Obama's class-conscious State of the Union 

Ira Stoll and Mickey Kaus zoom in on the passage in the State of the Union in which President Obama described Vice President Joe Biden as "a working class kid from Scranton."

"'Working class' rang slightly false," Stoll writes, "since those Americans not brought up in the Marxist tradition don't tend to break themselves up into classes…"  Adds Kaus: "Who left that in there?  That isn't how Americans talk, is it?"

It depends on the Americans.  Search the New York Times for uses of the phrase "working class" in the last year and you'll get 518 examples.  Do the same search for the Washington Post and you'll find 211 examples.  Search the Baltimore Sun and you'll find 77 examples.  Search the Des Moines Register, and you'll find 21 examples. And search the Anchorage Daily News, and you'll 12 examples (all but two in letters to the editor).

Certainly those brought up in the Marxist tradition would easily use the phrase "working class," and Obama was undoubtedly exposed to a lot of that at Columbia, Harvard, and in the world of community organizing.  But Stoll and Kaus are probably right that most Americans just don't use the phrase much, because that's not how they were brought up to see the world.  The fact that Obama used "working class" in the State of the Union -- and a check of the White House website shows that he has used it many times as president -- probably reflects the insularity of the president and his speechwriters.  They see it all the time in the New York Times, so everybody uses it, right? Of course, it might also make sense to keep up with the Des Moines Register.  And even the Anchorage Daily News.

About The Author

Byron York

Bio:

Byron York is the Examiner’s chief political correspondent. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He blogs throughout the week at Beltway Confidential.

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