Monday, September 13, 2010

Hawaii: An Actual, Real American State

Perhaps I'm just quick to take offense at stuff like this because I come from what was, when I was a kid, a tiny and obscure state (granted, Arizona isn't as defensive about it as "New Mexico, USA") but the one thing I haven't seen yet in the wonderful slams of Dinesh D'Souza's insufferably stupid Forbes cover story on Barack Obama is for someone to take note of this smear of the Aloha State:
Here is a man who spent his formative years--the first 17 years of his life--off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan, with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa.
Cute, huh?

I'm actually fairly baffled at the habit of some (certainly not all!) chest-thumpingly patriotic conservatives to explicitly treat large chunks of the United States of America as if they were weirdly foreign.  Not that they'd think it -- it's a match for (some) liberals who dismiss flyover states -- but that they have have no hesitation about attacking the states and cities that don't share their partisanship.  Really, it would be worth the while of someone to catalogue the various places (and the total populars thereof) that conservatives have attacked as un-American over the last twenty years or so.  I don't think there's any similar sustained, explicit liberal attacks on Idaho or Utah, although I'm sure someone will let me know if I'm wrong.


  1. I was once an editor on a DC-based liberal publication and habitually was forced to go to the mat to avoid the publication of snide remarks about conservative states in the west. Gun-toting this, polygamous that.

    Such remarks were generally produced by people from the BosWash corridor, and I'm from one of those western states that doesn't always tilt blue. So while it's nothing like the high-profile "real America" versus — well, versus what? — it this political geography exists among lefty activists. If I hadn't been there, that publication would have been pretty offensive to liberals like me.

    You'll understand if I don't include a name with this post.

  2. but the one thing I haven't seen yet in the wonderful slams of Dinesh D'Souza's insufferably stupid Forbes cover story on Barack Obama is for someone to take note of this smear of the Aloha State:

    Stephanie Miller did jump on it this morning, but she bounced off it pretty quick.


  3. Please name some liberals of the stature of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin who "dismiss" "flyover" states, and show me where and how they have "dismissed" these states. With all due respect to Mr. Anonymous there. I say that's complete hogwash, and egregious false equivalence. No fair rummaging through Democratic Underground comments, either. I'll invoke the Yglesias Rule on you.

  4. James,

    While Anon can stick up for himself or herself, I don't think it's hard at all to find examples of the kind he talks about that do show up in print (or on TV shows & movies). I definitely don't think that conservatives have a monopoly on believing that places they live and similar places are better than other places; that's actually to be expected, since often where you live is a deliberate choice. (There's a behind-enemy-lines alternative version of this, in which conservatives in NY sound exactly like liberals in Tennessee or South Carolina). Where I think there's a difference is that you don't get Dems smearing, say, WY with Cheney or IN with Quayle the same way that Republicans smeared MA with Dukakis or HI & Chicago with Obama.

  5. Wasn't it Cokie Roberts who slammed Obama for vacationing in Hawaii, "some foreign place"?? The punditry and plenty of Republicans continue to do this. And then Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin go on vacation in Hawaii (not together, of course ... heh heh ...) and there is CRICKETS.

    See this is just another petty example of the double standard in our "liberal media." Obama does a perfectly normal thing, going on vacation in Hawaii, no big deal, and the pearl clutching and endless discussions over whether that is "American" enough are all over the place. Republicans do the same thing and no one even notices.

    I'm sick of it, I really am. Since the 90s the media has suffered from Democratic Politician Derangement Syndrome. Democrats do perfectly normal things like drink orange juice and put mustard on their burgers and OMG OMG THAT IS SO WEIRD!!!! And FOREIGN!!! And WEIRD! Republicans do the same thing and it's all, "what?! Whatchoo lookin' at?!"

    I am now turning off all television news, since this is where most of this bullshit starts. I can't stand the hypocrisy and the stupidity any longer. And I'm about to stop reading all news media. People need to STOP HURTING AMERICA already. And quit telling me the internet and foul mouthed bloggers killed the news media when it was clearly a suicide.

