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Rozen Versus Brooks

Laura lays the smack down. Well said:

Look, I see Brooks at my neighborhood DC synagogue, and as much as he says he travels in the red states, I grew up in one a religious minority with Christmas trees in the public elementary schools, in a state that just a few years ago voted to outlaw teaching evolution in the schools in favor of Creationism. This guy has no idea what he's talking about regarding red states. It's really a foreign country to him. He talks about liberals like they have never encountered red state values and so look down on them out of snobbery. He's the one out of touch. Now, if he sends his children to the Kansas public schools, I may feel differently, but he's an East Coast Jewish person trying to talk up red state religious pluralism and broad mindedness without seeming to demonstrate the slightest desire to go experience it for the duration.
I happily admit to being one of the most out-of-touch with the heartland people out there, someone who's spend significantly more time in Europe than in all the red counties put together, but I'm at least in-touch with my out-of-touchness. Nothing grates more than watching the Republican Party's equally blue intellectual and financial elite lecture their confères on the other side of the aisle about the virtues of farm country small towns or sunbelt exurbs where they would never dream of living, all the while raking in tax cuts and applaudingly loudly as the children of Red America and Red Iraq kill each other off in pursuit of national greatness.

November 6, 2004 | Permalink


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» What's Coming from Three Guys
Put simply, these coastal elite Republicans have made a pact with the devil to cement their grip on power, and now we're all going to pay the price for it. If nothing else, we have to keep reminding them of the moral price they paid to keep Bush's pr... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 6, 2004 2:51:37 PM

» Why did intelligent Christians vote for Bush? from I Love Everything
anyway, this blogger has the best take on the brooks article that i've read yet. and my experience w/ red america is restricted to visiting family in pennsyltuckey (i.e, the parts of PA that are not the philadelphia or pittsburgh metro areas). [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 7, 2004 7:51:48 AM


I thought all public elementary schools had Christmas trees. I'm pretty sure that's not so obviously religious that there would be any constitutional problems. I always thought of myself as a pretty extreme separation of church and state guy, but even I don't have a problem with Christmas trees.

Posted by: Xavier | Nov 6, 2004 2:14:24 PM

there is no "cultural" difference between red states and blue states, imo. the only exception being states like idaho or wyoming where there just sren't very many people.

Posted by: Olaf glad and big | Nov 6, 2004 2:16:09 PM

"and applaudingly loudly as the children of Red America and Red Iraq kill each other off in pursuit of national greatness."

One of the most artfully shrill statements I have seen this week. I may submit it to Holbo's contumely contest.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 6, 2004 2:27:09 PM

Brooks strikes me as an especially creepy, smirky pimp.

Posted by: Zizka | Nov 6, 2004 2:29:21 PM

Great post, Matt. I see that Kennebec county went for Kerry, so I guess we're both hopelessly blue-state.

While he's pretending to be in touch with the Red-state voters who keep Republicans in power, Brooks should ponder one of the underlying facts of today's Republican party: NOT serving the social policy preferences of religious voters is a key to the party's success. That might go some way towards mitigated Brooks et al's moral smugness.

Posted by: Marshall | Nov 6, 2004 2:34:51 PM

Theres not much to be "out of touch" with.

Certain media will tell you that it is wrong to be a bible thumping redneck.

Certain media will flog the "fuzzy head atheistic liberal line."

The differece in "culture" is really non-existant. We have a common culture now, and its called Corporate.

Posted by: Harold Babar | Nov 6, 2004 2:39:46 PM

....the children of Red America and Red Iraq kill each other off in pursuit of national greatness.

And moral values.

Posted by: tex | Nov 6, 2004 2:44:54 PM

Oh, and for another in touch with the heartland rant, see Ken Layne.

Posted by: tex | Nov 6, 2004 2:48:15 PM

FWIW, I do think Brooks has a good handle on the exurbs.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 6, 2004 2:55:22 PM

I noted this nugget of Red State bullplop over at Daily Kos earlier this morning:

This is why dems come across as elite idiots. How many of Y'all have installed a cow fence, chewed tobacco, gone to a NASCAR race, a country concert, a christian revival? People who have lived in blue sections of blue states have no clue how to identify with people.

Here's the thing: when Dems carried the majority back in the 90's, did we ipso facto demand at that time that the Red Staters come sip Shiraz and eat brie while we watched our foreign films and listened to NPR? Not only didn't we do such a thing, but the Jesusland crowd had the gall back then to howl about how oppressed a minority they were in latter-day America.

