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Democrats and the Benighted American People

“I think we’re on a different kind of a news cycle than what I’ve been used to. … And a lot of that commentary is very inflammatory,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who supports Obama, told Politico:

It appeals to the emotional distress that people may have. Now, we’ve had people like that in the past, don’t get me wrong. We had our Huey Longs and our Father Coughlins and our Joe McCarthys — there has always been somebody like that — but they never had a big pulpit. They never had a big audience. Now, the Glenn Becks have a big audience. And so they stir up these passions in people. And if you’re hurting, you’re out of work, sometimes they can appeal to people like that, that are anxious and worried about their future.

This quote by Sen. Harkin reveals several things. The first is that there really is no end to the self-pity of many Democrats. I’m not great fan of Glenn Beck; in fact, I’ve criticized him several times. But are liberals really that obsessed with him? And have they forgotten that Democrats have control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate? Or that the media voted overwhelmingly for Obama?

Senator Harkin is offering a variation of the “we have a communication problem” excuse Democrats use all the time. It is frankly absurd — though it’s probably reassuring to Republicans, assuming Democrats like Harkin actually believe this narrative.

Beyond that, Harkin’s quote echoes Obama’s off-the-record comment made during the 2008 campaign about people in small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest who are frustrated by their economic conditions. “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter,” Obama told a group of wealthy donors in San Francisco on April 6. “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.”

It turns out these liberals really are elitist, and they really do look down their noses at a citizenry they consider benighted, childish, and bigoted. And they honestly believe that in times of difficulty, ordinary Americans cling to their Bibles, their guns, their antipathy toward immigrants and those who aren’t like them — and Glenn Beck.

This analysis is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. The public doesn’t much like being viewed in such condescending and paternalistic terms. But better they know about it than not.


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