Who Shares Whose Values?

Hat tip to Cory over at the Madville Times, who suggested a weekend diet of The Economist’s U.S. Election coverage.  Mm-mm-good!

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

C) Both.

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.

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4 responses

  1. if you neglect your garden too long, you may find minions in it. what you get when your onions are invaded by your mint plants. btw, don’t put this hybrid in your ice tea, the taste alone is akin to drinking from the commode.
    palin playing folksy is as deceptive as obama pretending to like white folks.

  2. Oh, Cherrie. You had such a pleasant comment going and then had to ruin it with the last line. Go read Obama’s family history and then explain to me how he’s “pretending to like white folks.” Sheesh.

  3. This response is long, and a lot more detailed than Fox News sound bites. Be prepared.

    OK–so Obama is (according to a very simplified dichotomy) half black and half white. We call him “black” because he displays those physical attributes normally associated with being “black”–that is, dark complexion, wider nose, etc. But he’s as much “white” as he is “black.”

    In our culture, “white” tends to be defined as the absence of any other racial identifiers, and not the presence of anything in particular. I could write a thesis on that, but the main point is that our culture tends to have a “purity/impurity” complex about racial identity, at least when it comes to what’s “white” and what’s “other than white.”

    That is, a person can be three-quarters “white” (of Northern European descent), but if they display obvious physical attributes of being 1/4 “black,” (of African descent), they’re labeled “black” whether or not they identify themselves as “black.”

    Michelle Obama’s undergraduate senior thesis (not graduate work, and not a dissertation) does not show a hatred of white people, it reports on perceptions of a racial divide which pretty obviously exists, and that we all live with, whether we’re conscious of it or not.

    As far as Obama’s pastor–yeah, whatever. I thought we got over that a while ago–McCain’s pastor is no better, and Palin’s? Don’t get me started. Just look at the divide between the American Catholic Church and The Vatican and tell me everyone believes and follows what their church leaders say.

    The “typical white person” remark from Barack Obama: obviously, he loves his grandmother while seeing her faults. Having lived on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation for a couple of years, I saw a bit of the “typical white person” in myself–as many white people do when they find themselves “outnumbered” for the first time in their lives and forced to examine their heretofore unconsciously assumed state of privilege.

    It’s a learning experience to be in the minority for the first time and not necessarily liked very much, and it can make you scared and mad and reactive–“what did I do?” “I’m a good person!”

    But you get past that because you have to in order to live your life (either that, or you hole up in your house and/or cower in fear when you see anyone unlike you). And you realize that the color of your skin or the fact that you think you’re a decent person does not automatically confer privilege upon you–and you are a lot more aware when other people take advantage of an unearned privilege as well–due to their color or their money or their name (like, say, John McCain).

    I don’t see Barack and Michelle Obama carrying around a big chip on their collective shoulders about being black in a white-privilege world. That doesn’t mean they don’t know their own experience in moving through the world identifying and identified as black people, and recognize that it’s different than moving through the world being identified as white people. No matter what their color, and any way you judge it, they’re simply very educated and accomplished individuals.

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