the math isn't the same for white people, but the point, I think, still stands. Let me end with a nod to America's greatest past time. The Boston Red Sox were the last team in pro baseball to integrate. And for their belief in the grand purity of the Great White Race, they sacrificed a shot at Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and probably a World Series or two. White racism rewarded them with decades of heartbreak. Not saying racism was the only factor. But it didn't help."

If we elect McCain because a majority of Americans decide, on the merits, that he is the best candidate, well and good. I would disagree, but, well, that happens. But if we elect McCain because some Americans cannot see past race -- if we allow ourselves to become the political equivalent of the 1940s-50s Boston Red Sox -- that would be a terrible, terrible thing.

***

* Footnote: this phrasing ("surely Reagan Democrats don't have such a finely-grained view of the distinctions* between Ivy League law schools ...") deliberately chosen because it does not make any claim about whether it would actually be right to put Harvard Law ahead of Yale; just that it would not make sense to attribute the view that it is, and therefore that Obama is an out of touch elitist while Clinton is not, to Reagan Democrats. I have no view on the comparative merits of Ivy law schools. (Just trying to avoid needless arguments here ...)

Hilzoy 11:33 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (129)

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Comments

Good lord, what a fantastic post. Thank you.

Posted by: August J. Pollak on May 31, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

No comment, really, just love your posts and this is a particularly good one. Fear of the black man runs very, very deep in American culture, and you're right: Obama cannot ever 'score' with Ferraro's perpetual motion goalposts. He's (we're) just going to have to keep grinding away with what we've got until the Ferraros, well, until they die off.

On another tack, up to this nomination cycle the only thing I knew of Ferraro was that she ran for Vice President once. It's enlightening to see the mask come off as her political centeredness (along with the Clintons, the DLC, etc.) gets left in the dust by a country ready to engage a new paradigm. So in a sense one might do a little shifting of emphasis, and re-attribute her statements as a projection of her personal anxieties, rather than some mythical bloc of 'Reagan Democrats.' Stuck in the past, indeed.

Posted by: Conrad's Ghost on May 31, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I second the thank-you. This sorely needed to be said, and with just this sort of patient clarity.

Posted by: John B. on May 31, 2008 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Very nice post. I hope to someday live in a country where we can have Presidential candidates of any race or sex, and discuss more pressing issues than our collective yet separate sense of grievance.

Posted by: thersites on May 31, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Increasingly HRC is running like a Republican and adopting their spin points against Obama. The game here is the "elitist" accusation, which as Eric Alterman, among many others, points out has been routinely used against every Democrat since Adlai Stevenson, even as in the case of John Edwards, best known in the media for expensive haircuts, where it makes no sense whatsoever.

This now meaningless term is being applied to Obama by Republicans and HRC operatives like Ferraro; however, they don't seem able to explain how a guy who spent part of his life as community organizer in Chicago's South Side could remain oblivious to the problems of ordinary people.

Posted by: john sherman on May 31, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK


WTF? Geraldine Ferraro was on a ticket that lost 49 of 50 states to Reagan.

And Mondale went to the University of Minnesota law school, so I guess the Big Ten is out as well.

Posted by: MikeKC on May 31, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Very good post, although I hate to say that in our society today, I sadly doubt a black person could reach the heights Obama has scaled without an Ivy League imprimatur (e.g., Patrick, Booker, etc.). However, that doesn't justify in any way Ferraro's absurd comments.

Posted by: Vincent on May 31, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

The more Ferraro elaborates her specious theories, the gladder I am that she didn't win in 1984. I think Mondale would've made a great president (certainly far better than Reagan), but jeez! What's wrong with Ferraro?

Posted by: Piehole on May 31, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent points. Thank you.

Not only were the people Ferraro hearing things in Obama's speech, "they believe he is telling them that their time has passed."

Is there a benign interpretation of that? They believed he was telling them that the time of non-college educated people had passed? They believed he was telling them that the time of working-class people had passed? Obama is threatening to take away the famous historical privileges and advantages of those groups?

Uh, ... right. Uh-hunh.

Maybe it's a distracting rat-hole to label that racist, but it's sure something.

Posted by: biggerbox on May 31, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK


Sigh. I always miss Kevin. He would never have posted anything this ridiculous (or this long, thankfully). Hilzoy's tome of a post is just more far-left screeching by same people sitting in nearly all-white states pretending they're anthropologist watching working class Dems in red and purple states from the outside like researchers observe experimental rats. Well I'm one of the rats. I'm a working class Dem from North Carolina, and I can tell you unequivocally that Ferraro's op-ed was dead right on. My family has been heavily involved with the Democratic party for its entire life. They all live in NC, and they all voted for Hillary for exactly the reasons Ferraro described - and no they're not a bunch of racists. You people go to your liberal dinner parties and your clubs and you sit around over flavored martinis and convince yourselves that you have some special insight into the minds of working class Dems in red & purple states; states you've never been to, but hey you met someone from there in grad school, so heck he/she must be representative. Sorry Charlie, they're not. As for Conrad's Ghost wishing we would just die off. Well that's a pretty typical attitude of Obama supporters. It's the thought process of spoiled child, which, if I can play anthropologist for a moment, seems to be Obama's base. To hilzoy and the rest of you, try actually GOING out and meeting one of these blue-collar Dems (I know, ewwwww). But if you could ever tear yourself away from your yoga class, I think you'll be shocked to find that they're not as stupid or as racist as you think. And I know most of you think it's unfair that your trust funds don't allow you more say in an election (we really should get that law changed), don't overdose on your anti-depressants just yet. Obama will probably prevail in the end. Which personally for me is fine, because ironically, he's the antithesis of his supporters: a grownup.

Posted by: Obama supporter on May 31, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

As a retiree, I'm not concerned with losing out to some minority who is more privileged than I. However, in my experience as a manager, I have seen examples where whites were treated less well than minorities. For example, my boss told me to hire a minority to fill a professional level opening. I hired a Chinese-American woman and was chewed out for doing so. When my boss said "hire a minority" he meant "hire a black person." (In fact, there were no black applicants for that job.)

Affirmative action produces many cases where whites -- especially white men --- lose out to more privileged minorities. The Reagan Democrats who fear that they will lose out to less-qualified minorities have a basis for that fear. (Of course, minorities lose out due to racism, but IMHO Reagan Democrats are less aware of the racism than of how they are harmed by affirmative action.)

Posted by: David on May 31, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for calling bullshit on this.

What you see in Geraldine Ferraro is a mentally closed system. She cannot look at a black politician without believing that he is an advocate for black people at the expense of whites, and thus everything he says, even "and" or "the", *must* be "playing the race card." Hence the "our time has come" falsehood. But evidence won't matter for her. Any gesture or scrap of utterance from Obama that sounds remotely black or relevant black people is going to be enough to fuel her paranoia.

The other part of the closed system is that these folks interpreting disagreement as oppression. They say something stupid and wrong, we say that's stupid and wrong, they say look at me I'm being oppressed as a white person. Ferraro has been happily playing this game for months.

Posted by: Colin on May 31, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Did I fail to say "I am talking about the Reagan Democrats as Ferraro imagines them" enough?

Posted by: hilzoy on May 31, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

hilzoy, i know you said you didn't want an argument, but harvard and yale are both teh suck. columbia is where it's at.

go lions!

your pal,
blake

p.s. graffito seen at 116th st. subway station:

harvard man: at harvard, we always wash our hands after using the restroom.

columbia man: at columbia, we don't piss on our hands.

Posted by: blake on May 31, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

It is not affirmative action, which is all but dead especially in recessionary times.

Reagan Democrats are baby boomers who want Obama's voters to pay for all the entitlements boomers voted themselves.

If you ask urban blacks, "Do you want to pay for all the entitlements that white baby boomers voted for themselves?" Most urban Blacks would say no.

You find the same with new Mexican immigrants, they would never agree to cover the boomer entitlement costs if given the choice.

This is really more of a boomer vs Gen X than a racist problem.

Geraldine Ferraro is one of the pols who promised the boomers all these goodies. Hillary the same. These folks built their entire careers on promising all sort of great programs for boomers and few of Obama's constituents are on board with that program.

I say to Obama, though you are likely a fool, go after the Boomers, tooth and nail and you win the election.


Posted by: Matt on May 31, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy, I don't usually comment here, but I just wanted to thank you for a very thoughtful, engaging post. I especially agree with the fruitlessness of the way racists parry the term "racist." Great analysis.

Posted by: cnic on May 31, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Question to Obama supporter: I to am a white male working class voter who supports Obama. I too have members in my family (all 50+) who will not vote for him. My question would be, what would you call them? Ignoramt? Racist? what?. I think there is a bit of the first two involved. Really just racism since that is ignorance. What do you attribute to the view?

