Chris Bowers has an interesting post over at Mydd. It’s interesting to me because it is about something that I’ve been slightly obsessed about since the election.
For the first 4 or so days after November 2, I was as mad at my fellow citizens as I’ve ever been. I blamed Red America, which is roughly the same idea as Middle America, for electing the Bush Republicans, and for thereby destroying the country.
Then I began to realize that there is no Red State phenomenon. That this idea was invented by the Right to divide the country and solidify the fiction that ordinary people, with their values, were being oppressed by intellectual liberals. And that these intellectual elitists are out to destroy the very fabric of morality that exists (according to Rush and others) as a flame of pure America in the hearts of the Heartland.
As Bowers says, Middle America is not a real place:
“I have news for everyone — it is impossible for liberals and Democrats to win Middle America…This is because Middle America, as it is presently conceived, exists purely as a rhetorical creation of conservatives. It is a talking point, a frame, a soundbite, a form of spin.
Sadly, we not only accept the narrative, but actively buy into the Middle America stereotype. Google News registered 720 hits for the exact phrase “Middle America” since November 3rd from U.S. news sources. Considering the frequency with which the term is used in our own country, one would think it is an actual location rather than a rhetorical device.”
There are stereotypes that have been invented to account for just about anything one can think of. “People who get AIDS are immoral,” is one. “Liberals want to force everyone to be an atheist” is another. I’m guilty of stereotypical thinking – I don’t know anyone who isn’t. It’s a bit of a minefield just getting through a day without reverting to some stereotype. They are familiar ideas that make it possible to dismiss reality. Enough people believe them – “homosexuals have an agenda: To force their lifestyle on Middle America,” – and they become powerful tools for manipulation. </p.
So to everyone whom I may have annoyed by harping on this, say, in comments at Eschaton, I do it because this is exactly what I have learned from our loss. If we don’t stop buying into these conservative talking points about what this country is, we are not going to be able to move off this dime. I want us to think new thoughts and get creative. It’s harder not to think in talking points than it is to use them, but continuing in the same old thinking is stagnant, and is holding progressives back, I believe.