The Bush presidency is based on many myths: tax cuts for the rich will spur economic growth; Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida; Bush won Florida in 2000. Since the last election, one Republican myth in particular has taken on a life of its own, namely that the Republican “red states” are home to down-to-earth folks while the Democratic “blue states” have rich, snobby liberals. That version of U.S. geography was created by country-club Republicans and relentlessly echoed by the corporate-owned media.
It’s undeniable that President Bush got support from many working-class voters. Of the twenty states with the lowest average per capita income, Bush carried nineteen. However, more working Americans in the red states supported John Kerry than the media coverage would lead us to believe. According to CNN exit polls, Kerry won the under-$30,000 income group in every old Confederate state except Alabama. Of course, many of those voters were African-American, and a dirty secret of the Republicans’ “red-state voter” stereotype is that black people don’t count among the good old, everyday folks.
But even in strongly Republican states where the black population is below the national average, Bush consistently did best among high-income voters. In Kansas, for instance, Bush won the votes of 54% of those who make less than $50,000 a year, but garnered a whopping 69% of votes in the $50,000+ group and 79% among those making $100,000 or more. In many states where Bush polled best, it was overwhelming support from wealthy voters that carried him to landslide margins. In fact, the blue states on the coasts were where the rich snobs went down to defeat. In California, King George lost every income category except those making more than $100,000 a year. In New York, he won only the over-$200,000 group.
As usual, allegedly liberal media outlets do their best to fit into the Republican stereotype. Slate Magazine, ordinarily a Democrat-friendly publication, published a quiz – titled “Red or Blue, Which Are You?” – that reinforces the view that Democrat = rich and snooty. Questions included: “Do you pay someone else to walk your dog?” “Have you ever eaten at the Ivy [wherever that is]?” “Which of these [universities] is not part of the Big-12?” If you answer no the first two and follow college sports closely enough to be able to answer the third, then that makes you a Republican, according to Slate.
Likewise, the entertainment industry expresses contempt for working-class and rural Americans with a regularity that suggests that its leaders are on the take from Republican political action committees. The WB Network’s Blue Collar TV should be called Brain-Damaged TV, but even it pales in comparison to a recent Saturday Night Live sketch called “Appalachian Emergency Room,” which shows poor people in tattered clothes describing the stupid ways in which they injured themselves. One of the tricks of the truly rich and powerful is their ability to hide. Working-class voters don’t ever see the rich stockholders who own their credit-card debt or the Republican CEOs who make the economic decisions for their communities, but they are bombarded by negative stereotypes of themselves generated by “liberal” Hollywood and Manhattan media.
Still, it is good news that many working-class GOP voters believe that they are taking a stand against eastern elitists by supporting Republicans. Imagine how much worse it would be if they voted Republican out of a desire to obey rich people. All that’s needed now is to point that anger at the real elitists, including the hairspray-addicted, east-coast preppies on Fox News Channel who have made careers out of claiming to be populists.