Back in 2008 the trailblazing candidacy of Barack Obama stunned many media outlets, to the point where they reflexively sought out the opinions of the most conservative white people they could find in the nation.
There was a lot of navel gazing and hand wringing, I recall, online and in print about what the election of an African American president might MEAN.
Would it be too much, too soon (whatever that was supposed to mean)? Would there be a price to pay? Would there be a terrible reaction?
To find out reporters went in search of the most terrible reactionaries they could find. They didn't have to look hard. It's a tale lost to time now but eventually they alighted on Joe the Plumber.
Remember him? Joe (who's real name was not Joe) was once consulted with the reverence that some cultures give to Swami's. Tell us, oh sage of Ohio, are we making a fearful mistake? Is this too much progress, too soon? Will we wake up and not recognize the land we're living in? Thanks to Fox News and the Tea Party that followed, futures in smelling salts must have skyrocketed.
Here's what I know: in times of great tribulation and anxiety people often turn to what they know. And what they knew, apparently, was a bald headed white guy who saw socialism everywhere he looked. Thankfully, in times of great tribulation and anxiety people often look for something new too, this was one of those times.
But all that anxiety didn't fade after the election, it intensified. Deep anxiety about a black man in the White House explains a great deal of the animating force behind the Tea Party. It almost completely explains the five alarm freakout that was the Glenn Beck years at Fox News and it explains subsequent overt and coded race-baiting like Birtherism and Husseinism and Obamanationism.
But back to Joe. Joe (who's real name is not Joe) made his American debut when he asked candidate Obama about his small business tax policy during a campaign stop. One day, Joe said, I MIGHT own a company that makes $250, 000 a year. Currently I don't make anything close to that but I have these aspirations, see. So would you tax my non-existent income at an exorbitant rate?
The press should have laughed but instead they listened. Because essentially Joe was dreaming the American Dream, and he certainly was not living it. There are more people in that position now than at any time in over a century. Joe talked a good game and the microphones were on around them, so he became famous.
It was actually quite sad, if you think about it. Joe wanted to be rich, he was not rich, but he was worried about the rich. In that sense he was the ideal Republican voter.
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After the election John McCain, Joe's preferred candidate, lost. And Joe (who's real name is Sam Wurzelbacher) stated feeling used.
'McCain was trying to use me,' Wurzelbacher told the press in 2010. 'I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy. I don’t owe him s-t. He really screwed my life up, is how I look at it.'
Back in 2009, after a campaign to encourage him, Wurzelbacher indicated that he was no longer considering running for political office, and he added that he 'talked to God about that and He was like, 'No.'
Lincoln couldn't have said it better.
And it's a huge coincidence because I too have just talked to God about Wurzelbacher's potential run for Congress and He was like, 'Hell to the no.'
America has always loved and encouraged dreamers. Who wouldn't? But when you start worrying about the taxes you'll pay for an income you're not (and probably never will) make and then vote accordingly you're actually working against your own interests. And you're voting against them too.
Should people who lose touch with their own reality be crafting legislation in Congress?