Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I'm not quite as put off by E.J. Dionne's column "Angry White Men Have Real Grievances" as, say, Barbara O'Brien and aimai are. You'll say it's just my Y chromosome talking, and maybe you're partly right -- but I think it's more the fact that, while I agree with Barbara and aimai that it's tiresome to be told all the time that liberals are Joe Sixpack-hating elitists (only our beverage choice changes -- we used to swill chardonnay), Dionne actually has a point here, even if it's poorly put:

No doubt some who despise Obama will see the judges in Norway as part of that latte-sipping crowd and will hold their esteem for the president against him. He can't do much about this. What he can do -- and perhaps then deserve the domestic equivalent of a peace prize -- is reach out to the angry white men with policies that address their grievances, and do so with an understanding that what matters to them is not status but simply a chance to make a decent living again.

If you want to be charitable, you can read "reach out to the angry white men with policies that address their grievances" as meaning "reach out to the angry white men not by doing some big job of cross-cultural outreach, but by doing more about the damn economy." And maybe that's all Dionne actually means. I doubt it -- you don't use phrases like "reach out" if you're not trying to beat yourself (and your readers) up for being latte (and ex-chardonnay) swillers -- but that's what Dionne should mean.

The president should concentrate on putting more money in the pockets of the have-nots, even if (or especially if) it means being less solicitous of his fat-cat pals. He should make a point of taking on his fat-cat pals. He should have started doing so in the first hundred days. Even just a serious effort would be a sign of good faith -- why, for instance, is the administration's anti-foreclosure program such a pathetic failure? And why has it taken so long to get to the point of just starting to talk about re-regulating Wall Street?

My point is that Obama should be doing more -- visibly doing more -- for all the have-nots. That group would include "angry white men." That's not cultural outreach. That's fighting a class war -- on the correct side -- which is exactly what liberals need to do after thirty years of Reaganism and post-Reaganism.

That won't get through to the hardcore tea party crowd -- I agree with Barbara that there really isn't much overlap between the unemployed and those folks -- but it might get through to the people who are genuinely suffering, both the males who are disproportionately being laid off in this recession and everyone else who's hurting, or at risk, or who doesn't have Tim Geithner on speed-dial.

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