April 15th, 2008
07:13 PM ET

The elitism flap: bitter fruit?

Eric Bloom
AC360° Producer

It remains unclear how damaging Barack Obama’s "bitter" comments will be, but it has once again revealed one of the Democrats’s biggest vulnerabilities- cultural issues. 

It also reminds us that no matter how chaotic Iraq is or how depressed the economy might be, come November Democrats still must win over rural voters in order to win.



Democrats are well aware that issues like abortion, religion, guns and gay rights hurt them in some key swing areas, and the controversy over Obama’s  comments could make the task of winning them even more difficult. 

What do you think of Obama’s comments  - do they reinforce the perception that the Democratic Party is out of touch? 

What has been the key for Republicans in winning over rural voters?   We'd like to know your thoughts.  

Filed under: Raw Politics
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Justin

    How come your reporters keep referring to the April 13 Gallup Poll where Obama was up 11 pts over Clinton (51 to 40) when Obama has been slipping all down in the polls all week.

    Today's Gallup poll has Clinton beating Obama by a 1 pt (46 to 45). That's a huge slide for Obama in just five days. Why aren't you using the most recent poll today!? Your pro-Obama slant, cherry-picking polls, is just unprofessional.

    April 19, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  2. Wilf

    Obama knows that those "bitter" folk in small town Penn. are usually Republican voters who do not recognize what is in their best interests.

    April 19, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  3. Alexander

    This particular comment is more icing on the cake for me then anything condemning in and of itself. Without all the other inconsistencies, this would flow right on by me and probably most other people. But, when a candidate starts a year by going behind America's back and telling Canada things inconsistent with what he is telling the American people, or having someone from his camp do the same in Britain, or attending the church of an apparent unpatriotic racist, or by brushing elbows with an admitted terrorists, or his wife makes similarly unpatratiotic comments, then i'm pushed far past concern. Since when did charisma and eloquence become the soul ruler for judging candidates or any individual?
    America seems blind or unwilling to see when they let all of these things slide and do not consider what all these instances amount to or what they say about the person involved. One or two of these would lead to more scrutiny on a normal candidate, so what makes Obama above judgement? His celebrity? His looks? His ambigous message of hope and change?
    I was a born democrat, my mother was a democrat, her mother, her father, and everyone in my family. I come from a single parent home and we have always been in the lower middle class. In all my years of life, I have yet to see an election where the republican candidate was superior to the democratic candidate. This is the first election I will be able to vote in, but if Barack Obama is the candidate, i am registering republican. I have never seen nor heard of a candidate less suited for office then Barack Obama, if the democrats make him their candidate, I cannot possibly, in good conscious, support the ignorance and blindness of the party.

    April 18, 2008 at 11:59 pm |
  4. xtina, chicago IL

    I don't think the Dem. party is out of touch w/ voters; I think that being populists, they know very well that some voters want more gov't control, more gov't handouts and more gov't power. That's the base vote.

    There are Democrats who also are looking for gov't help in just finding a job or lowering consumer costs, but who also have some conservative values such as being against abortion and being pro-religion. Those are going to be the problem voters for both Hill and Obama. And finally I think there are Democrats who will simply not vote for a Repub. candidate.

    On the Republican side, I think the key for them in winning over rural voters is to simply stay on the side of less gov't intrusion and less income taxes.

    In the area in which I live, there's been a long-standing tradition of voting Democratic for local offices and voting Republican for President (abortion being the deal-breaker in the matter).

    April 18, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Taj

    America is a crazy country. People, politicians, the press make a big deal about anything & everything. Silly. We need to move on to more important things in life, creating a better America.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:30 am |
  6. Donna McCartney-Smith

    Hillary is sniping for support. She's imbarrassing. How about keeping the discussion on higher ground? Obama conducts himself well, keeping to the real issues.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:20 am |
  7. Sue

    I just watched the debate and then your commentary. Your station, CNN, is consistently for Obama and you proved it again tonight. Hillary did not jump on Obama as you suggested. The opposite was true. You show all of his comments but frame hers in a way that is negative.

    I have always held CNN to great respect, until this election when it's obvious that all of your comments and those of your panelists are subjective and slanted to be sure Obama wins.

