Politics Magazine

Poor, White, Republican, and Overwrought

Posted on the 17 February 2012 by Erictheblue

This--"Poor, White, and Republican," a New Yorker "Daily Comment" by George Packer--had elicited precisely 100 comments last time I visited.  One of them was by yours truly, who detected a geographical lapse: Chisago is the name of a Minnesota county, not a "small Minnesota town." But that is not my only reaction.  For example, the line about the "bad teeth" of the demographic group he's describing is not, as some may suppose, a gratuitous sneer by a New Yorker staff writer, aka, Platonic form of The Cultural Elite.  One of Amanda's best friends lives somewhere in northern Anoka County, which abuts Chisago County.  She drove up there one day a couple years ago to go garage-saling, and, arriving back home here in Starbucks land, announced that she had never seen so many people who could benefit from some dental work.  This reminded me of my own observations during time spent in small-town bars in central Minnesota during weekend softball tournaments.  Packer is probably familiar with the article by his colleague, Malcolm Gladwell, wherein one reads, at the outset:

Several years ago, two Harvard researchers, Susan Starr Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle, set out to interview people without health-care coverage for a book they were writing, "Uninsured in America." They talked to as many kinds of people as they could find, collecting stories of untreated depression and struggling single mothers and chronically injured laborers—and the most common complaint they heard was about teeth.

My other reaction concerns the movies Packer references.  He's a reader, too, so he might have referenced novels, but for some reason it's the movies, not fiction, in which the decline of the American working class has been chronicled.  Is Rabbit Angstrom an exception?  Golfing with fellow retirees, Jews, in Florida, Rabbit doesn't let on when they run down Reagan that he'd voted for him.  But, then, Rabbit had graduated from the print shop to the Toyota dealership, inherited from his wife's side of the family.  He doesn't really qualify. 

What a lot of vitriol in the other 99 comments!  I wouldn't have guessed that the group Packer is discussing includes so many inclined to surf to the New Yorker site and take a crap in the Comments.  I think both he and they could benefit from a little sense of humor.  Whenever the local news reports about some knucklehead who has, say, fallen through the ice on his snowmobile and drowned, Amanda can be counted upon to ask whether he was my year or the one just ahead of me at Columbia Heights Senior High.

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