Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Common Knowledge

It’s ironic that the people who have been taking Barack Obama to task for his “bitter” comment and who label him as “elitist” first go to great pains to prove that they are not elitists themselves.

It’s especially funny to see someone like George F. Will, who radiates upper-crustacean elitism with his Brooks Brothers bow ties and prep-school English teacher demeanor, go after Mr. Obama for getting, as he puts it, on his high horse. Well, at least he didn’t call him “uppity.” And given Mr. Will’s vast experience with life in a small town and his long resume of having worked in plants that are now closed because the company moved to someplace else, not to mention his many nights spent playing air hockey at the VFW, he is perfectly suited to take the pulse of middle class America. Yeah, right. Oh, wait… he likes baseball. Well, that makes him Archie Bunker.

Oh, and get a load of Maureen Dowd. She proudly touts her middle class creds, right down to the bowling trophy, in order to get huffy with Mr. Obama, accusing him of being him not just an elitist, but a wimpy one at that. In her mind at least Hillary Clinton can throw down a shot of whiskey, even if it’s Crown Royal instead of Old Crow.

What these two exemplars of Main Street punditry seem to forget is that while Mr. Obama may have, as he said, mangled his words, he got it right; the people in small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and everywhere else do harbor cynicism towards the nebulous promises that politicians make. That’s why they rely on the things that have become a part of their lives that are tangible and create a bond with their friends and community: church, the duck blind, the school play, the potluck at the Moose Lodge, bingo night at the VFW, and the annual street fair that brings out the antique automobiles lined up on Main Street. And what a lot of people in those small towns have in common and aspire to is to better themselves and provide a way for their kids to grow up, move out, and move on. It’s an unspoken part of the American Dream: to become better than your forbearers; to become, in a way, one of the elite.