Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive!
CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Joe the Plumber Rides Again

by DAVID MACARAY

On October 25, Samuel Wurzelbacher (aka Joe the Plumber) announced he would be seeking a seat in the U.S. Congress, running as a Republican, representing Ohio’s 9th congressional district.  The 9th is currently represented by Democrat Marcy Kaptur, who’s expected to be challenged in the primary by Dennis Kucinich who lost his seat as a result of redistricting (his district was combined with Kaptur’s).

Those who followed the 2008 presidential campaign will remember Joe the Plumber as the man John McCain dramatically invited up on stage and portrayed as a symbol of America’s “noble working class.”  McCain hoped the gesture would attract the blue-collar vote.  Alas, with his abject ignorance of Obama’s proposed tax plan and his puffed-up resume (despite using the plumbers union logo on his web page, he was neither a licensed plumber nor a union member, but rather a “plumber’s helper,” having failed the journeyman’s test), Joe turned out to be more of a liability than an asset.

Still, proving F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong in claiming that there are no second acts in American life, instead of licking his wounds and slinking away in embarrassment and disgrace (and perhaps giving that journeyman’s test one more go), Joe abandoned the plumbing trade altogether and went on to bigger and better things.  He became a motivational speaker.

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s, he was both impressed and appalled by much of what he observed here.  One of the things that appalled him was Davy Crockett.  Crockett had recently served in Congress, representing (coincidentally) Tennessee’s 9th district.  Tocqueville described Crockett as a man “…who had received no education, could read only with difficulty, had no property, no fixed dwelling, but spent his time hunting, selling his game for a living, and spending his whole life in the woods.”

If the Frenchman was suggesting that only “educated” citizens are worthy of holding public office, he couldn’t have been more wrong.  Just consider unctuous ex-senator Phil Gramm (he and wife Wendy smoothed the way for Enron) and pesky Republican show-off Newt Gingrich.  Both of these men have Ph.Ds and were former university professors.  But Gore Vidal and Eugene Debs never spent a day in college.  Tom Paine never went to college.  Harry Bridges never went to college.  Yet, Sarah Palin holds a bachelor’s degree in—God help us—Journalism.

However, if Tocqueville’s larger point was that we Americans are too easily enamored, too easily suckered into thinking that any common man—any working man, any “man of the people”—is preferable to any nominal “elitist,” then he was definitely on to something.  Indeed, we do seem to have a fetish, a bizarre and stubborn love affair, with the concept of mock-equality.

Obviously, no voter is going to say, “What I want in a candidate is someone who’s totally unlike me, someone who has no idea what I go through day to day, someone who has never struggled and has no idea how hard it is to make a living.”  But while no one’s going to say that, it shouldn’t follow that any self-avowed “common man” who comes down the pike is automatically qualified to represent us.

The argument can be made that Franklin Roosevelt did more for working people than any president in history, and FDR was an aristocrat (scorned him as a “traitor to his class”).  Ted Sorenson, JFK’s aide and speechwriter, said that because Kennedy grew up around rich people he was not only singularly unimpressed by them, he often expressed his contempt for the rich.  Conversely, Richard Nixon, who grew up in a modest household, remained awestruck by men of wealth because they were everything he wasn’t.

Ultimately, it will be up to the good people of Ohio’s 9th district to choose.  They will be asked to decide whether they want as their representative a man who couldn’t follow a basic tax argument, who couldn’t pass a journeyman’s test, and who knowingly lied about his qualifications.  If they wish to go down that road and elect such a man, so be it.  That will be their legacy.

But maybe we’re overreacting.  After all, what real harm can one (one out of 435) unqualified congressman do?  And Lord knows, both the Democrats and Republicans have sent weirder, more offensive people to congress than this fellow.  Also, Davy Crockett may have been adept at hunting and fishing, but Joe the Plumber—even without his journeyman’s license—knows how to rebuild a lawn sprinkler and fix a leaky faucet.  Can Eric Cantor say the same?

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.  He can be reached at Dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail