Small Town, USA

“All villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.”

-Colin Powell, Meet the Press, 10/19/08

In a strategic shift from the past two presidential elections, Republicans have now given up on converting city-folk and are just trying their hardest to hold on to their small-town supporters.

One of the tools the campaign is using to implement this strategy is to polarize the country even further than it already has been—black versus white, military families versus unpatriotic families and Small Town USA versus Big Cities (not USA).

For Palin, big cities are to small town what Russia is to Alaska. Who needs city-based industries such as banking, media and technology when you have corn, home schooling and war?

Palin has also repeatedly referenced Obama’s gaffe during the primary season in which he referred to people in rural, working class America as clinging to their bibles and guns in hard economic times. His opponents have attacked this statement more than any other quote Obama has said in the campaign, and recently the McCain campaign has turned it into a centerpiece of their increasingly polarizing campaign.

In an attempt to reconcile and unify, Obama recently clarified what he had intended. He told a New York Times Magazine reporter []:

“How it was interpreted in the press was Obama talking to a bunch of wine-sipping San Francisco liberals with an anthropological view toward white working-class voters. And I was actually making the reverse point, clumsily, which is that these voters have a right to be frustrated because they’ve been ignored. And because Democrats haven’t met them halfway on cultural issues, we’ve not been able to communicate to them effectively an economic agenda that would help broaden our coalition.”

In a less conciliatory remark, Palin told a crowd in North Carolina on Thursday:

“We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. 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. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom.”

Implicit in this statement about small towns being “pro American” and “real America” is that cities and suburbs are not. This is a dangerous assertion for anyone to make, especially someone who is running for vice president under a 72-year-old man with cancer. Palin’s calls to rural America and her disparagement of cities, and references to the “media elite” the “Washington elite,” convening terrorists in “Chicago living rooms,” sounds eerily reminiscent of and Stalin’s language against kulaks, Franco’s against artists and intellectuals and Mao’s against businessmen and professionals, among many other groups of people that serve a vital part of a country’s economy, culture and character.

Perhaps Palin is a little too close to Russia.

–Jamie Wong