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Monday, April 26, 2004

Red Lenses

So the Washington Post is doing what is thinks is a hard-hitting series of articles about America's political and cultural divide. Sunday, they offered up a cliche-laden essay about Red vs. Blue America. Today, they went to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's congressional district in suburban Houston and found an archetypal Republican. Tomorrow, they will show us a slice of life from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco.

My first thought about the whole undertaking: Duh.

I guess I'm in one sense perversely impressed they managed to find someone who seems to conform to lazy stereotypes about Republican voters so perfectly.

On the one hand, the reporter is able to skewer the guy a few times and just lets him make a fool of himself. He talks a good game about family values and yet has no qualms about frequenting Hooters; that's someone else's daughter you're ogling, Mr. Stein. He castiagtes liberals for whining, and he incessantly bitches about his taxes and where his tax money goes. He hates "intrusive government" on principle and yet his local government seems to have picayune regulations about every last little detail of one's house and lawn. (Not to mention that he can afford to live in Sugar Land, Texas, and yet still drinks Bud Light. Ugh.)

On the other hand, all the talk in the article about these "strong communities" in "Red" America implies that "Blue" America lacks strong communities, that Blue America is all rootless atheists who hate America. I'm curious as to what sort of treatment the stereotypical "Blue" household, from San Francisco, gets tomorrow.

The few trenchant points the article makes about Red vs. Blue are all painfully obvious. Bush is the choice of rural and small-town voters, and voters in Sun Belt suburbia. Kerry is the choice of voters in larger cities, and most old-line suburbs in the Snow Belt. Duh.

Here's what I wish the Post would have done instead:
1. Find the liberal Democratic family in Sugar Land, or some other town like it; there must be at least one. Ask them why they think their neighbors are so misguided. Then do the same with a conservative Republican household in, say, Boston. That'd be a lot more interesting and informative than repeating the same tired Red vs. Blue bromides.
2. Go to a 50-50 area in a swing state. Dayton, Ohio. Orlando, Florida. Allentown, Pennsylvania. Find some supporters of both political parties there. See what those folks have to say about each other.

As much fun as it is for a cosmopolitan to rail against the Bible-thumping pseudo-rednecks of the strip-mall-hell that is Texas cookie-cutter suburbia - and I imagine said psuedo-rednecks enjoy contemplating their favored politicians sticking it to effete, latte-sipping, overeducated liberals - I would rather see a fresher take on things from a leading national newspaper. I think the two approaches I suggested above, rather than asking stereotypical voters in stereotypically "Red" or "Blue" areas to speculate idly about some mysterious "other" people far away, and encouraging them to spout yet more stereotypes, would likely yield something far more interesting and informative.


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