01:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, August 5, 2008
AMONG THE SEVERAL unpleasant outgrowths of the Obama-Clinton death duel, perhaps the most disturbing was the widespread perception that the junior senator from New York was more attuned to the cares and hardships of the working class than her chic counterpart from Illinois.
I still don’t understand how anyone could have overlooked the damage done to blue-collar America by the former first couple’s stalwart commitment to “free trade” — in the form of NAFTA and permanent “normal” trade relations (PNTR) with cheap-labor China — but evidently many did, particularly in states like Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Every time Hillary told the story of her grandfather toiling in a lace factory in Scranton I wished some comedian would say: “My grandfather sweated and suffered so much in that lace mill that Bill and I vowed that no one in Pennsylvania would ever again have to work in a factory. With NAFTA and PNTR our dream has been realized!”
But Hillary couldn’t have gotten away with such hypocritical nonsense without Barack Obama providing her a pass on class, the great unmentionable in a country that pretends that everyone is born equal and anyone can become president. For all his supposed concern about regular folks, Obama’s sympathy for the beleaguered people who still do manual labor remains suspect, while his willingness to appease the wealthy elites who preach the benefits of “free markets,” low taxes and job-destroying trade bills appears entirely sincere.