Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bill Clinton as a bridge to the enigmatic rural and working class white voters

I've been trying to get caught up on reading the stack of New York Times that has been accumulating as I get into the groove of the new semester.  In doing so, I came across this story about Bill Clinton, as philanthropist and "other, on September 5, the day he spoke at the Democratic National Convention and nominated Barack Obama for a second term.  The story twice mentions the DNC and Obama's need for Clinton as a bridge to "rural and white working-class voters."  Here are the relevant passages:
For many Democrats, Mr. Clinton's renewed stature and his appeal to rural and white working-class voters, a vital group that Mr. Obama has struggled to connect with, make him both an ally of the current administration and a constant reminder of its political shortcomings.
A few paragraphs deeper in the story, journalist Amy Chozick returns to that same phrasing:
[Clinton] likes to use the Zulu greeting sawubona ("I see you") when he is traveling in parts of southern Africa, and he often received the response ngikhona ("I am here").  It is that sort of personal connection that helped him lure rural and working-class voters back to the Democratic Party in 1992, and is that touch that many political analysis say Mr. Obama lacks, a perceived gap that Mr. Clinton said he had tried to help with. 
For the record, the word "rural" appears two other times in the story, which is also about Mr. Clinton's philanthropic work in Africa.  Chozick refers to two places Clinton visited on a July swing through four African nations:  "an off-the-schedule stop at a model village called Nyagatovu in rural Rwanda" and "a rural brick-making area a half hour outside Kampala."

It seems unusual for a journalist to use a descriptor like "rural" in reference to places in the developing world--even when they are rural--perhaps because "rural" is the default in the developing world.  Maybe Chozick was more mindful than usual of the rural-urban divide even in Africa, having focused on it for the other purpose in this story.  On the other hand, I caught at least one other recent headline using "rural" in a similar way:  "Series of Deadly Earthquakes Rattle 2 Rural Chinese Provinces."

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