SmallTown is, if nothing else, small. So everyone goes to vote at one of our two elementary schools. Yesterday morning when I showed up it was a zoo. Seeing all of my fellow-citizens turning up kindled a faint hope that SmallTown might go for Obama. Not a chance. McCain won by a couple hundred votes. Earl Sholley almost beat out Barney. Republican bastions like Dover, Sherborn, Dedham went for Obama. Not SmallTown.
The Republicans here in SmallTown mirror important aspects of the Republican party nationwide. It’s not so much the culture wars here. But it is what’s been called the politics of resentment. It’s the conviction that elitist Democratic politicians look down their noses at us “regular” Republican folks. This view is often expressed angrily. And us folks have four points in their political compass-all of them called “lower taxes.” They don’t really want “smaller government.” They know that’s just a slogan, and besides, they like their public services just fine. They just don’t want to pay for quality services. My wife calls them the B-minus Republicans. Let’s aim for mediocrity even though we will probably fall short of that mark.
SmallTown Republicans tend to be folks who, although they didn’t excel in school, nonetheless are pretty well off – SmallTown has one of the highest median household incomes in the state. This justifies their world view that concern with ideas doesn’t mean success at least in financial terms. An override for the SmallTown schools? We think they are just fine as is. So, of course, they resonated strongly with George Bush, the C-average student who showed up all those smarty-pants types. At least for a while.
And Obama? His core attributes: coolness, eloquence, focus they find disturbing. He’s just an elitist who looks down on folks like them. More angry feelings ensue.
What I’m pondering today is, going forward, what kind of political party is shaped by such views? We have a party with people who are well off but feel resentful and whose aspirations are fairly limited. It’s not a pretty picture, either here or at the national level.