Plain-talking Boots-wearing Reglar Guy

I take the ostrich approach about certain things. Maybe it’s because I’m conserving my irritation-energy in order to use it here – but some sources of irritation I just do my best to ignore. I would ignore people shouting into their cell phones (mobiles) in public if I could, but alas I cannot. I would ignore CNN news on the tv set at the airport if I could, but alas I cannot. I would ignore the nasty music playing in the supermarket and the bookstore if I could, but – you get the idea. But some things I do have control over, some on-off switches I do have access to, and I keep them firmly in the off position. I ignore the presidential campaign (mind you, I always do ignore those), and I ignore tv news and various tv argument shows and shout-fests. But once in awhile I bump into one by accident, on my way somewhere else, and my attention is caught. It was caught a few evenings ago, and I stared in slack-jawed amazement. At? A couple of telegenic guys were mouthing about something on MSNBC, but what I was gaping at was the blurb at the bottom of the screen. It said: ‘Elite media bashes ‘The Passion.’ This was on MSNBC, remember. Oh yes, MSNBC, poor penniless non-elite MSNBC. What on earth does ‘elite’ mean in that illiterate sentence? Something along the lines of ‘Has a different view of things from Normal Amurrikans,’ I suppose.

But of course I shouldn’t be amazed. It’s everywhere, that kind of thing. Which is exactly why I ignore so many pieces of everywhere, so that I don’t have to keep being reminded of that. Of the staggering idiocy of people who swallow that line, and the infuriating perversity of people who peddle it. The line that the elite is no longer the rich and powerful, it’s simply anyone with views however microscopically to the left of whoever happens to be using the epithet. Or, that it’s anyone who’s ever read a book, or who likes reading books, or who likes to think now and then. The line that people like that are bad and evil, and that therefore the way to be a good person is to go to great lengths to seem even more incurious and anti-intellectual than one already is. As in this article about what a ‘regular guy’ George W Bush is.

Until last month, President Bush hadn’t been to a NASCAR race since he was governor of Texas and running for president. On Monday, he goes to a rodeo and livestock exhibition in Houston – again, for the first time since he was governor. Such appearances at sporting events this election year help Bush shore up his standing with his core supporters: white men. They also show him as a plain-talking boots-wearer with Middle America tastes – an image Bush has cultivated for years to counter his background as an Ivy Leaguer from an old, wealthy, New England-based family. That comes in handy particularly this year, as the president will almost certainly face Democratic Sen. John Kerry, a wealthy Northeasterner the Bush campaign aims to paint as out of sync with much of the country. Allan Lichtman, a political scientist at American University in Washington, said the events call attention to Bush as “both the macho guy and the regular guy. Despite all the charges that his administration is a giveaway to the rich, this shows President Bush as in touch with the concerns and the lives of ordinary Americans in all the ways the patrician, distant, former hippie war protester John Kerry isn’t,” Lichtman said.

What? What? It does what? It shows what? In touch? What does that mean? The concerns? The lives? The boots? What in hell is the man talking about? Have we been completely invaded by pod people who have sucked out all our brains and eaten them, leaving small pools of Miracle Whip in their place? Do people really not realize that the ol’ boots-wearer, Mr Plain-talking (that’s one way to describe it), is also a wealthy Northeasterner? Who is in fact himself ‘out of sync with much of the country’? (That usually is the case, actually. That’s why we have more than one party, at least it’s supposed to be.) That however many boots he wears he is still who he is and not some ranch hand? That tastes are one thing, and what he does to us is quite, quite, quite another? Is that really so hard to grasp??

Well, you see why I ignore this kind of thing. My voice rises to a piercing scream in a matter of seconds, my eyes bulge out of my head, and then I start to foam at the mouth. So it won’t do. I’ll let Tom Frank do it instead. He does a very good job.

That’s the mystery of the United States, circa 2004. Thanks to the rightward political shift of the past 30 years, wealth is today concentrated in fewer hands than it has been since the 1920s; workers have less power over the conditions under which they toil than ever before in our lifetimes; and the corporation has become the most powerful actor in our world. Yet that rightward shift-still going strong to this day-sells itself as a war against elites, a righteous uprising of the little guy against an obnoxious upper class.

Frank also goes on to say interesting things about the grain of truth in the Volvo-driving liberal stereotype, and what the left ought to do about it.

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