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Why the "Elitism" Smear Against Obama Won't Stick

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It's amazing how corporate media pundits can work themselves up into such a lather about one inelegant phrase leaving the lips of Barack Obama. Predictably, Lou Dobbs and Fox News have been flogging the "elitism" story, and the New York Times this week has featured op-eds from William Kristol, David Brooks, and Maureen Dowd voicing their bitter indignation at Obama's allegedly "condescending" demeanor. Kristol indirectly compared Obama to Karl Marx, Brooks sniffed that Obama is ensconced inside a "bubble," Dowd, in her patented mocking tone, calls Obama "Wonderboy," and Hillary Clinton spit out the words "San Francisco" with such contempt when she characterized Obama's "bitter" remarks there last Sunday it sounded like she was talking about a rare disease.

But leave it to Hillary to take it to the limit. She's currently running attack ads in Pennsylvania and Indiana trying to capitalize on this non-issue because at this point in her campaign the poor woman is completely bereft of affirming ideas.

Add to this cacophony the full-throated shrieks from the likes of Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham, and the rest of the Right-wing chorus, and the last four or five news cycles have been a banner display of everything that is wrong with our for-profit, media-dominated political discourse. Civility makes for boring television; better to cast our politics into the mold of a food fight and ignore the substantive issues and challenges facing the nation that Obama has been consistently articulating.

But you know something? Barack Obama is not an "elitist."

Unlike Al Gore he's not a Senator's son. Unlike John Kerry he didn't marry a woman worth $600 million, (and he doesn't windsurf). And most importantly, unlike Hillary Clinton, Dowd, Brooks, Kristol, Dobbs, Hannity, and the rest of them, Obama can walk into just about any storefront church or community center in the poorest inner city neighborhood in America's toughest cities and relate to the people there as a true friend and advocate.

What's more, Obama's presidential campaign has successfully organized, mobilized, and energized a growing coalition of working people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. There is nothing remotely "elitist" about a grassroots ground campaign that has registered millions of new voters and garnered small donations from over 1 million people with the average donation being about $109. Union households support him overwhelmingly.

The corporate media has ignored the whale of a story while fishing for minnows: The struggle within the Democratic Party today is like the one between Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Obama is trying to unseat the staid party leadership with a grassroots insurgency. He seeks to remake and rebuild the Democratic Party from the ground up after years of being hollowed out by corporate money. That possibility scares corporate media types -- the great unwashed masses might actually have a say this time in a national election.

Obama has inadvertently exposed the folly of the political punditocracy. Here they are fulminating about Obama's "elitism" when his two opponents are far more privileged than he has ever been. John McCain is wed to a beer-brewing heiress who is worth about $200 million. And Hillary Clinton's tax returns show that she and Bill raked in $109 million since 2000. The Obamas struggled for years to pay off their student loans -- how "elite" is that? And really, let's be serious, do you think David Brooks and William Kristol and Maureen Dowd and Sean Hannity and the gang are somehow less "elitist" than an African-American couple from the Southside of Chicago?

Hillary Clinton represents the "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council; the Joe Lieberman/Diane Feinstein wing of the party. The Democratic Party "leaders," when they are not LOSING elections, will talk you death and promise you anything. But when they go to Washington, as Bill Clinton did, they'll vote against the interests of working-class people, screw over the labor unions with corporate-sponsored "free trade" deals, vote in favor of wars and corporate bailouts, deregulation and shifting the tax burden away from the rich and on to the middle class. We've seen that movie before -- it's called the 1990s -- and we don't want to have to endure the sequel.