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Is my candidate too elite?

Saturday, April 12, 2008 by Dave Winer.

I winced when I heard the quote that's making the rounds this week in the political blogosphere. I didn't like it because unlike the Rev Wright controversy, I doubt if much good can come from it, and because my guy, Obama, was, imho, wrong. By his own standards, the comment was wrong, and I hope he gets why. Permalink to this paragraph

To equate geography with intellect is as wrong as to equate it with race, ethnicity, gender or age. Permalink to this paragraph

It may be true that there are some people who live in small towns in rural America who are bitter and closed-minded, who have bad lives and blame the badness on illegal immigrants, gay people who want to get married, or conspiracies to separate them from their guns. (I've deliberately overstated Obama's quote, to be in line with what people who don't like him react to.) But it certainly isn't true of all of them, and as long as there's one good person living there, it's unfair, it's wrong to make general statements about the class. Permalink to this paragraph

This came home when, on Twitter, I said I thought he was wrong, and a correspondent from Texas suggested it may be because I come from Berkeley and people from Berkeley are more "insulated" from some reality they aren't insulated from in Texas. I could have responded by saying something generally negative about people from Texas, and that would be on par with the kind of discourse we've been having in the US for the last few decades. I didn't. We have spirited political discussions in Berkeley, which disproves the idea that you can predict the way someone thinks by knowing they come from here.  Permalink to this paragraph

Now I like Obama because he rejects this kind of thinking. He wants us to look at black people, and consider the possibility that they're smart, caring people who value the good things we believe in, education, good health, being kind to others, etc. He wants blacks to look at whites and not see superficial good-weather friends, people you can count on, brothers and sisters even. I could go on. This is my philosophy too. And after the election of 2004, I wrote that this time the middle of the country was insisting, over the objections of the two coasts, that we have to work with them before we can go where we think we need to go (i.e. get out of the Iraq misadventure). A high price to pay to get us to listen. And did we listen? Well, in his awful quote, Obama said no -- we aren't. Because when you reject people as a class, that's what ignorance is built out of, literally, it's how you ignore what's real, and respond to your beliefs, which are usually fairly negative. It's the opposite of respect, and it's wrong. Permalink to this paragraph

Now I believe that Obama is a good man, and really believes the things he says, but he's tired, even exhausted from the campaign and he slipped and made a mistake. If we believe our Presidents don't make mistakes, surely the last 15 years, two terms of Clinton and Bush, convinced us that our Presidents are very human and they make lots of mistakes, some very big ones. So, making a mistake certainly does not disqualify Obama.  Permalink to this paragraph

The other two remaining candidates, Clinton and McCain have made far worse blunders, and have retracted them, and we've let them off the hook. I wonder if it's possible for Clinton to get up and say, okay, can we call it even. I did something dumb with the Bosnia story, and Obama did something dumb with this story about rural people clinging to superstition. I know I'd respect HRC about a billion percent more if she could do that. And it certainly seems within the realm of possibility that McCain might. Check out this ad he did about discourse in the United States and see if it doesn't put a lump in your throat. It's worth playing every time it seems the Republicans are about to sling some mud. Permalink to this paragraph

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Yeah I'm optimistic. I think some good can and will come out of this. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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