27 May 2008

Cry of the Clintonites

Sean Wilentz is a respected and prizewinning American historian. I can vouch for his early work on working-class New York City and the rise of democratic class consciousness in the 19th century. As an analyst of the present he has problems. For reasons unclear to me he's an unreconstructed Clintonite who has responded to the Obama campaign with that exact sense of denied entitlement we associate with Senator Clinton's campaign. His latest screed has been picked up by the History News Network, where you can examine it for yourself. He has convinced himself through reading some selected blogs that the Obama campaign has contempt for the white working class, a condition he deems suicidal for the Democratic party. He reacts with unexplained jealousy to any aspiration expressed by an Obama supporter to expand the Democratic base, as if his salt-of-the-earth heroes had thus been dissed. He tries to convince us that Clinton has won the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries on the issues rather than by riling up a protest vote against Obama's alleged unelectability, which Wilentz attempts to confirm.

It's certainly an arguable point that a Democrat can't win the White House without getting some "White Working Class" votes, but Wilentz too readily buys the Clinton line that Obama will never get these votes to make the claim plausible. I suspect that he's projecting some of his own issues with "elitist" politics onto the larger public. It also looks like he can't quite accept that the WWC, at least as he defines it, isn't necessarily the most progressive constituency in American politics. It appears that, must he choose between progress and the WWC, he'll follow the latter over the cliff, as long as a Clinton is playing the pipes. This fawning attitude toward the Clintons from a man of learning is nearly inexplicable, while the similar fawning toward the WWC may reflect some craving for acceptance as a regular guy -- but we shouldn't speculate too far that way. Let's leave the topic with another writer's comment in response to Wilentz:

"Wilentz observes that George W. Bush carried the majority of white working class votes in 2000 and 2004. Are we then to assume that the white working class can be held responsible for electing the "worst" president in American history. If so, should the judgment of the white working class be trusted?"

1 comment:

crhymethinc said...

Well, that's democracy for ya...at least when it's in a nation with an ignorant, superstitious, uneducated majority population.