Friday, May 02, 2008

"Condescending" vs. "Not Condescending"


Following up on Michael Gerson's explanation of what's "condescending" to working class voters,
Lower-income whites, he argued, "feel their dreams slipping away," and so they turn to resentment against busing and affirmative action, "anger over welfare" and "fears of crime."

* * *

This is the same argument, expressed more bluntly at a San Francisco fundraiser, that Obama made about bitter, small-town Americans who cling to guns and religion. He does not even admit the possibility that these folks might have actual convictions on issues such as affirmative action, welfare, crime, gun ownership or the meaning of the universe.
Let's take a look at how the right-wing press treats working class voters. Speaking of Hillary Clinton, Quin Hillyer writes:
IN TERMS OF POLICIES, her actions and positions have been directly opposed to the interests of blue-collar workers who pay taxes. Take welfare reform, for instance.
Welfare reform? Didn't Gerson put that topic off-limits?
Perhaps the single most successful programmatic reform in the past 30 years, [welfare reform] saved taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, gave people incentives to find jobs, and quite arguably played a big role in a decade of improving statistics in areas ranging from drops in crime to drops in the teen birth rate and the divorce rate.
Oops - he mentioned crime. How condescending.

As for the "teen birth rate" dropping? Teen births (and teen pregnancy) are on the rise. But maybe he only wants to look at overall statistics, not trends, and suggest that "correlation is the same as causation". If he believes that he's not being condescending - just ignorant. If not... let's check Gerson's list of things elitists do.... Nothing's there about assuming your audience won't see through cheap subterfuge, so apparently it's not condescending to present misleading statistical claims.
This is the woman who tried to foist a massively bureaucratic health care plan onto the American people in 1993 and 1994, but when told that her plan would be devastating to the small mom-and-pop shops that provide most jobs in America, dismissed those concerns with these words: "I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America."
Well, according to census data, in 2004 small employers (business with employees, but with < 10 employees) employed 12.7 million people. Move that up to < 20 employees and they employed 21.2 million people. Move that up to < 100 employees, and it's 41.8 million people. Out of 115 million paid employees. There were also close to 20 million nonemployer firms, but those firms wouldn't have been affected by mandates to insure employees. Oh, let's include them anyway. We'll call every business with < 100 employees a "mom-and-pop shop" - assuming some joint operation by husbands and wives, now we're probably around 70 million jobs out of 145 million. So we're close to half.

Let me check Gerson's list.... Lying, lying, lying... nope, not on the list of condescending acts. So I guess Hillyer's okay.
This is also the woman who has spent an entire career supporting legal positions (and judges) that are contrary to the deeply held views of most white workers. Strong support for racial preferences? Check.
Oops. That suggests working class voters care about affirmative action.
Judges who rule against basic Christmas displays in the public square? Check.
Wow. A condescending depiction of judges who uphold the First Amendment as attacking Christianity. But it's not clear that Gerson would view this as suggesting that working class voters "cling to religion" in defiance of actual facts and issues as opposed to "having actual convictions on the meaning of the universe" (even if at odds with the Constitution), so it's hard to tell if Gerson would see this as condescending or not.

Fortunately, I'm sure that any day now Gerson will rip apart the condescension of the right-wing press toward working class Americans. Surely he'll devote column after column to the same issue, tirelessly demonstrating how elitist the right wing media, political leadership, and leading pundits are toward working class voters.

Any day now.....

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