Political Faith

Tim Pawlenty, on a third-party ad buy asking voters to remember Christian principles, and vote for the left-leaning parties accordingly:

The DFL apparently believes that you need to be liberal to be Christian. They are simply wrong. Their anti-Christian brochure is a sad new low in Minnesota politics. Where is their coveted political correctness now? Leaders from all faith backgrounds should condemn the DFL’s appalling tactics.

Of course he’s right that it’s reprehensible to tie religion peculiarly to one faith. But how odd to hear it from a Republican, and a fairly radical one at that, when the typical refrain from his lot is that leftism rebuts not just Christianity, but American identity, too.  Representative quotes:

  • Sarah Palin: “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.”
  • Representative Robin Hayes: “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”

It would be nice if Pawlenty’s comments signaled the death of this particularly offensive talking point. But it’s more likely that this is just another way to feign offense and play the victim, than any new, coherent appreciation of ideological diversity.

30 Rock on “real America”


  1. While sensible conservatives should oppose the religion linkage, I see no problem with small town populism. Without it the entire country music industry would collapse. It’s also fairly harmless and certainly goes both ways. My favorite quote from Boston in 2004: “How could the rest of the country be so stupid?”

  2. Paeans to small town life are different than assertions that they’re objectively superior to other ways of living. Montgomery Gentry’s “My Town” (the classic, obvi) manages to talk about how much he loves his town without saying “by the way, cities suck too.” And Sinatra’s “New York” doesn’t take potshots at smaller towns, either. This is a Kindergarten distinction. “I love my mom” doesn’t have to be accompanied by “and your mom sucks.”

  3. It’s a generalization, which a lot of bloggers (*cough* you *cough*) trade in daily. You say things like, (paraphrasing) “Liberal policies are swell and conservative policies are bad.” Do you mean every single conservative policy or most policies? Or more importantly, can you only celebrate liberal positions by slamming conservative ones? That’s certainly been your blogging style from day one and in fact you really don’t even spend that much time talking up liberal policies.

    From my vantage point out here in middle America, big city life does suck. I’ve been to nearly every big city on the East Coast and you couldn’t get me to move to those cities for a billion dollars. It’s not wrong to say that.

  4. Do you see the difference between “I hate it there” and “you should hate it there too”/”people there aren’t as good as people here”?

  5. I think the message is that the people there don’t care about or want all of the same things for the country. Not right or wrong, just different.

  6. What do you mean by that?

    And, here’s NRO getting pretty explicit in the “elites/northerners hate America” theme.

  7. I mean there is a HUGE difference between the issues that are important to big city elites and the people in small town America.

  8. Also – the NRO piece doesn’t mention northerners at all.

  9. To what cities do you think they’re referring? And what issues?

  10. You’ve been in NYC too long Ames. San Francisco, LA, Chicago. Of course there are problems in the northeast but it’s not confined there.

  11. Meh. It’s my understanding that “Northeast” means a different thing in this sort of divisive dialect than “Chicago” or anything in California.

    30 Rock is really useful here:

    Jack Donaghy: “San Francisco? I asked you to find an actor from middle America; a real person. You’re not going to find him in the People’s Gaypublic of Drugifornia.”

    Liz Lemon: “Jeez, relax! I’m also setting up auditions in Toronto…”

    Jack: “Canada? (laughs) Why not just got to Iraq? The television audience doesn’t want your elitist, east-coast, alternative, intellectual, left-wing…”

    Liz: “Jeez, Jack, just say ‘Jewish’; this is taking forever!”

    And what I was getting at is, I don’t think we care about different things in cities, and I was hoping you’d fill me in on why you think we do.

  12. Really? So you all spend a lot of time talking about farm subsidies and rural broadband?

  13. Are those your number one priorities? Everyone has different local issues.

  14. Neither are local issues.

  15. Sure they are. They’re the equivalent of our complaints about MTA fare hikes, commuter rail maintenance, and gas drilling in the Marcellus shale (NYC watershed). My question, clarified, was do you think we differ on our national-level priorities?

    1. Seriously? That sort of proves my point about the naivity of big city elites.

      Broadband access affects millions of Americans across the country, affects interstate commerce, educational and economic potential, etc.

      As for farm susbsidies, in case you didn’t realize it, your food isn’t being grown in Manhattan.

  16. It seems like there are two different discussions going on here.

    One of them is about the significance of the rural areas and their issues – and I fully agree with Mike that those issues are often much more important to national economics and politics than we ‘urbanites’ usually realize. That may not have been the case until relatively recently when each city still had its own hinterlands and the rest of the countryside operated more or less on a subsistence level, but the modern economy is much more integrated than that.

    On the other hand, it seems likely that naivety goes both ways, because if Manhattan didn’t exist, those Midwest farmers would have a much smaller market for their products – and would also have a harder time getting access to any advanced equipment they might need for modern farming, most of which is designed and either produced or imported though the cities. Again, integrated economy.

