Friday, April 4, 2008

Obama Drama

When I was in my early thirties, lo these many moons ago, I had just begun my advertising career. I remember boning up on demographic categories and realizing, to my chagrin, that I was a volvo, white wine and brie - and I was cool enough to know that wasn't cool. I haven't checked, but I'd be willing to bet that I've since graduated to the prius, red wine and goat cheese segment.

Lately, I've recognized myself on the popular blog "Things White People Like". The White People in question are upper middle class types with college degrees. (And if you look at their enthusiasms as depicted in this blog, these "white people" could in most cases just as well be African American or Asian - the real differentiator is income and education). These people like to travel, have gym memberships and know their arugula from their mache. They think of themselves as well-read and well-informed. Die hard, bleeding heart liberals. Environmentalists, secular humanists, internationalists and diversity lovers. Insufferable pompous bastards according to the White People blog. But damned if a lot of it doesn't reflect my tastes and values.

Which brings us to those outraged salt of the earth Pennsylvanians who are so offended, nay, so BITTER about Obama's recent comments. They feel they were glibly categorized as a gun-loving, illegal-hating, church-going herd. Well, folks, here's the deal. Elections nowadays employ sophisticated research and highly targeted messaging. Whether you like it or not, even if you're not Mr. or Ms. Guns, God and Go back to Mexico, many of your neighbors probably fit the bill. Obama was speaking in a strategic and analytical way about you as a group. It's a perspective one needs to occasionally adopt if one is to succeed politically. Remember the soccer moms? The disaffected white males? Even an elitist like yours truly (and believe me, I am not an elitist, I am just saving you the trouble of calling me one) is part of a target group. That's modern capitalism, baby.

Let's segue to your pocket book, the context of the offending remarks. Obama was talking about 20 years of hard times, disappearing jobs and cynicism bred of unfulfilled election promises from both parties. Of you and your neighbors, he says "They feel so betrayed by government that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it." So if you've given up on voting the economy, what issues can you still "cling to"? Social issues like gun rights, prayer in school, creationism and of course illegal aliens. Guns, God and anti-immigration.

So now you have Hillary and McCain rushing to your defense. You really AREN'T bitter. You're "resilient, positive and optimistic". And Hillary is just like you. Why, her Pa taught her to shoot by the watering hole on her Grandpappy's Pennsylvania farm. (Sorry, Hil, even Dick Cheney would be more credible with that one). She enjoys a little shot with her beer. (I suspect the last time she did shots was when she found out Bill was doing Monica). And of course, God plays an essential part in her life.

If you don't think Hillary Clinton is playing to your demographic, you really are the Pollyanna she's depicting you as.

One way or another, we're all getting sold. I am sure there is pandering of a different sort going on at those tony San Francisco fundraisers. And how do you sell a bunch of upscale, advanced degreed San Franciscans whose funds you are trying to appropriate? You talk to them like they are political insiders. You discuss strategy. The day the bitterness controversy bubbled up, Obama was speaking from a back stage perspective and ended up in the spotlight. So to my friends and fellow democrats in Pennsylvania, I say get over it. You're a demographic and I am too. It's the process. Vote your conscience, not your pride.

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