So does this mean that the demographically-challenged American liberal now gets crying rights for having his/her unpopular values trampled by the Red State mainstream?

Posted by: oodja | Nov 6, 2004 2:56:03 PM

praktike, I could write paeans to simplicity and knowing how to fix a tractor and hating frappucinos. Anybody can.

Doesn't mean shit.

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Nov 6, 2004 3:02:45 PM

The red-state-experience competition can get abstruse. I, for one, have declined an invation to help a friend chip frozen diarrhea (call "scours") from the butt of his sick sheep. Can Brooks say that? What about the NASCAR guy? Point, game, match.

I suppose that my oneupsmanship would be more effective if I had accepted, but Jesus! -- that's more credibility than I want or need.

Posted by: Zizka | Nov 6, 2004 3:12:08 PM

I come from the reddest section of Central California, where most of my family still resides and my younger brother runs the family dairy farm (established in the 1930s). They put up "Join Arnold" signs when Schwarzenegger ousted Gray Davis in the recall election and they voted in a group for Bush (both times, I'm sure). Because Bush is a "good man", nothing he does is blameworthy. Tax cuts for the rich? Economic stimulus. Budget deficits? Have to fight the costly war on terror. American sponsored torture at Abu Ghraib? Bush didn't know; a few bad apples. We violate the Geneva Protocols? We're the good guys and we're at war. Osama bin Laden is still at large? Well, we got Saddam Hussein, and he's really bad. Kerry as a war hero and leader? Um, no, there are a lot of questions about that and Rush said ...

You get the miserable picture: All GOP talking points readily repeated without a shadow of a doubt. My mother, bless her, told me to "open my eyes" and "don't believe everything you hear" when I said the Bush administration had made a national policy of distorting the truth. She says Dennis Prager tells her the truth.

I know these well-intentioned folk right down to the level of my DNA and they are not open to arguments against their close-minded beliefs. They have to be out-organized and defeated, because very few of them are prepared to join the reality-based community.

Thanksgiving is going to suck this year. I should stay at home instead of going back down to the farm.

Posted by: TonyB | Nov 6, 2004 3:28:22 PM

Well, I spent some time growing up in red state public schools, and in the holiday season (where I was) they always did some kind of a presentation of, like, the beautiful diversity of seasonal festivities associated with the major religions...plus that psuedo-holiday, Kwanza. It was sometimes bizarre and usually highly corny, and, for instance, the one or two Jewish kids in the class would always be intensely embarassed when everyone had to make dreidels out of construction paper or whatever. Navigating cultural boundaries is, in my experience, an extremely difficult business, and in an everyday tete-a-tete sense I am very sympathetic to the category of experience that "being opressed by Xmas trees" falls under, but, I guess, I think it's kind of self-indulgent for politically-minded liberals, particularly those with plenty of capacity to take a more reflective attitude on that sort of thing, to make a political badge out of. The other thing is, this thing immediately runs together the potentially invidious character of christmas trees--which, again, I am very sympathetic to in certain contexts--with the, in my opinion, somewhat more substantive issue of teaching science vs. fake science in schools. That's a dumb mistake for folks who ought to know better to make, and it's often repeated.

That said, I do think it's a smart and good thing to do for liberals to attack republican pretenders to middle-american folksyness, as opposed to attacking what they pretend to.

Posted by: spacetoast | Nov 6, 2004 3:33:30 PM

Note that this matters, but I never knew Brooks was Jewish. He always struck me as such a Protestant.

That makes Krugman, Kristof, Brooks, Friedman, and Safire as Jewish columnists at The New York Times. How interesting.

I completely agree with Rozen, by the way.

Posted by: Brian | Nov 6, 2004 3:35:40 PM

Let's not forget GOP reverence for red state ruralism tends to be a passing phase employed only when it they can use it as a cudgel against a Dem candidate.

A few years ago, GOPers were all too happy to portray Bill Clinton as a hick from some backward Southern state. Further back, Carter was denigrated as a "peanut farmer" with a bunch of rube relations.

GOP ownership of the media is due credit for pretending George Bush was just ranch hand from Andover.

Posted by: Jadegold | Nov 6, 2004 3:37:20 PM

Brooks is a fucking moron. Really, that's all that needs saying.

