Kathleen Parker

As stunned Democrats scratch the dry earth for signs and glance heavenward for clues to the strange universe that re-elected George W. Bush, it seems unduly cruel to withhold what Ordinary Americans have known all along.

Herewith a few hints: Michael Moore, Bruce Springsteen, P. Diddy, Paris Hilton, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Barbra Streisand, Jon Bon Jovi, Uma Thurman, Kirsten Dunst, Leonardo DiCaprio, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Ron Reagan, MoveOn.org, Dan Rather, the French - and everyone else who would be speaking German today if not for the bravery and sacrifice of Ordinary Americans who are today held in such contempt by all of the above.

It's the elitism, mes freres.

Here's another clue: When courting voters in flyover states, one does not say: "I love you, stupid redneck morons." Especially not when sporting biking tights and straddling an $8,000 two-wheeler - a dollar amount, incidentally, that many Ordinary Americans consider a life's savings.

Not that John F. Kerry ever said such, but he didn't have to. Preening in luxury and surrounded by celebrity friends contemptuous of the values ordinary Americans hold dear, he might as well have waltzed down Beale Street whistling Dixie.

Never has a politician been so out of touch with the voters whose goals he purportedly shares. Nor a party so out of tune with the nation's defining song: "God Bless America."

The folks who re-elected Bush not only voted for the man they felt best represents their interests, but also against a culture they see as alien and hostile. The Bush vote was equally a protest against Hollywood, an increasingly untrustworthy media and the puerile Michael Moore contingent.

What those three cultural entities have in common as viewed from America's heartland is an attitude of effete superiority that isn't just untenable, but despised. In Thursday's New York Times, cosmopolitan New Yorkers grappling with Kerry's unthinkable defeat, told the story.

Beverly Camhe, a film producer; Zito Joseph, a retired psychiatrist; and Roberta Kimmel Cohn, an art dealer, elite New Yorkers all, were stunned. In Joseph's words, Bush voters are "obtuse," "short-sighted," "redneck," "shoot-from-the-hip" religious literalists.

 "New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what's going to injure masses of people is not good for us," said Joseph, as he shared coffee and cigarettes with Cohn at an outdoor caf?/P>

The two-America divide isn't fiction after all. And the division, as nearly everyone has noted, is about values. But what the Democrats got wrong, and what the New York Times subjects seem to be missing, is that traditional values and sophistication are not mutually exclusive. Nor does sophistication equate to intelligence, we hasten to add.

People who believe in heterosexual marriage because the traditional family model best serves children and therefore society are not ipso facto homophobic. Americans vexed about our casual disregard for human life are not necessarily Stepford-Neanderthals. And, those people who believe in some power greater than themselves are not always rubes.

In small towns across the nation, especially in the Deep South, one can find plenty of well-traveled, multilingual, latte-loving, Ivy-educated Ph.D.s, if that's your measure of sophistication. But they're not snobs, nor do they sneer at people who pay more than lip service to traditional values. In fact, they often share those very values in quiet, thoughtful, deliberative ways.

The Democratic Party is now entering the post-election navel-gazing stage of self-recrimination and analysis. How did it lose the very people who are supposed to be its target constituents? The puzzle is not that the Democrats lost, but that they can't see how. Let me make it simple:

When Michael Moore, the unkempt, perennially juvenile propagandist is the face of your party, you lose the grown-ups. When a gum-smacking Ben Affleck is your most articulate celebrity spokesman, you lose regular folks too busy with bills and children to (a) give a rip what Ben Affleck thinks; (b) figure out who he is.

When the news media position, inflate or distort news to advance their political agenda, you lose fair-minded Americans who would rather go with an ordinary man who shares their values than with the pampered darling of the New York bistro set. In a nutshell.

Getting back to real America won't be an easy trip for many of those now seeking answers. As any of those evangelical Christians who voted Bush will tell you, you have to believe before you can see.


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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