  6. Here we go: Sarah Palin on vacation in Hawaii, December 2009. Hey, didn't she live there for a couple of months while at one of her many colleges? If she were a Democrat this would be fodder for endless Sunday morning bobblehead discussions, complete with a Rasmussen poll and conservative columns wondering what it means that the former Republican vice presidential candidiate would vacation in such an un-American place. Is she sending a message about future political aspirations? Is this her clear signal that there will be no 2012 Presidential run?

    Sheesh. I'm not saying that should have happened, as I could give a crap about where people vacation. But the fact that the news media thinks most Americans do care shows us that we have a very twisted, distorted discourse in this country.

    And yes, it makes me angry. We deserve better.

  7. Well, not to put to fine a point on it, but the uproar over "bitterly clinging to guns and religion" was ostensibly over Obama smearing rural people. In reality, of course, it was about using a gaffe as an attack, just as liberals attack conservatives over whatever perceived slip of the tongue they make.

    That said, stereotyping the opposition is classic. It has always happened, and it will continue to happen. Whether it stems from insecurity (leading to a need to make "the other" seem bad) or a more benevolent in-group/out-group phenomenon I don't know, but it's always there.

    I don't look at D'Souza's thing as a slam on Hawaii because it's liberal. That's using "Massachusetts" as a slur, since Dukakis cemented that conception in conservatives heads and it hasn't left. What's funny and odd about it is that the first thought I have when I read it is "racism!" The whole piece is definitely saying Obama is anti-American. I have trouble thinking that D'Souza is stupid enough to think that it doesn't come off as an attack on Obama's ideas (which is the insufferable part, where D'Souza claims to know Obama's mind) but rather his identity.

    On the one hand, it has a whole "only a non-white conservative could say this" vibe to it. On the other hand, it still sounds exactly like a white conservative, and smacks of racism to me. Now, whether that's saying something about me being liberal and seeing a racist behind a tree, or whether it's saying D'Souza is Uncle Tom, or what, I don't know.

  8. D'Souza's article was clearly designed to paint Obama as the "OTHER." I read the first few paragraphs, then had to go scrub my brain with Boraxo and a Brillo pad,

    Johnathon -
    I definitely don't think that conservatives have a monopoly on believing that places they live and similar places are better than other places;

    Yeah, that's run of the mill stuff, and pretty much beside the point. OTOH, the regressive schtick for over a decade has been the alleged weirdness of elitist white wine sipping DFH Librulls who hate America (actual quote from O'Reilley and Ben Stein) and for God's sake now even sympathize with the goals of radical Islam, vis-a-vis "real Americans who listen to country music and love NASCARE." (The latter being, as close as I can remember, an near-quote from Sean Hannity.)

    No. We are looking at something very different here: the attempt to exclude progressives of any kind, and that darkie communist Nazi Arab Muslim president in particular, from membership in American society.

    If anyone can come up with a prominent Democratic politician or legitimate spokesman saying anything even remotely similar to the bile that D'Souza spouted in freaquing Forbes magazine, aided and abetted by the rat Gingrich, who has beating this same drum anyway, I'll be astounded.

    Any takers?

    Politics has always been rotten business, which is why I don't like pols. It has probably been this bad before, but I don't think it's happened here since the McCarthy witch hunts.


  9. I don't look at D'Souza's thing as a slam on Hawaii because it's liberal.

    Nobody said that. It's not because Hawaii is liberal (it's not, it's what in a sane world we'd recognize as conservative-Democrat though these days that's probably labeled far-lefty fringe). The point, as Jazz says, is to paint Obama as FOREIGN. Illegitimate. "Other." Not a true red-white-and-blue American. DIFFERENT. And thereby, not trustworthy.

  10. I regularly attack many of the states that are in the opposite partisan alignment as myself as un-American. But that's because THEY HAVE PREVIOUSLY ENGAGED IN BLOODY ARMED REBELLION IN ORDER TO PRESERVE A SYSTEM OF CHATTEL SLAVERY. The states of the old Confederacy emphatically do NOT have the same weight as Blue America, the Midwest, or the sun belt in determining "American values." They're unrepentant traitors, and remain so as long as they pretend the Lost Cause was anything but a treasonous uprising that killed millions to try to preserve a system of chattel slavery, and was followed up by a century-long guerilla war in pursuit of an analogous social and legal order.

