You go into 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. 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 toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
"No guts" gives out some arrogant elitism at its worst. Not the bitter comment, and I'll get to that later and the Thomas Frank attitude among the elitist wing of the democrats (Obama, Hillary although she's hiding it better, John Kerry). Obama, who claims to be religious himself, says that small town Midwesterners claing to religion because of being "bitter." He says that's why they "cling to guns." Now, I don't see what clinging to guns have to do with being bitter. Gun owners do tend to be more apt to be middle class, anyway (and have jobs). Antipathy toward people who aren't like them? That's what Obama seems to have. Anti-trade? No shit sherlock. That's a bad thing, Obama? Son, look what your party's NAFTA and GATT has done. Anti-immigrant? No son, but very anti-ILLEGAL immigration - and their taking of blue-collar jobs.
Now I know what Obama is getting at here. The leftist elite is obsessed with the book "What's the matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank. To sum it up, the leftist elite thinks that white working class voters vote republican because in their view "we vote against our best interest" and vote on "unimportant wedge issues." They think our real interest is with the "democrats for the workin' man." That's absolute piles of horse manure.
First off, democrats do not know our best interests. Hell, I don't claim to know the best interest of my small-town neighbors. That makes me smarter than a lot of democrats who think they do know them. I do know my best interests and vote accordingly. This attitude hurts democrats immensely. This isn't going to sell. Arrogance from big city politicians does not sell in small town America.
Secondly, what did democrats do for small town Midwestern voters? The answer is a lot of damage. Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and GATT. Republicans share some blame for that one, but it passed a democrat house, democrat senate, and democrat president. Tax increases. What do we get for tax increases? Nothing but bridges to nowhere, $500 hammers, and $600 toilet seats. Energy Independence. Pennsylvania is coal country. With $3.50 gallons of gas (much of it taxes), why not eliminate oil for non-gasoline related things - like heating and electicity. The anti-coal lobbies though want to keep our dependence on foreign oil. The CAFE standards push doesn't help either. Rapid government regulations increase the costs of American automobiles. Most of them are made from STEEL. Western and Northeastern Pennsylvania is steel country. Democrats wonder why so many people out here don't trust them? It is not only because of the cultural issues, derisively called "God, guns and gays" which really cuts across all class lines (gay issues being quite overrated). It is due to regulating the industries of these areas out of business. It's not solely the factor for going out of business, but it is one of them, due to the San Francisco wing of the democrats. It's a long time story of the rust belt to one degree or another. From Rochester NY around the great lakes through Pennsylvania, Northern Ohio, most of Michigan, Milwaukee, to parts of Illinois (Rockford), and arguably St Louis. The rise and decline of industry. Many small towns are dependent on the industry of larger towns through suppliers, etc.
The voters in small towns are some of the most independent voters I've ever come across. Notice what I said. Independent. Most are moderate on economic issues and conservative to some extent on social issues, but do not support a theocracy. They are NOT necessarily Republicans. I'm going to repeat that. They are NOT necessarily Republicans. A lot of them are ticket splitters and three way swing voters. Democrat, Republican, and skipping the race. Right now, I think skipping the race is leading. Obama's comments, policies, and style show he is a poor fight for small town American. Hillary Clinton isn't well liked either. Bill Clinton shifted these areas to the right. Now I can't let the Republicans off the hook. I have limited experience with Pennsylvania, but I have spend a lot of time in Midwestern small towns. Brighton and Howell used to be, and I've been in every county except two in this state. Farmlands, woodlands, and "company towns." Some I have been more than others. Republicans often think they are entitled to the small town vote. They aren't. In this state alone, you have a lot of ticket splitters in the rural areas. The thumb has had a lot of it lately. North Michigan as well. Some areas lean one way more than another, but they can not be taken for granted. Republicans have a LOT of work to do there, between war weariness, high gas prices, big spending from Bush and Ted Stevens, corrupt jerks like Mark Foley and Don Sherwood which hurt immensely among ethical voters. McCain has a lot of work to do there. He was dealt a hanging curve by Obama with his "What's the matter with Kansas?" and Thomas Frank attitude, but he needs to hit it out of the park. He can not take an attitude of "Who are they going to vote for? Obama?" The answer is probably not, but they might not show up at all instead.
Obama disrespected small town America. McCain needs to show the area respect. Not with pandering which is another form of disrespect, but with a plan. The ball is now in his court. We'll see what happens.