Posted by: Mike in Chicago on May 31, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sigh. I always miss Kevin. He would never have posted anything this ridiculous (or this long, thankfully).

Yes! I agree! And I'm sure you had much more non-ridiculous things to say but your comment was too long with no breaks and I have the attention span of a three year old.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on May 31, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems.

They (of whom she speaks or imagines) don't believe he understands them because HRC and Ferraro have been campaigning in their communities for months specifically driving the meme that Obama does not understand them. They have been told ad nauseum that only Hillary "gets" them. This is very much like the Libby telling Judith Miller about WMD's and then have the White House quote Judith Miller.

Posted by: jcricket on May 31, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Here in the Sierra Foothills and on a recent visit to Mainline Philly, sadly, I find Ferraro spot on in her sense of Reagan Dems.

Posted by: Foothill Progressive on May 31, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still trying to figure out why a number of people (usually encountered as blog posters or commenters) seem to want to be able to posit racist arguments but somehow are angry at the idea someone might think them racist?

Many of us saw the videos of West Virginians being interviewed about the primary. One woman in particular said that although she wasn't a racist, she doesn't think she can trust a person of another race to run the country. Nice lady or not, that is an openly, explicitly racist view.

It isn't snarling or mean or Klan-like, but, good grief, that should be enough to define your views as racist.

I mean, if you're going to proudly espouse views rooted in openly racist logics, why is it worse then to be considered a racist?

What worse thing does it add to "be" a racist if you're already pushing racist views?

Posted by: El Cid on May 31, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"The "we" whose time for change has come is not blacks, in this speech. ... But for some reason, the Reagan Democrats in Ferraro's head didn't hear it that way."

I don't think Ferraro actually believed that Obama's "we" meant "blacks". It's too ridiculous. But she was pretending to think that "some" people might have thought that - probably just a writer's convention, or invention, just to make a point. A dumbass point, but whatever...

I also think the term "racism" is almost meaningless. Everyone is racist, by the most common definitions. Arguing about what is and isn't racist is a waste of time.

Importantly, what the hell is Ferraro doing? She ran this by Hillary, right? ... WTF? She's a complete idiot, and if Hillary's people thought this would help them, jeez...

Posted by: flubber on May 31, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Call many (but by no means all)of the Reagan Dems by their original name and perhaps some things become clearer. Wallace Dems.

Posted by: jonst on May 31, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Notice the Ms. Ferraro never mentioned the strong majority of women in Hillary's campaign. Are these women sexist?

Posted by: Matt on May 31, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

thripshaw for president!

hilzoy: Did I fail to say "I am talking about the Reagan Democrats as Ferraro imagines them" enough?

For some people, you can say it as many times as you like and it won't sink in. Criticize even a hypothetical moron and you're an elitist. Imply that racism might tinge their thinking even slightly and you're playing the race card. You can't win.

Would G. Ferraro have been nominated for VP if they hadn't decided they wanted a woman on the ticket?

signed,
thersites, the gas-pumping, dishwashing, college dropout elitist whose father was shitcanned by a major corporation for siding with the union

Posted by: thersites on May 31, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Obama supporter, ignoring the unbelievable litany of stereotypes in your own post, I think you've missed hilzoy's point completely. The question is, why is it that the people that Ferraro's talking about -- and remember, hilzoy is clearly skeptical that these people exist -- why don't they trust Obama? Ferraro points out that they don't care about his positions or his upbringing; his educational background is really no different than Clinton's; and he's certainly never said anything that suggests that whites' (or anyone else's) "time has passed." So the question is, what is it about Obama that the people Ferraro describes don't like?

I take it you consider yourself one of those people. So that's the question to you: why don't you trust him? And remember again, no one is accusing you of being "racist." It just looks, from reading Ferraro's column, like race must be involved in an unacceptable way. It is important that we understand what's really going on, for the sake of the Party. You clearly feel strongly about this. Please, explain why you don't trust Obama. (And really -- I'm not trying to argue with you here. I really am trying to understand, because hilzoy's post made a lot of sense to me.)

Posted by: johnson on May 31, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Working class Whites' prejudice is not against elitists, their prejudice is against losing privileges their race has historically entitled them to. The media reinforce this misconceived prejudice with welfare abuse by minorities, costs to local governments for providing humanitarian services to immigrants and other such stories that target the fears of a class that has seen their portion of the economic pie diminish. The media has done a good job framing their economic decline as a result of increased civil rights and social welfare programs rather than the changes to the political economy that favors collectivized capital over labor.

Ferraro plays to these Whites' prejudices just like GE does, for political and economic gain. She offers nothing but condescension. If Ferraro's preferred candidate were to be the candidate for president, her elitist condescension would be used to persuade these same White voters to support the Republican candidate, who would make a much stronger appeal to the native racism and fears of loss of privilege that cloud this dominant population's attitude.

Posted by: Brojo on May 31, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

hilzoy quotes Ferraro:

"Reagan Democrats [are] not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems [...] What they're waiting for is assurance that an Obama administration won't leave them behind."

Obama addressed this matter over two months ago in his "More Perfect Union" speech:

"... a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years [...] But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union."

These two passages make it pretty clear to me that (1) Obama is genuinely concerned about the problems and concerns of working class white folks -- a.k.a. "Reagan Democrats" -- and compassionately recognizes the legitimacy of their anger, which has been cynically manipulated into resentment against black folks, by politicians seeking to divide and conquer working class voters and (2) Ferraro, on behalf of Hillary Clinton, is one of those politicians who "plays the race card" in order to divide white working class folks from black working class folks in order to gain power.

Obama is promoting unity. Ferraro is promoting division.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 31, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Great post Hilzoy!!
I try to imagine Ferraro reading it, but my guess is that she has one closed mind.

The comments are revealing. Several rants on affirmative action, which is off point because there is no daylight between HRC & BHO positions of affirmative action. If you are an affirmative action single issue there is a big fat Republican Party waiting for your vote.

A long 12:29 fact-free rant on how us elitists (are we?) don't know what the hell we are talking about. The writer does not engage the arguments Hilzoy puts forward, but instead howls incoherently in the fact-free zone.

Here are some racial/sexual observations from a life lived in pro-Obama 90% white Washington state.

I remember as a child (60's) seeing some black people driving a Cadillac. That seemd wrong to me, and at the same I knew my reaction was wrong. I was about 9 at the time.

At my DC college (mid 80's) the lunchroom was 100% segregated. Blacks and whites sat at separate tables with no mixing ever. Occasionally I imagined trying to break the barrier, but I had neither the nerve nor the social skills.

While working for a big corporation an older purchasing agent was horrified that she might be asked to travel with a black mechanical engineer. She told me this with absolute confidence I would sympathize with her plight.

At the same corporation a female engineering manager was rising quickly. In my observation she was obviously exceptionally talented. The older white male managers to a man were 'knew' that only preferences could account for her rise.

At my present workplace a black mechanic was fired several years ago for several reasons, but mostly because he was sloppy and caused a lot of rework. He wrongly attributes his firing to racism and is threatening to sue.

A very close friend of mine (Chinese immigrant) was sued on racial discrimination grounds when (as building manager) she raised the rest on a Hispanic family. The rise was handled badly (rent stagnated for years and was adjusted to par in a single big jump) but race was not an issue. This experience has dramatically hardened her attitudes toward racial preferences, and she stopped bonding with America.

These stories are what we all have to deal with. My anger is reserved for those who see the racism / sexism divide in a rigid and one-sided way. Geraldine Ferraro sure seems like one of the latter.

Posted by: tomtom on May 31, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

That was a little long for someone also listening to cspan :)

"Who does a guy have to lynch around here to get called a racist?"

This strikes me as a little shrill with respect to anything I've seen this campaign season among official campaign staff or candidate supporters. I've seen people say things that are not politic, by accident, by inexperience, and by personal bias. But more than anything I see people willing to believe the worst about other members of their own party and inflate these charges into some of the ugliest career ending media events of the primary season.

Posted by: asdf on May 31, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Reagan Democrats" don't identify with a poor black kid who went to Columbia, Harvard and Harvard Law School but they do identify with a middle class white woman who went to Wellesly and Yale Law School and married a Yale Law School classmate who went to Georgetown?
Right!

Posted by: Mamzic on May 31, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Is not Mr. Obama the child of a black man and a white woman? Is it not just as likely that he would have empathy and understanding of the "white" perspective as he would the black?
I, as most are I hope, am unconcerned about his racial heritage. His ideas and character are enough for me. I trust him to make decisions on what is best for all Americans white, black,latino, whatever.

Posted by: Bob in Redding on May 31, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with "affirmative action" and other such "civil rights" nostrums is that they have become means of papering over underlying social and economic problems without really solving them.

