Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Buchanan: Bitter?

Finally, a real populist weighs in:

It was said behind closed doors to the chablis-and-brie set of San Francisco, in response to a question as to why he was not doing better in that benighted and barbarous land they call Pennsylvania.
Like Dr. Schweitzer, home from Africa to address the Royal Society on the customs of the upper Zambezi, Barack described Pennsylvanians in their native habitats of Atloona, Alquippa, Johnstown and McKeesport.
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and ... the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. . . ."
Pat Buchanan not only hits Obama where it hurts, he also hits the nail on the head, targeting exactly what is so obnoxious about "Bittergate": The extent to which Obama and the liberal zillionaires who comprised his San Francisco audience view blue-collar Americans as the exotic Other.

Buchanan, it must be remembered, was one of the first conservatives to see and understand the latent political power of "the Silent Majority."

Back in the '60s and '70s, there were lots of Americans who were sick of turning on their TVs and seeing mobs of overprivileged college students burning their draft cards, buring their bras or burning the flag. The media lavished attention on the hippies and the Yippies, the feminists and the Panthers -- noisy people who, it seemed, had nothing better to do than to stage protests and demonstrations and shout angry rhetoric about their rights.

What Buchanan presciently saw was that this Loud Minority did not speak for most Americans and were, in fact, profoundly resented by those hard-working, law-abiding people -- the Ordinary Americans --- who paid their taxes, saluted Old Glory, and were just as proud to send their sons to Parris Island as the elite were to send their sons to Yale.

Over the years, Buchanan's efforts to channel the unheard voices of the Silent Majority have led him to say and do things that have exposed him to criticism. He embraced economic protectionism, he was famously dismissed as an anti-Semite by William F. Buckley Jr., and he left the GOP in 2000 to run for president on the Reform ticket -- and ironically, because of his hitherto unsuspected level of support in Palm Beach County, played a key role in electing George W. Bush to the White House. Buchanan has since been denounced as a ringleader of the "Unpatriotic Conservatives," those on the Right who opposed the Iraq war before the first shot was fired.

Through it all, however, Buchanan has never stopped listening for the quiet voice of the Silent Majority. Here, in his column on Obama's now-notorious phrase about the "bitter" people of Pennsylvania, Buchanan hears that voice clearly. And what he hears is the Ordinary American's resentment of the snobbish condescension of so-called sophisticates.

Obama gave his wealthy San Francisco supporters a "pitch-perfect Hollywood-Harvard stereotype of the white working class," Buchanan says:
Though he sees himself as a progressive who has risen above prejudice, Barack was reflecting and pandering to the prejudice of the class to which he himself belongs, and which he was then addressing.
A few months back, Michelle Obama revealed her mindset about America with the remark that, "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." Barack has now revealed how he, too, sees the country. The Great Unifier divides the nation into us and them.
The "us" are the privileged cosmopolitan elite of San Francisco and his Ivy League upbringing. The "them" are the folks in the small towns and rural areas of that other America. Toward these folks, Obama's attitude is not one of hostility, but of paternalism. Because time has passed them by, Barack believes, they cannot, in their frustration and bitterness, be held fully accountable for their atavistic beliefs and behavior.
"Us and them" -- as often as conservatives like Buchanan have been accused of dangerous "divisiveness," here he exposes the inherent divisiveness of liberal elitism. While an Ivy League liberal like Obama can feel pity toward the working-class people of small-town Pennsylvania, he can never feel empathy toward them. From Obama's stratospheric perspective, those grubby steel workers are so far beneath him as to be unworthy of his notice . . . except for the unfortunate fact that he needs their votes to satisfy his upwardly-mobile ambitions.

Obama's ambitions, however, also require something else: Campaign cash. And to get that, he jets off to San Francisco for a Sunday wine-and-cheese event where he delivers an academic analysis of the "bitter" troglodytes whose votes he was so earnestly soliciting just a day or two earlier.

Obama is supposedly the new face of progressivism, the future of the Democratic Party. But he's actually a familar face from the party's past, the phony rich liberal. As Buchanan says:
Obama's remarks about small-town America told us little about small-town America, but a lot about Barack. He is yet another cookie-cutter liberal who has absorbed and internalized the prejudices of that blinkered breed. He is an African-American John Lindsay, the great liberal hope of the Nixon-Agnew era, of whom Frank Mankiewicz once said: He was the only populist he knew who played squash every day at the Yale Club.
Frank Mankiewicz! The mention of the name of George McGovern's campaign manager reminds me to ask Buchanan to tell the story about how Hunter S. Thompson nearly changed the course of history at the Manchester, N.H., airport in 1968.
"I'm a sane, responsible journalist; otherwise I might have hurled my
flaming Zippo into the fuel tank."
--Hunter S. Thompson
UPDATE: Linked by James Antle of The American Spectator. Thanks!


  1. Like him or not (and I DO like him), PJB has a refreshing perspective on lotsa things.

    And he knows history.

  2. I think Pat's new book on World War II is right on. Like him, I was a dedicated anti-Communist supporter of the Vietnam War in my youth. And I rooted for the police in the Chicago riots. But I always liked hippies as people. They were wrong-headed, but not wrong-hearted. Not so some of the worst of the frat boys at Chapel Hill, who had no interest in either College Democrats or College Republicans (well, maybe College Democrats, because they knew that's where their bread was buttered), or political theory and issues generally. Yet they would grow up to run America's businesses and, eventually, America's political parties. No one reminded me of these self-satisfied airheads more than George W. Bush. Perhaps Pat feels differently. Our heads usually think alike, but our hearts may be a bit different. I don't hear Barack Obama as belittling anyone. Critique his use of Marxist analysis, if you will. But don't be misled into believing that he values the worth of those steelworkers in Pennsylvania less than his admirers in San Francisco. No one would accuse George W. Bush and his friends of being that non-discriminating.