Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was supposed to be a new kind of politician, one that would transcend all of the divisions within this country and bring us together. He is remembered for his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that called for bipartisanship and bridging the supposed gap between “red states” and “blue states.” He often talks about the “audacity of hope,” and his message seems to resonate with many Americans, even those that disagree with him politically.

A few days ago, however, Obama abandoned this message in a private speech to donors made up of liberal urban elites in San Francisco. He said in reference to residents of small towns in the Midwest that have suffered job losses: “. they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama shows condescension to millions of middle-class Americans, dismissing their values and opinions as the result of their being “bitter” and making them appear like stereotypical rednecks. His remarks border on intolerance, a label he actually tries to apply to the people in his speech. The hypocrisy here is a direct contradiction of the message he has been preaching throughout his campaign.

His contention that many people seek refuge in guns and religion because they are bitter about job losses does not hold up to scrutiny. Guns have been a part of the culture in places like rustbelt Pennsylvania for decades, even during its most prosperous times. Likewise, people have been going to church long before the factories started closing. Did it ever occur to Obama that people could be religious because they believe in God or accept a church’s teachings? Obama displays a remarkable inability to understand the values and way of life of a large portion of America.

Obama’s remark that some of these people have become anti-immigrant because of job losses is also baseless. If he is referring to the city of Hazleton, Pa., which placed strict restrictions on employers hiring illegal immigrants, then he misuses the term “anti-immigrant.” Are there Americans who can be labeled “anti-immigrant?” I am sure there are, but most Americans want to make sure the immigrants are here legally, and this does not mean that they are “anti-immigrant.” Obama is trying to characterize support for tough law enforcement as nativism.

One of the most ironic portions of the speech is Obama’s attempt to criticize “anti-trade” sentiment. The race between him and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has essentially been a NAFTA bash-fest to appeal directly to this anti-trade sentiment. Forget the fact that NAFTA has significantly boosted Mexico’s economy and offered American consumers cheaper products, Obama is trying to have both sides of the issue here. He criticizes free trade on the campaign trail, but he praises it in private when the audience is a bunch of rich donors.

I think it is time that someone said the emperor has no clothes. Obama makes sweeping speeches about hope and change. His supporters faint in his presence and narcissistically declare, “We are the change we seek.” There is a Messiah complex about this guy. I have yet to see a compelling reason why Obama is special. He is a left-wing Ivy Leaguer with four years of experience in the Senate who happens to be a remarkably gifted orator. He makes an effort to appear bipartisan, when in fact he has voted the party line 97 percent of the time in the Senate, and National Journal ranked him the country’s most liberal senator. If you’re a liberal Democrat, then I am sure he is perfect for you, but please stop trying to convince us that he is a moderate.

The truth is that I found Obama appealing for a while, but some of the things that have come out over the past few months have been really troubling. Michelle Obama said that her husband’s success made her really proud of America for the first time. Obama has attended a church for 20 years led by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who after 9/11 blamed the United States for the attack and preached that African-Americans should say “God damn America” instead of “God bless America.” Anyone who goes to a church like that for 20 years and then brings the reverend on the campaign trail exhibits disturbingly questionable judgment.

The recent comments solidified my belief that while Obama has a great message, there is really nothing substantive about it. If Obama wants to be a new kind of politician, he cannot say one thing on the campaign trail and contradict this in front of a different audience. If he wants his message of tolerance to resonate, he should be more tolerant himself of the different lifestyles across this country. If he wants to be a uniter, he cannot use such divisive rhetoric. He is trying to backtrack about what he has said, but I think I am ready to finally hear some straight talk.

Stephen Kenny is a senior in the College. He can be reached at AGAINST THE WIND appears every other Tuesday.

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