What is needed is better healthcare, better housing, better education, better environment, and so forth - these benefits to be distributed fairly to all - share and share alike.

The underlying philosophy should be that of Harry Hopkins of the New Deal: try something; if it works, fine; otherwise drop it and try something else.

This process involves challenging basic assumptions; including those associated with both "liberal" and "conservative" persuasion.

Posted by: Hepburn on May 31, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent, excellent post. Thank you...

Posted by: Daniel Secrest on May 31, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yada yada yada. Ferraro is writing about classism. Writing poorly, mind you. But it is about classism. You know, "bitter." Obama nailed the bitterness. That is what Ferraro is writing about. Poorly.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

"I believe Obama's big challenge this fall will be to assuage the economic anxieties of working class whites, lest they fall (yet again!) to the siren call of GOP cultural fear-mongering."

GOP ? Yeah, right. Try HRC.

Let me spell it out for you Clinton supporters:

The only way that Obama will kiss your asses enough is if he changes his gender and skin color and starts calling himself Hillary.

I'm sorry, but this shit has got to stop. I can't even tell HRC supporters from Republicans any more. It's really that bad.

If you don't think that Obama has the interest of working class people, white, black, yellow, tan, or green, in his heart, then you suffer from intentional ignorance. This is the same kind of ignorance displayed by a lot of Bush voters in the 2004 election. Just bury your head in the sand and pretend that this is all just another sporting event, and then suck on it when you lose your job and can't get health insurance. You'll have deserved every thing you get for treating this election like it's some kind of stupid game.

I've seen numerous posts from Clinton supporters on various blogs, this one included and MyDD especially, where they do nothing but threaten to take down Obama in the fall because of some perceived injustice suffered at the hands of Obama. What kind of flaming narcissistic asshole posts comments like that while still claiming to be a Democrat ?

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on May 31, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ferraro's piece is, at best, jumbled -- and it includes a convenient bit of revisionism:

... I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama's historic campaign...

I must've missed that statement, because I don't remember any controversy over remarks about the influence of black supporters on his campaign. In fact, I don't remember her making *any* remarks along those lines. What I do remember, though is her saying that, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

I also remember her saying, "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

But I'll go with her on one of the points she makes about Reagan Democrats -- or one of the segments of Reagan Democrats that have been at the heart of considerable discussion during the campaign: "What they're waiting for is assurance that an Obama administration won't leave them behind." I don't doubt that there's something to this, but I'd note two things. First, this is a legitimate concern held by pretty much every single voting demographic (Latinos, pro-choice voters, senior citizens,..., etc.), so there's nothing particularly unique about wanting this assurance. But Ferraro neglects to point out a central fact: the various folks who reside in this group -- white, blue-collar Appalachian folks who've worked in mines, steel mills, & manufacturing -- have *already* been left behind. Those jobs left a long time ago, during previous administrations (and even those who might think that the net effects of NAFTA -- under Clinton -- were positive, there's absolutely no question that the results have hit these Reagan Democrats especially hard), and nothing's come along to replace them. Certainly not anything that approaches the wages & benefits they were seeing before.

So they have a right to be skeptical about any candidate. But she seems to want them to focus that skepticism exclusively on Obama, because he's got an agenda that's specifically going to privilege blacks over whites. Or maybe her point is that he needs to prove that he doesn't have such an agenda -- an interesting position in which to put a candidate. Either way,this is nothing short of paranoia.

Finally, and for what it's worth, I don't get the sense the Ferraro is representative of Clinton's supporters -- and not even Clinton supporters with whom she shares the same demographic. When you support a candidate in a contest that's gone on as long as this one, and a candidate who comes as close as Clinton has (and let's not kid ourselves -- this has been especially close), you have every right to be disappointed -- and even angry. I'm just not prepared to believe that this is as much (or even at all) about race for many of those supporters as it seems to be for Ferraro. And I'm not convinced that they won't vote Democratic in the general, even if they lack the enthusiasm they had for their preferred candidate.

Posted by: junebug on May 31, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I recently had a conversation with an 'angry white blue collar' neighbor that tells it like it is.

He said: "I'm not a racist, but I'm not going to have a nigger in the white house."

It's pretty sad, but I'm afraid that for most of the 'angry blue collar' vote that's the bottom line.

Posted by: Buford on May 31, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy, this is a superb post. It was clear to me and to careful readers that you were talking about Ferraro's fantasy of "Reagan Democrats" rather than any actually existing humans. You were asking why Ferraro would hypothesize the existence of a group of people with the characteristics she describes, and noting that those characteristics amount to a description of a group of people who cannot even hear what Obama says, let alone vote for him, because he is black. And what you are saying is that for people like Ferraro, who imagine such a group of people to exist, their reaction ought to involve persuading such hypothetical people to listen to Obama and support him despite the fact that he is black, rather than conjuring up and magnifying imaginary slights these imaginary people imagine Obama to have committed.

I think the way "Obama supporter" carelessly misunderstands your post as a condescending analysis of actually existing white working-class Democrats is in some ways akin to the kind of projection Ferraro is engaging in. There's a kind of slippage involved, where people's pre-existing bugaboos just hurdle over whatever is actually being discussed and come right to the fore. Geraldine Ferraro no doubt hears "our time has come" and thinks to herself "my time has passed," but that has a lot to do with the fact that she's pretty old and is clearly worried that her time has passed. But in this, as with the race issue, Ferraro (or rather the invisible Reagan Democrats she claims to ventriloquize -- not sure why we should honor this psychological fiction of hers) imagines Obama to have made an accusation against her simply by virtue of being the person he is: twenty years younger, black, smart and Ivy League. I don't doubt that the jealousy and resentment she's sensing is genuine. But I believe its source is internal to her head, rather than external, and that in either case, the question for a mature person should be whether that jealousy and resentment is legitimate or acceptable.

Posted by: brooksfoe on May 31, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Even supporters have to admit that if Obama were white he wouldn't be in this position. He is the least experienced and accomplished major presidential candidate in modern American history. As front page articles in the Washington Post this week have detailed, he hasn't even been required to articulate policy specifics. If he were some older, uncharasmastic white guy, he'd be laughed out of the room. I'll vote for him, but it's true. It's a cult of personality based on his considerable oratory skills, compelling personal story and unique image.

Posted by: Pat on May 31, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking to Pat's issus:

I looked at Obama's issue, and he has about 30 or 40 issues, all of which he wants to solve by getting the federal legislature into managing these issues.

For those of you over ten years of age, you should know he is likely to get one thing and spend the rest of the term muddling through.

The Obama enthusiasts are simply so naive. You will find Reagan Dems splitting the ticket. Obamaists really underestimate the depth at which older, wiser baby boomers scoff at your enthusiasm. For most of us, it is here we go again.

Posted by: Matt on May 31, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Is someone above actually disputing with a straight face that Reagan Democrats exist?

Posted by: Pat on May 31, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Even supporters have to admit that if Obama were white he wouldn't be in this position.

This is simply a meaningless statement. If John McCain were the son of an Indiana lawyer instead of the son of the commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet, he wouldn't be in this position. If Hillary Clinton were married to George Clinton instead of Bill Clinton, she wouldn't be in this position. If Mitt Romney were the son of Phil Rizzuto instead of Gov. George Romney, he wouldn't be in this position. If John Edwards were black, he wouldn't be in this position. If Mike Huckabee were Jewish, he wouldn't be in this position. If Arnold Schwarzenegger were 5'3" tall, he wouldn't be in this position.

Posted by: brooksfoe on May 31, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has already spoken about "Reagan Democrats" without calling them that. When he does it he is called understanding and inclusive. When she does it she is called racist. Bottom line is they are both talking about class issues -- which have been ignored by everyone but Edwards who, IMHO, should have been the nominee.

Now we have Obama who I agree comes to us with no experience. (Don't carry on about his community organizing days, please. I did that. It is a career jump start.)

Notice how anyone who is critical of Obama here has to preface their criticism by first telling us they are voting for him? If not, the furies descend.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Reagan Democrats"? I believe they're what most of us call Republicans.

Posted by: Steve on May 31, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Pat: I took it that someone was disputing whether Reagan Democrats, *as Ferraro described them*, actually exist.

For myself, I tend to assume that given any description of some kind of person, however odd, some person somewhere actually meets that description, unless it's impossible (e.g., a human being who is also a prime number.) So I'm sure someone, somewhere is just the sort of person Ferraro describes.

That said, I chose imaginary people (described by an actual Geraldine Ferraro) precisely so that I could talk about what might lead them to think this way without making actual people get defensive about their actual views.

Or so I thought.

