May 3, 2005


Laura Bush Talks Naughty (JOHN TIERNEY, 5/03/05, NY Times)

Mrs. Bush's performance, and her husband's reaction, wasn't a shock to the reporters who cover the White House. For years they have tried to convince their friends outside Washington that Mr. Bush is actually not a close-minded dolt, and Mrs. Bush is no Stepford Wife or Church Lady. Yes, they're Texans who go to church and preach family values, but they're not yahoos or religious zealots.

The coverage of Mrs. Bush's comic debut may change some minds, but for devout Bush-bashers, it's much easier to stay the course. If you live in a blue-state stronghold, a coastal city where you can go 24 hours without meeting any Republicans, it's consoling to think of the red staters as an alien bunch of strait-laced Bible thumpers.

Otherwise, how do you explain why they're Republican? Or answer the question Democrats asked in astonishment when they saw Mr. Bush's vote totals: Who are these people?

The favorite Democratic explanation is that the red staters are hicks who have been blinded by righteousness, as Thomas Frank argues in "What's the Matter With Kansas?" He laments that middle-class Kansans are so bamboozled by moral issues like abortion and school prayer that they vote for Republicans even though the Republican tax-cutting policies are against their self-interest.

But middle-class Americans don't simply cast ballots for Republicans. They also vote with their feet, which is why blue states and old Democratic cities are losing population to red states and Republican exurbs. People are moving there precisely because of economic reasons - more jobs, affordable houses and the lower taxes offered by Republican politicians.

They're not moving for the churches, and they don't vote for Mr. Bush simply because he reads the Bible every day. One of the main reasons they like him is that he gets bashed so often. When Jon Stewart sneers at him, they empathize because they're used to being sneered at themselves.

It's been rather amusing to listen to the Left object to Brian Anderson's thesis about South Park Republicans on the basis that the show is profane and makes fun of the Right as well as the Left. They really just don't get it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2005 10:22 AM


When Bush showed up at a dinner at the beginning of his term and spent 15 minutes reading Bushisms straight out of Jacob Weisberg's book, you might remember humor-impaired political reporters asking themselves why in the world Bush would do something like that. Let's all put our heads together now...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 3, 2005 10:35 AM

There's a certain snobbery that insists that no one outside of the cultural centers on the coasts can be anything other than a naive bumpkins or a humorless religous zealot. What they don't get is that with the advent of satellite TV 30 years ago, the Internet over the past decade, and the standardization of chain stores across the country in-between, everyone in the country has the option to share many of the very same experiences as their big-city brethren.

No, you can't go to MOMA or the Smithsonian on a spur-of-the-moment's notice, there isn't a restaurant on every block and you've got to wait for the art house films to get to the pay-per-view channels if you live in flyover contrry. However, most of the people in the cultural centers don't have the time, money or in many cases the inclination to take advantage of those things every day, either, so their life experiences aren't all that different from the people living 1,000 miles away from the ocean. But a lot of people still think geogrpahical location = sophistication, and out of that group, there's a ton of them working for the big media outlets.

Posted by: John at May 3, 2005 2:24 PM

It's not in the interest of either the left or right to point out that, from outward appearances, the Bushes seem to be perfectly mainstream Southern Methodists.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 3, 2005 2:38 PM

It's the contempt, and the more elections the left loses, the more the contempt shows.

Posted by: Mikey at May 3, 2005 2:47 PM