Unless you are a bear emerging from hibernation for the first time this spring, I suspect you are aware of the comments Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama made prior to the Pennsylvania primary last week. For bears engaging in such decidedly human behavior as reading blogs, here is a recap. Senator Obama, speaking to a group of volunteers in San Francisco said that some voters have grown frustrated. “It’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
I’ve expressed my dismay with these comments in another post but what has escaped attention are Senator John McCain’s comments in response to Senator Obama’s statement. Senator McCain said, “These are the people that produced a generation that made the world safe for democracy. These are the people that have fundamental cultural, spiritual and other values that in my opinion have very little to do with their economic condition.”
“These people.” Really? Referring to “these people” demonstrates his lack of understanding of the American electorate as much as Obama’s comments do. There is no “these people” as a subset of American demographics regarding these two issues. “These people” are Americans. It is Americans who are deeply spiritual. It is Americans who believe in God. It is Americans who value the right to gun ownership. “These people” are “We the people.” The founding fathers felt so strongly about these two issues specifically that they addressed them first in writing our Bill of Rights.
I understand the point Senator McCain was trying to make and he would have been absolutely correct had he also made the point that the people who value religion and gun ownership are represented in every single demographic in the Untied States. Obama’s comments are demeaning in that they imply that the ONLY reason people believe in God or own guns is as a coping mechanism for their lot in life. This trivializes the importance of these issues and it is an arrogant analysis of how he believes people with less than he has OUGHT to feel.
McCain’s comments are equally repugnant. By labeling them “these people” he, too, ties these issues to an underclass of Americans, as if the wealthy don’t attend church or own guns. Additionally, he implies that it was this underclass that made the world safe for democracy, when, in fact, every American demographic has participated in the defense of our country and the spread of democracy.
Senator McCain missed an opportunity to unite Americans through the oratorical follies of Senator Obama. Obama continues to be a divisive candidate in this presidential election, not a unifier. But John McCain is doing no better, even when Obama lobs him a softball. Senator McCain’s comments demonstrate not just his being out of touch with mainstream America and what we believe and why we believe it, but they show him to be equally unable to unite the American electorate around a core set of values. To Americans hunting for a candidate they like, despite the finger pointing, Senator McCain often does little to stand out.