Q. Do you agree with the following statement, or do you find it offensive in some way?
You go into 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 it's not surprising, then, 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
These are the words of Barack Obama from last Sunday, as quoted by the BBC and by the Senator's rivals. According to the Clinton campaign, these are "elitist" sentiments. According to the McCain campaign, they demonstrate in "breathtaking" fashion that Obama is "out of touch" with the American mainstream. According to Obama's own mea culpa, the comments were ill-phrased, but why exactly should he apologize? Is it "elitist" not to flatter the American people in every phrase? Are you "out of touch" if you describe facts without expressing complete and approving empathy with the people you describe? Some people are bound to think so, but they're the ones who confuse democracy with self-esteem. The American people need to hear hard truths this year, but given the response (from the other candidates, at least) to this truth that wasn't even particularly hard, our prospects aren't very promising.
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Here's a bonus question: What's the subtext behind all this talk about Obama's "elitist" campaign. All I can figure at first glance is that Obama is the "post-racial" candidate who invites voters to rise above prejudice and preconception, so who is he to tell us how to think? ...