Obama and Marx: Similar sentences?

“It’s not surprising then that 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.”

How could I ignore this now infamous sentence spoken by Barack Obama and the controversy swirling around it over the past ten days? William Kristol has a brilliant op-ed The Mask Slips in the New York Times in which he likens Obama’s comment about small-town Americans to other famous words spoken by Karl Marx about religion: “It is the opium of the people.”

I’ll leave the political analysis to others and focus on the language. If Obama had wanted small-town Americans to sound dumb and irrational, he couldn’t have used a better word than “cling.” Webster’s defines it: “to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence.” So those small town folks act on emotional rather than making logical decisions like the rest of us educated city people – right? And those folks in podunk places are so swept away by emotion they can’t even focus on their real frustrations? Obama’s choice of words is patronizing. However, rather than making a conscious choice, I think he let his true feelings of disdain show all too well in that sentence.

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