Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Average Joes Should Get A Vote...

...but not a platform on which to speak.

Sadly, I think Joe the Plumber is representative of many "average" voters, Republican and Democrat alike, in that they believe something without having any ability to explain why. For some people it's simply the inability to articulate facts and analysis, and that's fine. The average voter isn't a trained speaker. But for many, far too many, it's more a case of simply regurgitating key phrases or overly simplistic ideas that they think they identify with. It's impossible to be fully learned on the nuance of each and every critical issue we face, domestic and foreign, but these last few weeks of the campaign have illustrated just how low the public discourse on issues has fallen.

The charge that Obama is a "socialist" is one of the best examples. Attempting to broadly label Obama's policies as socialistic is simplistic, pandering, and disingenuous. There is a conversation to be had about taxes, welfare and the various forms of economic redistribution that already exist in our country, but the branding of these concepts as something inherently anti-American makes that discussion impossible. Once you start beating the catch-phrase drum, the monotonous bass of base is all anyone can hear. Taxes are not a bad thing. Taxes that are unfair are. The conversation should be about what constitutes a fair tax, but because the "conversation" about taxes has been successfully reduced by the Republicans to a simple "taxes bad" talking point, it's impossible to have a real discussion about what constitutes a fair tax. The end result is people fearing socialism without having any idea what the fuck socialism is or is not. Socialism, to most "average" Joes, is the government taking your hard earned money and giving it to someone who didn't earn it. The bank bailout is socialism. Social Security is socialism. Farm subsidies is socialism. Progressive taxation is socialism. Does this make America a socialist nation? Only if you want to talk about things in black and white.

But back to Joe and the Israel-destroying Obama for a moment. I don't blame Joe for holding a view that's clearly ignorant and ill-informed. I blame Joe for willingly becoming a celebrated mouthpiece of ordinary America. Joe insists that people should go find their own reasons as to why Obama's election would destroy Israel, and on that he and I agree. FOX viewers, go forth and read! Read something from the right, something from the left, and something from the middle. Read something from here, and read something from over there---yes, even if there is in Paris, France. If you do so, you may still believe that McCain is better for Israel than Obama, but something tells me you won't be so idiotic as to think Obama would destroy it. Too bad Joe isn't taking his own advice.

It's entirely possible to have a brilliant intellect, be knowledgeable about the issues and still vote for McCain, but don't look at someone who does not have a brilliant intellect and is not knowledgeable about the issues and say, "Hey, that guy is just like me and I'm going to vote just as he will." Joe is not a bad guy. But Joe is a not a role model. If "liberal" is a bad word, so, too, should "ordinary." Who the fuck wants to be ordinary anyway? Do you want an ordinary doctor? An ordinary lawyer? An ordinary wife? Ordinary means unexceptional. There's virtue in the ordinary, but if praising ordinary comes at the expense of diminishing things that are exceptional, then I'll gladly condemn so-called Average Americans.


Blogger Jeff said...

I think your criticism of Joe also applies to all the Hollywood and entertainment figures who act as a mouthpeice for democratic and liberal causes. Bash them. They have been doing what you find objectionable for a longer period of time and with greater effect than Joe.

You use the term "ordinary" as a measure of someone's intelligence or skill. I think most conservatives use it to identify something else, similar to class but not limited to purely economic terms. For example, a famous Hollywood actor is not an "ordinary" American. In contrast, a conservative would probably consider a doctor from the midwest to be an "ordinary" American, without regard to his or her level of skills as a doctor. In this sense, "ordinary" just means "like you."

November 1, 2008 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...


I agree in part with you. I've never liked anyone who, because of their status, gets a pulpit from which they can shout their support for various causes...especially if they're not well-versed enough to defend why they actually believe such things. This applies to Joe the Plumber and it most definitely applies to many of the so-called Hollywood liberals. I typically cringe when a movie star starts talking politics and, like you, would just prefer they not.

Where I disagree with you is in the assessment that they do so to great effect. I have no way to quantify this belief, but I really don't think political endorsements from actors hold much sway for voters. And, if anything, I think the many stupid things that come out of the mouths of many Hollywood liberals are more counter-productive than helpful. I mean, thanks to people like Barbara Streisand we're actually talking about "Hollywood Liberals," which is a manufactured, pejorative phrase to describe an entire group of people. The phrase "Hollywood Liberal" has been much more productive for Republicans than anything any of the "Hollywood Liberals" has ever said or done. If everyone in Hollywood stopped expressing a political belief tomorrow, the phrase Hollywood Liberal would STILL be used by the GOP. It's just too effective not to.

As for the use of the word "ordinary," you make a good point that it's not just about intelligence or skill, and I agree. And while I didn't express it as clearly as I could, that is in fact what I'm saying...that Joe the Plumber is ordinary because he's representative in class/intelligence/background of many Americans. I guess the broader point I would make, however, is that in complicated matters of domestic and foreign policy, "ordinary" people's opinions should not be celebrated, or substituted for those of experts. It's not that I favor a literacy test for voters, or suggest that Joe and others like him shouldn't get a vote, but when we start putting Joes in front of cameras or crowds and start giving his, quite frankly, ignorant views air time, that's absurd.

McCain is basically saying "Vote for me because Joe knows best, and because Joe is you." It's just awful logic. It's identity politics. Joe may be like the average voter, but that's precisely why the discourse needs to be raised. Until Joe the Plumber can defend his beliefs with something sharper than "it's just what I believe" or "I encourage people to find their own reasons" (presumably so he can copy them for his own), it's hard to value or respect what ordinary Americans say. Joe the Plumber is why intellectual elitism is a good thing, not a bad thing. It doesn't mean an intellectual elite is a better person, but it sure as hell means they're better for policy-making.

November 1, 2008 at 3:57 PM  

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