Sunday, November 2, 2008

Joe the Plumber and the undoing of John McCain

By Umberto Lorcan

John McCain’s failed run to clasp the office of the Presidency of the United States was a fait accompli long before the votes were counted on November 4th, the pundits will say. Had he ran a different campaign, he might have won, other insiders will say. It was the vice-presidential pick of Sarah Palin that cost him the support of independent voters, talking heads will angrily shout to each other on CNN. Senator John McCain has found it difficult to find a clear message, or more precisely, an alternative to Senator Barack Obama’s message of change. Therefore, he has capitulated to the worst factions in the Republic party. The cause of this is simple: desperation.

As William Burroughs puts it, “desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” This quote captures the pathetic and ubiquitous references to “Joe the Plumber” in last week’s debate between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain at Hofstra University. But before we continue, let’s put this in context. While Sen. Obama was campaigning in Toledo, Ohio, a man named Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, or more commonly refer to as “Joe the Plumber,” asked Sen. Obama a question: “He said that he was getting ready to buy a company that earned about a quarter of a million dollars a year, and he asked if his taxes would rise under Obama’s economic plan,” according to Steve Coll from the New Yorker magazine. Sen. Obama replied, “I do believe that for folks like me who’ve worked hard but frankly also been lucky, I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there. . . . She can barely make the rent. . . . And I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody” (qtd. in the New Yorker). Subsequently, Wurzelbacher appeared on Fox News denouncing Sen. Obama as a socialist (Coll). Due to the extensive media coverage, Wurzelbacker’s grievances were picked up for political expediency by the McCain camp. For instance, the “polite argument” that people have made while Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama were vying for their party’s nomination was that Sen. Clinton could connect with white working-class voters, whereas Sen. Obama, despite the fact that he had a working-class upbringing and went to college on scholarships, was an elitist who didn’t understand the common white folk.

Now, the McCain campaign has espoused the same approach in a desperate attempt to appeal to the worst in people. That is, the issue is not that Sen. Obama cannot connect with white working-class voters. Rather, the issue is that Sen. Obama is a black man with a chance of becoming Chief-executive of the United States of America. The McCain campaign understands that. Therefore, they have seized the opportunity to trump up this image of Wurzelbacker as the self-made man, ignoring the racial vitriol they are encouraging.

But a problem has arisen with this strategy: Mr. Wurszelbacker is not the man for the role the McCain campaign had hoped to exploit. First, he does not have a license to work as a plumber (Coll). Secondly, he owes the government taxes (Coll). Thirdly, he won’t be making enough money to enter the “high income bracket that he had mentioned to [Sen.] Obama” (Coll).
November 4th, 2008, disillusion Republicans gather around to mourn the hopes of a feisty Senator from Arizona. Wondering what if... The “Joes” in Idaho gather around the kitchen table, saying tell me ain’t so Joe?

The red and blue states conflate into one country heading in a new direction. New politics, the change begins to sprout from the verdure of the Alleghenies to the pine cones of the Rockies, to the halls of congress, to the weaken industries of our country, to the homes of every American. The American people celebrate a new beginning.


  1. I think it is very naive indeed to believe Sen. Obama, if elected, will remake the social and political landscape of the United States. Instead, people should become the agents of the change they want and need and thus become the force that creates new alternatives to governance.If we simply sit-on our grievances and ideals for a more equitable society, we foreclose REAL change. Furthermore, an Obama presidency will simply reproduce the the same environment in which money has a stronghold on democracy and social and political change.(Just look at the outrageous amount of money Sen. Obama has spent on his campaign as an indicator of his "new" politics.) Unlike eggs, ideals and alternatives don't hatch on inaction. Also, please quit it with the prophetic romanticizing of Sen. Obama; he is simply a shrewd politician and rhetoritician, not God. Nevertheless, I understand the historical aspect of his candidacy for many people; I just want to say that he is not the be all and end all of democracy and the future of the world as we know it. Yes, some things might change like in all new administrations. Let's just not delude ourselves into buying into the notion of fundamental restructuring of American society. Until that day, H**** la v******!


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