    That’s one thing, and it’s a valid discussion. But the other thing is the inexcusable parochialism that leads one to confuse one’s own life experiences and world view with some sort of ‘national essence’ or ‘core values’, especially if that confusion excludes other parts of the country from the national identity.

    Again, I suspect this is not limited to the rural areas, if only based on the number of times I’ve heard a tired old joke about how you need a passport to visit the rural parts of my country. But that doesn’t make it any better, and that sort of rhetoric can be incredibly damaging to the political fabric of the country, and ironically, to the very national identity it claims to represent.

    1. I agree with all of your points Lanfranc. My experience, as someone who lives in a city but grew up in a rural community, the cities are appreciated for what they are, i.e. business centers, sources of capital, sources of technology, etc. That lesson is made clear whenever you have to ‘go into the city’ for some kind of goods you can’t obtain in the rural areas and take advantage of plenty of amenities while there. It’s made clear when we consume media made in those places. I think folks in rural areas DO appreciate the importance of cities.

      Can the same be said in the opposite direction? Well not so much in my experience (although it’s geting slightly better with the local food movement). Ames’ comments about subsisides and rural broadband being local issues serve as a good example of the lack-of-insight we see in cities, especially the larger ones that are far from rural area. To give a little credence to his ‘northern cities’ persecution complex, there’s definitely more of a disconnect in the metroplex area. For me, I live in a city with an Apple Store and plenty of Starbucks but I also have a 200 acre farm right across the street from my house.

      Perhaps much of the small town vs big city stuff is culture war junk but I also think there’s a real lack of understanding among the Left about how their policies, which originate almost exclusively in ‘big cities’ affect the majority of Americans who live outside of those cities.

  17. I think you’re misrepresenting my diminishment of the rural broadband/farm subsidy issues. I didn’t say they weren’t important issues. I said I doubt they’re your #1 issues, when contrasted with (what I was thinking of) American economic power. I’m quite sure both are important issues, although you probably appreciate them more, since you live through them. This is only natural.

    Going to Rice for college, with parents living in (now) Montgomery, a sizable portion of my friends are from small town Texas or parts of Georgia & Alabama that would call themselves “small.” (Montgomery’s a big city, but identifies with the rural parts of the state.) My experience with the city/town divide is considerable, then, and my judgment that the suspicion between groups runs both ways in equal parts, but vanishes on anything more than cursory contact.

    This experience is representative. When I brought my Jewish then-girlfriend to another friend’s tiny, tiny town in the middle of Texas (3,000 ppl), her (the friend’s) hometown friends were shocked to meet a Jew, and from New York, no less! They teased us both about being from “the big city,” but everyone treated this as a running joke, something to bring us together rather than keep us apart. There’s a disconnect between life experiences, which gives rise to some initial suspicion on both sides, but this all vanishes unless nurtured into something more. Which makes it all the more infuriating when politicians assert the gap in understanding as some irreconcilable difference.

  18. Also apropos of Palin and her “small town America” idealizations, I wonder how beneficial the growth of the Tea Party will actually be to the small towns and rural areas in practice. Rural development costs a good deal of money after all, and between their “balancing the budget” fanaticism and their hostility to earmarked funds, I don’t see that Tea Party politicans will have much opportunity to promote a rural agenda. Assuming they’re going to practice whet they preach, of course.

  19. Ames – your exact comment was that ag subsidies and rural broadband were local issues. I don’t see how I mis-represented that.

  20. Copying from above:

    I think you’re misrepresenting my diminishment of the rural broadband/farm subsidy issues. I didn’t say they weren’t important issues. I said I doubt they’re your #1 issues, when contrasted with (what I was thinking of) American economic power. I’m quite sure both are important issues, although you probably appreciate them more, since you live through them. This is only natural.

  21. When you take NATIONAL farm subsidies that have INTERNATIONAL impact and take NATIONAL broadband access which has INTERNATIONAL impact and distill it down to, “it’s a local issue” then I misrepresented nothing.

  22. I stll don’t think we disagree, but whatever. The meta-point was not that we don’t have different instantiations of the same interests, because we probably do, but that we both want the same things for the country: economic power and safety.

    1. I think there’s way more than that. Cultural trends, education, infrastructure investment, etc. And to be clear, it’s not just rural areas. The suburbs are discontent with liberal policies geared towards urban issues. Via Joel Kotkin:

      “Nationally, suburban approval for the Democrats has dropped to 39 percent this year, from 48 percent two years ago. Disapproval for President Barack Obama is also high — nearly 48 percent of suburbanites disapprove, compared to only 35 percent of urbanites. Even Obama’s strong support among minority suburbanites, a fast-growing group, has declined substantially.”

      Anecdotally I can tell you that here in Louisville we have not had a Republican mayor since 1969 and the latest poll shows the GOP nominee leading by 7 points going into next week’s election. Why? It’s not the Tea Party (this guy is a mainline Republican). It’s just a realization out in the suburbs, where MOST of us live, that big city policies only help the urban core.

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