Let me say this up front: This is personal. In more ways than one.
I'm an unabashed, unadulterated supporter of Barack Obama. Read my Huffington bio. Truth to tell, I look to this young man to be the kind of '60s-style visionary this nation needs now every bit as much as we did when Jim Crow, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace and the Klan reigned supreme in the South and we were bogged down in a bloody, ill-conceived, tragic war in Vietnam.
He had me from "Hello? This is a dumb, rash rush to war..." way back in 2002.
I want Change I Can Believe In. I want our stop-loss, back-door-draft, used and abused military off the neocon hook. I want our troops out of Iraq. I want a president who's strong enough to know that communicating fully with other world leaders--whether we like them or not--is not some kind of political heresy. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then ideas are better than bombs. I want universal healthcare. I want poverty back on the political table. I want an end to corporate greed and shady trade deals that leave hardworking Americans wondering where the jobs went--and why. I want a tax policy that isn't an ass-backward tax cut for the folks who need a break least. I want better schools for my grandchildren. I want civility in political discourse and an end to the "Everybody Who Disagrees With Me Is My Enemy" gridlock in D.C. I want all that baggage GONE.
I want Barack Obama in the White House sooner rather than later. So. I bristle when some journalist writes a piece that might set us back, might cost us some votes and prolong what I feel is a Democratic Party bloodletting.
Mayhill Fowler is catching holy hell for her post about the San Francisco fundraiser and "Bittergate": The Huffington Post is anti-Obama. She enjoys an "above the fold" space only because she's willing to go after Obama. She must be on somebody's payroll. She's a Clinton operative. An Obama-basher.
This is not about Mayhill Fowler. When you don't like the message, killing the messenger does no good whatsoever. She's a journalist, she's ambitious, she did her job. She called it as she saw it.
Let me tell you what it IS about: I live in bitter poverty-land. It's real--and Barack Obama spoke the truth in defining the bitterness factor. I've lived, for over 30 years, in one of the poorest counties in South Carolina. We are a rural county. There are just over 43,000 of us spread over 800 square miles. Once there were mills here. They're gone now. So are the jobs. Our towns are dying for want of work. We can't support our own small businesses. In 2000, over a third of our kids dropped out of high school. I doubt that figure has done anything but increase in the last eight years. Our kids start kindergarten behind the eight ball and nothing improves. Only 65.2% of us, over the age of 25, are high school graduates. How many of us have bachelor's degrees? 9.7%. Nearly 20% of us lived below poverty level in 2004. I'll bet the farm there are more of us in 2008. Our per capita income hovers at about $15,000.
Are we bitter? Hell, yes. We've been hung out to dry for so long we've come to feel like somebody's ragged, abandoned laundry. All those election year promises? We're worse off now than we were eight years ago-- and we didn't do all that well during the Clinton years. We thought we had a chance then, but attention to poverty-detail was diverted to extra-marital Scandalgate. Even a president with self-control and honesty issues has to survive, ya know. In the heat of the GOP/Ken Starr/Clinton Impeachment wars, we were left hanging on the line.
So we're easily led to acting out. To acting out in rage. And, since we've figured out we can't win the battle to improve our lot in American life, we latch on to any Gotcha! War we feel we can win. The GOP has been masterful at identifying that need of ours and feeding it. If they can redirect our rage (Don't pay any attention to that poverty behind the curtain!), make us focus on pseudo-morality wars, we'll direct all that rage against the candidate they tell us is the root of all evil. We vote for the guy who tells us "All Muslims are evil terrorists and we gotta fight 'em there so we don't have to fight 'em here!", "Homosexual unions will destroy the American Family!", "They're going to take away all your guns!", "God wants you to vote for me--He loathes liberals (and, by the way, they've even declared war on Christmas)!", "Women who want reproductive rights left to themselves, their partners, their doctors and their God are all baby killers!", and "Illegal immigrants are getting all those (factory and tech?) jobs you used to have--and some of them are terrorists!" If we don't vote the Right way, the "other guy", that anti-American, troop-hatin', anti-Christian liberal, will take away what little we've got left. Damned if we'll lose that battle.
We're desperate. We need to believe we can win something. If we can't hope for even a small version of the American Dream, then we'll buy into any fight that makes us feel we have some power left.
And that's what Barack Obama was talking about. Since his statement was an impromptu answer to an unexpected question at a private fundraiser, maybe he wasn't as eloquent in responding as we've come to expect him to be. But his heart was in the right place. And his intent? He's talking empathy for the disenfranchised, both white and black. He is validating our feelings of isolation and our anger.
It's not about Mayhill Fowler. She's only a citizen journalist calling it as she sees it.
It's about Hillary Clinton and John McCain, multi-millionaires both, neither of whom have walked the walk with poverty-stricken Americans in inner-city Chicago (or anywhere else), gang-banging Obama and using the word "elitist" to do it.
Elitist--n.--The belief that certain persons of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority--as in intellect, social status, or financial resources. - American Heritage Dictionary.
Does that sound like Barack Obama to you? He's the least wealthy of the three candidates left standing--and by a wide margin. Nothing in his life, in his career choices, accomplishments or goals for the future, fits the definition. And that's what it's about, folks. For Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain to join hands and play a nasty little game of ring-around-the-elitist is the ultimate hypocrisy. They're not playing that game for our sakes. They're playing it for the sake of raw, naked ambition: Let's take the front runner down, even if there is no honor in it and we know we're lying through our clenched teeth to do it.
As for Mayhill Fowler and Barack Obama, she tells me "I like the guy."
What she didn't tell me was this: She's donated nearly the maximum allowed by law to the Obama campaign. I can't find any record of a similarly sizable donation to any other candidate. That she's covered Campaign 2008 in such a way as to cast doubt among Democrats as to whom she supports for the nomination, well, that might be a credit to a journalist's effort to see things from the other side of the fence.
But it's not about Mayhill Fowler.
It's about us. It's about how willing we are to kill the messenger rather than to think for ourselves or speak rationally on behalf of our candidate. As my favorite presidential candidate likes to say, "We are better than this." I sure hope he's right. If he's not, we don't deserve him.
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