To the Editor:
Paul Hogarth misreads Barack Obama’s insensitive remarks, errant not for calling non-supporters “bitter” but stereotypically generalizing how “they” feel and, worse, how they compensate for hopelessness with religion and hunting, and yikes! intolerance towards minorities and immigrants. Had Obama merely said “bitter,” he would have sounded sympathetic, his intention all along I believe. But he overreached when explaining away the economically downtrodden in distinctively non-economic terms, even when rightly stating they vote against self-interest.
Explanations from politicians of complex behavior and feelings (whether faith or bigotry or shooting defenseless animals) are risky, likely to sound elitist and condescending especially from someone of “deep faith” who should have been wary of oversimplifying religion let alone shooting. Suggesting victims have been doubly duped (by themselves, globalization, bad policies, and the GOP) is an odd way to win skeptics to your side!
Further, Obama must be faulted for presuming he is ever (in public) off the record when speaking hard truths. None of his comments deserved the firestorm and misinterpretation tossed off by Clinton, but you can’t be surprised when a desperate Hillary jumps on his rare verbal miscues, especially reflecting his very positive “elitist” Harvard education.
I think Obama will learn from this mistake, but let’s not write off the brouhaha as simply “infuriating.” He did more than misspeak but may well have revealed an intellectual mindset that appeals to California donors and activists (with our own prejudices) while offending people no longer in the middle class, not college education, and resistant to viewing themselves as an victimized, powerless minority.
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