Back in the more familiar environs of San Francisco after campaigning in small-town Pennsylvania, a still-shuddering Barack Obama explained the economic basis for the red state malaise of religion, gun ownership, xenophobia, and Republican-voting.
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.
And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Just a soupçon of federal job-training and economic aid, you see, and all those rednecks will turn in their deer rifles, subscribe to the New Yorker, and suddenly become sensitive to the urgent need for diversity down at the Polish-American Fire House.
Rand Simberg reports directly from “the Alabama of the North.”
I asked around the area, to see how his obvious compassion for Pennsylvanians was viewed. This is just one story, from one man in West Deer Township, but I’m sure that it’s typical.
“By cracky, it’s like the man sees into my soul!
“Thirty years ago, I had a good job in the mill in Pittsburgh. I was bringing in a good income, going to jazz clubs, discussing Proust over white wine and brie, with my gay friends of all colors. I was all for free trade, so that we could sell the steel overseas, and I never bothered to go to church, let alone actually believe in God.
“But then, the plant closed down, and I couldn’t get another job. I went on unemployment, and found odd jobs here and there, but they barely paid the rent in the loft, and the payment on the Bimmer. I couldn’t afford the wine and brie any more, and had to shift over to beer and brats.
“Of course, as a result, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd—the beer drinkers.
“And it wasn’t just the beer. Some of them actually went out in the woods in the fall, and shot animals. And kilt ‘em. With real guns!
“I was shocked, of course. For all their diversity, none of my gay friends would have ever thought of doing anything like that. But with my job loss, and lack of money for pedicures and pommade, they didn’t want to hang with me any more. So I borried a twelve gauge over’n’under, and went out with my new beer-drinking animal-killing friends in the woods. And I’ll tell you what, when I shot down that eight-pointer, I felt a sense of power over the helpless in a way that I hadn’t since I’d been looking down on the rednecks when I had that good job in Pittsburgh, driving around town in my 528i.
“But somehow the killing, and hating those two-timing nancy boys wasn’t enough. I was still in despair. I started to search for answers, and I thought that I found them in Jesus. It started small, just church on Sunday, with prayers and a lecture from the preacher.
“But it didn’t stop there. Soon I was attending Wednesday night revivals, and huzzahing and hossanahing, and babbling with the best of them. After a few months I’d graduated to juggling garter snakes, then rattlers.
“But it wasn’t enough. Despite all the gun caressing, and animal killing, and hatred of people who weren’t like me, and anger at the Colombians who were…doing something to me—I’m not entirely sure what, and the tongue speaking and snake handling, I still couldn’t find a job.
“My social life continued to deteriorate. Not only was I no longer interested in those sensitive swishes, or literature, but I was starting to look with lust at my sister. And not just look, I’ll tell you what. She’d been out of work, too, and was getting mighty interested, if you know what I mean.
“I have hit rock bottom.
“Please, help me, O Bama. Forgive me, O Bama. O Bama, my Bama, rescue me from this living hell in which Reagan, and Bush, and Clinton, and Bush, have consigned me. Restore unto me my loft and my teutonic status symbol. Give me back my poofter friends, and my pinot grigio and my baked gruyere, and lattes. Save me from the killing and the beer, and most of all, from Jesus. Save me, O my Bama, and I will commit my vote unto you.
This is just one story of the many lives that Barack Obama has touched, and blessed, this day in the benighted Keystone State. But with his obvious compassion, and ability to feel the pain of others so unlike him, he is sure to carry the state in a couple weeks.
Ace summarizes Obama’s campaign message to small-town residents of the Keystone State:
Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin’, Banjo-Strokin’ Chicken-Chokin’ Cousin-Pokin’ Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons
And compiles reactions:
Of course Obama is wrong. Rural Pennsylvanians loved their guns, hated foreigners and minorities and used religion as a front for their hatred loooong before the mills closed.