Posted by: hilzoy on May 31, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

These two passages make it pretty clear to me that (1) Obama is genuinely concerned about the problems and concerns of working class white folks -- a.k.a. "Reagan Democrats" -- and compassionately recognizes the legitimacy of their anger, which has been cynically manipulated into resentment against black folks, by politicians seeking to divide and conquer working class voters

Thanks for this whole comment, Secular Animist. I think it's the most valuable comment on the whole thread.

That speech shows me that Obama gets it, at least electorally. I think the challenge for him is to convey what he said here viscerally. To the voters that he needs. I think he can win over a lot of those voters, but they are slow to trust, especially someone who is seen as an outsider, which he is.

By the way, I grew up in a rural area. I don't think working in an urban low-income area means that you automatically understand the needs of a rural low-income voter. I think that's a very different landscape.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on May 31, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

If Hillary Clinton were married to George Clinton instead of Bill Clinton, she wouldn't be in this position.

Man, consider the possibilities. The Oval Office would be the Mothership. Chelsea would be Star Child. And the Cabinet -- Bernie Worrell could be Chief of Staff; Maceo Parker would be Secretary of State; Attorney General, Stevie Wonder (justice is blind); Secretary of the Treasury, Sly Stone. Naturally, we'd have to rename the Department of Labor the Department of James Brown, in honor of the hardest working man -- anywhere. Ever. And Bootsy Collins would be Secretary of Defense.

At long last, one nation under a groove.

Posted by: junebug on May 31, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Many so-called Reagan Democrats vote for local Democrats and for Republicans nationally. They confuse the pollsters. They are not party loyalists. They view Democrats running nationally as a pack of elitists. That class thing. They are conservatives who resist rapid change. Democrats are a party of change. Obama, a black man, is a real big change. So, is Hillary, a woman. But she knows how to talk to them. They are still waiting to hear from him. Quit pushing that it is about race.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

The type of people Ferraro is describing DO exist, and they exist all over the place, not just in Macomb County, where the term "Reagan Democrat" came from. And unless we get a handle on it, McCain will peel off a lot of those people. The hilarious thing is I don't even think Barry Obama would dispute it. Why are you?

Posted by: Pat on May 31, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

All this racism imputed to the lower orders serves a precisely-articulated purpose: when the GOP steals the election, we need an explanation of how the hell Obama could lose to a cancerous ranting dotard. We'll think, "Well, you know how the canaille hates people of color," and it won't occur to us to question the effect of syndicated ballot-stuffing.

Posted by: vi lennon on May 31, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Couple things.

Pat 2:57 -- you said that "if Obama were white, he wouldn't be in this position," but then illustrated your point saying, "If he were some older, uncharasmastic white guy, he'd be laughed out of the room." What if he were the age he is, and had the same level of charisma he has, and were white? You really think he wouldn't be in this position?

brooksfoe 2:54 -- you're so right. Obama supporter's comments, and Ferraro's column, illustrate how we get blinded by our personal bugaboos. And even more, how one of the biggest influences on our feelings toward others is our instinctive sense of how they feel about us. Ferraro describes people who instinctively think Obama doesn't like them. Obama supporter is hard-wired to think northeastern bloggers (I guess?) don't like him/her. And in return, Obama supporter and Ferraro write their bogeyman off without actually paying attention to what they're saying, and indeed lash out pretty angrily. It's a common problem, and it gets in the way of getting things done like we should/could.

Posted by: johnson on May 31, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

hilzoy, your post was brilliant. There are people out there who are being deliberately obtuse. They aren't understanding because to understand would be to concede the point. And that would be admitting that they lost.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on May 31, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

matt said:
"Obamaists really underestimate the depth at which older, wiser baby boomers scoff at your enthusiasm. For most of us, it is here we go again."

and to all of you condescending baby boomers snickering at us naive young people who are unwise enough to support a candidate that took the bold step of actually SEEKING OUR SUPPORT, i would say this:

the boomer generation has dictated the political landscape of this nation for almost three decades now. for all of your wisdom, for all of your ability to say "here we go again", you don't seem to be very good at electing presidents.

further, i hear a lot of this from clinton supporters. you openly mock people PRECISELY BECAUSE they care about an election. perhaps it is this kind of wisdom and oldness that has resulted in nearly half of the nation not even bothering to vote in national elections.

when people say things like matt said, many of us young folks hear this: "when you don't vote, you're lazy. when you do vote, your ignorant." (sometimes what we really hear is: "GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DAMN KIDS!") it seems like you just don't respect the intellect of anyone under the age of 30 (or 40? 50??).

given that you boomers are so comfortable scoffing at my entire generation, is it really surprising that we won't get behind the chosen candidate of middle-aged white people?

Posted by: MOPE on May 31, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

What if he were the age he is, and had the same level of charisma he has, and were white? You really think he wouldn't be in this position? Posted by: johnson on May 31, 2008 at 3:49 PM

Ask John Edwards.

Posted by: Pat on May 31, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is a baby boomer, einstein.

Posted by: Pat on May 31, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Johnson, Obama would not be in this position if he were a "race man." Obama did not get where he is by pissing off white people in positions of power. He didn't make people uncomfortable. He made all the right connections, he said all the right things. Remember Biden's comment -- something like he dresses well and can put a sentence together. Obama worked the system. That's fine. Most politicians do that to get ahead. This is different. This is a black man with no meaningful experience who is way ahead, who will become President of the United States while overseeing the world's leading superpower.

My worry is that he worked the system so well -- and I don't mean that negatively -- that Democrats are launching a young, untested man into a position of enormous power and authority and he will falter and it will be blamed on racism. I have deep reservations that Obama represents more than he can possibly deliver. God, I hope I am wrong.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

pat,
when obama was born is completely irrelevant to my argument, which is about old people belittling young people who actually want to vote.

but thank you for calling me einstein. it was super funny!

Posted by: MOPE on May 31, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Your post was funnier.

Posted by: Pat on May 31, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

MOPE, I sure wish all the "young people" you are talking about would have listened closely to John Edwards. There would have been major change under John Edwards. He had the bona fides to take on the system and win big.

But I guess the "young people" wanted an over cautious moderate.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy This is really an exceptional post - thought-provoking and well-written on a subject that causes so many to easily lose their cool. This is the type (and tone) of discussion that needs to be had regarding racism today. Geraldine Ferraro's op-ed is the opposite. (Though, giving credit where credit is due, she has in fact spawned this counter-conversation -- and that's a good thing.) So...thanks.

In 1984, I voted for the first time - for Ronald Reagan. I was 19. And looking back, I'm guessing I voted for him because he was more charismatic than Mondale and it probably didnt go much deeper than that. He simply seemed like he would be more effective in office and he gave off greater confidence that the future is bright. I am a white maleand though my family didnt really have much money I always considered us middle class. I was a Reagan Democrat. Am I proud of it? Not really. But that was then and this is now.

Maybe 24 years from now, political pundits will be strategizing on how best to attract Obama Republicans. Im doubtful the issues of race and racism will be a part of that discussion. Geraldine Ferraro will most likely be dead. Progress is inevitable.

Posted by: eric on May 31, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Obama, a black man, is a real big change. So, is Hillary, a woman. But she knows how to talk to them. They are still waiting to hear from him. Quit pushing that it is about race.
Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 3:37 PM

do you see any disconnect here? is it possible that your post-hoc justifications are simply blinders to a question which is fundamentally about race? is it possible that your statement is simply a more polite version of

I recently had a conversation with an 'angry white blue collar' neighbor that tells it like it is. He said: "I'm not a racist, but I'm not going to have a nigger in the white house." It's pretty sad, but I'm afraid that for most of the 'angry blue collar' vote that's the bottom line.
Posted by: Buford

?

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time."

Geri, I've always been absolutely mad for you, ever since I discovered that you and I not only share the same birthday, but a nice even 20 years apart. But stuff like this is boilerplate from 1984 and was pointless even then.

We've been hearing about the "resentments" of the "Reagan Democrats" for over 150 years; at least since the time of the New York draft riots of 1863. I'm sick to death of it. If these fools can't understand that they're the pawns of the white-CEO uberclass -- who are the ones reneging on pension plans and shipping jobs overseas -- and that black people are their fellow victims, not their enemies, then to hell with them. Write 'em off. They'll always be the dupes of their bosses.

Posted by: Stuart Eugene Thiel on May 31, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

I resist any attempt by anyone to call me racist. As I have said repeatedly here, I think the constant accusations of racism, no matter which camp they are coming from, are mostly wrongheaded. The issue of class has not been taken on by anyone by Edwards. Clinton did not take it on so much as having the ability to wade into poor, white, rural America and talk to folks as if they were not subhuman. Obama talked about those folks and misstepped with the "bitter" remark although he was totally right in what he said. He needs to wade into them and talk to them and look them in the eye and make a connection.

Or, is that racist of me to suggest?

