The myth that the GOP has a corner on “family values” and down-home goodness has been around a long time. For some reason that I can’t explain, their expensive outfits and unusual bathroom habits have not discouraged rural residents from voting for them, and against their own interests.
Asked who would deal better with problems facing rural areas or the economy more generally, rural voters are about evenly divided. But when asked who shares their values, they prefer Mr McCain by a 14-point margin. And they love his running-mate, Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. Fully 65% of rural voters in swing states think she “represents the values of rural communities”. [“Bucolic Ballots.” The Economist. 25 Sept. 2008]
Now, this is not to say that the Dems haven’t been involved in some naughty business–I think both parties can claim their fair share of abuses and embarrassments, but a couple of folks who have made their campaign about lies, smear tactics, and outrageous character assassination attempts don’t seem to be brimming with rural values, or many values at all except perhaps, “the end justifies the means.”
The recent Rolling Stone biography of John McCain shows a man who has held that a favorable end for him has justified the means all his life–from crashing three planes, to squealing that he was a Navy Admiral’s son to avoid the worst of the torture, to abandoning his first wife after she was crippled and taking up with an heiress before the ink was even applied to the divorce decree.
I’ll grant that Rolling Stone probably isn’t what rural voters are reading these days–but the truth’s got to get out somehow. Not everything I’ve read about Barack Obama or Joe Biden has been great or favorable either, but it’s a far cry from the ruthless, reckless behavior that has characterized John “McNasty” McCain all his life.
Then there’s Sarah Palin, who illustrates the adage that, “you can’t be smart and dumb at the same time.” Which is it Sarah? You were hired on the energize the base–which so far seems to mean speaking in a “folksy” (that is, uneducated) voice about how much like the rest of the “pick-a-sport” moms you are (well, except that you’re the governor of your state).
If you believe that Palin had to be intelligent and capable to achieve the position she’s in, then why is she talking and acting like a flake? To me, her demeanor illustrates that:
A) She’s not an intelligent and capable leader or,
B) She’s putting on a folksy act in order to lock in rural voters for her party, or
None of these options are pretty. A) suggest John McCain’s value in picking her is all about looks over substance–B) suggests she and her party are engaged in a huckster-ish deception. None of the options showcase “rural values”; all of the options suggest that for the GOP, it’s all about appearance.
Appearance is important, of course. Any politician worth his salt knows you don’t wear a fancy suit to a tavern and bean-feed fundrasier in Wakonda, just like I don’t wear my torn-up farm jeans to campus to pick up my mail in the English Department.
But Republicans have for too long gotten away with an appearance of folksy, rural values-sharing men (and women) of the people, while stripping those same people of all they’re worth.