e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


heard 'round the world?

I love this picture.

Hillary Clinton has a beer and a shot and reminisces about when her grandpa taught her how to shoot a gun. Barack Obama bowls a couple frames. Must be time to court the working-class vote. Remember when John Kerry went duck hunting and circulated pictures of the garage band he was in as a teenager (at prep school, but still)?

After she recounted the gun story, one reporter asked Hillary Clinton when the last time she shot a gun was and she got quite angry. Who likes to be called out? Especially so close on the heels of her revelation that she and her husband made $109 million in the last eight years.

Much has been made of Barack Obama's recent words about how residents of small towns (because you can't say "working class") sometimes "get bitter" during hard financial times. "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 said.

I believe Obama when he calls this a poor choice of words. During tough times people do sometimes turn to various things good, bad, and all points in between for comfort: too much food, booze, religion, hatred of others, and lots of other things too. But I don't blame those who are offended by the diction either. "Cling" suggests desperation, I suppose. And there's something honest about acknowledging that members of our society do feel desperation right now, but there's also something dismissive about the term.

And the end of the quotation often gets left out. Anti-trade sentiment is just a result of desperation? A lot of folks (many of them who feel disenfranchised by the democratic party) oppose free-trade not because they're "clinging" to some final vestige of an antiquated ideology by because they (we!) think it results in unethical conditions for workers in the U.S. and elsewhere. I'm less offended as a person of faith (who, I guess, "clings" to religion) than I am as a critic of free trade (who also "clings" to a particular ideology about trade practices).


Rebecca Moore Howard said...

Thanks very much for this analysis, Bill, and especially the argument in the final paragraph. It reinforces for me how small a space there actually is between the Democratic and Republican platforms ("the word bullshit also applies," a friend remarks) that will soon be drawn up. Both of them are driven by capital rather than social ideals. Neither of them offers the possibility of governing by any principles other than the consolidation of economic capital in the hands of transnational corporations. And given that I buy the argument I hear you making here, that's what's really being "said" in the Obama Gaffe.

bdegenaro said...

Becky: I hear ya. And I mostly agree about the too-thin line that separates the major parties. Maybe "cling" is an appopriate word to describe subscribing to beliefs that defy the logic of global capital. (and this is coming from a supporter of Obama, albeit one who would rather be supporting Kucinich!)