Somewhere, over the rainbow, a blog is born. A blog for Kansas. A blog for America. A blog by a reporter with a difficult-to-pronounce last name. But most importantly, a blog that is AMERICA'S ONLY PLACE dedicated to the vital intersection of politics and Sunflowers. The Heartland gods nod in wise approval.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Whatza matter

With the post-election hand-wringing, Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" is back in the news, cited in all sorts of attempts to understand red states. Links talking about it in the battle for Heartland Hearts (and minds) are here and here and here and here. Way to catch the zeitgeist, Tom.

Knight Ridder reporter Mary Sanchez has a good piece on flyover stereotyping, talking about how media overreacts to the blue-state/red state paradigm. Note that she mentions the same NYTimes piece I cited yesterday:

Yes, the Midwest is conservative. Yes, people in Middle America value faith. Yes, people here believe in living morally.

But a two-word phrase from an exit poll can hardly explain the motives of this many voters. Deciphering what "moral values" means to every individual is a difficult task.

The easy answer is to latch onto another phrase in explanation. So we get gays and guns. In media circles, this sort of thing is called "flyover journalism." Reporters who aren't really connected to the people and places they are trying to cover take snippets of fact and use them to paint broad strokes.

A bigger truth may simply go back to the Bible Belt concept. For many Middle Americans, faith, more specifically going to church, plays a huge role in family background. And people turn to faith in times of uncertainty. A war in Afghanistan. A war in Iraq. Continued terror threats.

But this brand of religious conservative gets tweaked to mean backward as well. Take this comment from a New Yorker quoted in a New York Times story about the dismay blue state people feel toward the red state people:

"They're very 1950s," one woman was quoted as saying of the Midwest. "When I go back there, I feel like I'm in a time warp."

And herein lies the problem of perception. ...

.... So John Ashcroft is gone, and somehow I bet everyone reading this space has an opinion on that. Electing to bypass the Patriot Act/Gitmo controversies, I'm going to go with a link to conservative columnist Terence Jeffrey, who simply says, "Thank you."

He kept our homeland safe from terrorists.

That is the legacy of John Ashcroft's service as attorney general. No matter what else he achieves in his already tremendously accomplished career, history will remember him for this. Americans owe Ashcroft a great debt of gratitude for the central role he played in securing our neighborhoods and towns in the three years following September 11, 2001.