Update: I regret to inform readers of this blog I have been forced to suspend it. More information is in this article.
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
He could easily be talking about Northeast and Southwest PA and all the closed factories and lost jobs. Saying these people are bitter though and implying they are turning to guns and God and against immigrants is insulting and simplistic. I don't see these people as bitter. Exasperated, but not bitter. They are exasperated that their old ways of life are long gone, replaced by low paying jobs at warehouses and the service sector.
His message goes against the message of hope he's spent all these months conveying to voters: that there is hope. I've seen some pundits calling his comment elitist. I'm not sure that's how I see it. Perhaps out of touch with Pennsylvania is closer to the mark. Pennsylvanians have always loved their guns and religion, especially in Pennsyltucky, is ingrained in these communities. Lancaster Countians don't drive horses and buggies because jobs left 25 years ago. The culture of hunting has been here for centuries.
The immigration hysteria hasn't been fueled by the economy as much as a demagogue from Hazleton who saw the issue as a ticket to Washington. This issue is fueled by racism more than economics.
Are Pennsylvanians bitter? Not that I've seen. Unfortunately many people here, like those elsewhere across the country, voted against the pocketbooks in 2000 and 2004 through slick campaigns based on fear. These Republican efforts separated working people from their financial security by telling them they had more to fear from gays, lesbians and terrorists.
No one I've met turned to guns and God because they lost their job. It's tough to afford to hunt when you're unemployed. It isn't cheap to buy ammo, gear and gas to go upstate to their hunting cabins. I think it undervalues the mettle and intelligence of Pennsylvanians to accuse them of embracing guns and bitterness because of bad economic times.
The coal regions have been in bad shape for many years. The former steel towns in western Pennsylvania got hurt badly. A lot of our youth left the state looking for brighter futures and good jobs. I was one of them coming out of college in 1974. Many remained and built up new industries and new economies in these towns. The mills sometimes were replaced by new firms like Arrow International. The towns survived and survived without bitterness.
I'm sad to see Barack Obama confuse bitterness with exasperation. Exasperation that many politicians have failed them. Exasperation that Washington forgot them. Exasperation that their sons and daughters were sent to Iraq to die for a war based on lies. Now there is bitterness about that. Still, these folks haven't embraced guns or turned against immigrants. The racists against the immigrants have always hated immigrants.
Hillary Clinton responded to the remarks this afternoon in her stump speech.
Update: Here is Obama's explanation concerning his San Francisco comments. This was given in Terre Haute, Indiana last evening. Maybe it's just me but I think he needs to be in Pennsylvania, speaking directly to Pennsylvanians, to explain these statements. I'm so darned bitter I'm going to grab a gun, go to church then shoot me some immigrants.