In case you haven't heard the Barack Obama quote surreptitiously taped at an April 6 San Francisco fundraiser, then broadcast on The Huffington Post, here it is: Obama noted that in many high-unemployment small towns, jobs have been gone for decades and neither the Bush or Clinton administrations helped restore them, so "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."
You've heard this song sung before. Before he became Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean voiced the same condescending view of voters in 2003 when he said that Democrats had to stop letting the GOP woo voters on "guns, God, gays" and abortion.
Get it? If any blue-collar workers vote Republican, it cannot be because they had good reason. No, they must have been tricked into doing so, so they can't be very smart.
The attitude is that what these folks believe in is not important -- be it the right to protect themselves or that federal immigration laws mean something. Democrats like Obama and Dean know what really is in these voters' self-interest.
Obama later admitted, "I didn't say it as well as I should have." No lie. His big mistake was that he played to the conceit of Bay Area liberals when he was asked how to appeal to Pennsylvania voters, whom, Obama was quick to note, can be "culturally" very different from San Franciscans.
In Obama's answer, one could hear that he is wise to the precious Bay Area liberal lament: Oh why, oh why isn't the rest of America as enlightened as we are?
And: If only the rest of America were better educated, then folks would turn in their hunting rifles and head for the sushi bar, sneer at devout evangelical Christians and happily hire immigrant gardeners -- just like we do.
No wonder Hillary Clinton panned the remarks as "elitist" and "offensive." Yes, but Obama's condescension is not rare. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof recently wrote, "Barack Obama's skin color may cost him some working-class white voters, but it's also winning some votes among blacks and among whites eager to signal their open-mindedness."
Kristof meant well, but he apparently is so open-minded that he lumped working-class whites into the heap of lesser beings who -- unlike him? -- buy into noxious stereotypes. Note that when Latinos don't vote for Obama, pundits don't automatically assume it's about race. Ditto college-educated whites. Only working-class whites are so quickly presumed racist.
I am not anti-intellectual. I've read Sophocles in Greek, Ovid in Latin and Baudelaire in French. That makes me more educated than the average bear, but I still don't know how to fix my car. And if life has taught me anything, it is to not assume that when people hold an opinion different from mine, it is because they are bitter, do not know what is in their own best interests and should be wearing T-shirts printed with, "I'm with stupid."
It cannot be an accident that Obama spoke as he did in an area where many two-college-degree Democrats think that, because everyone they know thinks as they do, that all the smart people must be liberals. It does not occur to them that they are cocooned in their own like-minded world, just as guys who go duck hunting and women who cook for the church bake sale might do. They dutifully nod when Obama talks about small-town voters who express "antipathy to people who aren't like them" -- and they don't even realize they are doing just that.
Then they congratulate themselves for being so broad-minded.