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has already spoken about "Reagan Democrats" without calling them that. When he does it he is called understanding and inclusive. When she does it she is called racist.
Posted by: Kate Stone

he did actually -- the blurb above by Obama refers to the "Reagan Coalition." And when a black man tells working class white America that they have valid resentments but that shifting the blame to minorities rather than their corporate masters, it IS understanding and inclusive.

When older, upper class white women like Ferraro say, "what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn't an issue, but reverse racism is," which places the blame squarely BACK on blacks rather than addressing the class issue, can you see why I would think it racist?

He needs to wade into them and talk to them and look them in the eye and make a connection. Or, is that racist of me to suggest?
Posted by: Kate Stone

He has, repeatedly. And he needed to and continues to need to do so. It is of course not racist to suggest that he needed to do so. An unwillingness to see that he actually has reached out, and a refusal to make the connection when it comes from a half-black man, however, is racist.

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

kate stone said:
"MOPE, I sure wish all the "young people" you are talking about would have listened closely to John Edwards. There would have been major change under John Edwards. He had the bona fides to take on the system and win big."

that would be the same guy who voted to authorize the war, and only realized this was a mistake after he lost the vice presidency in 2004, right?

i've never said that obama was perfect. in fact, i don't support his candidacy. i am just sick and tired of hearing old people tell me how stupid and naive my generation is, especially when you've spent the last twenty years with all your eggs in the DLC basket.

if there's an old person who feels like responding, might i suggest mocking my intellect and/or enthusiasm without addressing what i've said.

Posted by: MOPE on May 31, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kate,

See, this is what I don't get. I've seen Obama "wade into them" and "look them in the eye" throughout this campaign. While campaigning in Oregon (my home state), Obama visited Roseburg High School in Douglas County, a traditionally Republican, timber-heavy area. According to the paper, he was the first major party candidate to visit Roseburg in 40 years. He talked about the things that matter to the people of Douglas County -- about health care, about jobs, about the war. And according to most of the media outlets, he made a very strong connection with the 1,400 or so people in attendance.

So what exactly did he do wrong here? How is he talking to folks in rural, white Oregon as though they're subhuman? And can you detail exactly how he's ignoring or belittling rural white voters in all the other small-town campaign stops in other states? I see a whole bunch of accusations on the part of Clinton supporters, but very little actual evidence.

Posted by: FunkyDuck on May 31, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Gonads, I agree that Obama's speech was understanding and inclusive. As I said and you missed, he was right! I don't agree that when Ferraro says much the same thing, very poorly, she is racist. She is a very poor writer and I wonder why someone did not edit her heavily. The "reverse racism" bit makes no sense to me. I believe she is a woman who has devoted her life to public service and is royally pissed off at having it all come down to "she's a racist."

You read me and call me racist. It trips off the keys. Racist. Easy.

If I have missed that Obama -- a "half-black man" as you describe him -- has "repeatedly" waded into rural/white/poor America and made a connection then I missed it, really and truly missed it and I will take your word for it that he has done so. I tend to read stories that say he has not connected with this "demographic." Is that because they are racist?

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

First, don't make an assumption that if I am critical of Barack Obama I must be a supporter of Hillary Clinton. That is not the case.

Second, I wrote on my blog that Obama went to Pendleton. I did not know about Roseburg because I do not read the Oregonian everyday to find that out. Nor do I read every paper in every town to know that he is, in fact, wading into rural/white/poor America. Good for him.

So what does the NYTs, WaPO,LATimes, Miami Herald, etc. continue to write stories that he is not connecting with white/rural/poor Americans.

Racism?

Posted by: FunkyDunk on May 31, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kate, how do you think Obama won Iowa? Go back and look for any of the coverage over the course of 2007.

Posted by: Colin on May 31, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Oops. That was posted by me in response to funkdunk rather than posted by funkydunk.

MOPE, I don't know what your "old people" cut off is so I don't know if I am responding to you as an old person.

Edwards did give support to Bush to use force in Iraq. Yup. Big mistake. I don't honestly know how Barack Obama would have voted if he had been a Senator at that time. He strikes me as a very cautious man who doesn't much buck the system. So, who knows?

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Colin, he did win Iowa by about 35% I think. Iowa, by the way, has a highly educated population. Huckabee won there, too. I don't know offhand what the rural/poor breakdown was for Obama and don't have time to go looking right now. the thing that stands out for me about Iowa is that Edwards had spent an amazing amount of time there and lost.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

I would respond to MOPE if I understood what he believed in.

If it is change he wants, then it won't come from his vote. Change will most likely come from economic dislocation, if the federal government has a role in change, God knows what it is.

Posted by: Matt on May 31, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

I tend to read stories that say he has not connected with this "demographic." Is that because they are racist?
Posted by: Kate Stone

My interpretation of this may be somewhat different, since I see his speeches as an attempt to legitimize the concerns of working class whites, and then to divert their resentment to the appropriate source for their grievances, and make a case for why their identification with Reagan and Republicans will only worsen their very real problems.

Therefore, having made a case which appeals to me, it is easier for me to blame the failure to "connect" with this demographic on the audience rather than on Obama. The audience is choosing between an Ivy League white female lawyer from Arkansas and an Ivy League black lawyer (raised by his single white Mom!) with differences in policy positions which are minor, and likely not even identified by the audience. ... So I bring up racism as a potential etiology.

I honestly did not intend to call you a racist for anything you've posted, even indirectly.

For what its worth, I wanted Edwards, too, despite the Iraq war vote, for which he seemed genuinely contrite. I found him to be the most populist of the options both in 2004 and now, but he ran out of money and lost the primaries. Twice. That was also noted.

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

thank you, gonads, for clearing up the racism issue for me. As a white woman in a mixed race marriage and a kid who is both I find Barack Obama's background quite appealing and refreshing.

I don't believe the audience is first and foremost choosing between a white woman lawyer with an Ivy League background and black male lawyer with an Ivy League background, as you describe them. I think poor white people do not concentrate on educational background if the politician standing in front of them can connect with them on a personal level. Hillary seems to do that quite easily. Obama seems a little stiffer "wading in." His speeches about class issues are wonderful but it is a like a sociologist wrote them. I saw her recently do a long face to face in PR with a working poor family there. Watch her body language, watch how she leans into people, how she looks them in the eyes. Good stuff. Obama is a little less comfortable. They get that.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Why dont we hold an election to see who is right, Hilzoy or Ferraro. Oh thats right, we did, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia,... in states where theres alot of white Reagan Democrats. And what happened? Obama got trounced by these very voters. Its all over the news. Pundits and pollsters have been talking about it constantly: Obamas problem with the white working class. Are you living in a cave?

Ferraro is dealing with this REALITY, while youre... I dont know what youre doing except being biased, unable to be objective, or deal with anything negative about your favored candidate.

Posted by: Jonesy on May 31, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

"You'd think that this might have done the trick:

"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch..."

So a speech given at 9:30 in the morning, when most hard-working blue collar white Americans were at work, should have allayed these problems? A speech that obsfucated rather than addressed his Trinity Church problems? Look, I've invested more hope and aspiration in Obama than any other candidate of my lifetime, but if the election were held today, he would lose because of his own mistakes.
The Obama that was running in February would have won a 40-45 state mandate against a worthy representative of the opposing party, and would have been able to use that mandate to do great things for this country. Then we were introduced to Jeremiah Wright and Obama's tin ear. Since then we've heard how bitter the yokels are clinging to their guns and religion, how anti-Hispanic hate crimes are one of the most important issues facing the world today [no mention of the fact that 150,000 times more crimes are committed by MS-13 and other gangs], why his grandma worrying about being hassled by an aggressive black panhandler cancels out Wright cheering and mocking 911.
I am so sad right now for this country, because I can already hear the narrative of the left -- how America is just too racist to ever elect a black man, and it's not -- the reason we might lose is due to acts and omissions under our candidate's control, not unfair circumstances.

Posted by: loki on May 31, 2008 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

People resent the cynical use of baseless charges of racism to goose AA turnout in SC and generally falsely paint Clinton for hard press coverage. Duh.

Posted by: david on May 31, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Ferraro is dealing with this REALITY, while youre... I dont know what youre doing except being biased, unable to be objective, or deal with anything negative about your favored candidate.
Posted by: Jonesy

Ferraro is trying to defend THIS as an acceptable reality, while trying to cast it like this:

"They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems."

These are her Reagan Dems, for better or worse, and she suggests we continue to cater to them. That's not appealing.

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Colin...how do you think Obama won Iowa?

Let's just call it garden variety pandering. They love their ethanol subsidies there but that was an easy pander because his home state loves the same so give him a pass.

But Iowans loved him takeing his name off of the MI ballot protecting their divine right to 'go first' and exercise that shrewd judgement that qualifies them to screen out presidential candidates.

