For Barack Obama, It's Not a Question of Being Elite, It's About Understanding

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET
  • Joanne Bamberger Author/Editor of Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (soon to be released) & E-I-C/Publisher, The Broad Side; President/CEO, Broad Side Strategies

Barack Obama continues to be under attack for comments he made that many have called elitist:

"You go into some of 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 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."

Some have spoken out saying there was nothing "elite" about his remarks. Maybe "elite" was the wrong word. Elite or not, his comments weren't very politic, especially if he was hoping to win over more voters in the Keystone state.

So on the heels of those remarks, I wanted have a chat with Barack Obama and his campaign staff about this:

My Pennsylvania parents found your comments condescending.

My mom and dad are farmers outside a pretty small-town who have eked out a living for the 50+ years they've been married. They've seen their kids grow up and be successful, yet their needs as farmers have been ignored time and time again by the government and politicians. The prices they pay for groceries go up, yet the amount my dad can get for his crops or his livestock stagnates or falls. They've seen the government adopt policies that favor large, corporate agribusinesses while small family farmers like them get the short end.

Their frustration has not caused them to develop a love of guns or a hate for others. They might not be Harvard educated like you, but they're pretty darn smart. Their frustration stems from politicians being out of touch with people like them.

They're frustrated because throughout their lives most politicians haven't been interested in helping them or developing policies that could benefit people like them. My parents see politicos taking money from huge corporations and hearing about massive tax breaks for entities that don't need them, while those same officials ignore hard-working people who have tried to make an honest living, raise their kids and have a little something left over for themselves at the end of the day.

My parents usually feel left out when it comes to presidential politics. With their Pennsylvania primary in April, many times a decision has already been made on the candidates by the time their election day rolls around and they've felt their votes were pointless.

This year, their votes mean something and they, like so many people in this country, are on the fence about which way to jump.

Barack, that's not good news for you after that speech.

No matter what the rest of us think about your remarks, for the people in rural Pennsylvania who feel the economy has left them behind, those comments not going to win you any votes.

Barack, if you really want to be President of the United States, you're going to have to dig a little deeper in the next week. Many find your speeches inspiring, but for better or worse, you need to feel my parents' pain without alienating them by suggesting they're not smart enough to understand the root of their economic problems or that they're so simple, they assuage their anger by sitting on the front porch with a rifle, Granny Clampett-style.

I know you've "apologized," but my parents aren't buying it. If you're interested in their votes, you'll need to do a little better than that. I'm sure they'd be happy to talk to you about what they'd like to see change in this country, if you have the time. I know my mom wants to discuss her grocery bill last week, especially what's happened to the price of flour, eggs and frozen waffles.

And while I haven't asked them, I'm pretty sure their comments won't have anything to do with "antipathy to people who aren't like them." If you're interested, let me know. I'll send you their address.

You can also find Joanne talking about other political things on her mind at PunditMom.