The Myth and Power Of Joe The Plumber

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 19:30

In what has to be the stupidest day of the campaign since the "Lipstick on a Pig" incident, there are nearly 4,000 Google News results for "Joe the Plumber" today. Now, it turns out that he isn't named Joe, isn't a Plumber, isn't an undecided voter, isn't even properly registered to vote, and doesn't even pay taxes. Hard to imagine that many falsehoods packed into a single story of this utterly minimal consequence, but never underestimate the degree to which dominant news stories can be based on mendacity, especially when they are pushed by Republican campaigns.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: The Myth and Power Of Joe The Plumber
The reason the story is so popular is almost certainly connected to the national, established media's continuing fetish for socially conservative whites s the dominant archetype for swing voters in America. This obsession has a long history, with an almost uninterrupted lineage dating from the silent majority, through the southern strategy, Reagan Democrats, soccer Moms, Bubbas, and on to "values voters" in our own decade. It is an obsession that came out frequently in this campaign in the hundreds of stories about Obama's supposed problems with socially conservative white Democrats, and how those problems posed a barrier to winning the Presidency. If you can't win the socially conservative white vote, you supposedly can't win national elections. Not-Joe the Not-Plumber is just the latest instance of this type of story, which grants an absurd amount of power to socially conservative whites in our national political discourse.

A couple hours ago, Kos posted a list of victories Democrats could score this year that would collectively "break the spirits" of Republicans. One bit that I would like to add to the list is for Obama to lose whites, and get really crushed among non-college educated whites, and yet still win the election handily. This is entirely possible, as Democrats lost white voters in 2006 and yet still cruised to a big victory in the national vote for the U.S. House.  I can't wait for the day when pundits realize it is possible to win national elections without a majority, or really even coming close to a majority, among socially conservative white voters. Hopefully, it will come this year, and we can move one step closer to removing a major anchor that has dragged American politics and media rightward for three or four decades now.

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Seriously, Brody (4.00 / 3)
And let me just quote Matt Yglesias, who says, in regard to Matt Bai's forthcoming NYT magazine article:

Matt Bai writes about Barack Obama's attempts "to persuade working-class and rural white guys that he is not the elitist, alien figure they may be inclined to think he is."

There's nothing wrong with looking at that subject, of course. But it's curious to me that the press often seems to act as if working-class (defined as lacking college degrees) white men get triple votes or something. Slice the population up according to white and non-white. According to male and female. And according to college and non-college. Well, white people are more conservative than non-white people. And male people are more conservative than female people. And college graduates are less conservative than those who lack college degrees. Thus, when you look at white men who haven't graduated from college, you're looking at an extremely conservative group of people relative to the population at large. When you add on additional adjectives like "gun-toting" and/or "churchgoing" you're looking at an even more conservative subset of the population. At the end of the day, it's inevitable that a Democrat is going to lose this demographic.

Now margins matter, of course. Losing white working class men by 25 points isn't the same as losing them by 20 points. But margins count for other groups. Getting 95 percent of the black vote is better than getting 85 percent of the black vote. Winning white women by four points is better than losing white women by two points.

And, I mean, just to add the obvious point... (4.00 / 6)
Where are the stories about McCain's inability to connect with black voters? Or Hispanic voters? Or voters who live in big cities?  

[ Parent ]
Thank you... (4.00 / 1)
Seemed like every diary on Kos and many of the quick hits today were all about the supposed Joe the Plumber...

It was then I realized that McCain may have actually won the debate more than we thought, since he effectively drove the entire narrative for today with this stupid Joe the Plumber garbage, rather than what a crappy performance he turned in.  And Joe the Plumber is voting for McCain, you say?  Well, I'll be... Maybe we should all vote for McCain now because Joe the Plumber is.

McCain didn't drive the narrative (4.00 / 3)

 The media drove it for him.

 The snap polls had Obama winning the debate handily. The media just pretended they never happened and went right back to their script.

 If Obama wins, few things will be more satisfying than watching a few talking heads commit suicide on the air.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
I don't think there are going to be many of those suicides (0.00 / 0)
The talking heads all know that Obama is overwhelmingly likely to win, even the ones who still occasionally insist on pretending that "it's too close to call," for the sake of their own ratings.

Their willingness to go all-Joe-the-Plumber, all-the-time is because they're always suckers for stupid stuff like that.  

[ Parent ]
I think people do kind of love Joe the Plumber (4.00 / 4)
not the actual person, but this weird concept that McCain was obsessed with.

I kind of love Joe the Plumber.

It's hilarious.  I was laughing my rear end off by the end of the debate whenever McCain started talking about his friend Joe the Plumber.

Saturday Night Live is gonna have a field day with Joe the Plumber.  He might be funnier than Sarah Palin.

[ Parent ]
Agreed! (0.00 / 0)
We're all tired of this campaign, we deserve a little bit of Joe the Plumber to spice things up. Even Sarah Palin, funny as she is, it's only a so-long-as-she-never-ever-becomes-president funny. Joe the Plumber gives you the comedy without the anxiety.

[ Parent ]
I think a lot of it is that even our MSM runs out of ways to say (0.00 / 0)
"John McCain is an angry old kook."

