Salena Zito

INDIANA, Pa. – Turn the corner onto Philadelphia Street in this small Western Pennsylvania town, and you might be on the main street of Bedford Falls, the mythical town in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life.

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“This is a town where you hear people tell each other ‘Merry Christmas’ without ever considering if it is politically correct,” said Chris Carter of Dayton, Ohio, here for the day on business.

Earlier Carter, 30, posed for a picture with the statue of Jimmy Stewart, Indiana’s hometown everyman.

Carter thinks places like Indiana or his hometown of Dayton are overlooked by the White House and Congress, but “that is okay with me. We thrive in spite of government’s lack of attention to our concerns, not fail.”

His sentiment was said without attending a “Tea Party” or railing against an elected official at a town hall – the media’s usual caricature of people who vent against Washington.

Main Street America has entered an era of populism that embraces neither party. People are tired of government bailouts, spending and unchecked corruption, as well as the media’s perceived lack of curiosity or investigation into all three.

They are really tired of being told their values and way of life are not politically correct.

"It has now become a cliché to say that the Washington elite do not understand people that live outside of their bubble, but clichés are not created in a vacuum," says Michael Scott, who owns a photography studio near the high school here.

"Politicians used to be known as statesmen," he explains. "They owned businesses in their hometowns and made about the same amount of money that the average voter did, keeping them in touch with who they represented."

"Today, well, not so much," says Jamey Snyder, one of the proprietors of The Coney Island, a legendary local college bar. Snyder grew up in Elmira, N.Y.; when he married his wife, Dee Dee, he became part of the celebrated McQuaide bar family.

As on many small-town main streets, Philadelphia Street is strung light pole-to-light pole with twinkling Christmas lights and dangling snowflakes. Pedestrians are treated to Jimmy Stewart’s folksy voice at crosswalks, guiding them across intersections.

“We are an hour from everywhere,” says Scott Cramer, 33, a loan officer who came here to attend college and never left. “But we may as well be a million miles from Washington.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.