Rubes, Barbarians and the TVA

Tufts Magazine, 2013, Colin Woodard, Illustration by Brian Stauffer
Tufts Magazine, 2013, Colin Woodard, Illustration by Brian Stauffer


Watching Bill Maher after dinner is entertaining.  He has guests who talk about interesting issues in engaging conversation.  For me, he also has a distracting penchant for the “F” work and the “R” (Rube) word is used on the show.

In my opinion denouncing “rubes” is not useful.  For some, it may have a “shock-jock” entertainment value, but in my opinion it is low-brow exchange, like an ethnic joke.  In many “better” venues, the discussion always seems to move towards the alleged stupidity of America’s “rubes” who by clinging to their coal, gasoline, Bibles, birth-certificate-determined-bathrooms, American jobs, and guns are retrogressive citizens.   The stated truth for many is their tenacity to these life-choices simply distracts us from the self-evident truths buttressing America’s new economy.

One of Bill’s recent guests, the liberal author Thomas Frank, had much to say about this phenomenon in his book Listen, Liberal.  The focus of the book is that our nation is being shaped for the “new economy”.  The thrust is to shed labor as a major constituency for the Democratic Party.  Instead of the blue collar worker and formerly the smaller farmer, the primary constituency of the party has become the elite, educated professional and the manager.  The alliances which have been created are powerful, but by-and-large, they leave out the high school educated (or less) worker that once was such a strong component of the Party.  We are a nation of urban area “metros” and old economy “retros” – separate and unequal.

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