Before the start of this campaign, the only time I really heard about your typical “Average Joe” was when I watching Dodgeball. But now this Joe guy is starting to become somewhat of a celebrity. Somehow, Average Joe, his second cousin Joe Six Pack, his brother-in-law Joe the Plumber (who I’ve now learned might be a fraud), and his nephew Joe who works in a Button Factor have all become the face of the American voter.
Yet, the McCain/Palin camp has no idea who these people are.
Perhaps I’m short-sighted here (and maybe a little biased), but when I hear McCain and Palin refer to this “Joe” guy, I automatically think of a certain kind of Joe. I think of a man in the backwoods rocking a mullet, sporting a shotgun and a pack of cold ones, wearing a wifebeater and watching Jerry Springer. Obviously a more accurate portrayal of Average Joe and his associates would be any normal, blue-collar hard working person with a deep and abiding love of country. But I’m not convinced that’s being completely portrayed.
The underlying issue I have with McCain/Palin’s approach is the divisive undertones used to define Joe in relationship to everyone else. As they tell it, Joe is the person who makes America great, while those who aren’t Joe are (here it comes) elitist, out of touch, and un-American. For instance, I’m a part of the working class, but I’m also a black, college educated, white collar worker (though admittedly, my work environment is pretty laid back at times). Can I be classified a Joe? Not likely. Considering that both McCain and Palin have less-than-stellar records when it comes to minority relations, it’s not likely that I’m included in their picture of America.
The fact is: as far as I can tell Flint, Michigan doesn’t have a “Main Street.” But what it does have is a Saginaw Street, a Pierson Road, and a Martin Luther King Blvd. But it stands to reason that those folks are not apart of the McCain/Palin vision for America. I suppose on the one hand, the overt reality of poor and minority loyalty to Democrats can explain the McPalin’s dismissal of these groups as they campaign around the country. But how can the GOP expect to turn those groups into constituents if at least some outreach efforts aren’t made? Is this an uphill battle for the GOP? Is it an issue of little concern? Are they simply satisfied with resting on the laurels of the Joe vote? All of the above? None of the above? I can’t say with absolute certainty.
What I do know however, is – in their eyes – Joe is the person living in rural Ohio, the middle-of-nowhere Montana, and in deepest part of Mississippi. Joe is a probably Christian; thus ruling out most of ‘dem Aye-rabs’. Joe was predominately a man, but pissed off Hillary supporters changed that tune somewhat. And with the exception of that one crazy brotha at a recent McCain rally, Joe is likely white. Interestingly, even when Joe has come to personify the ‘typical’ working class American, I doubt that he is single mother working two jobs and living in the projects. He’s not the young professional working that the University of So-and-So. He’s not the recent GM retiree who may lose his pension once the company goes belly up.
I’m concerned that by placing Joe on the pedistal as the face of America, McCain and Palin are irresponsibly discounting the people who don’t neatly fit into that social and political caricature. Instead of building an entire campaign around one segment of America, a more all-inclusive approach to campaigning and policymaking would be in their interest. Even the now highly unpopular George W. Bush managed to secure a reasonable (by GOP standards) level of support from Black Americans in 2004. But even minus the more obvious dichotomous issues of black and white, other people of color, people of other (or no) religions, educated people, urban citizens, and middle-to-upper class folks all stand to get ignored during a McCain administration. These groups aren’t stupid. If they haven’t been specifically addressed during the campaign, they are not expecting to suddenly be addressed during a McCain Administration.
My advice to the good Senator from Arizona would be to pay attention to these people. Pay attention as if their name was Joe. They We could be the very people who contribute to another failed opportunity to get into the White House.