Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Gene Lyons: Bush's 'heartland' (Gene Lyons Is The Best of the BEST--Up there with Paul Krugman!)

Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Following President Bush’s stunningly incoherent press conference, his media acolytes reintroduced one of their most useful fictions: the decadent, blue-state "Beltway elite" vs. saltof-the-earth, red-state "real Americans." Based upon TV electoral maps that colored Al Gore states in 2000 blue, Bush states red, it’s a theme GOP imagineers have exploited since Newt Gingrich pronounced Democrats "enemies of normal Americans." Even his admirers had to notice that Bush had no answer for the deeply embarrassing question of why he can’t testify before the 9/11 Commission without Dick Cheney holding his hand. In the Weekly Standard, however, Fred Barnes invoked geography. The president’s real audience, see, "is outside the Beltwaythe mass—and he does surprisingly well in appealing to it. How does he do it? By being plain spoken and amiable and down to earth. By sounding more like Midland, Texas, than like Georgetown or Chevy Chase."

Ah, the heartland. After the Supreme Court made Bush president, see, conservatives had to deal with the uncomfortable fact that he’d lost the popular vote. So they seized upon his popularity in counties containing more livestock than people. No more lampooning what H. L. Mencken called the idiotic hallucinations of the cow states. GOP thinkers contrasted the humble faith and patriotism of the American yeoman to the snobbery and intellectualism of the liberal "elite."

New York Times columnist David Brooks helped with an article in the December 2001 Atlantic titled "Are We Really One Country? A Report from the Red and Blue America." Brooks, who effects a thoughtful, academic demeanor as a PBS commentator, traveled to a rural county in Pennsylvania (actually a blue state) like a 19 th century British explorer visiting the Hottentots. "We in the coastal metro Blue areas," he confessed, "read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. We’re more sophisticated and cosmopolitan.... But don’t ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We don’t know. We don’t know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are... . We don’t know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions. We don’t know about Reba and Travis.... Very few of us know what goes on in Branson, Missouri, even though it has seven million visitors a year, or could name even five NASCAR drivers.... We don’t know how to shoot or clean a rifle.... We don’t know what soybeans look like growing in a field."

As Kansas author Thomas Frank has pointed out, the top three soybean-producing states—llinois, Iowa and Minnesota—all voted for Gore. It’s a strange map of America that leaves Iowa out of the "heartland."

Me, I’ve hauled several generations of stubborn beagles out of Arkansas soybean fields on rabbit-hunting trips. Would that be Travis Tritt or Randy Travis that Brooks is talking about? Completely different breeds of cat. Last I heard, Reba McEntire was starring on Broadway, which blows almost as big a hole in the "two Americas" theme as the soybean nonsense. But no, I don’t care for Branson or any "sport" involving gasoline engines.

As for LaHaye and Jenkins, I recognize them as the authors of the "Left Behind" series of best-selling "Christian" novels based upon apocalyptic themes from the Book of Revelation not very different from the doomsday "prophecies" of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians: The end is near, and events in the daily newspaperspecifically the Middle Eastprefigure Armageddon. It’s a mish-mash of crackpot theology and action/adventure melodrama concocted to keep turnstiles clicking at cineplexes everywhere. How seriously people take this stuff is questionable. I expect most still invest in life insurance even as they giddily imagine the end of the world. How it makes them more grounded in reality than Democrats, I cannot imagine. (Shoot, many are Democrats.) I doubt Brooks knows, either; he’s just patronizing the rubes for political advantage.

At the Ann Coulter-Michael Savage end of the right-wing spectrum, moreover, the cartoonish "two countries" theme gets ugly. Democrats are essentially accused of the crimes of the Jews as Hitler saw them: atheism, moral relativism, communism, sexual license, physical cowardice and lack of patriotism. Anybody who thinks I exaggerate should visit freerepublic. com or read my e-mail.

Especially next week, because I’ve got an impertinent question. During his recent "60 Minutes" appearance, reporter Bob Woodward was asked if Bush consulted his father about Iraq. "I asked the president about this," Woodward said. "And President Bush said, ‘Well, no,’ and then he got defensive about it.... Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, ‘He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.’ And then he said, ‘ There’s a higher father that I appeal to. ’" My question: Is Bush pandering to the "heartland," or is he really that far gone?

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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