Getting closer to the Pennsylvania primaries on the 22nd of April a topic has popped up that might do some damage to Barack Obama and his potential results in the East Coast State. It was the Huffington Post, the popular weblog of Ariana Huffington, that brought it up.
At a fundraising meeting in San Francisco the other day Obama was asked about his campaign experiences up to now and why he was still lacking support of the working-class voters. In his answer he said: “It’s not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” This quote made its way through the blogosphere and the traditional media like a firecracker.
Commentators related to Karl Marx and his famous quote of “religion as opium for the people” and found it inacceptable for a presidential candidate to argue in such a way. Others said that Obama dances around the truth. Their argument: He should have answered this question in the only possible clear and true way by referring to the racial issue: “A lot of folks are not with me because I am black, but I am trying to make my best of it”, would have been the right answer in the critic’s opinion.
The statement will probably hurt Obama in the Pennsylvania primaries. What I find striking about it is how big a public discussion can arise from some sentences. And what is even more incredible is how the two Democrat candidates intensify their struggle against each other. In a new ad that has just been released today Hillary Clinton tries to take advantage of this rhetorical mistake made by her rival.
It might be true that “bitter” is not the right word to describe how people feel who regard themselves as disadvantaged and neglected by the political leaders. It might also be true that this is one of the examples to show that Barack Obama can still improve his political sensitiveness and sensibility. But more than everything else it might be a bitter experience for the Democratic Party that the two candidates are fighting each other by means of negative campaigning that one could expect not to happen earlier than in the final phase of the election race between the candidate of the Democrats and the Republicans in autumn.
In the end “bitter” could just be the right word to describe what might be the feeling left for the Democratic Party after the elections in November.