I'm going to break my strike.
I have some insights into what Obama was saying with his remarks about the rural poor as a Midwesterner who was born in a small town. Since I regularly deal with anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-trade, pro-gun fundamentalist Christians, I applaud him for his words. They ring with the sound of truth.
I was born in Winchester, Indiana. The town's 2000 per capita income was $17,753. 10.9% of families and 15% of the general population were below the poverty line. In 2006 the population was 4,738 with a 42% unemployment rate.
I've mentioned before that I'm on disability. I take consulting jobs, but if I make more than $1000 a month, I lose my benefits. Between working and my disability payments, I made less than $16k in 2007. I'm stuck on disability though since it gives me health insurance. If I start a new job that pays a living wage, I lose my insurance. My medication currently costs about $400/month; add in doctor visit costs or a non-disability illness or accident and I'd be screwed. Obama's statement rings true for me because he is telling my story of bitterness and classism.
So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work -- don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.
Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).
But the 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. So it's not surprising then that 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.
--Barack Obama's comments about the rural poor. Most quotes only use part of the last paragraph.
My Dad was a hard working man
My father worked for a mould-making factory that supplied parts for Anchor Glass - the town's largest employer at the time. Anchor started moving jobs out of town in the late 80's. By the time I graduated high school in '91, the factory was at about 30% of its production. When Anchor started bleeding jobs to other states and countries, the other businesses that surrounded the glass industry started to go under right and left. My father's employer was sold and then shut down in the mid-90's.
Dad was in his late 50's. This close to retirement his chances of finding similar work were slim. He floated from job to job until retirement age, but never made the same amount of money. I watched him sink into depression and make untold bad decisions. Our already shaky relationship crumbled under the onslaught of alcoholism, outsourcing and poverty.
He became a Pentecostal - one of the most fundamentalist sects of Christianity. My friends and I would joke that there were three industries in town - glass, bars and churches. Once Anchor started to hemorrhage jobs, it only left the other two. Dad combined the last two together once he couldn't pay his bills.
Small town Indiana
Winchester's population has continued to shrink census after census. I fled the week after graduating high school and haven't looked back. My mom moved to a different town looking for work where she could be close to my sister. Only one of my high school friends still lives in Winchester; he is desperately unhappy but stays to take care of his family. After all, he's one of the lucky ones. He has a job.
I came out in high school and made the town gossips talk for weeks. Different was frowned upon in Winchester and so was I. The census data shows that Winchester is 98.2% white. I'm not surprised.
I grew up with a rifle, shotgun and two handguns in the house. Jerame's father used to have a gun collection that would rival a small arsenal. His parents go hunting to supplement their food supply. They also denigrate Arabs, Mexicans, African-Americans and any other ethnic group that catches their ire by having more money than they do.
Bitter is a part of my life
The media feeding frenzy over Barack Obama's remarks about the poor and the resultant faux outrage from the Republican Party incenses me. Hillary Clinton's willingness to jump on the bandwagon infuriates me to no end. Why? I am bitter.
I'm bitter that so much of my childhood and adult life has been determined by figuring out how to keep food on the table. I'm angry that during the Bush/Clinton/Bush decades, I've been homeless, unemployed, disabled, hungry and cold at various and sometimes concurrent times. I'm upset that the current idiots in Congress think I can be bought off for $300 when that wouldn't even pay my Indiana property taxes.
I'm angry that gas costs $3.50 a gallon and we can't afford to get our second car fixed since our fuel costs have shot sky high along with our groceries, household goods and utilities. After all, the car is trashed because it was stolen. The crime rate shoots up when the economy sinks and I'm caught in the crossfire.
How it relates to Obama
One of my biggest complaints about Hillary Clinton is that I just don't trust her to always lead the Democratic Party with a progressive stance. Hillary is a moderate; her husband was the King of riding the middle. I don't trust McCain to lead the Republican Party with a moderate stance instead of a conservative one. He's a no brainer just because there's absolutely no chance that he'll govern the way our country needs.
I keep my eye on Barack Obama just because he keeps promising change and progressive leadership. He offers Americans something that the public hasn't had in a while - the truth. Notice I didn't say the unvarnished truth. Why? I doubt that he'll be any different from any other damn politician that has come before. Promising miracles is vastly different from walking on water yourself.
I'm one of those people cynical about politicians. I expect them to promise us the sky and produce clumps of dirt. I feel betrayed by the government and when I hear "a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government," I have to take a fourth or fifth look.
So when I hear millionaires calling other millionaires elitists and snobs, I can watch it flow down the economic chain gang. Other elitists repeated the claim. It seems the richer a person is, the more outraged they are on Clinton's behalf. Senator Evan Bayh, a Clintonista hoping to be her veep, issued his own statement that only succeeded in making the elitist millionaire politician seem like an even bigger hypocrite bleating on behalf of the common man he's never had to associate with.
Barack Obama has spoken the truth. He spoke the truth when he talked about race relations. For the second time he called it like it is and the opposition (within and without the Party) have gone nuts. While the pragmatist in me starts to prepare for the inevitable let down (now that I've picked him, he'll lose the primary or - worse yet - he'll win and run to the center and do absolutely nothing), one basic truth stands out in my mind...
Those who decry the truth usually have the most to gain from keeping the status quo.
And that angers me too.