Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Must Obama Think About Us?

Ken Blanchard asks that question in response to a speech given by Barack Obama recently in San Francisco. The text from the offending portion of the speech is below.
[T]he truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of 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. 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.
Now I will not go into his religion and gun remarks as those are 2 subjects near and dear to many South Dakotans, and any disparaging remarks on those subjects are sure to alienate many. What I want to discuss is the anti-immigration bitterness and abandonment feelings that Obama discusses and Professor Blanchard takes exception to
What are the symptoms of that pathology, from which we in the Dakotas surely suffer? Anti-immigration and anti-trade sentiment, we learn. Now one might have thought that a person could want the immigration laws of the United States to be enforced without for that being called a dysfunctional personality. And as for anti-trade sentiment, apparently someone with an ivy-league education, from a boom town like Chicago, can suffer from it, as it is a major plank in Obama's platform.
I would submit that while Obama's remarks from a South Dakotan's perspective might cause one to take pause, someone from small towns in rust belt states can surely relate. Remember Obama is looking towards the next primary in Pennsylvania which happens to be one of these rust belt states

I was born and raised in one such town in Northern Ohio. Our economy revolved around manufacturing with a large Ford plant, an even larger Steel Foundry, and a shipbuilding facility that made up the brunt of the decent jobs in the area. During the mid to late 70's, all 3 industries took a major hit. Many of my friends parents lost their jobs when these industries either closed up shop or re-organized and couldn't find anything close to what they lost. For years politicians promised that their government would help and for years they didn't. With that background you would expect many to get frustrated and angry at anyone or anything they feel helped contribute to their situation. In other words cheap labor from illegal immigration and unfair trade agreements forged with other countries.

These are the people Obama was addressing in his speech and Pennsylvania has plenty of listeners.

So when Blanchard asks what must Obama think about us? I would have to answer, right now he probably doesn't think much about us at all. He is a politician only worried about his next contest. In May right before our primary I am sure Senator Obama will be all over agricultural and tourism issues that will have many rust belt residents asking the same questions as Prof Blanchard asks now.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Obama is now backpedaling from his guns and religion comments in response to the uproar that has ensued.

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