Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber. Isn't. Joe. Or a Plumber.

New York Times [blog], October 16, 2008, 1:30 pm

Joe in the Spotlight, Larry Rohter and Liz Robbins

also --

"Joe The Plumber Admits He Wasn't Undecided After All" at Daily Kos

1 comment:

Sarah said...

The media whirlwind around Joe the Plumber this week has made me think not so much about how our candidates' economic policies will affect ordinary Americans, but more about how ordinary Americans talk about politics.

Maybe racism is in the eye of the beholder, in this case mine, but what is one to make of Joe the Plumber comparing Barack Obama to Sammy Davis Jr., tap dancing around the issues? A NYT article, Real Deal on ‘Joe the Plumber’ Reveals New Slant {}, ends with Joe's Sammy Davis line. The journalist is clearly inviting us to note the racialism of Joe's discourse. I feel like I'm falling into a failure of civic and civil public debate here though. Shouldn't we be aware of the nuances of public speech and call out bigotry when we see it? Or are we now so touchy that we can't have a real conversation among different political points of view?

Joe, who voted Republican in the primary, told Katie Couric that "only the lever knows" whom he'll vote for next month. This appeal to the sanctity of the voting booth seems completely fair. Having grown up on the secret ballot, I didn't realize how late it had come to the American electoral system. A recent article in the New Yorker {} also points to some of the apparent downsides of the secret ballot: it was adopted in some states to make it harder for illiterate immigrants or blacks to vote; it may be related to decreasing voter turnout; and it has tended to squash public discussion. I'm glad I don't have to get past armed hooligans at my polling place, but is it possible that voting in secrecy has indeed helped to make a polite and open discussion of politics almost impossible? A most undemocratic effect.