“Main Street in Revolt”
Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page columnist, at RCP:
If Romney wins the presidency on Tuesday, the national media, the Washington establishment and the bulk of academia will have missed something huge that happened in “flyover” America under their watch.
It is a story that few have told.
It reminds one of the famous quip by New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael following Richard Nixon’s landslide 1972 victory: “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon.”
Two years after suffering a historic shellacking in the 2010 midterm election, Democrats astonishingly have ignored Main Street Americans’ unhappiness.
That 2010 ejection from the U.S. House, and from state legislatures and governors’ offices across the country, didn’t happen inside the Washington Beltway world.
It didn’t reflect the Democrats’ or the media’s conventional wisdom or voter-turnout models. So it just wasn’t part of their reality.
In Democrats’ minds, it was never a question of “How did we lose Main Street?” Instead, it was the fault of the “tea party” or of crazy right-wing Republicans.
Yet in interview after interview — in Colorado, along Nebraska’s plains, in small Iowa towns or Wisconsin shops, outside closed Ohio steel plants and elsewhere — many Democrats have told me they are furious with the president. Not in a frothing-at-the-mouth or racist way, as many elites suggest. They just have legitimate concerns affecting their lives.
These Main Street Democrats in seven battleground states supported Obama in 2008. Now they are disappointed by his broken pledges: Where is the promised bipartisanship? How could health-care reform become such a mess? What direction is the country going in?
Their overriding sentiment is uncertainty over where the president is taking the country. They have no idea but get the feeling it isn’t the direction that traditional Democrats want.
They certainly haven’t gotten guidance from the president’s re-election slogans: class warfare, a hyphenated America, spreading the wealth around.
Over and over, these folks expressed unhappiness that fixing the economy doesn’t seem to be Obama’s focus; they have noticed that those in charge have high opinions of themselves but aren’t taking responsibility for the lack of progress.
It took Romney just 90 minutes, in a debate hall just a three-hour drive from that Leadville home’s sign, to convince many Americans (including many Democrats) that he passed their threshold test.
He came across as a qualified alternative to Obama who believes in their vision of an exceptional America and convinced them he can win.
And, just like that, “flyover” America was ready to vote its conscience.
Obama’s progressivism no longer seems universal, upbeat and forward-looking; instead, it appears divisive, shrill and based on the worst kind of shortsighted power calculations.
Yesterday’s “special world” liberals, such as Kael, could be gently chided for their heart-in-the-right-place, head-in-the-clouds idealism.
Yet it is something else altogether to have today’s arbiters of political correctness order you to march “Forward” to a future with less promise, fewer choices, more intrusive government — and to justify it by telling you to accept that the new normal of high employment, low growth and diminished world influence is good for you.
Is it any wonder that Main Street America is in revolt, since no one is telling its story?
Perhaps election night will tell it, at long last.
Oh, people have been telling its story. It’s just that it’s been the wrong kinds of people — dismissed as Visigoths or purists or racists or unhelpful firebrands likely to alienate “independents” and “moderates” — who’ve been crying out for 4 years now, the same people, incidentally, who are themselves confused about the establishment GOP’s confusion over what made a Reagan Democrat a Reagan Democrat.
Because, revisionism aside, it wasn’t a willingness to compromise principles for collegial expedience and “getting things done” just to show that you were in fact doing things. That’s the kind of pablum pushed by the Colin Powell and David Frums of the world — and internalized by an inside the Beltway culture that has convinced themselves that what Americans really want is a government that can fix all problems, just so long as it does so efficiently.
While the truth is, most of us don’t. We don’t pray to government, we don’t lionize politicians, and we certainly don’t want people like Barack Obama or Harry Reid or John Boehner in charge of our lives. We want government to its job — secure our rights, protect us from threats foreign and domestic, provide basic general welfare service to be paid for by reasonable and equitable tax rates — and then stand back and let us do ours.
It really is that simple. Or, as the left and many in the “centrist” camp would have it, it really is that racist.