Wednesday, February 1

Real live Bushies!

Margaret Mead would be proud of Washington Post reporter David Finkel, who braved the red heart of the reddest of red States to appall and enthrall sophisticated East Coast readers with tales of real live Bush supporters in their native habitat.

Like a Portugese mariner returning to the court of Henry the Navigator with ripping yarns of kraken and tribes of tiny black men, Finkel breathlessly reports:

. . . you pull into Gator's Drive Inn, where the customer at the front of the line is ordering a patty melt.

"Patty melts! No one makes patty melts anymore," [an out of towner] is saying to the counterman, Ryan Louderman, who knew she wasn't local as soon as he heard the sound of a car being locked. "Can I get it without onions?" she says. "And can I get mustard? On the side? Dijon mustard?"

. . . "Dijon mustard," Louderman says as the woman drives away. "I don't know what Dijon mustard is. Don't care to find out, either."

{Gasp!} Think of what they'd say about mango coulis!

In Randolph, though -- where Bush received 95.6 percent of the vote and support for him continues to be nearly unanimous -- the mind-set is even more specific to a place that seems less a part of the modern United States than insulated from it. It isn't just mustard, but everything.

No! It's not just the mustard?

Illegal immigrants? Not here, where everyone is fond of Ramon, who came long ago from Mexico and is married to the Catholic woman, who is the one non-Mormon everyone mentions when the conversation turns to religious diversity. As for racial diversity, everyone says there are three African Americans in the county, including the twins on the high school cheerleading squad, which also includes a Hispanic . . .

No illegal immigrants? But . . . who cuts the grass? Or drives the kids to clarinet lessons?

One church, where everyone gathered to welcome the young man home from Iraq with ice cream.

How quaint! {smirk}

"I'm the boss, applesauce," [one lady's] mother used to say, and Orton can imagine Bush liking that sentence as much as she does.

"Don't be wise, bubble eyes, or I'll knock you down to peanut size." That, too.

She didn't! What else?

In comes Blair Hurd, the high school shop teacher, who says: "This whole thing with domestic spying? I think there's a little bit of it that needs to go on. I do."

Ohmigod! NO . . . WAY!

Charlene's mother-in-law, who is 77 and works at Gator's part time because Social Security isn't quite enough to finance her modest life. "I think [Bush]'s doing a good job," she says, her voice hoarse from having a tube pushed down her throat. That happened when she went to the dentist to have a tooth pulled and she suddenly stopped breathing, and then passed out. She woke up in the hospital emergency room, where, once she was stable, the dentist finished yanking out the tooth.

Adapt to your circumstances, she says. That's what the dentist did, that's what Bush has done, and that's what she tries to do, too. "I myself have to make my life better," she says.

Who are these people!?!

"Hey, Aaron," Orton says, and in comes a young man who is 16, and who is considered one of Rich County's three African Americans* even though he considers himself a mix of a white mother and black father.

"I enjoy pushing cows, chasing girls and shooting guns," he says of who he has become here.

Also: "I'm a Republican."

{recoil} Noooooooooooh!

And one more thing: "I love it here. I love the people here. It's a small town. Everybody knows everybody. I wave at everybody; everybody waves back."

That poor, poor boy! He has no idea.

"I don't think there's anything [Bush] could say [in the State of the Union address] that would make me dislike him," [the Diner owner] says.

Wow! I mean. . . just wow! WOW!

Despite Finkel's heavy-handed (and, frankly, offensive) attempts to show how Bush has personally hurt the people of Randolph, Utah (I didn't quote the worst ones), this anthropological demagoguery misses its mark. The character of Randolph's denizens shines through. They come across as trusting, hard-working, self-reliant, welcoming (note the comments by one the few non-white teens) law-abiding, and, most importantly, content. As the town's self-described "pseudo intellectual," who voted for Kerry, says in a passage I didn't quote: "These are good people."

The politics of envy sails over the heads of industrious, happy voters, so it isn't surprising that Kerry and Edwards's "two Americas" tune sounded off-key in Randolph. If they don't have much by the standards of those two multi-millionaires, or by the standards of Washington Post-readers, that doesn't seem to bother them. They aren't interested in shaking down someone better off than them to benefit themselves. I know that this attitude befuddles and irritates many on the left, but it is a sure sign of a strong, stable society. "I myself have to make my life better." Words to live by. Well, if you take out the "myself" (even I have my coastal biases).

* If there are only three African Americans in the county, and two are on the high school cheerleading squad, and Aaron is only 16, then where are their parents? Did Finkel do the math on this?