Typical Chardonnay People
by JFK464, Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:12:18 AM EDT
Communicating one's thoughts, ideas and plans is what is known in philosophy as a social practice. We all know that the same word can convey different meaning to different groups of people. Cool means something entirely different to an air conditioning repairman than it does to a high school skateboarder.
It goes without saying that the more educated a person is the more practice they've had using words to communicate. In fact, giving speeches comes from the discipline of rhetoric, a field defined as using words in order to persuade. Rhetoric has been developed and used by politicians since politics began.
There are rules to rhetoric, including how to use language most effectively to convince, inspire and even manipulate people. It's a topic worth lengthy investigation, especially when considering Barack Obama's mastery of the subject. As Ben Wallace-Wells writes in the February issue of Rolling Stone, "If you want to understand where Barack gets his feeling and rhetoric from," says the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leader of the religious left, "just look at Jeremiah Wright."
Compare, for example, Obama's use of language to target different audiences by remembering the speeches he gave in Mississippi where he mimicked Malcolm X by using "hoodwinked, bamboozled, and okie doke." Now reflect on Obama telling his wealthy California supporters in Marin county this week, "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."
While Hillary Clinton is right to criticize Obama for calling people "bitter," the insult is much greater than that. By equating owning guns with being religious and being religious with being xenophobic and anti-trade, Obama makes a sweeping generalization that again reveals how he stereotypes people. Obama is giving a more detailed description of typical white people, only this time, the insult includes their class--working class.
Obama seems to be suggesting that owning guns and practicing a religion are both symptoms of bitterness. The people who own guns and practice religion don't trust people who are different than they are, and who might that be? Obama, of course. The conclusion then is that people who don't like him are people who are embittered: gun-totting, religious fanatics who also hate foreigners.
I'm sure the people in Marin County got a big chuckle out of this regional put down. I can see them backing out of the parking lot, leaving their meeting with Obama, waving to each other from their Hybrids, Beemers or SUVS with the "Got Hope?" bumper stickers, and bemused by the bitter rednecks in Pennsylvania.
At the end of this speech, Obama encourages these wealthy Californians to persuade these poor bitter working slobs to vote for him. " I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing."
It sounds like he's sending the elite in to convert the "lunch-pail folks"-- and in his caricature of these people in Pennsylvania, I imagine the Californians as characters from the TV sitcom Frasier attempting to persuade TV's Roseanne and family to vote for Obama.