Sunday, October 5, 2008

Just Who is 'Joe Six-Pack'?

When you look at the panel on the right of my blogsite, under the heading 'Wind Changers', you'll see a list of blogs that I keep up with. I call them 'Wind Changers', by which I mean that they are seeking to broaden the public conversation with a more progressive point of view. There are some readers, I realize who may not agree with them and I'm open to including some more 'conservative' blogs, because there are some that have a thoughtful perspective. But the country hears from conservatives most of the time (they've practically owned radio, for the past 25 years). If you have some you think should be considered on the list, please let me know and I'll consider them.

One which is fast becoming my favorite is "The Kitchen Table", written by Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton
University and Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Harris-Lacewell, has been on a number of cable news broadcast in recent weeks.

Today's post is quite interesting because it analyzes the rather unusual term to describe what I assume has become the desired base of the Republican Party, 'Joe Six-Pack'. Governor Palin used it to describe who she represented and who she wished to speak directly to. Is 'Joe Six-Pack' the quintessential American? Dr. Pierce evidently doesn't think so and takes exception to the term:

"The problem that I have with either the stereotypical or the more careful use of this term is that it polarizes those outside of "Joe Six-pack world" as less American, less patriotic, and less in touch of the realities of the working class. And it reminds us, in clear terms, that the political appeal to "Joe" is much more important than the appeal to "Jane." And, finally, it reinforces the notion that "Joe" is a code word for white, disaffected, male voter."

She goes on to say, "Working women, single mothers, domestic workers are not the target of this political campaign; their very presence is a stark reminder that the notion of Joe Six-pack, as sole breadwinner and present husband and father, is a political fallacy. And Joe Six-pack is at least nominally a Christian, so Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or any other group of religious believers are somehow less American."

Some people describe this as 'class warfare'. But like Dr. Pierce, I have a problem, if what Governor Palin is describing is a demographic that she and Senator McCain are trying to attract, at the expense of others who do not look like them or whose backgrounds and heritage is different. I think it deserves some attention. It's too easy to say 'we are all Americans'. The President of the United States is the only political figure that everyone votes on. 'Joe Six Pack' has councilpersons, representatives and senators, both statewide and national to represent his interests. If that's what Palin means it shows a seriously limited vision of what America is and who she would be elected to serve. Lincoln didn't talk about 'backwoods' America needing to be represented, nor did FDR run as a representative of the east cost elite. When candidates lower the bar this far we are treading the edge where politics indeed trumps patriotism.

Dr. Pierce concludes her post by saying, "...And finally, we ignore the fact that despite the rhetoric, none of our current political candidates currently fit the Joe Six-pack mode, although some of them have come from humble beginnings. When Sarah Palin indicated that her retirement portfolio lost $20,000 in one week (which means there was much more in there to begin with), she lost her street credentials as a Joe Six-pack wife.

"My name is not Joe. I don't drink beer. I don't live on Main Street in Small Town America. I have more than a high school education. I am black. I am a woman. And I vote."

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