Amanda Marcotte on Pandragon.net writes Rednecks and Offense, an article about the changing nature of the word ‘redneck,’ the appeal to rednecks by Republicans, and how she’s not that far from a redneck.
Obviously, I have joked about my mom’s recent redneck wedding on this blog before. It’s no secret that there are a lot of rednecks in my family (on both sides), and yes, they use that word with reclamation and pride. And to be fair, my maternal family is populated with a lot of Vatican II Catholic yellow-dog Democrats and my paternal family is a mix of we-love-guns Libertarians and stereotypical redneck Republicans.
There have been family Christmases were my father’s family all sat around watching the hunting channel and Larry the Cable Guy. Or where my brother and maternal grandpa have changed the station from CNN to the rodeo. All the men in my immediate family drive trucks or jeeps that I, at 5’5″, have to be hoisted into and neither of my grandmas even attempt to climb into on their own. When my brothers go “rock climbing,” what they mean is that they drive their jeeps over rocks or watch their friends do the same.
My mom’s favorite beer is Michelob Ultra Lite that she buys at Wal-Mart; it’s cheap and has 96 calories, and she will hunt down the sales associate to ask him why they don’t stock more than two cases on the store floor. My dad prefers Coolers Light; my 22-year-old brother will drink about anything; my fake!daddy likes Bud Light; and I take lime in my Corona. We all have country and western music on our iPods, except my dad, who I don’t think knows how to work one.
I know how to muck stalls and castrate male lambs. I’ve owned at least one pair of rubber boots from the time I was four until I graduated high school. You do not want to change irrigation or dust chickens with chemicals to kill lice in flip-flops. And I still wear my authentic purple cowboy boots. While I don’t like hunting, I have had a lot of fun at the firing range.
However, I’m one of those latte-drinking big city liberals.
I don’t like lattes or coffee for that matter. But I will admit that I love Chai tea and I’m a hot tea snob. I like my tea imported from England from Whittard of Chelsea. (Hint, if you ever want to buy me something.)
I do live in the big city. Well, in Seattle, which is the biggest city in the PacificNorthwest. However, my friend Mally from Boston still laughs at me, even if she does fear our traffic after experiencing it herself.
And I am a liberal. I’m very liberal and I pretty much have been. Except when for some reason, as a young child, Ross Perot really entertained me. Probably because he was loud and upset everyone, which is always hilarious.
I’ve always liked to watch the evening news (I blame my maternal grandparents) and listen to NPR, which I guess became a default choice when I couldn’t stand the adult contemporary or modern country stations in my hometown as a preteen. I enjoy being critical of the two-party system, and I’m sure my mom can tell you call about my Bill Clinton paper doll I made, which often said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and wore my Barbie’s skirts. Humor makes me not want to throw up every time I watch or listen to the news.
I’m also part of the liberal elite and went to this really snobby liberal arts university, which I should mention, so did Larry the Cable Guy’s daughter.
Like Amanda, I know what both world’s are like. And I also know how far they aren’t apart.
I also know that in order to persuade rednecks to vote for you in next election, you need to speak their language. They need to be included in the branding concept.
The Republicans do a great job at this. Sarah Palin is moose-hunting hockey mom from Alaska; like her or dislike her, she has been a one woman branding force for the McCain campaign. She probably wears puffy coats and is still attractive, while being the type of woman who would drink from a can of beer. This is her image. It doesn’t matter that she raised taxes, even on food, in her hometown and left it $22 million in debt. She’s still campaigning on a smaller government and no tax raises. Palin is telling the redneck contingent what they want to hear because that’s what branding is about.
Obama’s camp, on the other side, might have progressive policies to help the lower and middle classes with taxes, health care, etc. He promises no tax increase if earning under $250K and tax cuts for those making under $75K. However, even taxing the very rich seems to frighten tax-hating rednecks. This is not what they want to hear. And what they really don’t want to hear is the collective head-banging-on-desk of Obama-supporters and the campaign itself, when the redneck voting contingent says they like McCain/Palin better on the issues of taxes than Obama/Biden. No one in my family has ever made over $250k/year. But my paternal grandma is still sending me e-mails about how Obama will ruin the country.
Instead of insulting rednecks for being ignorant, the Democrats need to reach out to them and properly communicate with them. The Democrats need to make a branding campaign that will effect them. I’m not saying Obama should wear a cowboy hat or they have to persuaded a country artist to write a song about them. (Though Toby Keith supports Obama.) But throwing out facts is not working. Obama’s message of Hope and Change is supposed to reach out and effect everyone. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such an effective branding slogan for the liberal-voting choir and why the Republicans have attached themselves to a Change message. (We all agree that Bush sucks.)
If the Democrats want to level the playing field for the redneck vote, they need to direct Hope and Change to that audience. Don’t say, we’ll lower your taxes so you can send your children to college and then they can work white-collar jobs instead of blue ones. Don’t say, are you stupid, there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and global warming is real for the 15th billionth time. Instead, do some homework and get a neighbor, who’s just like them except voting for Obama, to campaign for you or make Biden be the guy who will have a beer in your kitchen with you, make him as VP just as appealing as the Republicans have made Palin. Connect with the youth who use MySpace instead of just Facebook and people (shame time) like my paternal grandma, who really does believe that Obama is Muslim thanks to internet forwards. (I tried to educate her otherwise, trust me.)
If myself and someone who thinks you’re only rich if you make over $5 million knows that this “cultural divide” isn’t as big as it really seems and can market to them, maybe I’ll save a lime or two for Obama and Biden.