Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Regional (and other) identity and the election

My head's spinning from how political developments have shuffled the deck on regional stereotypes and identities in this cycle.

First, a couple weeks back, the Onion had a piece called
Obama's Hillbilly Half-Brother Threatening To Derail Campaign
If you know American politics at all, you get the play on the redneck kin of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and many other southern Democrats of national prominence. But it's brilliantly off-kilter, for a set of reasons. For example, hillbilly stereotypes are traditionally just about white southerners, and Obama is not only not white, but distinctly non-southern. The image and text were just viscerally offensive and I couldn't see blogging about it. My how things have changed (see image above).

As soon as McCain tapped Palin for veep, we heard all the hunting references, the whole downhome package. About then, I started wondering about whether there was a downside buried in here. It's charming to think in the abstract about a beauty queen hunting moose and driving her son to hockey, but if you know that kind of world, there are lots of rough edges, almost by definition, and unlike the Bush family, your past and present haven't been scrubbed. And these things tend not to play well on the proverbial national stage.

It sometimes seems like Republicans treat this kind of thing with more bravado, like Huckabee on the squirrel-in-a-popcorn-popper deal. But the Palin story is getting ugly. In the NYT this morning, a guy who knows them is quoted as saying "They’re not trashy people." Hmmmm. Now Wonkette, I know – who else, says that Palin's daughter's boyfriend is a "self-described 'fuckin’ redneck'". This has gotten very awkward.

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