Most people tend to think Iowa is an Indian word from back in the day but when they went for Huckabee this year, word got out that 'Iowa' is an acronym for Idiots Out Walking Around.

Posted by: steve-o on May 31, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

I tend to read stories that say he has not connected with this "demographic." Is that because they are racist?

Kate,

As you've probably already noticed, the MSM likes to create a simplistic narrative with a dramatic resonance to boost audience attention. There is a growing disconnect between these narratives and reality, as the run up to the Iraq war has demonstrated. If you research exit polls, you'll find that Obama in fact does just fine with white working class voters in most of the country--just not in Appalachia.

Posted by: Jess on May 31, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Jonesy, the rubber meets the road this November. I believe that Obama will be nominated by the Democratic Party to be their nominee for President. I have many reservations about him. Still, I hope he wins because I cannot tolerate the alternative.

If Obama does not win I deeply hope that it is not chalked up to racism. Obama has extraordinary momentum and if the rallies are any indication and the primaries are any indication and the huge number of newly registered Democrats are any indication then the only way he can lose is if people who support him now don't show up to vote in November. Plus, he is running against a very weak candidate.

As for Geri Ferraro? A weak writer and one very wounded and pissed off woman. Bad combination. Her public service is commendable. She is 73 years old and has incurable cancer. I am so sorry to see her tossed into the trash as a racist like she was David Duke or George Wallace.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Would Geraldine really have us believe that these Democrats she writes of can actually relate to Hillary Clinton any more than Barack Obama? Hillary grew up in the most white bread of Chicago 'burbs Park Ridege, IL), and it was more upper than lower crust bread at that!
The Clinton campaign spread the implicitly racist meme early that anyone who'd enthusiastic for a black candidate had to be brain-washed by the Obama campaign/cult. I's really sick of people like her who twist reality.

Posted by: Varecia on May 31, 2008 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Again, without the typos:
Would Geraldine really have us believe that these Democrats she writes of can actually relate to Hillary Clinton any more than Barack Obama? Hillary grew up in the most white bread of Chicago 'burbs (Park Ridge, IL), and it was more upper than lower crust bread at that!
The Clinton campaign spread the implicitly racist meme early that anyone who'd enthusiastic for a black candidate had to be brain-washed by the Obama campaign/cult. I'm really sick of people like her who twist reality.

Posted by: on May 31, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares where Hillary Rodham grew up? What has the got to do with anything substantive? And both sides have worked the race card. Jesse Jackson, Jr., co-chair of Obama's campaign, made fun of her crying in NH (never cried, not one tear) and said she never shed a tear for the victims of Katrina -- as in Black victims.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares where Hillary Rodham grew up? What has that got to do with anything substantive? And both sides have worked the race card. Jesse Jackson, Jr., co-chair of Obama's campaign, made fun of her "crying" in NH (never cried, not one tear) and said she never shed a tear for the victims of Katrina -- as in Black victims.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't honestly know how Barack Obama would have voted if he had been a Senator at that time. He strikes me as a very cautious man who doesn't much buck the system. So, who knows?
Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 5:19 PM

He spoke out against the war while running for Senate during a period of time when anyone who did so was denounced as "objectively pro-terrorist".

Tell me again how he had nothing at stake when he spoke out. I need a good laugh.

Oh, and in response to your question about why all the main stream papers aren't reporting about Obama's trips to blue-collar white America, are you really that ignorant to ask that question?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on May 31, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

I have had several discussions with strong Hillary supporters to try to understand what their problem is with Obama. This is in no way a scientific study with any statistical significance. So, take it for what it is...

The older women mostly feel that they are being "passed over" when it should be their time (for their generation) and Obama is not waiting "his turn." I do get the feeling they will sit this one out.

The men that supported Hillary were all over the map as to why they would not support Obama. It seems the men are less likely to sit this one out, but are more likely to vote for McLame.

"I am not a member of any organized political party, I am a democrat."

Posted by: MLuther on May 31, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Why this constant focus on a long lost segment of the democratic electorate? The so-called Reagan Democrats have been consistently voting for Republicans for the last few election cycles. Let's stop talking about these people like they have been cryogenically frozen in time since '84. That distinction goes to Ms. Ferraro. At some point, we have to stop calling these people Reagan Democrats and call them what they have become - Republicans. By the way, does anyone else find it ironic that Ms. Ferraro has developed this odd kinship with a group of people that voted against her ticket in droves in '84? Makes you wonder whether she would have voted for Reagan had she not been placed on the ticket.

Posted by: theo on May 31, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

A day late and a dollar short - Instapundit reports Obama just resigned from Trinity Church.

Posted by: loki on May 31, 2008 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Morpheus. A couple of things. Many people were speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2004. Second, Mike Ryan was expected to win against Barack Obama until it was found that Mr. Ryan liked to "swing" and his wife blew the whistle on him. Second, after Ryan dropped out of the race Obama's opponent was Alan keyes, a certified lunatic and carpetbagger.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

And, oh, by the way, Dr. Morpheus, calling me "ignorant" is trolling.

I live with a MSM journalist, a newspaper editor. I know the failings of the MSM. I also know that if all I read were blogs or watched Keith Olbermann or listened to Rush Limbaugh I would have a narrow point of view on the world.

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Obama's speech, Hilzoy, when he said it, I was right there with you regarding his statements that whites have legitimate concerns.

But week after week, I read LIBERAL bloggers and LIBERAL commenters tell me I was interpreting his speech incorrectly and that Obama WAS NOT saying that whites have been mistreated, he was saying they have legitimate concerns that are CAUSED by corporate america, NOT by "lawyer america" and not by anything anyone could call "reverse racism."

These liberal bloggers, like so many, can never see reverse racism, can never question race politics by the left, and can never question the tactics or strategies of any identity politics group especially modern feminists.

And it's this inability to listen and not judge people that keeps us in the left from being able to be identified as the party that cares by so many people in America regardless of race, creed, color, age, religion.

It's bloggers like Neil the Ethical Werewolf, and so many of the people on his blogroll, lots of tenured academics who have bought off on one or more fallacies: a) they made it without a hand and so can every other white male, b) hurting an individual is okay if it raises an entire group, and c) if a person is hurt, it is really best not to acknowledge that. On blog after blog we see the politics of color and sex being used to divide commenters into "good liberal" or "troll".

These liberal bloggers are the ones that told me that Obama was NOT agreeing that whites have legitimate concerns. The key to Obama's thoughts according to these liberal bloggers and commenters is the conjunction of the first and third paragraphs.

"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze -- a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns -- this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding."

I was told over and over by self-identified enlightened liberal bloggers that Obama's speech on race did not say that white Americans ACTUALLY had legitimate concerns, but that they BELIEVED they had legitimate concerns AND WE KNOW BETTER, AND LIKE OBAMA, the responsibility for these concerns and problems is CORPORATE AMERICA, that is FOX and the media.

Note what the legit concerns I've bolded above are. These are not concerns caused by corporate America. These are concerns brought about by the legal class. Whether it is nonsensical overreaching lawsuits, politicians exploiting fears, or bureaucrats creating zero tolerance policies, these are not corporate America's fault.

So I used to agree with you about that speech, but honestly, after a few weeks arguing this in the various forums, I was convinced otherwise by so many Obama supporters telling me I didn't understand what he was saying.

On the rest, count me in with "Obama supporter." Your post is way too long, TL;DR; I also think the problem is how in the name of "snark" and little else, way too many bloggers and their commenters spend way too much time NOT listening to what people who disagree are actually saying.

They are quickly dismissed as trolls, concern trolls, and worse. Speech is not respected. Ideas are not discussed.

Differences are exaggerated. People and groups of people are demonized.

If you examine your own blogroll, you will find many self-identified liberal highly educated bloggers who repeatedly delete comments, alter comments, ban people, call people trolls, call groups of people names, call people racists and sexists and pedophiles, and why? Because they disagree with these people and cannot be confronted by their ideas.

So what sets in is groupthink and speech policing and we can never understand why the so called Reagan Democrats consider us a bunch of cross eyed clowns.

If you actually listen to most people, you will discover they are not racist, not sexist, and not even all that ignorant. They have had different experiences than ours and they disagree with some of what we believe.

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

loki, I think Obama probably dropped out after the firestorm over a Catholic priest, Michael Michael Pfleger, took to the altar and blasted Hillary Clinton as a racist and said that white folks need to give over their savings to black folks as compensation for slavery. That was followed by heavy applause from the congregation.

Don't be touching our 401(k)s!