    Hillary is fighting the Obama campaign and CNN.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  8. jada

    Im a 6th grader and i go to a public school in Virginia.
    I dont like all the hypricritical statments that are being post up on these blogs. Senetor Obama is a wonderful man and i know that he is going to be a great presedent. You all are just racist and afraid of change. Just because Clinton's husband won presidency that doesnt mean that she can win to. Ohh and Clinton FALL BACK and DROP OUT OF THR RACE.
    ps. goodbye Clinton
    OBAMA '08
    Jada 6th grade, public school in Sprinfield, Virginia.

    April 16, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  9. danny

    The idea that the Democratic party/Obama is out of touch with those from small towns and rural areas maybe a factual statement however, who in American can honestly claim that he or she understands and can bestow the sentiments of all who live here. This is impossible how can I, a New Yorker totally understand the beliefs, norms, attitudes, and traditions of those that live in a small town in Alaska? Yhea;, I can read-up on Alaskan culture; view a documentary on the discovery channel, even write a research paper on the subject, but I will never fully grasp the ethnic identity of the people who live there. Hence, the claims and negative press that Obama is receiving over his statements is unjust and merely politics. No man or woman can make everyone happy. So please spare-me with the hypocritical smoke screens.

    April 16, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  10. Michelle

    If someone (be it voter or political pundit) is looking for an excuse to not support Obama then it makes sense they would try to build a case that he is "elitist" and "out of touch" based on one analytical statement he made at a private meeting. (It's interesting no one has questioned who recorded his statements, why they did so, how much they got paid and who paid them. I think those of us in our 40s sometimes forget everyone has a recording device now-a-days and is out to make a buck. Oh, for the good old days.)

    However, if one takes a moment to see the broader picture not offered by the media and public officials (and does not trust public personalities implicitly), then one could question whether Obama's life and work demonstrates he is "elitist" and "out of touch". Hmmm....He was born in a lower middle class family and had a single mom. He went to suburban public schools most of his young life. He was attracted to working with underprivileged people much of his young life. His campaign goal is to empower and educate voters who don't usually vote. He is a social progressive. He is for establishing measures of control over corporations and the out-sourcing of jobs overseas. He wants to rebuild the infrastructure of the country. He'd like everyone to have health care and personal rights. He seems to be a genuinely spiritual person who can have an intelligent and deeply thoughtful discussion about theology and faith. By golly, he seems to be interested in most of the concerns rural middle class folks might have.

    Maybe the problem with Obama is he tends to be too honest. He makes analytical statements without thinking about whether they would be good sound bites. And maybe he is too articulate for some. I don't say that in any demeaning way. But Obama comes across as an educated, intelligent, articulate person. I don't think he acts intelligent to be off putting. I don't think he is using a large vocabulary to demean those who have not had the opportunities for education Obama's relatives worked hard to provide for him. I don't think he looks down on hard working people. I think he just has a large vocabulary. And I admire him for not trying to change his way of speaking to manipulate voters.

    April 16, 2008 at 1:48 pm |
  11. Eileen Butler

    It's another election cycle and ugly politics are in full swing. Everyone is doing the dance. Govenor Rendell is dancing for Bill Clinton, Mayor Knutter is dancing for Rendell, the media is dancing for ratings and money in their pocket, Hillary is willing to sell her soul to the devil for votes....the list goes on and on and on and on. A vicious and endless cycle.

    Pennsylvanian's are not all blue collar, coal miners. We would actually be interested in hearing about real, substantive plans for the future, NOT rhetoric from Hillary, Barrack on what they think we want to hear. Hillary has one friend in Pennsylvania and that is Ed Rendell.

    I think that Barrack was trying to empathize with people who are frustrated but it came out wrong – PERIOD. But Lord, what an present he gave to Hillary. My god, she must have been doing the happy dance when the word got out. I think out of everything I am disenchanted by in this year's election, Hillary's desperation is probably leaves the most bitter taste in my mouth.

    I do hope that our first female president is not her. She is trying to disguise her own political ambition under the veil of caring about the american people.

    April 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm |
  12. Donna R.

