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In Defense of "Hicks From the Sticks"

Walking my son to daycare this morning, I passed a corner store to see the New York Daily News on the rack with Sarah Palin’s perky face above the blaring headline “The Great Palin Debate: Is she a modern role model or just a hick From the sticks?” No, no, no, I thought, This just isn’t right. Arriving home, I go online to their website to find the somewhat better “Darling or Ditz?” tagline for their point/counterpoint articles, but there on the homepage, in the summary text, it appears again:

Is Palin a victim of sexism? [www.nydailynews.com]
The Daily News asks the question: Is Sarah Palin a modern role model for women, or just a hick from the sticks?

In order: Yes, you answered that with “Ditz” in the headline; No; and totally irrelevant.

I understand the NYDN is a tabloid rag, but here they underscore a common misapprehension that one of the reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be a 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency is because of where she’s from. It’s the converse of Palin’s equally false argument that certain parts of the country are more “pro-America” than others, and the implication that she understands this because she’s from one of them. There are many, many reasons to consider Palin unqualified. Where she’s from, or even her folksy demeanor, isn’t one of them.

You can hail from Hardscrabble, Ohio or talk like Foghorn Leghorn and it doesn’t preclude you from being smart, just as living in a major metropolis doesn’t mean you don’t have sense, common or otherwise. You can enjoy NASCAR, UFC fighting or pig wrestling and still have a grasp on the issues that face our country. While exposing oneself to the kind of information a vice president would require usually involves a formal education. During the course of that learning experience, some of the more rural affectations may be worn off and a possible broadening of interests acquired, but this is not always the case, and it doesn’t matter one way or the other.

Having a perspective from small-town America doesn’t make you a bad choice for the role of vice president; being dangerously stupid does. Being and/or relating to Joe Six-Pack doesn’t make you an unreliable authority on important issues; substituting the acknowledgement of reality for crackpot theories straight out of the John Birch Society does. Joe the Plumber can talk to FOX News and campaign for John McCain, perhaps casting an opportunistic eye on his own political future, and it doesn’t mean nobody should listen to him because he’s Joe the Plumber. Agreeing that “a vote for Obama is a vote for the death to Israel” [thinkprogress.org] - that means that nobody should listen to Joe the Seriously Misinformed Plumber. Or as Joe himself put it:

Listen, you don’t want my opinion on foreign policy. I know just enough probably to be dangerous.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, and it applies to Palin as well. They’re both giving hicks a bad name.

– Michael Turner