April 15, 2008


The rubes and the elites: By calling small-town Americans "bitter," Obama has deepened a long-standing rift in the Democratic base. The party's success in November depends on healing it. (Michael Lind, Apr. 15, 2008, Salon)

The events of the past few days are additional evidence of a profound rift in the Democratic Party, one revealed in the differing constituencies of the two remaining candidates. One story, told by Obama backers and the mainstream media, holds that there is a white racist problem: The Democratic Party is deeply divided between anti-racists (that is, supporters of Barack Obama) and racists (Democratic primary voters who preferred Hillary Clinton or any candidate other than Barack Obama, particularly the working-class white men who are often described, in zoological terms, as "white males"). The other story, which has yet to be told, holds that the difference between the constituencies of Obama and Clinton has little to do with race and reflects instead long-familiar regional and cultural splits among whites in the Democratic electorate. The prospects of the Democratic Party in the fall depend in part on whether these rifts can be healed.

In the act of rushing to Obama's defense, some prominent liberal bloggers reinforced the stereotype of elite liberal snobbery. On Friday, regular DailyKos diarist RKA argued, "This quote and the resulting feeding frenzy are a huge opportunity for Obama to get the attention of low-information small-town voters who are skeptical of him and convince some of them to vote their pocketbooks instead of their culture." On TPM Cafe, Todd Gitlin wrote that "Obama spoke artlessly, forgetting that the first law of American politics is: Flatter the rubes."

Now there's a campaign slogan. Hey, rubes -- I mean low-information voters -- Vote Your Pocketbook, Not Your Culture!

Should anyone doubt that dissing rather than flattering the "rubes" is an aberration, examples of liberal snobbery are not hard to find in progressive publications. Sometimes it's genteel, sometimes it's raw. In an essay titled "The Urban Archipelago" a few years ago, the editors of Seattle's alt-weekly the Stranger wrote: "It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion -- New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on ... And we are the real Americans. They -- rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs -- are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers ... We can secede emotionally ... by turning our backs on the heartland ... We're everywhere any sane person wants to be. Let them have the shitholes, the Oklahomas, Wyomings, and Alabamas. We'll take Manhattan."

A similarly grotesque and repellent caricature of America is found in the 80-something billionaire John Sperling's self-published book "The Great Divide," in which he argues that "Metro America" should turn its back on "Retro America." As Sperling's coauthor Samuel George explained, "Think of it this way. They have Wal-Mart, we have Neiman Marcus." And a few years back, many liberal bloggers were delighted with a chart, soon exposed as a hoax, that purported to show that IQs were higher in blue states than in red states.

Now consider the disturbing way that mainstream progressive thinkers and strategists discuss working-class white voters in terms of demeaning stereotypes. Working-class Catholic voters in the industrial states used to be "hardhats." Now they are "Archie Bunker voters," or "Joe Lunchbucket," or "the beer track voters." Even worse are the terms used for the Southern white working class. It's composed of "rednecks" or "Bubbas" or -- more recently -- "NASCAR man" or even "white trash."

They are apparently aliens whose behavior is irrational, dangerous and unnerving. Peter Beinart, the former editor of the New Republic and now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that liberals must "confront" a "scourge": "Let's call him Nascar Man ... Nascar Man is the guy liberals need to win, but usually don't. He loves guns, pickup trucks, chewing tobacco, and church on Sunday. He thinks liberals are high-taxing, culturally libertine, quasi-pacifist wimps. And, once liberals have conjured him up, they no longer say what they really believe -- even to one another ... Nascar Man inhibits intellectual inquiry. He's the bully everyone wants to appease."

Since when do the effete elites have a problem with appeasement?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2008 9:03 PM
Nascar Man [...] thinks liberals are high-taxing, culturally libertine, quasi-pacifist wimps.

What precise part of that description is untrue?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 15, 2008 9:36 PM


Posted by: David Hill, The Bronx at April 15, 2008 10:02 PM

I wonder how that flake from the Stranger feels about rubes from a "s---hole" like, oh, Oklahoma taking his "beloved" Sonics?

Posted by: Brad S at April 15, 2008 10:29 PM

I thought Barack Obama was supposed to heal these divides, provide the salve to make America whole, and lead us to blessed unity.

I guess he'll just have to move to San Francisco.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 15, 2008 10:54 PM

Damn! David H beat me to it.

Well, we don't much watch NASCAR. That's all right, I happen to think that most so-called "liberals" are much worse that the above characterizations. They are witches, perverts, poltroons, Comsymps, folk-enemies and culture-traitors; also gun-grabbing baby-murderers.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 16, 2008 4:12 AM

No, "quasi" is correct because such people are more than happy to engage in violence against NASCAR man. Just watch any "peace" protest.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 16, 2008 9:21 AM