  11. OK, everyone: deep breath. Less yelling, please.

    And, Michael...I appreciate the sentiment, and I have the same reaction when I see "secede" bumperstickers around town. OTOH, I've seen, I believe either two or three such stickers, and at least in this part of Texas I'd say that Confederate signs & symbols are refreshingly rare (although disturbingly common when I lived in Indiana for a year -- what's up with that?). Your "they" isn't 11 whole states; it's some individuals in those (and other) states.

  12. Well. Guess we all ought to be saving those Confederate dollars.

  13. A question:

    Is demonization of the non-American "other" a tactic designed to fortify one's own position as the "true" American one, perhaps even to preempt criticism by taking the fight to one's opponent?

    Up in Alaska, its custom to refer to the lower 48 as "outside"; a secessionist party even had a governor elected there 20 years ago. Todd Palin's a member of that secessionist party; his wife has consistently played nice with them as well.

    I think if I were Gov. Palin, I would preemptively label folks as often as possible as "not-real Americans", which noise might spare me having to account for my own family's troubling non-real-American-ness.

    Most of us surely don't have the baggage of an Alaskan Independence Party to jeopardize our patriotic bona fides. Nevertheless, its probably a wise strategy to call out the other guy before he sticks his finger in your eye for your perceived lack of patriotic purity.

  14. I think if I were Gov. Palin, I would preemptively label folks as often as possible as "not-real Americans"...

    That's an interesting thought but you know, I think what Palin and the rest do is just standard-issue identity politics. I don't know that her "Alaska-ness" has much to do with it.

    It's funny because culturally speaking, Alaska is the very LAST place I would consider "real America," if I were a marketer at least. The idea of Alaska is a place full of renegades and oddballs and people who were too fringe to make it in "real" America -- think the colorful characters on "Northern Exposure."

  15. Does that "Jesusland" meme from 2004 count as an example?

    I'm a Michigander living in Boston now, and I never tire of East Coast elitists dismissing the Midwest as unenlightened and narrow-minded. Furthermore, I'm from Grand Rapids, and when I'm in Michigan I never tire of Detroiters dismissing GR as churchy and conservative.

    So yes, liberals in "liberal parts of the country" do dis other parts of the country. There is definitely a counter-balancing equivalence between liberals & conservatives in thinking that way. Remember that South Park where Mr. Garrison tells off Rosie O'Donnell? That was one of the best moments on TV.

    However, conservatives have definitely taken it up as a campaign talking point, more than liberals have, and I would argue it has to do with electoral politics.

    I don't think Palin or Gingrich have less respect for blue states than liberals do for red states, but they're smart, savvy people, who know how to posture during election years. So what if Palin called small towns "Real America?" She knows what she's saying, and she knows how to grandstand for crowds. Quit overreacting.

    Democrats need the rural areas to win more than Republicans need the big cities, and that's why they don't reciprocate. Moreover, they co-opt the Republican "Real America" message and try to identify with that image themselves. That's when you get wonderful photo-op gems like John Kerry goose-hunting, or Dukakis riding a tank. "Small town values" become romanticized as ideals. If elections hinged on the big city vote (like, say if New York and California became swing states), that would likely change the dynamic.

  16. Thomas -

    Everything you say is true, but there is another point. You are talking about politics in a business-as-usual way. But things have changed. It goes back to Nixon's southern strategy, Lee Atwater, Rove learning all the dirty tricks at Atwater's knee, Reagan's Philadelphia, Alabama speech, and more recently, the ludicrous impeachment of Clinton, Supreme Court intervention in the 2000 election, Robert's court decision that corporations are people and have free speech rights, including attempts to influence politics - which they are doing in a big way.

    Seriously - American democracy hangs in the balance. If I was yelling, it's because I believe that is a tragedy, and the Republican's deep-pocketed backers are making it happen.

    Lo siento,


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