Posted by: Kate Stone on May 31, 2008 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kate

If Obama would give a Sista Soulja speech on Pfleger's rants, say he felt sorry for everyone groveling in their precious victimhood and that his campaign was an effort to get past it I think he could recapture some of the magic he had in the pre-Wright era -- at least with the demographic we're talking about on this thread. Maybe he could say I understand why many blacks feel they deserve reparations, but there're no more likely to happen than the Irish getting reparations from the British for the potato famine, so let's move on...

Posted by: loki on May 31, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

alternatively loki, he could simply resign his position in the church without additional commentary, and let the reverend wright fall into the oblivion, despite the best efforts of yourself and instapundit to make it relevant.

that we, Obama, and indeed all Dems, could kindly proceed to destroying McCain.

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

sigh ... preview is my friend ...

"That way Obama, and indeed all Dems, could kindly proceed to destroying McCain."

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

If Ferraro proves that Clinton is a racist, what does Wright and Fleger, his spriritual advisors for 20 years prove?

Obama has shown terrible judgment, a tin ear, and a penchant for tossing friends under the bus.

That Hilzoy is why you are forced to call so many white Americans racist. Not because they are, but because your candidate and your identity politics require them to be.

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

I have a hard time here seeing the great danger of a black person becoming President in the minds of the people Ferraro "meets on the street" whatever the fuck that means. Do these millions that she meets outside Starbucks imagine he will champion laws that outlaw whiteness? What the hell could happen? His policy stands are close to Hill's but am I to believe he would shuck that veneer off once in office and begin the black takeover of America? What the flying monkey shit is the problem with these people? If they can't have Hill they'll just bend over and let the GOP ass rape them for four more years? That should get the point across..."no friggin blacks leading a Dem ticket! And don't call me racist."

Posted by: TK on May 31, 2008 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Nads

If you honestly think the Repub 527s are going to allow this resignation be the last word you must be in Lanny Davis land. Obama was starting to make real inroads with the Joe Lunchbucket types in Wisconsin, pre-Wright, and I believe he would have extended that reach if Wright had not appeared. [Conversely, Hillary would be the nominee today if she had put Wright's greatest hits on the media playlist the day after Christmas -- these are the breaks.] If we want to win Obama has to convince the Hillary supporters and their friends that he's not keeping his true Trinity values under wraps until after the election. He needs to give another speech.

Posted by: loki on May 31, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

why? why should he give you the spectacle of a black man throwing more and more shit on other blacks to make you feel better about yourself and your values?

the first speech was more than adequate, especially since obama has proven that he can destroy a gaffe-prone mccain both rhetorically and on the issues. obviously, that first speech didn't satisfy you.

the rational clinton voters will come along; the rest can vote whomever they choose, and they will deserve their fate. I hope for their sake that none of them have enlisted kids.

Posted by: Gonads on May 31, 2008 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

"I hope for their sake that none of them have enlisted kids."

Wow. That sort of fear mongering is what we used to find on the LGF and Freep sites. Now it's made into Obamabots. Diversity in action!

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

why? why should he give you the spectacle of a black man throwing more and more shit on other blacks to make you feel better about yourself and your values?"

Perhaps because his judgment here was just terrible and he's asking us to vote for him based on his past judgment. Perhaps because asking a politician for an explanation is NOT the spectacle of asking a black man to trash other black men, regardless of your playing the race card just now. Perhaps because we claim that if Clinton had explained her past vote or apologized for it she would probably have been our candidate, regardless of how in other ways we tolerate and encouraged hate speech against her.

Nads, I do appreciate how you have reached out to Clinton votings, telling them we don't need them, how we will get them back when we win, and how we will get them back should we lose.

Also, I am not sure the pollsters agree with your upbeat analysis of Obama vs. McCain....

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Pat:

If he were some older, uncharasmastic [sic]white guy, he'd be laughed out of the room. I'll vote for him, but it's true. It's a cult of personality based on his considerable oratory skills, compelling personal story and unique image.

John Edwards wasn't exactly laughed out of the room, but his losses substantiate Pat's point. HOWEVER, the "compelling personal story" really is COMPELLING, and I think it is exactly the point of Obama's candidacy that Ferraro's op-ed (and her other speeches) misses. He embodies the ideals that he promotes in his speeches (some necessary caveats about the TUCC business can be filled in later.) His oratory skills remind people of why liberalism is a good idea, Whereas other candidates (Edwards, Clinton) recite laundry lists of demands and resentments without a unifying vision.

I think that there are some patriotic blue collar democrats who would be willing to vote for Obama if he were more demonstratively patriotic, some otherwise possibly racist souls who greatly respected Colin Powell (for example). That is a theme that Ferraro avoided. There are people who accept the criticism of America's slave-holding past but who oppose anyone who associates with the people (Jeremiah Wright) who give awards to Muammar Ghadaffi, the leader of a country that still countenances slavery.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on May 31, 2008 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

What's Obama's compelling personal story?

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

So much hatred and distrust. So many conspiracies. So many pointless fighting.

We Americans are killing ourselves and our children through this ridiculous tragedy. It disheartens me that there is such opposition to unity.

So much fighting.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna watch Kimbo Slice beat the hell out of some poor sap.

Posted by: DonkeyOdie on May 31, 2008 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

So many FIGHTS.

That preview IS a good idea, ain't it?

Posted by: DonkeyOdie on May 31, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Too echo other comments: amazing post. It was like reading a prospectus to a book I wish someone would write.

Posted by: john on May 31, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Reagan Democrats are all dead.

Seriously, it was 1980. That's 40 years ago. I don't know how to break it to her, but there's damn near nobody left alive who identified for most of their adult lives as Democratic but then found the Southern Strategy as packaged by Reagan appealing. Even if all of those people were 30 (which, overwhelmingly, they weren't, because Reagan Dems were disproportionately old at the time), they would be 68 now. That's not too many people.

"Reagan Democrat" is code for a tiny minority of bitter and resentful white people who have had hard lives and unfortunately blame other poor people--mostly of color--for their troubles. Mostly they believe this because people like Reagan lie to them and tell them it IS other poor people's fault, and the media tells them Reagan is right. Unfortunately, people like Ferraro think those folks are the "heartland." They are not.

Posted by: anonymous on May 31, 2008 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Anonymous shows us why the math and hard sciences are important even to us politically correct touchy feely peace loving liberals. And how a lack of math and hard science leads to truly not understanding your own words, much less the world.

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on June 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

No, I think anonymous is right. There are very, very few people who were 30 in 1980 and are 68 now.

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 1, 2008 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

I am enlightened, thank you brooksfoe.

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on June 1, 2008 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Of course these mythic Reagan Democrats could also mean they are being replaced by Obama's coalition and marginalized in the Party but that would not fit with hilzoy's narrative.
It is perfectly appropriated that working class Dems are concerned that affluents and their children, who may not be committed to UHC, Social Security and populist economics are taking over the Democratic Party. Anyone who has read a liberal blog over the past six months has seen hundreds of posts stating exactly that and enthusiastically touting the new generation, new coalition, new party etc and relishing the marginalization of working class whites.

Seems like these mythic Dems might be on to something.

Posted by: buy union made on June 1, 2008 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Seriously, it was 1980. That's 40 years ago.

That's a kind of metaphorical "40 years", right?

What's Obama's compelling personal story?

I guess it's only compelling to some people. I think he's a genuinely good guy who managed to overcome racial barriers (yes, they still exist, though not like before) without sharing the animosity of (to pick one example) Jeremiah Wright (even Wright has his virtues.) (At minimum, back to Obama's personal story, just about every African-American is subjected to insults and cruel jokes.) I like the schooling in Indonesia, Punaho Academy in Honolulu, President of Harvard law Review, Lecturer at U. of Chicago Law School. His books are good as well.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 1, 2008 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

What racial barriers did he overcome? I mean, shit, I'm Jewish and by some counts hispanic. Do I get props for overcoming anti-semitism and anti-latino?

Was Hawaii in the sixties truly that racially divided, was Occidental, Harvard and Columbia? Because most people consider that to be pampered living, not living on the racial edge.

Lots of folks, apparently including Obama himself, say he joined Trinity to get some amount of street cred that he never had growing up....

Racial barriers? You mean other African Americans considering him too white?

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on June 1, 2008 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

@ Buford on May 31, 2008 at 2:37 PM

He said: "I'm not a racist, but I'm not going to have a nigger in the white house."

That's the tricky thing about racism, its meaning is different for different people. Your neighbor likely feels he can say he's not a racist because he doesn't have a white robe and a pointy hat in his closet.

Likewise, if you were call out your neighbor for making a racist statement, which what you quote clearly is, he would likely be very offended. What he would hear is you saying he is just like a Klansman.

Posted by: Joe Bob on June 1, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

The AP reports late tonight:

Barack Obama said Saturday he has resigned his 20-year membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago "with some sadness" in the aftermath of inflammatory remarks by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and more recent fiery remarks at the church by a visiting priest. ...

