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October 27, 2008
No More Real
Polls and likely outcomes aside, if there's one thing I've
greatly enjoyed about the past two weeks or so of the presidential
campaign, it's been this: One of the most persistent and most ridiculous
claims of the right is finally being challenged and torn down.
I'm speaking of this idea, sometimes merely implied, and
other times stated out loud, that certain parts of the country, and the
people from them, are somehow more authentically American, and that
people from those areas always, conveniently, heavily Republican ones
are the "real Americans."
The "Real America" is apparently inhabited entirely by rural
white people who vote in big numbers for the GOP. What this means for
the rest of the country fake America? unreal America? remains
This idea has been out there for years, but has truly been
crystalized in the past couple of election cycles. Everyone remembers
George Allen's infamous "macaca" moment from the 2006 election, but
Allen followed that racial slur by telling Jim Webb's staffer "welcome
to America and the real world of Virginia."
This was echoed, two years later, by McCain spokeswoman Nancy
Pfotenhauer, who said this week that "I certainly agree that Northern
Virginia has gone more Democratic . . . But the rest of the state real
Virginia if you will I think will be very responsive to Sen. McCain's
message." The Pentagon and Reagan National Airport, apparently, are no
longer part of the "real Virginia."
Meanwhile, North Carolina Congressman Robin Hayes said at a
rally last week that "Liberals hate real Americans that work and
accomplish and achieve in believe in God," a quote he denied uttering
until reporters present confirmed it.
The worst offender, though, has been Sarah Palin. It started
in her GOP convention address, when she quoted "a writer" as saying that
"we grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity and
dignity," a quote that would have been problematic enough even if that
"writer" hadn't been Westbrook Pegler, a notorious anti-Semite.
On the trail more recently, Palin has been praising "the best
of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these
wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America."
This is all quite laughable, and it isn't too difficult to
understand why: There are good people and bad people in big towns and
small towns. In rural America, and urban America, and in every one of
the 50 states. There's nothing about being from a certain kind of city
or town that makes you any better, any smarter, any more American, or
gives you better values than anywhere else, and it's absurd to suggest
that it does.
You can call Democrats elitist, and in some cases you'd be
right. But you will never, ever hear someone get up at a Democratic
National Convention and say "we grow good people in big cities," or
claim that people from blue states are really American and those from
red states are not. It's Republicans who continually demean whole cities
and states (San Francisco, Massachusetts). I've never heard a Democratic
official denounce, say, "Utah values."
Thankfully, there has been some pushback on this, with
liberal pundits and politicians noticing how ridiculous this "real
American" nonsense is. Colin Powell, endorsing Barack Obama on Meet
the Press, stated one of his reasons as "he's thinking about all
villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have
values." And Obama himself has added a similar line to his stump speech:
"There are no real parts of the country or fake parts of the country."
I understand what's at play here. The Republicans are behind
and desperate, and shoring up their base in this case, by flattering
them is the only card they have left. But it's shameless and
ridiculous, and it's not going to work this time.
Besides, I liked "real American" better back when it was just
Hulk Hogan's theme music.
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