    I do not know if the word elitism was the right word to describe what Senator Obama had stated, but I do know that his statement was totally off base. And the fact that the media has been playing with the word "bitter " has really taken what was said in a totally different direction. There should have been more insight taken on what was said. I find it interesting how the statement,"antipathy towards others and those not like themselves", had totally disappeared in the media when talking about this "bitter" statement. Senator Obama had added this to the list of things that, " he felt ", small town Americans cling to due to their anger for their Goverment. Yes, people are angry about what has happened to their country, but they do not turn to bigotry to express what they are feeling. He has disturbing views about people that he wants to represent and who have voted for him. And once again, even though Senator McCain had spoken up in the same manner this whole thing seems to be turning around in a negative way towards Senator Clinton. I find it interesting that others do not seem to see that these statements are directed at them, or that this is how he sees this country. He may change his words around but he has stated that he is sticking to his statement. I feel that the media is failing the public by once again allowing another serious issue to be turned around on the other candidate instead of studying why Senator Obama feels this way. Time to put the pieces together!

    April 16, 2008 at 1:36 pm |
  13. Shawn

    I'll tell you what's elite: asking the superdelegates to override the pledge delegates.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:51 pm |
  14. Jack

    It amazes me to see how Hillary, McCain and the media blew Obama’s statement out of proportion. When every other person that you know including yourself are loosing their homes, can not send their kids to college, having to live on a paycheck to paycheck basis and seen everything around you falling apart. The word FUSTRATION can not even begin to project or elucidate your state of being. What McCain and Hillary failed to realize is, regardless of the state of the economy their bills will be paid their kids will go on to the best Colleges and Universities. If you do not speak to the hart of the problem and if you failed to recognize that people are tired and frustrated, how then can you begin to solve the problem? Americans does not need some one to tell them what they want to hear. We need someone to tell us the truth about what it is and how we can repair it.
    “The truth in its purest form breaks and rebuild”

    April 16, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  15. Monique Manna - Southbridge, MA

    I don't think that he really knows what he is doing! Does he really think he is above everyone else because of the tough life he had? Well, let me tell you this – I had a tough life too and I don't go talking down on people – that is wrong!

    I didn't cling to religion or guns – I learned from my hardships financial & emotional and that only made me stronger & wiser.

    The American people will pull through these tough economic times not by "Clinging & Grasping" but by the lessons that we have learned throughout this terrible Bush Administration.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  16. Grace

    Maybe with time and experience he could be the better candidate, but this just continues to prove that he's not ready.

    If Sen. Clinton were a man the conversation would be, the numbers are too close, wait and see, not send her home. She has what it takes to really help and make a difference for all Americans.

    Voters have been asking for a better choice, now we have one.

    April 16, 2008 at 11:59 am |
  17. Kyle

    The way Barrack said what he said was poor. However there is some truth to what he said, many people are bitter about the government. What actually bothers me is when they get photo shoots of going bowling or drinking a beer, trying to be one of the people. It is just silly and we all understand they are regular people who aren't elitist just trying to do what they is believe is best for the country. Which I believe both Hillary and Barrack will do they will do what is right for all the people and not just certain people that have power already.

    April 16, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  18. Mary James

    Let me weigh in on this elitism row. I have read many scholarly articles about the link of unemployment to guns and the link of unemployment and poverty to religion. Particularly during my school days, we discussed this with reference to different societies including the US and the Caribbean where I come from. Apparantly, I did not realize that for the US there were two societies and hence two interpretation of these readings. I am now beginning to understand that these journals and books were written in the context of 'inner city folk'. We all kow the diaspora of inner 'city' and 'small town'. Religion and guns in the inner cities is rooted in poverty , unemployment and the need to escape it but in small towns is is rooted in America's proud history. By the way, who are the Clinton campaign trying to fool. When you are out of a job and seeing jobs sent overseas and immigrants come in and compete with you, you become resilient and proud. Of course you will become angry and frustrated and discriminate against immigrants. It happens right here in the Caribbean with intra Caribbean migratio. A drowning man (woman) will catch at a straw and this is just Clinton holding on tight to this straw. Much ado about nothing.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:40 am |
  19. Taj

    Obama is telling the truth. Desperate people try to find an escape thru religion, drinking, violence, suicide or what not. Their very existance is at stake. This country is screwed up from top to bottm. Who is to blame? The politicians. They do not care for poor & middle class.

    April 16, 2008 at 10:23 am |
  20. Debbie, NJ

    You know people, if the shoe doesn't fit don't wear it. The statements that Obama said may be true for some people and not others. Anyway he was talking about people focusing on the laws about guns and religion more than economic laws because people were frustrated (bitter) about there being no change for the working class in the past 20 years. Hillary just doesn't want you to focus on that statement.

