This story was written by Jack Garigliano, Badger Herald
In every election, candidates promise to fight for the average citizen, John Q. Public. Candidates from around the world pledge to fight for the politically powerless, for he who has no voice in the course of public policy. The Germans call this figure Otto Normalburger, the Russians call him Ivan Ivanovich and the British call him Joe Bloggs. Here in the United States, Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin continually invoke the name of Joe Six-Pack, and place all their hopes of winning the election this Tuesday on him. However, their dependence on Joe Six-Pack is outdated, obsolete and bound to fail.
So who is Joe Six-Pack?
Joe Six-Pack is an abstraction and a stereotype, but very real to the Republican ticket. According to McCain and Palin, Joe Six-Pack is a normal, everyday American. Joe lives in a small town in the heartland of America. Every morning he wakes up and goes to his nine-to-five job at the factory or the office. He works hard at his job, knowing his family depends on him to earn the food on their table and the roof over their heads. Every evening, Joe punches out and goes home. Weary from a hard day of work, he sits back, flips the TV to SportsCenter and enjoys a beer or two. Or six.
McCain and Palin tell us constantly Joe Six-Pack is furious at the big-city coastal elites. Joe Six-Pack has had enough of the greedy corporate fat cats who have wrecked the economy. Joe despises the liberal fat cats in Washington who raise his taxes. Joe resents the stuck-up media and Harvard graduates who sneer contemptuously at Joe and call him a redneck. Joe, according to McCain and Palin, plans to vote for the Republican ticket next week. He can especially relate to Palin, who is a walking, talking Joe Six-Pack minus the working class job. She promises not to rest until the normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency. Shes part of the real America, ready to shake things up among the elitist establishment on the coast. McCain and Palin alike promise to keep Joes taxes low, secure his job and uphold his values in office.
In appealing to the Joe Six-Pack persona, the Republican campaign is following nearly three decades of established tradition in American politics. Small-town, high school-educated white males like Joe Six-Pack have traditionally voted Republican in droves, while urban coastal minorities and women have leaned heavily Democratic. Democrats and Republicans alike have typically exploited this divide. Republicans have sneered at the pretentious, pointy-headed, secular socialists of the coasts, and vowed to champion Joe Six-Packs low taxes and small-town Christian values. Democrats derided the ignorant, selfish rednecks of the heartland and promised to fight for the little guys welfare programs and a separated church and state.
Yet as hard as McCain and Palin try to spark the same old, tired class warfare by claiming to speak for the small-town, white male Everyman, they will only meet with failure this election cycle. The unpopularity of the current administration and the current economic crisis has already set the Republican ticket back among those who normally support them. This election marks the first time in three decades that a Democratic candidate is pulling even with Republicans among white males. Joe isnt as dependable anymore.
Meanwhile, McCain and Palin focus on such a narrow definition of the normal American among their Republican base that they have excluded and alienated every other kind of normal American stereotype. Jos Six-Pack resents McCains unwillingness to address his partys xenophobic stance on immigration. Jamal Six-Pack is turned off by the racists who lurk among McCain and Palins supporters at rallies and the candidates tepid response to them. Yusuf Six-Pack probably dslikes the constant invocation of Barack Obamas middle name and the repeated reference to Obama as a Muslim (as if it would be a bad thing even if he were). And lets not forget Joe Im Gay Six-Packs reaction to McCains opposition to gay adoption.
Obama also pledges to fight for the Everyman, but his rhetoric expands beyond the Joe Six-Pack American. Obama gears his rhetoric to all middle- and lower-income Americans and hardly needs to lift a finger to encourage blame on the current administration for wrecking the country as a whole. He runs on a platform of unity among the red states and the blue states and an end to the culture wars of the last several decades. On top of that, he is one of the most moderate Democrats we have had in a while, more moderate, I think, than most of his ardent followers realize. Whether he will succeed or not in ending political cultural spite is debatable. But based on his poll numbers, it seems like Joe Six-Packs of all kinds are already growing tired of being fought over for the last several elections.