While, yes, all presidential candidates are more affluent, sometimes more educated, and steeped in Washington perks and fancy dinners, Republicans are much more natural at expressing respect for life outside the Beltway and its traditions than Democrats. Hence, the contrast between Obama's and McCain's thoughts on small-town America.
When I look at small towns, I don't see seething backwoods cauldrons of religious fanaticism and rifle fire. I see church picnics populated by war heroes and hard-working men and women who strive to raise families well in a world where it's sometimes hard to do that. Most American voters see what I see, and that's why McCain's words this morning ring so true, and will work so well to outline the ever-increasing gap between Obama and him (delivered to the AP's annual meeting today):
Now, before I take your questions, I would like to respond briefly to the comments one of my opponents made the other day about the psychology and political mindset of Americans living in small towns and other areas that have experienced the loss of industrial jobs.
During the Great Depression, with many millions of Americans out of work and the country suffering the worst economic crisis in our history, there rose from small towns, rural communities, inner cities, a generation of Americans who fought to save the world from despotism and mass murder, and came home to build the wealthiest, strongest and most generous nation on earth. They were not born with the advantages others in our country enjoyed. They suffered the worst during the Depression. But it had not shaken their faith in and fidelity to America and its founding political ideals. Nor had it destroyed their confidence that America and their own lives could be made better. Nor did they turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment and a feeling of powerlessness to affect the course of government or pursue prosperity. On the contrary, their faith had given generations of their families purpose and meaning, as it does today. And their appreciation of traditions like hunting was based in nothing other than their contribution to the enjoyment of life.So, Mac is going for the jugular by taking his campaign to rural America. As an Arizonan, with a Western spirit, an honest if not ostentatious connection to his own faith, and plenty of experience with firepower, he'll do fine among the "bitter" people who make this country great.
In my other profession and the war I served in, the country relied overwhelmingly on Americans from these same communities to defend us. As Tocqueville discovered when he traveled America two hundred years ago, they are the heart and soul of this country, the foundation of our strength and the primary authors of its essential goodness. They are our inspiration, and I look to them for guidance and strength. No matter their personal circumstances, they believed in this country. They revered its past, but most importantly they believed in its future greatness, a greatness they themselves would create. They never forgot who they were, where they came from, and what is possible in America, a country founded on an idea and not on class, ethnic or sectarian identity. And America must not and will not forget them.
Next week, I'll begin a tour of places in America that do not frequently see a candidate for President. They are places far removed from the prosperity that is enjoyed elsewhere in America. I want to tell people living there that there must not be any forgotten parts of America; any forgotten Americans. Hope in America is not based in delusion, but in the faith that everything is possible in America. The time for pandering and false promises is over. It is time for action. It is time for change, but the right kind of change; change that trusts in the strength of free people and free markets; change that doesn't return to policies that empower government to make our choices for us, but that works to ensure that we have choices to make for ourselves. For we have always trusted Americans to build from the choices they make for themselves, a safer, stronger and more prosperous country than the one they inherited.Obama is the man who asks the American people to believe, not just in him, but in themselves. But it's these words from McCain that reflect a real belief in the power of the American people.
Update: Along these same lines, via Mickey Kaus:
Andrew Sullivan and John Rosenberg both say that Obama's "cling" argument comes from Thomas Frank's economistic "What's the Matter with Kansas?"--which seems semi-tragic to me. The great achievement of Republicanism over the past decade, I'm convinced, was getting average Americans to think that it was the Democrats who were the snobs. The person who convinced me of this (in a highly persuasive lecture) was Thomas Frank. Now Frank's theories--if you follow Rosenberg--are on the verge of convincing millions of average Americans that the Republicans were right, at least about the likely Dem nominee. ...