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 How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 29, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure
Vijay Prashad
The Afghan Toll
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post’s Renewed Attack on Whistlblowers
Robert Fisk
We Must Look to the Past, Not ISIS, for the True Nature of Islam
Dean Baker
A Tax on Wall Street Trading is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
Lawrence Davidson
Reality and Its Enemies
Harry Hobbs
Australia’s Time to Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty
Ray McGovern
Will Europe Finally Rethink NATO’s Costs?
Cesar Chelala
Poetry to the Rescue of America’s Soul
Andrew Stewart
Xi, Trump and Geopolitics
Binoy Kampmark
The Merry Life of Dragnet Surveillance
Stephen Martin
The Silent Apartheid: Militarizing Architecture & Infrastructure
Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail