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Freedom Rider: White Guys with Guns

Freedom Rider: White Guys with Guns

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

The latest flare-up between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shows how inane their battles-about-nothing have become - the inevitable result when there's no substantive difference between the contestants. Much of Obama's campaign has been tailored to appeal to "Reagan Democrats," the kind of "white people who vote for Republicans when it is clearly not in their interest to do so." This time, however, he appeared to be criticizing the narrowness of small town white folks' worldviews, giving Clinton and Republican John McCain all the ammunition they needed to attack him from the Right. As hard as he tries, Obama seems not to understand how and where to kiss a redneck.

Freedom Rider: White Guys with Guns

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

"White people don't need economic insecurity to revert to primal racial hatreds and fears."

Gun loving white men are the most sought after demographic of Democratic presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton claims to have been shooting critters since she was just knee high. "I've hunted. My father taught me how to hunt. I went duck hunting in Arkansas." Who can forget John Kerry impersonating Elmer Fudd during the 2004 campaign?

Recently Barack Obama created a brouhaha when attempting to explain the voting ways of the conservative whites he must placate in order to win the Pennsylvania primary. He was speaking of the white people who vote for Republicans when it is clearly not in their interests to do so. He was speaking of white people who are to say the least hesitant to pull the lever for any black person when they get behind the voting booth curtain.

Pennsylvania is the next significant Democratic primary state. Described as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between," Pennsylvania has favored Hillary Clinton in early polls. But Obama was gaining on her, visiting the Alabamian portions of the state and pledging to have a foreign policy that would be "sometimes like Ronald Reagan's."

According to Obama, these Alabamian/Pennsylvanians just get frustrated when they lose their jobs, pensions and health care. So in their righteous anger, they keep voting for the very same people who deprive them of income and security.

"Obama was pledging to have a foreign policy that would be ‘sometimes like Ronald Reagan's.'"

"So it's not surprising then that 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 phony outrage generated by Obama's remarks was predictable, foolish and didn't begin to address the truly nonsensical aspect of Obama's statement. Hillary Clinton followed John McCain in labeling Obama an elitist snob who just doesn't appreciate the beauty of redneckland. The fuming is completely phony, and misses the truly outrageous nature of Obama's remarks.

The truth is that white people don't need economic insecurity to revert to primal racial hatreds and fears. This country was invaded by white people who saw themselves as Gods and therefore felt free to kill, or steal land or labor, in order to benefit themselves. They always embraced their own perverse idea of a deity, always loved firearms and never cared about people "different from themselves," that is to say, non-white people.

Republicans keep getting their votes because they instigate their fears of black people or immigrants or in 2004, gay people who want to get married. There is nothing noble about Rednecksylvania. The Rednecksylvanians identify with their white manliness, not with their pocketbooks or anything else. As a result they usually vote for Republican presidential candidates who boil down every public policy issue into three words. White guys rule. They will vote Republican even if their own economic situations improve. Republicans know how to appeal to their reptilian brains and consequently get their votes whether they help or hurt them.

"Obama has been practicing idol worship of white America's grandiose visions of itself for some time now."

Obama's clumsy effort to keep sucking up to Rednecksylvania isn't surprising. Anyone who has been paying attention to his public statements has heard it all before. Obama has been practicing idol worship of white America's grandiose visions of itself for some time now. He tipped his hand in a 2004 interview with Charlie Rose:

". . . union workers 50, 55 year old guys, who the best that's being offered to them is retraining to being nursing assistants. These guys with beards, tough guys who are used to handling heavy machinery. They're not optimistic about the prospects for them to be able to attain the kinds of economic security they had under the old system. So they've got insecurity in their economic life. They don't know where their health care is coming from they don't know what's happening with their pensions. What they do know is that they can go out with their friends and hunt and feel a sense of camaraderie and there is a connection between hunting and them going out with their father to hunt. Just as there is a connection maybe for their wives going to church and going with their grandmothers to church."

It is difficult to determine which image is most sickening, the horrific notion that tough bearded guys might have to assist nurses, or that of God-fearing women sitting in the pews with granny. So Obama was hoisted on his own petard. He actually deserves criticism for his relentless sucking up to the Rednecksylvanians, not for any imagined slight to them and their praying, hunting, fishing kinfolk.

"Obama was hoisted on his own petard."

This tempest in a teapot will not matter in the end. The Democratic nomination will end with Obama slightly ahead but not by enough to rid himself of Hillary Clinton. One of them will be left to fight John McCain, who isn't fit for any job, but who still gets big love from the media.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the world banking crisis continues, and the Iraq occupation morass worsens. The campaign sound and fury will mean little in the end. Forces beyond the control of anyone in America will bring the next president face to face with choices he or she didn't anticipate having to make.

So let the rednecks get red in the neck. This campaign is their last hurrah and they don't even know it. Let's see how bitter and frustrated they become when they are hit by forces they didn't even know existed. On second thought, we won't want to see that. It will be too ugly to watch.


Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive page.

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