Binging on Junkie

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Who'd have thought that in this relatively dry period in the national political contest, we'd have so much to talk about we need to take Junkie for the full hour? Not me, that's who! I've been out for a couple days, and media-free, so I had no idea about the degree of fervor Sen. Barack Obama's speech on race has inspired. Now that I've heard it, I get it. After yesterday's focus on the speech as a whole, today we're going to just pull a bit of it, on the feelings of white Americans, to focus on. Specifically...

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything. They built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pensions dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and they feel their dreams slipping away. And in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

We're taking his oratory as an opportunity to look at how white democrats are voting this season.... and then there's Sen. Clinton's first-lady-schedules to pore over, plus McCain on Iran...

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Your speculation that Obama should cut his relationship with his ex-pastor in order to satisfy critics is truly dismal. It is enough he publicly shamed the pastor. What if this had actually been a close relative? Would you then expect him to disown the relative?

Sent by Elaine Schuster | 2:18 PM | 3-19-2008

I don't think Obama's continued association with Wright is an issue as Neal Conan has posited. Wright was not preaching this way for 52 weeks x 20 years. As the Swampland post indicates most people's ministers have said things, sometimes outrageous things that congregants might disagree with. Also, it was pointed out on Ben Smith's blog that the liturgy at Joe Lieberman's synagogue was never examined closely in the last election and is just as objectionable as the objectionable portions of Wright's speeches.

Sent by Keith Hood | 2:20 PM | 3-19-2008

I don't think it's urban/rural - maybe it's more educational level/ how progressive the city is? Obama does extremely well in progressive, urban cities with high educational levels - Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area etc. that do not have huge concentrations of African American voters. And is Wisconsin really a "rural" state? What about Milwaukee, Madison etc.

Sent by chris | 2:27 PM | 3-19-2008

God Bless America for finding ways to keep non-whites from getting a bigger slice of the economic pie.

God Bless America for blaming the minorities for their own second class status in American society.

God Bless America for pointing to the achievements of a minority rising to a place of prominence as the result of charity of whites to give him a helping hand up, undeserving as he is of that status.

God Bless America for seeking to pass laws reducing the economic status of gays to prevent gays from taking economic power from whites.

God Bless America for seeking to reduce the status of women in the economy and politics because that would be at the expense of men.

God Bless America for seeking to conserve the views of Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et al, that women are inferior to men and should have no say in government, and that non-whites are ordained by God to be inferior to whites.

So, with God's Blessing, why would anyone want to change America?

Sent by michael pettengill | 2:30 PM | 3-19-2008

Could the "Linbaugh Effect" account for part of the white vote going to Clinton? With the Republican Nomination sewn-up, many white Republicans are crossing over and voting for Clinton because they feel that McCain has a better chance against her.

Sent by Doug Williams | 2:32 PM | 3-19-2008

Obama's speech wasn't just about race, but also about religion. He said something very important when he noted that he strongly disagrees with his pastor and still loves his church. I think that's an important message as people consider how much their churches should and do influence their political decisions. It's important to see our own faith and that of our leaders as a thinking exercise -- not blind acceptance of everything we hear from the pulpit.

Sent by Anne-Marie Pine | 2:35 PM | 3-19-2008

The reason Obama has problems in more urbanized areas is simple: People in urban areas don't feel the need to perform their own affirmative action, they already feel more integrated and are not as concerned about race. People with less diversity are often supporting Obama in part because of his race. This entirely relates to Ferraro's comments; which much of the media, including NPR, with their "dumb objectivity" labeled racism. Her comments appear to be a fair analysis of his support. To acknowledge this is not racist, it just speaks to why people support who they support. I love NPR but I can't understand why so often there is such a lack of philosophical intelligence in your coverage.

Sent by Scott Millar | 2:35 PM | 3-19-2008

Do we know anything about Sen.Clinton's or Sen.McCain's ministers?
Do they ever say anything controversial? Is anyone looking at this or asking this question? Isn't it only fair to ask about them?

Sent by Sally O'Donnell | 2:36 PM | 3-19-2008

I'm a white, 49-year-old, middle class woman from Iowa, who is supporting Barack Obama. My main reason for this is that I believe he can bring about unity in our country at all levels. I believe that he can reach across so many barriers - cultural, racial, economic, educational, social, political - that Hilary can't because most people just can't identify with her. Barack is someone that could have gone to my daughters' high school; there's no way Hillary would have gone there. He's a person that can give our youth, along with the rest of us, hope that our country can improve.

