By now you've probably heard about Mayhill Fowler's post for The Huffington Post in which she references statements made by Senator Barack Obama during a recent fundraiser in San Francisco. Ms. Fowler quotes Senator Obama as saying:
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then 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."Now I'm going to pretend that I know exactly what Senator Obama meant when he said, "And it's not surprising then 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." And I'm not going to pretend that there are not Pennsylvanians who are bitter, xenopobic and in some corners down-right racist.
But I am going to say that Senator Obama clearly misspoke when he painted rural Pennsylvania with such a broad brush. Does he really think that my rural neighbors "cling to guns or religion" .... "as a way to explain their frustrations.
Senator Obama the Pennsylvanians who cling to their guns did so in the good years and in the bad. The Pennsylvanians who cling to their faith also did so in the good years and the bad. And sadly, those pockets of Pennsylvania which the skin-heads and neo-Nazi's call home were there in the good years as well.
Senator Obama you are correct in saying there the job market in Pennsylvania has drastically changed over the past 3 decadesu. Much of this economic decline can be traced back to the anti-union atmosphere fostered by the Reagan era. In fact, many western Pennsylvanians have vivid memories of the 1986 US Steel lock out of its employees. US Steel cited foreign competition and a lack of domestic orders as the reason. And yes, rural Pennsylvanians have been waiting a very long time for US trade policy to give American workers a fair shake.
Of course, the decline of the American steel industry is just one factor in Pennsylvania economic struggle. My rural neighbors could certainly name many others.
Pennsylvanians aren't "bitter", they're mad as hell and not afraid to tell you that they're mad as hell. But more than that Pennsylvanians are disgusted with Washington and politicians that promise much and deliver little.
And by the way, we Pennsylvanians who cling to our religion do so because we know that NO politician has all the answers.
Pennsylvania: A Blue State With A Red Center