"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," Obama said. "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 to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."The emphasis on economic concerns as a/the key source of divisions in other aspects of governmental policy is a persistent theme in Obama's campaign. His "race speech" in Philadelphia mentions the "middle class squeeze," for example, and presents economic resentments as somehow fueling opposition to affirmative action. Is Obama saying that the only reason small-town Pennsylvanians are "cling[ing] to guns" is because of the loss of manufacturing jobs? Couldn't people actually be worried about protecting the second amendment because they want to protect the second amendment? Though religion can certainly be a source of strength for people in times of trouble, a lot of people are not going to like their religious devotions seemingly explained as deriving from economic bitterness. Some are already reporting that Clinton's and McCain's campaigns are pouncing on this comment, which lumps religion, guns, and xenophobia together in a neat little package of economic resentment.
One wonders what the greater context of these remarks is and how Obama will respond to criticisms of them.
(H/T Ben Smith)
UPDATE: Obama responds. He seems to be implying that his opponents are attacking him as "out of touch" because he said that some people are bitter:
So I made this statement-- so, here’s what rich. Senator Clinton says ‘No, I don’t think that people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack’s being condescending.’ John McCain says, ‘Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? You know, he’s obviously out of touch with people.’But it seems that both McCain's and Clinton's attacks as well as a lot of web writers are focusing not on his claim of the existence of bitterness but his claim about people "cling[ing] to guns or religion" due to this bitterness and his association of guns and religion with xenophobia.
Obama's people are now trying to shift attention away from these comments by attacking McCain. For its part, McCain's camp is pushing back:
Only an elitist would say that people vote their values only out of frustration. Barack Obama thinks he knows your hopes and fears better than you do. You can’t be more out of touch than that.