Sent by Ann | 2:37 PM | 3-19-2008

You ask why Barack Obama may not do as well among urban white voters in places like Ohio. Having grown in Cleveland (I am a white woman age 47), I can attest to the fact that this was a highly balkanized community. In fact, many of the inhabitants were from the former Balkan states. Sadly, race prejudice was deeply ingrained in both blacks and whites. Politicians, Church leaders, School boards often used race to scare people, and people who are always afraid have trouble thinking at all. Therefore, the process of thinking itself becomes atrophied and calcified. Cleveland is the largest of Ohio's urban centers, but the settlement of smaller industrial centers followed the same pattern. Consequently, the pattern simply repeated itself in Toledo, Cincinnati, Columbus, Sandusky, Akron, Dayton, etc. By the way, I now live in North Carolina, and there is an Elect Barack Obama sign in my front yard.

Sent by Martha Catt | 2:43 PM | 3-19-2008

Why has no one mentioned that Clinton has won in Democratic 'old guard machine' states, and Obama has won in all the other states. Obama represents the future fir many voters, Clinton is very much a product of old-school big-city ward-healer politics.
It is no accident that Obama has gotten the 'youth' vote, and the the Internet savvy, as well.

Sent by Lawrence Farrell | 2:44 PM | 3-19-2008

Talk of the Nation: Commentary seems fixated on the racial aspects to the exclusion of a criterion that I think is involved. Senator Obama comes from an intellectual, often rational, stance. There is a divide amongst Americans in this matter. There is a substantial block which distrusts and sometime hates the intellectual approach. There is a block which distrusts decisions based on non-intellectual, non-rational and religious considerations.

Sent by Dean Douglass | 2:50 PM | 3-19-2008

As someone who lived through that time thought you might like to know Dr Bob Riley had one of the BEST political stickers ever. He WAS legally blind and wore a black patch over one eye. He ran for the governors office when Bumpers ran for the senate. He had a Yellow and black SMILEY FACE with a eyepatch over one eye.

He called it a SMILEY RILEY.

Bob Riley could have won that office but was caught in the ascendency of David Pryor who later became an U S Senator.

Sent by Bern Bradley, Jacksonville Arkansas | 2:50 PM | 3-19-2008

What is this experience that soldiers bring? Why should they be given more consideration? The soldier's world experience is a bogus argument. Many soldiers spend most of their overseas experience on military bases surrounded by other young Americans.

Sent by Patrick | 2:54 PM | 3-19-2008

I am a white middle class man in my middle 30's living in Colorado. I have a wife and two children, in many ways the statistical average of a family in America. I am a Democrat. I began the election season as a supporter of Hillary mainly due to her proven desire to ensure Americans can get affordable health care. However, as the time has gone on I have decided to vote for Obama for several reasons. He seems to be a great leader. His speech on race was frankly amazing. He wrote it himself. He knows the constitution. He does not seem to be afraid of using the military powers of the US, but not without a very good reason. McCain, to me, seems to be a warmonger. I feel America needs to be a world leader, not a world police force, and certainly not a country that forces democracy on the rest of the world. Democracy in my belief comes for the inspiration of the people, not the tanks of America.
I still like Hillary, but I have come to feel something I have not for a very long time. I am starting to trust a politician. I think any other candidate will continue to drive a wedge between Americans on political, racial, financial or religious grounds. My vote, for what it is worth is for Obama.

Sent by Steve Sielaff | 2:58 PM | 3-19-2008

I was astonished that Senator Obama missed a rhetorical opportunity in his speech when he neglected to mention that his grandmother, like all women, probably felt fear whenever she passed men of any color. All women always have to be on guard when they walk past men, whether at work, on the street, at night or at lunch. That's a larger and far more damaging issue than racism.

Sent by Catherine | 2:58 PM | 3-19-2008

OBAMA SPEECH

I relate to the T with Obama as a biracial american often accused as being un or non- American. This speech was greatly needed and helps to clarify his integrity and insight into race matters. HOWEVER as a presidential candidate I still hear him speaking in terms of his philosophy, attitudes then his experience, NOT with his SPECIFC PLANS, DEFINED GOALS, SPECIFIC ACTIONS he WILL INITIATE! I beleive he is an acceptional American who can contribute and lead us to greater racial and class harmony.

THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY RELAVENT TO HIS ABILITY TO BE AN EFFECTIVE PRESIDENT.

I have been waiting since his announcement to run to hear him illuminate some more specific plans or goals.

Would Senator Obama made this effort, exposed himself politically to address race issues, if he had not been presses to clear up his political image??

I truely PRAY & HOPE that Hillary Clinton calls & supports him to be an active member of her administration. Barrack Obama has a great deal to offer this country. I just don't beleive it can be as president yet....

KING WAS MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE by remaining OUTSIDE any political office. The Kennedys have significantly DIMINISHED their own messages with the polarizing character of any political office.

Sent by Mel Fierro | 2:59 PM | 3-19-2008

No, the calm has nothing to do with the troup surge it is in fact that Mulsada has pulled his troops back.

Sent by Rey Walb | 2:59 PM | 3-19-2008