IHATE beer. Can't bowl. Guns scare me. Sometimes miss Mass. Have two college degrees. Speak four languages. Lived in Europe. Practice immigration law. Don't own a flag pin. And I absolutely love brie.
So let's just slap an Obama button on my flagless lapel since I'm the type of person Barack is tailor-made to charm, right?
Stereotyping is such fun. Problem is, it's almost never accurate, and usually ends up revealing more about the prejudices of those who use labels to make their arguments than it does about the people being labeled.
I'm squarely in that demographic (educated and urban) presumed to be in Obama's corner. But the reality is that I have much more in common with the "bitter" folks whom the Illinois senator dismissed than I do with the supercilious Smug-o-crats who think low IQs and racism go hand-in-hand (a hand probably also holding an NRA membership card).
It angers me to think that my grandparents, decent people who left school before the fifth grade to earn money for their struggling families, would be disdained by the elites who've overtaken what was once the party of the people. It offends me that the campaign wizards write off my uncle, who didn't graduate from high school yet served in the military to protect this country because, perhaps, he might not grasp the "nuance" in Sen. Obama's rhetoric.
And it grieves me that those who look and sound like me have such little regard for people who don't look and sound like them, people who stubbornly cling to a moral and cultural code that resists the allure of a quick fix, of insubstantial promises, of artificial mandates for "change."
Obamanites are not the only ones who have this fascination with rank-and-file Americans who defy expectations (as if they were a mutant strain of some alien disease). The Democratic machine has, for years, been struggling to explain how it has managed to lose so many voters to the conservatives.
It started with Reagan in 1980, when Democrats defected in huge numbers to the GOP because the candidate "got" them. He wore nice suits, had money and was an eloquent speaker, like Obama. But unlike the senator, he didn't act as if they puzzled him, as if he couldn't believe they'd really put un-nuanced patriotism before their own narrow economic interests.
People have written books about the phenomenon, books like "What's the Matter With Kansas?" - lame attempts by bitter liberals to explain why residents of red-state America consistently vote against their own "self-interest." When Obama made his comments to the appreciative crowd in Marin County, he was channeling that philosophy.
And despite his subsequent protests that he'd used poor language and didn't really mean what he said, we knew better. For perhaps the first time in his exceptional candidacy, words really did have meaning.
There is that sense among people with college degrees, 401(k)s and wine cellars that those who never made it to their educational or economic level have a stunted existence that makes them much more susceptible to racism and sexism and all the other -isms (except, of course, "multiculturalism") that make them unworthy of the vote.
Will Bunch, moderator of this paper's blog "Attytood," implied as much. He recently had a post titled "There Are Some Votes Not Worth Getting." He was writing about the supposedly racist inhabitants of West Virginia, the state that Hillary Clinton went on to win by a crushing margin.
In arguing why Obama shouldn't be too worried about his probable loss, the author quoted a West Virginian who said he'd heard Obama was a Muslim and his wife an atheist. From there, Will extrapolated the following:
"When the views of some voters like these are based on false conspiracy theories or just a distrust of an American solely because he doesn't look like them, we shouldn't criticize or blame that candidate for not getting their votes. In fact, it's a pretty powerful argument why America needs exactly the opposite - a president with the ability to overcome such small mindedness, and unmask it for what it is."
There's no denying that some of those who oppose Obama do so for irrelevant, mean-spirited reasons. What's insulting is the suggestion that people who don't crack some imaginary education or affluence threshold shouldn't matter as much as we the enlightened. (Unless, of course, they like Obama. Then they've exceeded low expectations.)
Someone should remind the party of the people that, when
it comes to the vote, we're all created equal. *
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.