Thursday, May 08, 2008

Which voters are not 'hard-working'?

What's toxic in Hillary's comment about Obama's lack of support among working class whites?

USA Today has an audio clip in which Clinton says:
There was just an AP article that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

Oh, there's a pattern emerging all right: race-baiting. The poison here is not so much Clinton's claim that she does better than Obama with working class whites, but the throw-in appositive "hard-working." What's the opposite of "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans," among whom Obama's support is allegedly weak? Mirror image: "not working, not-so-hard-working Americans, black Americans." Welfare queens, anyone?

To be fair, listening to Hillary work her way through the phrasing live, I thought that throwing in "hard-working" may have just been a pander reflex: you can't cite "working Americans" without flattering them. And saying "white" seems to push through some resistance. Still, as Andrew Sullivan wonders, "Does she hear herself"? What kind of thinking pushed up the full gestalt of that phrasing?

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