At a panel on election rhetoric the other day, a colleague said that, at the end of the race, McCain/Palin have turned to arguments about status as a last-ditch attempt to connect with voters. It’s not about what you need, what policies we offer, etc., it’s about how you identify with a particular status: Joe Plumber, “real Americans,” etc. — Cara Finnegan. (Cara is professor of Rhetoric, Communication History, and Photography at University of Illinois, the moderator of the BAGnewsNotes Salon, and she blogs at first efforts.)
Don’t think, if/when Obama is elected, the elitist/anti-intellectual attack (with its racist “uppity” subtext) is going anywhere. Rather, this photo marks the re-start point from which the fundamentalist conservatives regroup.
It’s questionable how much or how consistently the ambitious Palin would identify herself with the boxed-in term in the photo, but she has certainly structured her whole political reason-for-being around this identity (and excuse). Come November 5th, “Joe the Plumber,” the specific loose cannon, might himself slip away, but look for his spirit (at the hands of Sarah, Mike and all their friends) to morph into: Obama vs. Average Joe (or Joan).
(image: Carol Guzy-The Washington Post. Oct. 27, 2008. Leesburg, Va. image from: WAPO Day in Photos, Oct. 28, 2008 )