Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Main Street Cred

Molly Ivors has scathingly addressed most of the problems with Maureen Dowd's latest manifesto on political authenticity, but a couple of further points jump out at me.

I was amused by Dowd's reference to "white, blue-collar voters in 'Deer Hunter' and 'Rocky' country." While beating up on Obama for taking an anthropological interest in "colorful locals," she sees fit to represent those same locals to us via Oscar-winning Hollywood movies (one of which was a textbook example of antiwar defeatism!). How's that for out of touch?

Although she proposes to speak up for blue-collar values - which she explicitly identifies with guns, naive religion, racism, and the worship of bowling trophies - she has no ability to make them coherent, let alone meaningful. The mere attempt leads her to write gibberish like this:

Members of my clan sometimes were overly cloistered. But they weren’t bitter; they were bonding. They went to church every Sunday because it was part of their identity, not because they needed a security blanket.
Identity is a security blanket, of course, and Dowd clings tooth and nail to the one she's borrowed from her totally non-faggy father and brothers, even though (or because) she herself is an elitist and a hussy and a snob according to most of the traditional standards she hopes to uphold.

"Uphold" is the wrong word, I suppose. Dowd doesn't want to live by those standards; she just wants to use them to beat up on men who don't meet her hopelessly conflicted, pre-critical standards for masculinity. The entire column is dedicated to the proposition that Obama is yet another goddamn faggot fairy nancy boy like Gore and Kerry, who, if he becomes president, is liable to think before he does stuff, instead of wielding authority for the sweet sake of it, by divine right, like Dear Old Dad would've.

Hillary's appalling in her own way, of course. She's ferocious, which is unbecoming in any other woman than Maureen Dowd, and "she fights like a cornered raccoon," which is a simile revealing enough to make Freud himself blush.

But ultimately, Obama's failure to be a proper man is far more offensive than Hitlery's ferocity. He has "the detached egghead quality" that voters equate with "wimpiness, wordiness and a lack of action," as you can plainly see from his unprecedented success in the primaries. He talks about arugula (to farmers who grow it for a living, granted...but still, doesn't arugula sound gay?).

He treats cheese and salami "as intriguing ethnic artifacts," as evidenced by the fact that...well, by the fact that he looked at them, I suppose. And he's also a know-nothing know-it-all, who surrounds himself with "academic experts" as though the God-given gift of a penis weren't enough to make him an instant expert on any topic worth understanding.

The implication of all this, as far as I can tell, is that it'd be better to have your access to healthcare or education taken away by a real man, than to have it expanded by a sissy.

Dowd knows how far to go too far, so she understands that resenting other people's money is as déclassé as making hostile generalizations about women is hip and edgy. It's not that Obama is wealthy or educated that's the problem, ultimately; it's that he can't "feign Main Street cred."

Given that imposture is a given here, along with the condescension it implies, how do we know when a politician is successful at it? By the reaction of objective commentators like Dowd, natch, who can easily spot the difference between "sampling" a beer and drinking it, and between "examining" cheese and looking at it.

You can't curse the darkies darkness without lighting a candle - everyone on Main Street knows that - so Dowd offers some friendly advice:
In the screwball movie genre that started during the last Depression, there was a great tradition of the millionaire who was cool enough to relate to the common man — like Cary Grant’s C.K. Dexter Haven in “The Philadelphia Story.”
Once again, Hollywood - that cesspit of depravity - has all the answers. Oddly, although Dowd points out that Adlai Stevenson was so Obama-esque that his detractors, with rare invention, called him "Adelaide," she seems to be unaware that Cary Grant was reviled, in the same era and by a similar type of person, as a fag and a commie.

But that's beside the point. The larger problem is that it's psychosexual trainwrecks like Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews who get to decide who's "cool enough to relate to the common man," while downplaying the extent to which this "relation" is one of ruler and ruled.

(Illustration: 2007 Canadian Club ad, via Accordion Guy.)


Rmj said...

Well, as Dowd and every other pundit save Keith Olbermann, have said, a politician shouldn't speak of such subjects with reference to these rural types. They are so touchy about these issues.

In sharp contrast to us city dwellers, who easily take the bitter with the sweet, and cling only to our insistence that we are NOT small minded.

Phila said...

In sharp contrast to us city dwellers, who easily take the bitter with the sweet, and cling only to our insistence that we are NOT small minded.

Speaking as a staunch supporter of the Perverted Arts, I agree wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

Phila, with this post and the previous one, you are moving our discourse beyond identity politics as usual.

Obama started doing this and is being thoroughly attacked by those for whom such politics have worked. Or perhaps for whom it is the only politics imaginable.

It's very hard to move past old paradigms. I'd like to write more on it, but this is a too-busy week. Maybe I can do some thinking in between times.