Annie where's your gun?
She's talking like she's Annie Oakley.

-- Barack Obama (on Hillary's sudden commitment to the Second Amendment.)

The dust has not settled on Barack Obama's remarks about bitter small-town folks clinging to God and guns. Far from it. This morning I briefly flipped through the radio dial. From left to right everyone was still talking. Bill Bennett, one of the most polite conservative talk show hosts (and never a part of the "vote for Hillary" crowd) is now saying that he just doesn't see how middle America could ever vote for someone who thinks like Obama, and he sees the remarks as reflecting the Marxist "religion is the opiate of the masses" meme. Bear in mind that I'm very accustomed to hearing attacks on Obama from the shrill and angry right, and this was anything but that. Bennett was being reflective and fair.

It is no understatement to say that if uncontained, Obama's remarks threaten the ethos of the Democratic Party, and of liberalism itself.

There's a lot of scrambling, with liberals -- especially Clinton supporters -- trying to sound like populists. Here's Reverend Bubba:

"One more time, the campaign opposite Hillary said, 'Well there really wasn't any difference in the Clinton years and the Bush years. Rural Pennsylvania really didn't do very well.' Do you agree with that?" he asked the crowd, which responded with jeers. Smiling broadly, Clinton continued: "I just thought I'd get a few witnesses here. You know I'm a Baptist. On Sunday, we look for witnesses."
The problem for the Democrats is that what Obama said is standard fare. Especially among the wealthier and better-educated Democrats, the idea that the flyover country people stubbornly cling to their "backwardness" is a garden variety belief of the sort that would not raise an eyebrow. This is precisely what they don't want ordinary voters to know. Which means ultimately, Obama may have to become a scapegoat over this.

But will the wealthy, well-educated Democrats (the ones whose support is necessary to fund campaign in the fall) be willing to throw Barack Obama to the wolves? That depends on the direction of the spin. Right now it's a bit too early to tell. If Team Obama can shake this, that's one thing, but they're in a tough spot, as they can't easily slough it off as mainstream Democratic thinking, and hence there's a major effort to explain the remarks "in context." For Team Hillary, the goal is to simply deny that the remarks are true, but avoid grappling with the fact that many of the Democratic intelligentsia agree with them. Thus, it is no accident that most of the "explanations" avoid looking at the one context which is the most important in analyzing any piece of discourse, and which is absolutely vital here.

The audience.

Without knowing the audience, it's nearly impossible to determine the context of a statement. No serious political candidate with even the most rudimentary rhetorical skills would imagine that he could give the same speech to a group of military veterans that he would give at a peace rally, and vice versa. Similarly, what might be said at an organization of business entrepreneurs would bomb at a union rally.

Why isn't more being said by the left about Obama's audience? It isn't as if the homework hadn't already been done for them. Well before these remarks broke, Zombietime did a great job of examining the attendees in detail. It's a hilarious post, and anyone who wants to understand the mindset of the rich San Francisco liberals who flocked to the Getty Mansion fundaiser need look no further. (Zombietime has audio too.)

I think the problem is that the Democrats need two things: as many votes from the bitter little flyover people who cling to God and guns as they can hoodwink them into delivering, and as much of the rich wealthy money as they can squeeze out of the types who attended the event covered by Zombietime.

By exposing the mindset of the latter, Obama's remarks are thus a much bigger threat to the Democrats' lifeblood than many analysts realize.

Which means that they may have to turn on him in order to redeem themselves. Yeah, I know it's more denial than redemption, but surely they can't be expected to admit that Obama the chameleon was only telling them what they wanted to hear so that they'd reach for the checkbooks, can they?

Needless to say, I'm not happy about this, because as I've said before, if Hillary can come from below and beat Obama, she will beat McCain. Middle America loves an underdog, especially an underdog from the "middle."

Yes, "middle" belongs in quotes, because whether Annie Hillary is really in the middle is about as "relevant" as the last time she fired a gun or went to church.

Hillary's "guns" have to be seen in context.

UPDATE: Speaking of context, Frank J. reports an additional remark by Barack Obama that never saw the light of day in the MSM:

"See, all I have to do is get those jobless crackers jealous of people with more money, and they'll forget everything I said. Stupid honkeys."
Hmmm.... Maybe this wasn't the political blunder that it first appeared to be.

MORE: Commenter Al Maviva raises an interesting point:

what's the difference between [Obama's] position, and a cosmopolitican libertarian's position?
Plenty. While I linked and discussed his post before, Sean Kinsell (who describes himself as a "an overeducated, corporate, atheist, homosexual urbanite who's spent the last dozen years in Tokyo and is now happily returning to New York" and who I think could fairly be described as "the cosmopolitican libertarian's cosmopolitican libertarian") explains in detail here.

posted by Eric on 04.14.08 at 09:20 AM


So, other than the guns, what's the difference between his position, and a cosmopolitican libertarian's position? Seems to me he'd be at least 50% in agreement with the Reason crowd. (Probably more than 50%, as they seem to agree with private gun ownership in principle, rather than in practice, given the type of people likely to actually own guns...)

Admittedly I'm unfair to take this out of context, Obama initially said they also cling to xenophobia and protectionism, then later defended his remarks with the incoherent argument that the bible reminds us to cling to the good things in life. But still.

Al Maviva   ·  April 14, 2008 9:51 AM

If they dump Obama there will be riots. Fires. Blood in the streets.

Remember '68. The left even is organized on that principle. Recreate '68

That is a position I do not believe they actually want to be in. May the hot heads prevail!

McCain '08.

M. Simon   ·  April 14, 2008 10:57 AM

This primary season is so much fun I can hardly bear it.

Senator Obama either doesn't have around him or is not listening to people who know how things sound to non-liberals.

I thought the divide in the electorate between those whose frame of reference is Western (Mill) and those whose frame is Eastern (Marx) would shrink. I thought that maybe Obama would even help with that effort. But he isn't Western enough.

He preaches unity, and repeats his opponent's positions, but never accepts their ideas. What he means by unity is that his opponents accept his frame of reference and his ideas.

I think that even if he gets elected he will have the immediate effect of sharpening the division between west and east, rather than unifying. Whether his long term effect is different I can't predict.

Socrates   ·  April 14, 2008 11:57 AM

"...who describes himself as a 'an overeducated, corporate, atheist, homosexual urbanite who's spent the last dozen years in Tokyo and is now happily returning to New York' and who I think could fairly be described as 'the cosmopolitican libertarian's cosmopolitican libertarian.'"

Darling, you're going to make me blush. Thanks for yet another link back. I'm not at all sure that I'm in a position to represent the thinking of the cosmopolitan libertarian's cosmopolitan libertarian, but I will venture to say this: among the libertarians I know, a major belief is that others are going to choose ways of living that you yourself would not. That is not a justification for concluding they they're doing so because the state isn't sufficiently using its coercive power to the end of making them happy. People become "cynical" about the government because they realize there's a lot it has its hands in that it can't fix.

Sean Kinsell   ·  April 14, 2008 2:18 PM

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