A Promised Land by Barack Obama:
And so I still brood about this string of poorly chosen words. Not because it subjected us to a whole new round of bludgeoning at the hands of the press and the Clinton campaign—although that was no fun—but because the words ended up having such a long afterlife. The phrases “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion” were easily remembered, like a hook in a pop song, and would be cited deep into my presidency as evidence that I failed to understand or reach out to working-class white people, even when the positions I took and policies I championed consistently indicated the contrary.
Maybe I’m overstating the consequences of that night. Maybe things were bound to play out as they did, and what nags at me is the simple fact that I screwed up and don’t like being misunderstood. And maybe I’m bothered by the care and delicacy with which one must state the obvious: that it’s possible to understand and sympathize with the frustrations of white voters without denying the ease with which, throughout American history, politicians have redirected white frustration about their economic or social circumstances toward Black and brown people.
One thing’s for certain. The fallout from my gaffe that night provided my San Francisco questioner a better answer than any verbal response I might have given.
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