    April 16, 2008 at 9:44 am |
  21. Kathy, Texas

    I agree with Doreen. Send Obama to Canada.

    April 16, 2008 at 9:43 am |
  22. Pat M Canada

    Frankly I think all three Candidates are out of Touch.

    One Candidate or Party is no more savy than the other. President Bush buried America in a Quagmire in Iraq and it will be no small feat to dig America out! It is not just politics. It is oil, the Almighty Dollar, and favours each owe to the other!

    The Candidates are politicians and they will all tell you what they think you want to hear and then do the exact oppositie after they are elected just like politicians everywhere around the world. All they will ever give you is their word. And that will never be something you can bet your bank account on.

    Politics is a game of chance where the only losers are the tax payers.

    April 16, 2008 at 8:28 am |
  23. Lynn

    Obama did not say that people "turned to" God, guns, etc.; he said "cling to." You "turn to" something that you don't have. You cling to something that you do have. His point was that that people's protracted frustration with unmitigated economic collapse (it's called the Rust Belt for a reason) and the failure of their elected representatives over the last 25-30 years to actually do anything about it had left them bitter about government and politicians and the prospects for economic improvement. They therefore clung all the more tightly to the sources of comfort and pleasure in their lives that had never let them down and that they had more control over. That situation, in turn, made them more susceptible to manipulation by politicians willing to demagogue issues of God, guns, and "others."

    Of course what Obama actually said is hardly controversial, and the media and Clinton's thrive on controversy. Why let a good story slip away if a little distortion will keep it alive?

    April 16, 2008 at 8:23 am |
  24. Rahni, Connecticut

    Yes! I very bitter to see all of our jobs shipped overseas and American workers are out of work. It looks like the United States will become a third world nation in a matter of a few years. Obama was speaking the truth and I didn't take offense to it.

    Rahni, Connecticut

    April 16, 2008 at 7:34 am |
  25. LarryB

    Seems everyone is missing....or avoiding..the point.

    Look at how the news is reluctant to show anything about race. Rev. Wright clips appear w/o the sound on and the uproar over bitter remarks when bitter or religion or guns isn't the issue.

    Is this Obama calling the people in small towns that don't vote for him bigots? "antipathy toward people who aren't like them"

    Seems like it to me, I'm just curious why the press is on the guns and religion part of his statement and avoiding the racist part. The press needs to get a little backbone.

    He has simply enjoyed too much success too soon and is suffering from a minor messiah complex much like you see in rock stars.

    Obama in that recording was responding to a question by those California folks asking why those small towns weren't supporting him.....

    Obama was faced with a segment of voters that didn't rush to form a pep rally for him, so he figured there MUST be something seriously wrong with THEM

    Larry B

    San Antonio, TX

    April 16, 2008 at 7:03 am |
  26. Westley

    I have never seen so much attention given to such an non-issue in my life. From reading the comments here, one can absolutely tell which party you lean towards and for whom you are voting. Transparent indeed.

    However, I do find it most interesting how many non-americans pay attention to our politics, then to, some countries have troops in harms way in Iraq, solely due to our obvious blundering.

    April 16, 2008 at 2:05 am |
  27. shoechef

    Barrack Obama represents CHANGE that we all need!

    April 15, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  28. Alice Ray

    Obama is completely out of touch with Americans.
    He didn't get it when his pastor spewed hatred about America and hatred towards white people and our first lady, Senator Clinton.
    I am a lady and was very offended by Wright's comments.

    Now this last comment wasn't about the word bitter. He belittled the small town Americans as if they were small towners didn't know any better way to express themselves but through religion and guns.
    He also said that they had hatred towards immigrants. That was also rude and nasty. He was acting like he knew it all when he was so much out of touch, it was rediculous.

    He is acting like an elitist, not because he is, he is just "acting" like an elitist he is just extremely "cocky" which comes across as an elitist.

    It was rude to these people, and demoralizing.

    He should step down with his cocky attitude.
    He is the one that is bitter and turns to religion.
    He is the one with bitter attitudes towards other groups of immigrants.
    And believe it or not, most Democrats over 50 percent love the Clintons, especially the clinton years. How dare he compare those years with Bushes. They were prosperous, we all had money and the country was never so divided as it is now.
    Obama should step down.

    Truly an undemocratic thing to do on both parts .

    April 15, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
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