Forty-three in all – including filmmakers Ed Burns and Terry George, actors Karen Duffy and Geraldine Hughes, musicians Mick Moloney and Chris Byrne, as well as writers like Jimmy Breslin, Thomas Cahill, T.J. English and Peter Quinn – have signed a full-page ad in this week’s issue of the Irish Echo supporting the 46-year-old senator.
In doing so they are now standing alongside “Irish Americans for Obama,” a group that has been campaigning for some weeks.
The writers and artists, who also include two columnists for this newspaper, Larry Kirwan and Danny Cassidy, express anger at what they call the “media and chattering class” which they claim use the phrase “white working class” as a code for “Irish working-class racism.”
And they state: “We are the descendants of the generations of Irish American working-class women and men who helped build this country, nurse its sick, care for its children, work its mines, fight its wars and police its streets. We wholeheartedly endorse Barack Obama in his quest for the Presidency of the United States.”
The signing group, 43 in number, write that “generations of progressive Irish Americans and African Americans” had worked side by side in the struggle to improve conditions for the poor and working class, whatever their color or ethnicity.
“We reiterate our commitment to this struggle in our enthusiastic endorsement of Obama as the surest way to stop the destructive drift in our nation’s foreign and domestic policies, and return dignity, tolerance, compassion and intelligence to the White House. We proudly stand with Barack Obama,” they state.
English, author of “Westies” and “Paddywhacked,” and among those behind the initiative said the signatories believed Obama represented the continuation and culmination of the struggle for civil rights that JFK helped to foster and for which Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy gave their lives.
“We will not sit idly by while the term ‘white working class’ becomes a kind of code for “Irish working class bigotry,'” English said.
The group is pointing to pundits that have been predicting that the Obama campaign would flounder in the upcoming Democratic primary in Pennsylvania because of the candidate’s failure to connect with the “white working class.”
This comes on top of Obama’s much criticized comment that those who had failed to rally to his flag in Pennsylvania and Indiana were bitter and that 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.”
English said the group of writers and Irish expected “no quid pro quo from Obama,” for rallying to his campaign’s side.
“This is as much a statement of our principles as it is an endorsement of his candidacy. The hope is that once Obama’s people see that we as voters with an Irish American working class sensibility support him on principle, we can then begin the process of creating a dialogue on specific policy issues.”
Co-signatory to the advertisement, Michael Patrick McDonald, Boston-based author of “All Souls,” echoed this view.
“My whole family, from the housing projects of a neighborhood that was found to have the highest concentration of white poverty in America, a neighborhood wrongly labeled the Irish racist bastion of America, is all going for Obama.
“So I don’t buy the media line that the Clintons have the white working class, and they certainly do not have Irish America,” McDonald said.