Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama vs. Elitism

When I first read the other day that Clinton and McCain had begun attacking Obama as elitist, I was immediately impressed by the strength of the offensive.

I mean, first and foremost, both McCain and Clinton were attacking--democrat and republican, joined in their fight against Obama!

But mostly, I just think this is a good way to get at Obama.

"Duh," one friend and Obama supporter told me. "All presidential candidates are elitist. How much money do they make a year? Exactly. Besides, you want your president to be highly educated and run in high circles. If that makes him/her elitist, fine."

And I of course agree that I would prefer a cosmopolitan president to a provincial one, but we're still not getting to the main reason why I feel these shots at Obama are stronger than most.

The main reason relates in part to what makes Obama so appealing to college kids, travel abroad alumni, entry-level young urban pros, suburbia, and the intelligentsia. It's his rhetoric, his typical "why I want to be President" and "why I'd make a good President" speeches.

The fact is that the hope and optimism, while touching the above groups of people, have less affect on those who want to hear specific plans for making their lives better.

And I honestly believe that they'd rather be fed specific plans and be lied to than told all about change and yes we cans.

So much of Obama's impact lies in his ability to transcend the political realm as we know it. We love him for the way he doesn't go along with the typical candidate technique of lying out of your a-crack just to pick up votes. We love how his focus is on the deepest questions of American politics, be they race or Congressional ethics or Presidential power.

But you have to ask yourself this question: if you're a lower-middle class citizen, particularly hard hit by the current economic "issues" (to say the least), how taken are you with someone who wants to transcend the only system of help you've known your whole life?

Obama called these people bitter
. And when you break it down his stance makes more sense--after all, if these people have only known one system and it has FAILED them time and again, why not support this cavalier cat who wants to change everything about the system?--but you have to wish he had chosen a less condescending and patronizing word as "bitter."

Although I have already professed my appreciation for Obama's rhetoric, I now find myself hoping he didn't make a colossal error here.

We know that Clinton and McCain are going to bring it now, with just over a week until the Pennsylvania primaries. The main question now is whether Obama can find a way to tweak his rhetoric so as to not only shield himself from the current attacks but also to win enough votes to take the state (he's currently behind in polls).

OR--will we see him lose but keep his significant delegate lead, keeping the fight alive until the convention, leaving McCain with all the time in the world to assemble his troops and reload.