Bill Clinton, Man of the People

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Ryan Lizza's short piece on Bill Clinton's erratic, egomaniacal and (mostly) successful campaign for his wife is getting plenty of attention for the part where Clinton brags about all the incredible things he's done. But I thought this part was more interesting.

"Hillary is in this race today because of people like you," he told one white working-class audience. "She's in it for you and she's in it because of you. People like you have voted for her in every single state in the country." People like you. The phrase hung in the air and the room quieted. Clinton didn't say what the people who voted for Obama were like, but the suggestion was that they were somehow different.

Is Lizza reading too much into that? No, not at all. Clinton, who's savvier than he looks at the moment, has been building this argument long before Obama inflamed it with his San Francisco psychoanalysis. Back in February he explained away Hillary's caucus defeats (in super-white states like Idaho, Nebraska, and North Dakota) by saying caucuses "disproportionately favor upper-income voters who, who, don't really need a president but feel like they need a change." Liberal bloggers interpreted this as Clinton attacking these states, but he was playing a longer game. By painting Obamaites as rich latte-drinkers and Clinton voters as Steinbeckian heroes of the soil, he was paving the ground for… well, for stuff like this week's Newsweek's cover.

The irony is twofold. One, as Georgetown/Yale graduate Bill Clinton knows, these voters aren't frozen in amber. They're aspirational. Two, because they're aspirational, they're watching their numbers recede as the country becomes more suburban, more college educated, more cosmopolitan and (although this is happening separately) less white. The reason Republicans, until their recent meltdown, were trying to make gains with suburban, exurban, and Hispanic voters, is that those voters numbers' are growing, and the numbers of white, James Agee-worthy whites are, proportionately, decreasing. It's a weird exercise, making a sainted class out of an electoral bloc that's becoming less representative and less desirable.

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  1. “It’s a weird exercise, making a sainted class out of an electoral bloc that’s becoming less representative and less desirable.”

    It is called being in play Dave. They made a sainted class out of the Jews for years because they were the swing votes in a lot of key districts. No one gives a shit about the black vote because everyone knows which way they are going to vote. Working class whites could go either way. If the Dems ever won them in large numbers, they would win in a landslide and their failure with them certainly cost Gore the election in 2000. It is not that hard to figure out.

  2. “Painting Obamaites as rich latte-drinkers….”? No. I do not doubt Bill Clinton’s ability to spin all kinds of self-serving lies, but the truth is that Obama’s core supporters ARE rich, educated latter-drinkers (and, of course, Blacks.) Clinton’s supporters are uneducated and middle-class white people.

  3. Bill and Hillary Clinton have been the only successful Democrats in the last 28 years at the national level because they can talk to heartland voters in a language they understand unlike most elite liberal Democrats. Thank God they arent going to choose her.

  4. John: For the first time in a while, I agree with you.

    The White Working class are the flavor du jour because they are indecisive and whiny and large enough to be heard.

  5. “Hillary is in this race today because of people like you,”

    By “people like you” he meant people credulous enough to trust the Clintons.

  6. The White Working class are the flavor du jour because they are indecisive and whiny and large enough to be heard.

    And they are gravitating to their chance to be seen as a “victim” class, because both Hillary and the GOP are spinning Obama’s comments that way. The poor white working class got called “bitter”! It’s now like calling Mexicans “lazy” or blacks “criminal”.

    Ahh, victimology politics. What would big government do without you?

  7. “And they are gravitating to their chance to be seen as a “victim” class, because both Hillary and the GOP are spinning Obama’s comments that way. The poor white working class got called “bitter”! It’s now like calling Mexicans “lazy” or blacks “criminal”.”

    Of course the Dems all claim that the bitter comment didn’t hurt him. Which is it? I don’t think people being pissed off about being condescended to is vicimology politics. Look if I got up in front of a Libertarian group and said that their dislike of government was the result of them being bitter over the government not meeting their needs, I wouldn’t expect to make many friends in the room. It is not being a victim to not want to be condescended to.

  8. Within the campaign, Clinton’s enthusiasm for rustling votes in these remote corners was a source of amusement. When I asked what he was doing on Election Day, a Clinton campaign adviser said, “I think he’s leading a caravan of Wal-Mart greeters to the polls.”

