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.