Saturday, November 06, 2004

The 'Hicks' Bit Back in the Election

Sat, November 6, 2004
The 'hicks' bit back
The icons of glamour and glitz all said John Kerry was the only choice for people with any intelligence -- but Middle America didn't care, says Michael Coren

Ben Affleck changed the world this week.

No, of course I don't mean that a tedious movie star actually changed international events. I mean that he personifies why George Bush and the Republicans won the election.

They won because Middle America bit back. Simple as that.

Middle America bit back. The abused, the marginalized and the mocked decided that they had had enough. Those taken for granted, those patronized, those treated with disdain voted to no longer play the silent victim.

For months a daft coalition of the extremely willing played their guitars, sang their songs and read their Hollywood statements about Iraq, oil, the evil George Bush and the foolishness of the American people. They would deny, of course, that they accused their fellow Americans of being stupid, but this is precisely what they did.

True understanding and enlightenment, it seemed, only came after you'd appeared in a sequel to a superhero movie or seen your last album go platinum. Bruce Springsteen might claim to be an ordinary working man, but ordinary working men don't have bank accounts the size of Rhode Island.

The assembled pop stars and actors meant no harm when they demanded that Americans vote Democrat, but what they were really saying was that only certain people really get it. Michael Moore got it. Rosie O'Donnell got it. Academics at universities got it. Howard Stern got it.

Yes, Howard Stern. America listened to Stern and his giggling sidekick explain why only a "retard" would vote for George Bush. In between fart noises and references to naked lesbians, this tired peddler of smut made fun of people who spoke with southern accents and voted on "moral issues."

The clever people at the mainstream television networks, the stylish types in New York and Los Angeles, the icons of glamour and glitz all said that John Kerry was the only choice for a person with any intelligence. As for those ignorant evangelicals, those stupid church-going Catholics, those family-values fools, those dumb redneck hicks, they weren't real Americans.

Then, in the smiling twilight of the new political morning, the unwashed told their betters to shove it.

They realized that their kind were smart and sophisticated enough to storm the beaches of Normandy and wrestle Europe from the Nazis and Asia from the Japanese fascists. They realized that they were suave and urbane enough to work the farms, make the cars, drive the cabs, do the work.

An epiphany

Middle America experienced an epiphany. We are not bigots or yokels just because we believe in the family and in traditional virtues and values. We are not hateful merely because we support our troops and cry when we hear the national anthem.

Working-class Americans began to ask some questions. They wondered why wealthy, white entertainers, artists and, I'm sure, freelance manufacturers of organic yogurt, were announcing that they would leave the United States if George Bush won the election.

Imagine that. If democracy didn't provide the result they wanted, these selfish rich kids would run away to Canada or Britain.

Is that patriotism? Middle America didn't remember Republicans threatening to leave when Bill Clinton won a second term.

Middle America grew tired of the insults. We're not voting out of fear, they said, we don't accept every word we hear from the government and we're not so easily manipulated. Stop telling us that we don't understand what's going on.

We've raised kids and paid mortgages and we resent listening to lectures, especially when delivered by an actress with a vacant smile and a copy of Socialism For Beginners.

Tired of the critics

Middle America shouted its impatience. It wasn't that it so liked George Bush, more that it was so tired of Bush's critics.

Middle America remembered a time when actors, singers and writers reflected the nation. These performers no longer aspired to reflect but to reshape it in their own narcissistic image.

John Kerry was too close to that clan, too much part of the culture of smug assumption.

It wasn't George Bush who was the victor last week, but men and women who stood up and announced to the self-defined elites that "the people" is not a concept but a flesh-and-blood reality. And one that bites back.