    At least there aren’t any elitists on Team Clintonista.

  9. In the end, the white working class isn’t going to vote for a guy that sat and nodded along to hate-filled sermons in a black supremacist church for 20+ years.

  10. Of course the Dems all claim that the bitter comment didn’t hurt him. Which is it? I don’t think people being pissed off about being condescended to is vicimology politics. Look if I got up in front of a Libertarian group and said that their dislike of government was the result of them being bitter over the government not meeting their needs, I wouldn’t expect to make many friends in the room. It is not being a victim to not want to be condescended to.

    I dunno. I’d say that most people react the worst to unflattering words that also happen to be true. Many, if not most, people arrive at their political stances due to experiences more than from analysis of political philosophy. It is not crazy to say that people who have had bad experiences (or hear about such experiences from friends and family) with the long arm of the government are less favorable to regulation than those who have had good experiences (e.g. regulation saved their favorite endangered species, encouraged a higher gas mileage in their vehicle, et al.).

    Since many of those aforementioned experiences are in regard to a boon or bane from massive and faceless bureaucratic government, it is no wonder that they are cast both by the experiencer and by observers as a victim play.

  11. as the country becomes more suburban, more college educated, more cosmopolitan

    I thought college education rates were going down, ever so slightly and ever so recently.

  12. John is right. They matter because they’re a swing bloc in key swing states. Their proportion in the rest of the country is irrelevant, what matters is that they’re undecided voters in key states.

    If gray aliens constituted a significant swing bloc in Pennsylvania then Hillary Clinton would be talking fondly about the time she was abducted and life lessons learned inside the spaceship, while Barack Obama would be saying that he understands the gray aliens’ bitterness over the Roswell coverup. OTOH, if they constituted an undecided bloc in California, nobody would care.

  13. If gray aliens constituted a significant swing bloc in Pennsylvania then Hillary Clinton would be talking fondly about the time she was abducted and life lessons learned inside the spaceship

    Not to mention reminiscing about the corkscrew landing and sniper fire when she returned to Earth.

  14. Well, the gray aliens might vote for Hillary, but what about the black aliens?

  15. IllegalAliens and their UFOAbductions should not be allowed to vote. The MexicanGovernment is obviously in league with CorporatistAlphaCentaurians. ReasonMagazine afraid to report the truth as usual!

  16. I agree with Bill

  17. True, Bill said it all.

  18. Bingo,

    The next step is to build a wall around the earth to keep the ExtraterrestrialMenace out.

  19. In 2006, the Democrats lost white working class males by 14 points.

  20. Bill “Pump Head” Clinton | April 28, 2008, 2:52pm

    Bill “Pump Head” Clinton | April 28, 2008, 2:52pm

  21. It is not crazy to say that people who have had bad experiences (or hear about such experiences from friends and family) with the long arm of the government are less favorable to regulation than those who have had good experiences

    LMNOP — If this were true, then the LP party would rule politics. Now, if you had phrased it “than those who mistakenly believe they have had good experiences with the government”, then I’d agree.

  22. “In 2006, the Democrats lost white working class males by 14 points.”

    Even in the Ohio (Brown) and Pennsylvania (Casey) races Joe? Did they lose them there? Because those are the two states that will decide the election. I bet they didn’t.

  23. I come down on the side of he really believes what Wright is saying which is extremely scary.

  24. When a political party stands for essentially nothing more than playing Robin Hood on behalf of its adherents, then such games of “who’s the biggest loser” are inevitable. The Republicans do it, too, only their beneficiaries tend to be somewhat more well-connected. Either way, my wallet gets hoovered.

  25. Georgetown/Yale graduate Bill Clinton

    Don’t forget Oxford. Like most “people like you,” Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar.

  26. What a blowhard..certainly every bit as dishonest and untrustworthy as his wife is (NAFT,Monica,depends what is -is,etc.)

    To think,once along time ago, I use to admire and defend that man. Well let’s just say I’ve seen the light and I’m re-evaluating and downgrading his whole legacy in my mind at this point in time.

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