“Real” Americans? Really?

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 16:39 EDT
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The fact that McCain/Palin is actively pursuing the unabashedly fascist tactic of dividing Americans into “real” Americans and the rest of us* has caused me to do some personal accounting. After all, I’ve been both a “real” American and a “fake” one in my time. (“Real” seems to indicate a white person living in a rural area. Contrary to media stereotypes, “rural” is not synonymous with “white”.) And when I lived in “real” America—a small, Republican-dominated town—I can assure you we didn’t think of ourselves as living in anywhere “real”. If anything, the joke around town was that we were far away from civilization, and that if you didn’t get out to visit the real world on occasion, you’d lose your perspective.

From that point of view, I have to say that the idiots who puff themselves up about being “real” Americans are reacting defensively. When you live in a small town, you’re acutely aware of the fact that the national character is defined in no small part by what happens in the cities. When people think of Texas, they think “Dallas”, “San Antonio” or “Houston”. They sure as fuck don’t think, “Alpine”. And because that will never change, politicians will have a go-to way forever to press the resentment button and get people into a place where they’re bickering over who is a “real” American. Unfortunately, as we’re seeing now, that has a strong potential to slide into outright fascist thinking, where huge parts of the population are deemed illegitimate voters, and any means necessary are invoked to disempower them.

One cure would be to change the electoral college so it more closely reflects the actual will of the voters. That Obama could get 55% of the vote and still lose is a travesty. Rural voters have a toxic mix of having more than one vote per person in the final shakeout of things, but they feel left out of society because the cultural and political centers that define America are in the cities. It tempts them to use their power to punish the rest of us. We could either move to a system where states split up electoral votes, or better yet, abolish the electoral college altogether. If Democrats get a strong majority and win the Presidency, they need to make this a priority.

*A tactic that won’t help them win, but scarily will help them nurture a sense of grievance that will allow Republican voters to embrace other fascist tactics, such as storming ballot-counting buildings or staking out polling places to intimidate voters they consider illegitimate, which is already happening.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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