Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GOP Culture War: Clinging to Guns and Religion

In 2008, while on the campaign trail, then candidate Barack Obama made the following statement:

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.

The reaction was swift and furious from then rival Hillary Clinton and soon to be rival John McCain.  Mr. Obama was called an elitist, pundits claimed he was out of touch with working America, and he had a vision of America that was not American. But what did exactly say that was inaccurate?  You can argue that making the statement in California about people in Pennsylvania and the Midwest was not the brightest move, but I am questioning the veracity of the statement.  Was he wrong?
Let’s look at what has transpired since that April, 2008 day:
So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion”. It is neither shocking nor controversial that citizens will turn away from their local, state, and federal governments when they feel they are being abandoned and left behind.  As they lose faith in their elected leaders, people will  turn inward and turn to their local communities for strength, faith, and spirit.  Yes they get bitter.  Mr. Obama was simply noting that the blue collar Americans in the rust belt were being left further and further behind as offshoring undercut their employment opportunities in lieu of higher paying and higher profitable financial services jobs.  Yes manufacturing services were replaced with financial services.  I know many people in Pennsylvania and almost all of them love their guns, love hunting, and love the small town church-based community.  Remember soon after President Obama’s election victory the NPR/Fox News double barreled shot gun started spreading false rumors that the President was going to repeal the 2nd amendment, shut down gun stores, and confiscate guns.  Guns and ammo sales skyrocketed.  Yes these same folks started clinging evermore. 
“antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment”.  Antipathy can be defined as a deep-seated feeling of dislike.  In the context of this passage, Mr. Obama is saying that following 25 years of job losses, people will seek to blame others; others who are different.  In other words, Mr. Obama made a comment that has essentially become the GOP political platform since 2008.  Anti-immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia to name a few, courtesy of Team Romney member Kris Kobach, author of the illegal Arizona SB1070 anti-immigration law, have been championed by Republican Governors and Legislatures.  This wave of xenophobia tied into blue collar lower-middle income are a fundamental tenet of the Tea Party.  So before there was a Tea Party, Mr. Obama had already identified what would become a defining characteristic.  The future President was indicting what had become of the rust belt and the Republican Party turned it into a key plank of its platform.

But four years later he was not wrong?  Absolutely not.  In the last 12 months on top of the heinous and draconian immigration laws noted above we have heard GOP presidential candidates warn the electorate of Sharia Law and Islamists.  The Judeo-Christian law of the land is under threat and now elected secular liberal officials in Washington are attacking Christianity.  Give me a break.  Mr. Obama mentioned anti-trade sentiment in his speech on 2008.  Today, we have protectionist measures coming from the previously free market conservatives and we have actually heard Mitt Romney saying he didn’t want a trade war with China, he wanted to go to war with China. 
So a cultural observation made by candidate Obama became the basis of the latest round in the GOP waged Culture War featuring: Guns, Religion, Immigrants, and all things foreign.  It is now so deeply imbedded in the GOP platform that a crow bar cannot pry the plank s out.
A critique of how this country had turned its back on the rank and file has become the new Tea Party laced GOP.  And who do the Republicans offer up?  A vulture capitalist and reactionary social conservative.  Keep clinging because the guys you are backing don’t have your interests at heart.

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