"This was one I didn't see coming," Obama said Saturday when he asked if he had anticipated the firestorm that would erupt over his relationship with Wright.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on June 1, 2008 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

anonymous is right There are zero Reagan Democrats who were 30 in 1980 and are 68 now.

I bet there are many of them who 58 however. There might even be some who were 40 in 1980 and are still alive.


Posted by: numb3rs on June 1, 2008 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, in the legal community Yale Law is uniformly regarded as the #1 law school in the country, no contest. Harvard and Stanford are #2 and #3 (or #3 and #2, depending on who you ask). Presumably the Reagan Democrats don't know this, except the ones who are lawyers.

Posted by: Elliot Reed on June 1, 2008 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps because asking a politician for an explanation is NOT the spectacle of asking a black man to trash other black men, regardless of your playing the race card just now.
Posted by: Bad Moon Rising

Yeah, but he's already explained that Wright was more than just the 10 minutes of hate speech rebroadcast ad nauseum, and he categorically renounced his views, and has now even left the church. His initial speech clearly didn't do it for you, leaving the church won't do it for you, and I'm pretty sure there's nothing he could do which would satisfy you.

and again, at this point, he shouldn't have to, since Clinton has lost and is, for all purposes within the Democratic primary, irrelevant.

Of course these mythic Reagan Democrats could also mean they are being replaced by Obama's coalition and marginalized in the Party but that would not fit with hilzoy's narrative.
It is perfectly appropriated that working class Dems are concerned that affluents and their children, who may not be committed to UHC, Social Security and populist economics are taking over the Democratic Party.
Posted by: buy union made

Please ... spare me. For years we've been asked to make concessions to make the same Dems who fell for Reagan's appeals to racism, and who go the way of Lieberman and Zell Miller when pushed.

Obama is far from perfect, and it is a strawman to suggest we hold him to some standard of purity. He's a lot more invested in UHC, social security, and populist economics than is McCain, and for the next 6 months, that should be enough for you.

Posted by: Gonads on June 1, 2008 at 4:26 AM | PERMALINK

Do I get props for overcoming anti-semitism and anti-latino? Was Hawaii in the sixties truly that racially divided, was Occidental, Harvard and Columbia.

I am not Jewish, African-American or Latino. Everywhere that I have lived I have encountered people who really dislike and distrust Jews, Latinos and African-Americans, if not necessarily "hate" them. Paraphrasing a famous quote, there are people who would vote for a Yellow Dog before they would vote for a Jew, Latino, or African-American.

In my opinion, the answers to your questions are all "Yes".

In all cases that I know of, contemporary America has fewer barriers than when I was growing up, and for African-Americans one of the remaining barriers is a strong anti-achievement ethic among African-Americans. The U.S. has fewer barriers to achievement for African-Americans than most countries that have large numbers of people of African descent (e.g., Libya, much loved by Jeremiah Wright.) All that said, there are still White racist-based barriers to achievement for African-Americans.


Obama has real flaws as a candidate, which we can talk about later.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 1, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Women are another "aggrieved minority" seeking equal status. I see this in my talks with my Hillary friends. Do you think this influences the Ferraro remarks?

Equality applies to all groups. Democrats should be for Equality and unite behind whichever candidate received the most popular votes.

Democratic Party core beliefs support both Gender and Racial Equality.

Posted by: deejaayss on June 1, 2008 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Second, Mike Ryan was expected to win against Barack Obama until it was found that Mr. Ryan liked to "swing" and his wife blew the whistle on him.

It was JACK Ryan and, no, he was not expected to win against Obama even before the information about his divorce was made public. The Illinois Republican Party was (and still is) at an incredible nadir after a series of corruption scandals that ended with Republican Gov. George Ryan going to jail.

Even before the information came out about his divorce, Jack Ryan's campaign slogan was essentially, "I'm not THAT Ryan." And once Ryan dropped out, there were no Illinois Republicans who were willing to be the sacrificial lamb against Obama's juggernaut.

Obama won 49 percent of the Republican vote in Illinois. People don't cross the voting line just because their candidate blew up -- they either vote third party or don't vote at all. But Obama convinced 49 percent of Illinois Republicans that they should vote for him and not abstain.

Sorry, but if you're getting stuff this basic and well-known wrong, why am I supposed to believe your other arguments?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on June 1, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what a Reagan Democrat is either, to take Hilzoy's point on that. Dick Poleman, of American Debate, uses the derivative "lunch-bucket whites", and, if we are poking Ferraro with a stick because her inference is that no lunch-bucket white is going to go for Obama, well, let me add my own perspective on this, from the point of being a 45 year old disabled white woman who made the choice of living in Philadelphia for the sake of better integration resources, years ago, which ultimately proved to be a failure.

Obama's post-MLK generational methodology, exciting and credible as it is, hasn't broken the mold on the closed loop which still exists in white and black America, not entirely for my generation, or my aunt's, who is ten years my senior. The inner city, which I've experienced, doesn't exist in her world--or exists only to the degree that she and my family, when I visit them back in the burbs, will offer my Paratransit driver either a meal, a tip, or both, as an act of mannered condensation.

In fact, they called me the family communist when they saw the Obama sticker on my chair, after I had joined his PA campaign.

This is not to say I much care for how the Clintons played out the primary fight against the Senator from Illinois, but the divide that Billary and surrogates like Ferraro are exploiting seem real enough to me.

Another poster mentioned this, but I knew Ferraro only as a progressive symbol because of her place on the ticket. She should be ashamed of herself for this role in which she's now immersed.

Posted by: Jozanny on June 2, 2008 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

I could take a stab at summing up the discussion to this point: Edwards was the real populist policy-wise, Clinton and Obama are close but he's, if anything, more centrist and cautious than she on most issues, and a lot of what used to be called "urban ethnic" white people, particularly older ones, don't like Obama. There are also a fair number of rural Appalachian white people who don't like Obama.

I want to throw in a couple of tangential points. First, America is finally tired of political leaders who have southern accents. That's what really killed Edwards's chances. It wasn't policy, and it happened in spite of Elizabeth Edwards's incredible appeal (I think everyone with any human qualities admires her class and also that most men of a certain age probably wish they had been married to her). I don't think people disliked or rejected *him* so much; they were just tired of southerners. None of the leading candidates speaks southern this year.

Second, there really is a *big* generational difference in experience this time and I see it in my traditional college-age students but I also see it all around me. I live in one of those small Appalachian cities. The working class here-- not just the welfare class, but the working class-- is mixed-race. This happened pretty suddenly about 10 years ago or so. And it definitely was not happening when I was growing up in the 60s and definitely not curing Reagan's terms, when daily life oozed race.

Both of these points mean something. I hope they mean that the iron grip of southern-based fundamentalism on our cultural politics has ended, and that race just isn't all that important to a large and growing segment of our people.

Posted by: Altoid on June 2, 2008 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

Working class Whites' prejudice is not against elitists, their prejudice is against losing privileges their race has historically entitled them to.Posted by: Brojo
And why not? It isn't prudent to give up majority power. Anybody who has lived near a minority enclave that is large enough so that the residents feel comfortable in their power inside their community will understand that minorities don't particularly like white people. One of my clients lived all his life in a neighborhood that turned Hispanic and didn't take the warnings that he wasn't welcome as the last white man on the block until they reinforced this by burning his garage down. The lib notion that only white people are racist is racist. I felt the sting a couple of days ago when a McDonald's counter person wouldn't serve me until after he waited on the Hispanic woman in the line behind me.

Your PC lib thinks that the coming majority-minority America will be some sort of utopia, and this may well be so; but we see often that when one group has been on top for a long period, they become victims of a bloodbath when long repressed feelings of hatred come to the fore when a new ethnic group takes over power.

A population of 90% white/ 10% black was very stable, if not to the advantage of blacks; but when two or more ethnic groups are of somewhat equal power, then the potential for conflict for power comes into play. It wouldn't surprise me if in the future whites and Hispanics come into conflict when Hispanics become numerous enough to try to forcibly maintain open borders to Latinize the U.S. and even thick-skulled libs awaken to the danger. A declining economy is another pressure point. When there is plenty to go around and everyone is prosperous, then the potential for conflict is minimal; but when resources are scarce, people may fight over them and favor their own kind. For ex., if a Chinese business has ten jobs and three applicants, then all three get hired; but if there is only one job and fifty starving applicants, any Chinese applicants will likely be preferred. This is just immutable human nature.

Posted by: Luther on June 2, 2008 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

Unless that garage was burned down by a mob of rioters, Hispanics did not burn down that garage, individuals did. Their motivation may have been racist, which makes them very much like well assimilated European Americans.

Posted by: Brojo on June 2, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

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