Doug Thompson

Small-town bitterness
By Doug Thompson

Columnist Paul Krugman of the New York Times may be too liberal for many, but he’s rarely flat wrong.
In fact, such missteps are so rare that his outright flops deserve some mention.
His Sept. 4 column deserves some mention.
“What struck me as I watched the (Republican) convention speeches, however, is how much of the anger on the right is based not on the claim that Democrats have done bad things, but on the perception — generally based on no evidence whatsoever — that Democrats look down their noses at regular people.
“Thus Mr. (Rudy) Giuliani asserted that Wasilla, Alaska, isn’t ‘flashy enough’ for Mr. (Barack) Obama, who never said any such thing. And Ms. Palin asserted that Democrats ‘look down’ on small-town mayors — again, without any evidence.”
I beg to differ.
Here’s the first statement out of Obama’s campaign headquarters after Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, was announced at John McCain’s vice-presidential pick. It’s verbatim:
“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.”
I winced when I read it that day, Aug. 29. To his credit, Obama did too. He was boarding a plane when the statement was issued and pulled it as soon as he hit the ground.
Most Arkansans, for instance, live in towns with fewer than 9,000 people. I reminded a Democratic friend of mine that Obama was in trouble in small-town America. Perhaps, I suggested, it wasn’t a good idea to imply that being mayor of a small town was a valid criticism when your guy has never been mayor of anything.
I was overreacting, my friend told me. Palin’s record was fair game and it should be noted that she’d just chased a few moose out of people’s yard before becoming governor of Alaska.
Obama would be better off today if he’d chased a few moose too, I replied.
Then there were Obama’s famous “bitter” remarks, that small-town voters in Pennsylvania “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
He’ll never live that one down.
I don’t think McCain, Palin, Giuliani, and Mitt Romney played much of a role in the Democratic primary. That’s the one where Obama got killed in many a primary by small town voters. However, Democratic rules split those results. This allowed him to win the nomination with delegates from near-unanimous caucuses, which are dominated by party zealots.
The net effect: Small town voters were told that some Democratic state results are more equal than others.
Republicans don’t conjure up the distain small town America feels from leading Democrats. They exploit it. They hide their own distain better. That’s fair game too.
Implying that Republicans have pulled this same trick on small town voters since Richard Nixon was president is to imply those voters are gullible dupes. That doesn’t exactly help, either.
The success of this exploit’s beginning to show. overlays state-by-state polling results with Electoral College votes. For weeks, the site’s tally showed Obama with 260 electoral votes. That’s just 10 less than the 270 needed.’s map on Monday showed Obama with 243 electoral votes, 27 less than needed.
Sure, McCain got a bounce from his convention. Obama got a bounce from his too. Still, Democrats slid by 17 electoral votes in a poll tally so merciful to their side that Arkansas is still listed in the “lean Republican” column instead of the “strong Republican,” where it belongs.
Democrats brag about how their voter registration is up. That’s nice. That means that Obama’s meaningless advantage in the popular vote will be more impressive.
Obama will win the popular vote. Driving up the margin of his victory there will help make the case someday for a constitutional amendment to change the way presidents are elected. It will not help him win the Electoral College.
Small town America is a declining force in U.S. Presidential elections, but it hasn’t faded away yet.
“Thou calledst me dog before thou hadst a cause. But since I am a dog, beware my fangs.”

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