Trash Talk

By Hurst, Blake | The American Enterprise, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Trash Talk


Hurst, Blake, The American Enterprise


A reply from America's hated heartland

I'm stupid, and if you're reading this, you probably are too. Chicago Sun-Times columnist William O'Rourke has named the great center of America--the part represented in red on all of the TV maps of the recent election that, like my fellow Missourians, voted for Bush--as the Yahoo Nation. O'Rourke describes the heartland as "primarily the Deep South and the vast lowly populated upper-far-west states that are filled with vestiges of gun-loving, Ku Klux Klan sponsoring, formerly lynching-happy, survivalist-minded hate-crime perpetuating, non-blue-blooded, rugged individualists." He goes on to say that, except for disputed Florida, "not one major city, nor primary center of creative and intellectual density" voted for Bush, who "will not have won one center of the thinking America."

Slate examined the intellectual heft of the candidates in the recent election, and found George W. Bush wanting, but the magazine wasn't content to let the matter rest there. In fact, according to presidential historian William Leuchtenburg, quoted in another article in Slate on the same subject, the last time the Republicans ran a candidate who could compare intellectually to the Democrats' standard-bearer was 1928.

Gore admirer and New Republic editor-in-chief Martin Peretz has his own doubts about our President's intellect and ended a recent column by calling George W. the village idiot. Since Bush's SAT scores ranked him at about the 97th percentile of the nation when he took the test, it's clear to anyone not on the most snobbish fringes of the Left that Bush's brain-power is clearly up to the task of being President. If the intellectual Left believes we ought to elect a left-winger with a genius I.Q., then why not make the Unabomber President for Life and be done with it?

Not to be outdone, columnist Paul Begala has also weighed in on the states that voted for Bush. In a famous rant he now claims was taken "out of context" Begala writes, "You see the state where James Byrd was lynched-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart--it's red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay--it's red. You see the state where rightwing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees: red. The state where an army private thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they're all red too"

So, not only am I stupid, but I'm bigoted, and probably have a chain in the back of my pickup truck. Actually, I do, but only to pull city folks out of snowy banks. I guess that explains why Al Gore always talks so slow--he wants to make sure I can keep up.

But both Begala and O'Rourke are clearly on to something. The 2000 election was one in which the best predictor of your vote was not your income, or your sex, or your occupation, but your zip code. Not that most Bush voters can remember their zip code, but I have mine written down, along with my kids' names, my wife's birthday, and short, concise directions to the nearest Klan klavern.

This condescending attitude toward the middle of the country is not new, but it's never been quite as pronounced as it is now. Begala and O'Rourke are so over the top it's hard to take them seriously, but they are not alone. One New York Times columnist was appalled that the Florida Agricultural Director was on the election commission for the state. She didn't elaborate, but one can only assume that New Yorkers don't hold farmers' intellects in high regard. When a Florida judge decided against the Gore campaign, the correspondent covering the story on Fox News--which is normally better than this--pointed out that the judge, although a Democrat, was also a Baptist. …

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