October 08, 2008
"Oh my God! A real Joe Sixpack in our midst!"
I am probably not what most people would consider "Joe Six-pack." Nor, I suspect, are most of the readers of this blog. The term usually denotes the kind of guy who's unlikely to be reading blogs.
According to the effete Wikipedia, "Joe Sixpack" is a sub-category of "John Q. Public," and a lower one at that:
Roughly equivalent, but more pejorative, are the names Joe Six-pack, Joe Blow, and Joe Schmoe, implying a lower-class citizen (from the Yiddish schmo: simpleton, or possibly Hebrew sh'mo: (what's)-his-name).This is not to suggest I have anything against the Joe Sixpacks of this world; because of my fiercely anti-elitist streak I probably have more Joe Sixpack tendencies than the average person with my education and background. Instead of looking down on what should properly be called "the common man," I'm more likely to look down on the people who look down on him.
To put it more succinctly, I'm not a Joe Sixpack, but I can't stand Joe Sixpack bashers. One of the reasons I opposed John Kerry was that I perceived him as looking down on the common man:
By behaving like an arrogant snot, Kerry shows that he is out of touch with ordinary people, lacks the common touch, and may in fact be a genuinely mean-spirited man. When this is added to his response to the question about his foreign endorsements ("None of your business!"), I think it is fair to ask whether he has the temperament that should be expected of any public servant, especially a president.The same applies to Barack Obama. I do not refer solely to his condescending remark about bitter people who cling to guns and religion; well before that I had heard that he had been rude and imperious to waiters in a Chicago restaurant -- something the bitter gun clingers remark tended to confirm.
Anyway, "Joe Sixpack" is not an exact term. Neither restaurant waiters nor (in Kerry's case) Secret Service men would be considered to fall into the category, but what they do have in common is that they have a duty to serve people who are above them, and in that sense they occupy a lower niche than those who are our "rulers." This is not to say that all of the people in government are like that; some of them don't think they are or should be "rulers." Americans are not subjects, and are supposed to be a "ruled" people. This may be why there's considerable distrust of elitists (whom I'm defining here as a large group of people who believe they have a right to rule, but who conceal what amounts to a fervent belief in the idea that some people have a right to rule, and that it should be them.) To these elitists, Joe Sixpack is seen as embodiment of why they should rule.
So in what has become a tediously familiar game, the John Kerrys, Joe Bidens, and Barack Obamas of this world do their best to put on a Joe Sixpack act.
While this is considered normal, Sarah Palin may have carried things too far by introducing an additional element: authenticity. This may be why Joe Biden appeared so undone at the debate. It wasn't so much his debating skills that were at risk, so much as it was his carefully contrived "Joe Sixpack" ethos. (Never mind the fact that he smeared a real Joe Sixpack by falsely accusing him of drunken driving; he thinks he has a right to be Joe Sixpack, and who the hell is this Alaskan female upstart?)
While he tried not to take sides on Sixpack authenticity issues, a Forbes writer actually called the Biden-Palin debate "Joe Six-Pack Biden vs. Sarah Six-Pack Palin":
In the first thirty minutes of the debate, Palin and Biden each made efforts to connect with everyday voters. Biden referred to his roots in a small town in Pennsylvania (he grew up in Scranton) and to the connections he has made among neighbors and constituents in Delaware. Palin went a step further, talking about friends and family in Alaska, regularly looking directly into the camera, and at one point talking about "the middle class of America, which is where Todd and I have been all our lives."What worries the non Six-Packs who pretend who pretend to be Six-Packs is the creepy feeling along the lines of "Oh my God! A real Joe Sixpack in our midst!"
To their mind, a woman like Sarah Palin is supposed to be someone in the audience. Someone to look down to and talk down to. Someone who can be quickly ignored or erased by the spin machine if she raises troublesome questions, but who should never be allowed a place at their table, much less in a debate. For her to have held her own against one of their own must have been intolerable.
In fact, it was so intolerable that one member of Congress has declared war on "Joe Six-Pack" himself, retaliating with the heaviest artillery in politics today -- the shrill battle cry of "RACISM!":
"Some may say their true colors are showing," said Representative Yvette Clarke of New York. "Others may say they're just not being thoughtful. But certainly a lot of the language I've heard I consider to be incendiary. I believe it is meant to generate a certain sentiment within their base that engenders fear and certainly appeals to a group of people within our society who would pursue this along racial lines.Wow. While I'm utterly stunned by the sheer gall of that statement by a public official (especially what it reveals about the insincerity of the Democratic Party's claim to represent the common man), the identity politics implications are even more fascinating.
The whole idea of Joe Sixpack (or "Six Pack" or "Six-pack," whatever) is that he's the little guy. The forgotten man. By very definition, a member of the excluded class. Yet with one fell rhetorical swoop, the excluded from the elite has become a member of the elite, and an excluder! A racist! Someone whose vote we do not need or want.
So remarkable it's breathtaking.
Except, because of the way identity politics works, it really shouldn't be surprising. The ruling classes who are steeped in the tyranny of identity politics can be expected to see Joe Six-Pack the same way they see any other identifiable group. Not as thinking citizens, but as subjects to be ruled. And if they get out of line, they must be excoriated in identity politics terms. The way this works in practice is that if Joe Six Pack knows his place and agrees with the Democratic Party, he still gets to remain in his niche as the forgotten little guy that they pretend to love.
But God pity him and his guns if he displays the slightest sign of deviation. Then his rulers will let it be known what they really think of the little guy they pretend to love.
I realize that's old and from the "Barack Six-Pack versus Hillary Six-Pack" days, but I thought I'd use it again.
The dirty little secret (more properly, I should say, the "hidden subtext") is that they hate Joe Sixpack.
MORE: In the comments, Larry Sheldon asks:
" they hate Joe Sixpack."I've written at least four posts on the subject in an attempt to define the "they."
In her latest column, I think Camille Paglia touched on the same subject:
Yes, both Todd and Sarah Palin, whom most people in the U.S. and abroad had never even heard of until six weeks ago, have emerged as powerful new symbols of a revived contemporary feminism. That the macho Todd, with his champion athleticism and working-class cred, can so amiably cradle babies and care for children is a huge step forward in American sexual symbolism.At the risk of oversimplifying, if Joe Sixpack can be a conservative macho feminist househusband, little wonder the activist ideologues are worried.
I'd be worried too!
posted by Eric on 10.08.08 at 10:03 AM
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