So now it's official. Robin Hayes, a Republican representative from North Carolina, has gone out and said what everyone has been thinking: "Liberals hate real Americans."
When alerted to the foot in his mouth, he first tried to deny he said it and then lamely suggested that he didn't mean it -- he was just trying to whip up the crowd at the campaign rally. Nice to know he's appealing to his audience's best instincts.
I think that I'm the sort of liberal that Hayes was talking about. That said, I do find the idea of a real America to be pretty annoying.
Fewer than 20 percent of Americans are lucky enough to live in the real America (i.e. not in a metropolitan area), and with the healthy self-esteem booster of politicians' constant praise, they think they're, like, sooooo much better than everyone else. Talk about elitist! Then again, everyone knows that they live in the heartland and city dwellers live in godless bastions of sodomy and baby killing, so I guess it makes sense.
Demonizing the cities was a politically astute strategy in the '70s and '80s, when it seemed like the cities were in permanent decline. Even now, it pays to pander to rural voters, who have a disproportionate influence in elections. Why do you think our first nominating contests take place in Iowa and New Hampshire? Why do you think the electoral college even exists? Why do you think Homeland Security found the greatest number of potential terrorist targets in Indiana and included on its funding report such tempting Tennessee bull's-eyes as Sweetwater Flea Market 50 miles from Knoxville or the Mule Day Parade in Columbia?
So now we get to have the message of the magnificence and rectitude of real American small towns burned into our brains. Even Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of (fake) America's most populous city, has jumped on the bandwagon. Giuliani must have become the "real" America's mayor when he stopped living with a gay couple and their pet Shih Tzu and started using "cosmopolitan" as a slur. (I'm referring to the period immediately after he told his wife he was divorcing her via press conference.)
Giuliani also suffered from what Jon Stewart dubbed "9/11 Tourette's" -- the compulsion to randomly insert the phrase "9/11" into every sentence possible (and even some that were less than possible).
Studying this affliction might be useful in understanding the Republican ticket, which seems to be suffering from Small-town Tourette's. This is a rare disease that strikes politicians, particularly conservative ones, during election season. No cure has been found apart from the steady march of time, which heals all wounds and ends all elections.
As politicians feed real Americans' apparent need for affirmation, they are also excellent at stoking the incurable fear of terrorism that seems to be a hallmark of the "pro-American" areas of the country.
Recently, I watched a West Virginia voter on the news declare that she would never vote for Barack Hussein Obama because "I've had enough of Hussein." I desperately wanted to assure her that neither the rotting corpse of Saddam Hussein nor anyone else with a similar name will ever attack her because -- get this -- she lives in West Virginia! West Virginia is the real America, and foreign terrorists don't bother with the real America.
And honestly, who wouldn't want to be part of the real America? You pay fewer taxes and get more tax money allocated to you, you get a huge voice in every election, you don't have to worry about terrorist attacks and that pretty lady on TV will sing your praises from the mountaintops.
Joe the Plumber lives in the real America! Another great resident? Westbrook Pegler, the guy Sarah Palin quoted in her speeh at the Republican National Convention who loved small towns but turned out to be a rabid racist and anti-Semite who openly wished for the assassination of both Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy! What could be more "pro-American" than that?
In all seriousness, if you are running for president, you should not insult big city voters, even through implication. I don't hate "real Americans," but I do hate it when politicians come to my hometown of New York City, wrap themselves in 9/11 and then bad-mouth the city and the people in it as soon as they leave. Nor should anyone running for president insult small-town voters. The president is the president of all Americans, and we've seen what a disaster it can be when someone governs only in the interests of the 20 percent of people who will always support him.
City dwellers are no more monolithic in their values than people who live in the suburbs or in rural areas. Most are decent, hardworking people who are probably less "elite" than Iowan corn farmers receiving millions of dollars in subsidies. In the end, we all want what's best for our country, so it's not fair to act as though some 80 percent of us are somehow trying to destroy it from the inside out.