Especially when the 'Left Behind' set expects him to embrace the Plastic Jebus when the Rapture comes. (Gene Lyons' take on this in the last 'Harper's' is a must-read.)

Posted by: ahem | Nov 6, 2004 3:39:30 PM

One final comment:

Do you know how much it costs to take a family to a NASCAR race these days? It's not cheap, let me tell you.

Posted by: ahem | Nov 6, 2004 3:44:34 PM

"I know these well-intentioned folk right down to the level of my DNA and they are not open to arguments against their close-minded beliefs."

I had an aunt and uncle who in the sixties were Nixon Republicans and a little racist who in the 80's converted to Catholicism and grew to loathe Republicans. Not a clue as to why. But maybe that is for the previous thread.
Brooks as pimp. I too imagine Brooks as secretly a contemptuous exploiter of Red Staters. But there is an idealization of rural life, a romanticization that may be in play. Maybe I need to read Brook's book, or Thoreau, or buy a "Green Acres" DVD for research.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 6, 2004 3:49:10 PM

I think Brooks is uncomfortable with the fact that so many of his fellow Republicans are intolerant Christian fundamentalists. Must deny and change the subject to terrorism - fast!

p.s. to Brian: Kristof is a Christian.

Posted by: sofia | Nov 6, 2004 3:55:27 PM

If I can add something else, I must say, I find it incredibly fustrating that Brooks plays with the unfairly attacked conservativism and liberal elitism themes again.

Maybe some of us do look down on conservatives for certain things, but does anyone doubt the feeling is mutual? As I said on another post on this blog, why is it okay to bash Massachusetts and not Texas? Conservative things are beyond criticism apparently, but anything even remotely liberal is so bizarre, it has to be wrong.

I haven't seen many people say this, but has anyone ever considered that people from the North are just less comfortable with being upfront about religion? That, I believe, has a lot to do with it.

Posted by: Brian | Nov 6, 2004 3:59:28 PM


Oops. Thanks for correcting my mistake.

Posted by: Brian | Nov 6, 2004 4:00:23 PM

Bob: or watch some old Blue Mountain movies.

Posted by: godoggo | Nov 6, 2004 4:11:25 PM

As I said on another post on this blog, why is it okay to bash Massachusetts and not Texas? Conservative things are beyond criticism apparently, but anything even remotely liberal is so bizarre, it has to be wrong.

Conservatives are better at playing the victim card than us liberals. At some point we'll actually feel a twinge of guilt about going on and on about how we're oppressed, whereas the Red Staters understand that the trick to playing the outraged minority is not to waver - not for a moment - even when it's clear that what you're claiming (e.g. the media's "liberal bias") is patently absurd.

Consider it the Constanza Corollary to faith-based politics: "It's not a lie if you believe it."

Posted by: oodja | Nov 6, 2004 4:13:34 PM

I grew up in Nebraska. I would like to second everyone who has been saying there IS a serious cultural divide, despite what hacks like Brooks are scribbling.

The poster above with family living on a central CA farm strikes a note very familiar to me.

You can argue all you want--pleasantly, good naturedly & respectfully pointing out the disparity between Bush's Talk & Bush's Walk, but it literally does no good. You are served up with talking points from Rush, Hannity, their pastor, etc, just as they serve up the standard anti-darwin talking points were a biologist kindly trying to explain the scientific method to them.

These are people whose values can't honestly be called American--think about Senator Inhofe this summer. Remember, he was more outraged about liberal handwringing over Abu Ghraib than the actual torture there!! These people think things like "Those damn A-rabs deserved it, can't you see that? We're protecting our country! All these rules & conventions are blabber on about are just holding us back & helping them; the whole lot of 'em should just be stuck in the chair, like we do over at the NE state Penn."

It is truly disconcerting, and sometimes I'm resigned to thinking our best hope to overcoming these cult-like forces is to wait for reality to intrude so viciously & undeniably that they & all their new recruits are rudely awakened to reality--be it a severe recession or whatever.

Sadly, I'm almost positive that when the terrorists strike us again--because really, George was right about 1 thing, you can't defeat terrorism, there's always going to be that one guy with the bomb in his gym bag/uhaul truck--Fox/Rush/VRWC will not hesitate in finding a way to somehow tar Dem's weakness as the cause & literally charge some folks with treason.

They haven't been screaming about "aid & comfort" like this for years just for kicks. I really believe they intend to start acting upon it sometime...

Posted by: J | Nov 6, 2004 4:19:10 PM

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