There are few things more annoying in this country than the constant drumbeat of who is and who is not a "typical" American. That we continually feel the need to define some people as more American than other people and engage in endless pissing contests over abstract concepts such as patriotism is both tiresome and completely unhealthy.

The fight continues with conservative pundit, Michael Barone, and his latest article entitled "No Permanent Majorities in America". While the crux of the argument is fine, that permanent majorities are unrealistic, the basis on which he comes to this conclusion is filled with little more than conjecture and the same old divisive politics I am hoping people will soon reject.

Democrats are now hoping that their party can achieve something like permanent majority status.
I know of NO Democrat who is seriously believing that we will attain ANYTHING like a permanent majority status. While this may have been the goal of Karl Rove, it is not and should not be the goal of Democrats. Why? Frankly, because it is stupid to believe that the electorate will allow one party to rule permanently. Is it possible that the Democratic Party could do such an amazing job of governance that people will continue electing them for a long time to come? Sure, but it is equally possible and probably more likely that the party will get kicked to the curb at some point in the future because political parties and those individuals within the parties screw up all the time and deserve to be punished for those screw ups.

Far more egregious than this baseless statement is the manner in which Barone tries to prove that permanent majorities are unsustainable:

The Republican Party throughout our history has been a party whose core constituency has been those who are considered, by themselves and by others, to be typical Americans. In the 19th century, that meant white Northern Protestants. Today, it means white married Christians.

The Democratic Party throughout our history has been the party whose core constituencies have been those who are considered, by themselves and by others, to be something other than typical Americans. In the 19th century, that meant white Southerners and big city Catholics. Today, it means blacks and singles and seculars and those with postgraduate degrees.

This is such oversimplified garbage that it is difficult for me to know where to begin with the proverbial beat down. The Republican Party as "typical Americans" vs. the Democratic Party as "something other than typical"? Does it concern Barone at all that he has just defined the likes of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, & Jackson (ALL white southernors and ostensibly the beginnings of the Democratic Party) as something other? Does it concern him at all that he has explicitly made the claim that the only typical Americans during the 19th century were white Northern Protestants? One has to wonder what empirical evidence he might have to prove such a baseless claim? Does he realize that his explanations are so broad and so vague as to leave them utterly without merit?

Had he couched his arguments with the reality that the Republican Party has typically been the party of the dominant class while the Democratic Party has been typically a collection of different minority and special interest groups, I would have been fine. However, he chose the divisive nature of typical vs. atypical to define these parties in order to make the claim that throughout its history the Democrats have not been as "American" as the Republicans.

Being a minority or being a resident of a particular region or being a member of a political party makes you no less typical than any other American in this country. Once people start actually believing that and recognizing that we will all be better off and we will not have to have these useless debates about who is more "America". I will say this, however, that if the Republican Party continues to use this style of divisive rhetoric, then perhaps we will have some sort of sustained majority or perhaps it will be replaced by another party which serves to unite rather than divide.


3 responses to "There You Go Again, Defining 'Typical' Americans"

  1. Aubrey Immelman On January 4, 2009 at 8:00 PM

    In lukewarm defense of Michael Barone, at least he stopped short of declaring, "What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look -- I wish they would -- I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are typical Americans or atypical Americans."

  2. Political Muse On January 4, 2009 at 8:04 PM

    Yes, at the very least he didn't advocate a full on witch hunt. I mean what kind of crazy psycho would do that?

  3. eric zaetsch On January 5, 2009 at 2:41 PM

    Throughout our history is a strange term to apply to a party that has not existed throughout our history.

    Every party has been a coalition of elitists of some kind, trying to appeal to more than half of those able to vote who bothered to - registered voters. Bryan and Teddy R. were rocking the boat, but neither was typical of much of anything. Nor did either tip over the boat.

    Are the Kennedys more typical of something than the Bushes?

    What is Jason Lewis typical of?

    Or is that choosing too easy a target?