Jeff Mapes poses a superb question: Has Obama hurt himself in small-town Oregon?
For anyone who has been hiding from the internet or the political chat shows, Obama set off tremors by declaring that when small-town working class voters are embittered by economic change, "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."
I fault Obama for having couched it as a sweeping generality because generalities invariably toss the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. But his statement rings true for far too many small town Americans, as I had demonstrated for me a couple weeks ago in my hometown of Forest Grove.
I was out in my front yard at dusk one evening last week talking politics with one neighbor when the guy who lives on the other side of me wandered down his driveway. Noticing that we were talking politics he paused, leaning against his fence, and as soon as he figured out that we were talking Presidential candidates he jumped in with his opinion.
I'll tell you what, I ain't gonna vote for no (n-word) or a lesbian! That Obama's just a (n-word) and Hillary is a dyke! They'll just raise our taxes and let that Osama guy bomb us. We don't need that!
I've been neighbors with this guy for a number of years and to say that he's an angry man would be something of an understatement. I've been regailed on more than one occasion by examples of all the people who have ever wronged him. Believe me, the list is long! In fact, his default position seems to be to bad-mouth anyone he doesn't know. Which is what I was on the receiving end of until I happened to strike up a friendly conversation with him one day and thereafter he decided that I was okay.
Now, I don't think this guy is religious. I'm pretty sure that organized religions are on his list of institutions which have wronged him. And I don't know for a fact that he's into guns. But I'd be VERY surprised if he's not. However, I do know that every time - and I do mean, *every time* - a hispanic moves into the apartments across the street he starts telling all of the other neighbors that the hispanic individuals are drug dealers. He's called the local police numerous times to report his unfounded suspicions.
His white neighbors whom he doesn't like seem to get lumped into one of two categories: Drug Dealers or Child Pornographers. Just Saturday evening he was telling me that an older guy living on disability at the end of the road, with his wife, their grandchild and her aged mother, is allegedly a Child Pornographer. He didn't know how to pronounce "pornographer" and so I had to help him with that word. But it was clear enough what he was accusing the poor guy of. Fortunately, I know the disabled guy and he's one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. He's also very well liked by his other neighbors.
The first guy I was talking to is mature enough not to use such derogatory terms about Obama and Clinton. But his view of them isn't all that different from the second neighbor, except that he seems intrigued by Obama. But anyone with the last name of "Clinton" is an enemy of the state as far as he's concerned. And this guy, I know for a fact, is a gun fanatic. I've known him very well for close to 20 years and he used to be a member of a local self-styled "Washington County militia" back in the 90s. Needless to say, he's very anti-immigration.
Both neighbors railed against hispanic immigrants and the Democrats who, they believe, coddle them.
Both neighbors are classic examples of the "working poor." Although the entire neighborhood is a working class neighborhood. The ex-militia guy has hit on very hard economic times. He's trading his handyman skills with his landlord for free rent as a means of helping him get back on his feet economically. And that is almost entirely due to the fact that the landlord is also his young son's grampa. (interestingly enough, all three of us neighbors in the conversation are single custodial parents)
In short, both of these guys have reacted to the world around them exactly as Obama described.
I don't know if Obama has hurt himself in small-town Oregon. But I do know that there is a great deal of truth in what he said. My neighbors are living evidence of that.