Off The Record: Democrats' view of red states as much zoological as political

November 15, 2004|HERB BROCK

Brace yourselves, my fellow Kentuckians. Take those knuckles off the ground and wrap them firmly around the bars to your cage. Get ready to be on display for what may be a legion of liberals descending up the commonwealth and other, largely Southern red states.

One of the common themes echoing around the Democratic Party, as it tries to sift through the ashes of the recent presidential election for clues as to why it lost, is that party leaders need to better understand the species of subhumans that inhabit those areas of the country that voted in large majorities for George W. Bush.

Sure, many Dems have angrily dismissed the red states as backward, unsophisticated, uneducated, anti-intellectual, Bible-bangin', gun-totin', relative-marryin' havens of primates. Some have called for the blue states to secede. Others have called for the blue states to merge with Canada. Some say they are moving to Canada.


But there other Dems who, while sharing the same negative views of the Red States of America as the loud crowd, are putting down their bullhorns of hatred and picking up their magnifying glasses of investigation. They want to sally forth into the red states to find out what makes the population of fly-over country tick. They want to see if they can find some common ground between their brie and wine America and our beer and pork rinds America. They want to find some way to regain the White House by checking out the contents of the outhouse.

They say they want to probe the South and other red regions to find the cultural reasons for their political debacle. But to me, their efforts at investigation sound more zoological or anthropological than cultural or political in nature.

They sound like a bunch of latter-day Margaret Meads wanting to head into the jungles of New Guinea to observe tribes of uncivilized, nearly prehistoric people. They sound like that fictitious group of exploitive show-biz entrepreneurs that captured King Kong and put him on display in New York City. They sound like a group of hunters armed with stun guns scouring the Saranghetti for animals to fill the zoos back home in the big cities.

While this group of curious Dems appears to be genuinely interested in trying to reach out to and find out about us red state yokels, they are working under the same assumption as their angry brethren that we are Neanderthals and they are doing so in the same thoroughly condescending manner, albeit less vitriolic and vicious.

And, as a bonafide lib who shares their views on everything from war to abortion to capital punishment, I resent their words and proposed actions, even though they are using a soft NPR-like manner of speech and Peter Jennings-like cerebral approach to fact-finding rather than a Howard Dean-like manner of speech and Michael Moore-like from the gut and gutter approach to truth-finding.

Although I voted blue right along with my fellow libs, these elitists are making me red in the face.

Sure, there are cultural, religious and political differences between and among the red and blue states.

Sure, stereotypes are based on some truth - just like the "brie and wine" label I pinned on liberals, as well as the uneducated and unsophisticated label that liberals slap on Southerners.

Sure, these stereotypes provide barrels of ink for both sides to draw caricatures of the other. Perhaps the most brilliant, albeit unwittingly so, caricatures drawn during the campaign were by John F. Kerry. It was kind of a caricature within a caricature when Kerry, during a goose-hunting trip clearly staged to pander to hunters in Ohio, ended up making fun of red state hunters and poking fun at the non-hunting crowd with which he's associated, both at the same time. In the Dukakis-in-the-tank moment of the campaign, the camo-garbed Kerry went into a store and said he wanted to "get me" a hunting license. A half dozen geese lost their lives for that charade.

Sure, liberals are as offended at being labeled by conservatives as being morally inferior as conservatives are at being labeled by liberals as being intellectually inferior.

But I am one blue liberal who lives in a red state who is offended at both labels.

An unreported stat from this election is that more than 50 million of the 115 million voters in the election who voted for either George W. Bush or Kerry live in states that voted for the other candidate. That means there is a lot of blue in many red states and vice versa. That means there really is a shade of purple out there that pundits and pollsters on either side don't want to see. It's easier and perhaps more fun to lump and label than see what could be a blend of blue and red.

But if there truly is a widening political and cultural - and zoological and anthropological - divide, we - blues, reds and, yes, purples - really need to find as much common ground and as many common political and moral values as possible.

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