[ Parent ]
Definitely SNL! (4.00 / 1)
The thought of Joe The Plumber on SNL put a bounce in my step this afternoon. You betcha!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
There is a near 100% chance that his character will be on SNL (4.00 / 2)
It would be a profound act of artistic malpractice to not do so. Maybe they can ask Alec Baldwin to play him, since he does the Heavy so well. Or maybe Marc Wahlberg. Goats optional. Heh.

I can also see a line of talking Joe the Plumber Christmas toys, screen savers, Xbox games, cell phone ringers, etc., Along with, of course, ones for McCain and Palin.

I can see That One from my toilet!

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
The Silent-No-More Majority /snark/ (4.00 / 2)
There would be such poetic justice in Obama losing these voters and still crushing John McCain.  These "socially conservative whites" like to lay claim to underdog status by pretending that they're some sort of voiceless minority.  In fact, this supposed underdog status is a large part of their media appeal as swing voters.  

"Hooray!  The apolitical, harried soccer mom finally gets her shot at political power!"  "Oh boy!  Backstage Bubba finally gets a moment in the spotlight!"  This is the underdog appeal of the silent-no-more majority.

Well, playing at minority status is all fun and games when you're actually a member of a hegemonic racial/economic bloc.  But, as my mother might say, make that face too long and it just might stick.

Oh, how I would love for "socially conservative whites" to become the beleaguered minority they've always pretended to be!

I would prefer that he wins (4.00 / 1)
without NEEDING the votes of conservative whites to win, but having nevertheless secured the votes of a significant number of them. There is a difference between needing and wanting. The more of them that Obama and progressives can win over, the better for all, as it just increases his mandate, and makes it easier for him to do what he needs to do.

And, also, harder for him to NOT do it.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

Obamanation.... (0.00 / 1)
What exactly does the One need to do??  Redistribute my wealth to some lazy liberal loser who won't work for his own?  Take my right to conservative speech because it doesn't fit the left wing agenda?  Drive jobs out of this country by raising taxes on the only people who create jobs?  Reduce military capability to the point we are defenseless?  Take away our ability to track and defeat terrorists?  Give away our sovereign rights as a nation to the UN?  Create endless government programs that run as efficiently as the current ones?  Take my gun? Give more rights to illegal aliens?  Make our health care as wonderful as Canada?  Call CO2 a pollutant although plants need it for photo synthesis?  Charge us to breathe CO2?  Turn our country into a backwards third world socialist state?  Make it legal to kill unborn children, but protect convicted murders on death row?  Teach our kids that there is no God but Obama?  Talk about a used car salesman....Obama has the sheeple right were he wants them....

Thanks but no thanks.

[ Parent ]
Are you Dino Rossi? (0.00 / 0)
Cuz with all those scary librul monster straw men, you sure sound like Mr. "GOP Party" Douchebag himself. Seriously, there's an inpatient mental clinic missing a patient. I suggest that you check yourself back in before you do yourself or others some harm.

Or is this semi-clever snark? Heh?

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Could have been a better story, but... (0.00 / 0)
he isn't named Joe, isn't a Plumber, isn't an undecided voter, isn't even properly registered to vote, and doesn't even pay taxes.

This by itself demonstrates the competence of the McCain campaign.  

Myth of Joe the Plumber (0.00 / 0)
Now, it turns out that he isn't named Joe, isn't a Plumber, isn't an undecided voter, isn't even properly registered to vote, and doesn't even pay taxes.

My goodness, he must be a Liberal Democrat by that description!!  We have many cases of this person in Seattle.....wrong name, not properly registered, doesn't pay taxes, isn't undecided (because ACORN already voted for them).  AMAZING coincidence.....???  I think not.  He was a Liberal plant.  I am surpised that the Messiah didn't recognize one of his own plants.....must not be as smart as you all think.  He needs a different three letter word...JOBS.  Oh, I mean JOB.  Too funny.

Joe (4.00 / 1)
The funniest thing about Joe the Plumber is that nobody anywhere is (or can) dispute(ing) his philosophy, so they assail the man instead. It displays the Left's incredible weak mindedness.

So here's your chance, liberals: Why should the government force Joe (once he buys the business) to give money to folks who haven't earned it? Why don't we just make it legal for anyone who can prove they're below the poverty line to smuggle cans of food out of Apu's Kwik-E-Mart? Seriously, WHAT RIGHT DO THEY HAVE TO JOE'S MONEY? I guess it's not theft if enough people look the other way, ay?

Dumbass socialists.

I own my own retail business. I'd be happy to hit $50,000 this year. (Won't happen.) But I still don't think I deserve Joe's money, like so many economic parasites do. Regardless of my income, if the government pulled that crap on me, I'd do just what businesses do when money gets tight: I'd fire a couple employees. Otherwise my business goes under and nobody has a job. Duh. I mean, I already pay more than minimum wage (in Oregon), but my generosity has limits, especially when my business is on the line.

What is it about socialists that they can't grasp this simple concept: If I work harder and can't keep what I EARN, I'll just stop working harder. I won't suffer for it; potential employees would. Just ask the USSR. That was a hotbed for motivated workers and boisterous growth, wasn't it? The reason China is experience such astounding growth is because the gov there is moving toward capitalist policies. When people keep what they make, THEY WORK HARDER and everbody prospers! Duh.  


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