Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rubes In Randolph?

I recently came across this post over at Mormon Mommy Wars. As it turns out, Heather O. had noticed a piece in Tuesday's edition of the Washington Post about Randolph, Utah -- which is near and dear to my heart. I read the article, and decided to post my own reaction here:

This week, in the Tuesday Edition of the Washington Post, a story about the politics of our family's hometown, Randolph, Utah appeared on the front page of the newspaper. It was in connection with the President's State of the Union Address, which would be delivered later that evening. The article was titled: Utah Town Has Question About President: 'What's Not to Like?' Kind of an Alfred E Newman "What Me Worry?" type headline, in my opinion. It gets worse from there.

The reporter seemed to smugly take pride in the fact that president's overall approval ratings nationwide had fallen to 42% before the State of the Union Speech. However, what to make of these odd Red-State creatures? How could they possibly still support the president? Looking at the election results of 2004, President Bush received 71.5% of the vote - the highest in the nation. In Utah, the President's approval rating is still at 61%, even with all the hammering and yammering the President has endured that last few months from the media and his political opponents. Looking more closely at the Utah 2004 precinct returns, it was found that Tiny Randolph, Utah, population 480, had given George W. Bush an whopping 95.6% of the vote. So, the Washington Post decided to infiltrate the Reddest town in the Reddest state of America.

The article quotes a Weber State University Professor about the nature of Utah's political philosophy:
"The mind-set of Utah" is how Frank Guliuzza III, chairman of the political science department at Weber State University in Ogden, explains the percentages. Not only is Utah the nation's most Republican state, "there's a sense of loyalty and patriotism that kind of overcomes the tendency toward cynicism that is evident in the rest of the country right now," he says.
Boy now, there's an indictment! Imagine having a sense of loyalty and patriotism! What will these red-staters come up with next?

Then the reporter, David Finkel, makes this sneering observation about the people of Randolph:
"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."
Finkel rubs his eyes in disbelief! Why the residents of Randolph really aren't like Americans at all! They're not just isolated -- they're from a different planet! Now that we have established that the people of Randolph don't really count, because they are aliens from outer space after all -- their thoughts and ideas don't count either (except at the ballot box, Mr. Finkel!).

The reporter then gives us a litany of reasons why the rubes in Randolph just can't comprehend what is really going on in the world:
"There have been no funerals here from Bush's war on terrorism. There are no unemployment lines, no homeless people sleeping in doorways, no sick people being turned away from a hospital because of a lack of insurance, no crime to speak of . . . "
Well, having been a resident of Randolph myself, let me take a look at a few of these "accusations."
  • No Funerals here from Bush's war on terrorism.
Well lets see. There is one person currently serving in Iraq from town, and there have been three or four who have served there previously. With 150,000 troops in Iraq, and about 1000 casualties per year, that means that the average soldier has just a little over ½ of 1% chance of being killed. Statistically, each of these 5 young people have had about a 99.4% chance of coming home unscathed. The fact that no one has been killed in Iraq from Randolph isn't really much of a mystery, now is it?

  • No Unemployment Lines
A large part of the community works on their own farms and ranches. Others work in neighboring towns at power plants, the oil industry, mining, and other commercial jobs. Unemployment is relatively low. Even those who may seek unemployment benefits will find that they won't need to stand in a line. Of the 480 people in town, about 179 of them (according to census records) are in the labor force. If there were a 5% unemployment rate in town, then there would be about 9 people who might want to apply for benefits. What are the chances that all 9 of them would show up at the courthouse, at the same time to apply for benefits? Hence - no unemployment lines. Is the fact that they have no unemployment lines in Randolph a stinging indictment of ignorance upon its residents?

  • No homeless people sleeping in doorways
This one almost makes me laugh! No self-respecting homeless persons would ever try sleeping out in a doorway in Randolph. The winter temperatures in Randolph are known to reach 40° below zero! If someone needs help in Randolph, the people there will take them in, and give them a hand. No one in town would let someone freeze to death in -40° weather! And all this, shockingly, without a government program!

  • No sick people being turned away from a hospital because of a lack of insurance
Well, If the people of Randolph even had a Doctor in town, let alone a hospital this might be possible. However, Mr. Finkel, the nearest hospital is 32 miles away -- across the state line in Wyoming!

  • No Crime to Speak of
Oh, there's a big problem for you. You simply haven't lived until you have been a veteran of a crime infested neighborhood. Does the fact that these people respect one another, and respect each other's property make them out to be uniformed, unsophisticated rubes? Aren't they living their lives -- law abiding, and with respect for themselves, their neighbors, and their country -- the way we should all be living? Wouldn't American society be stronger, better, and more united if we all lived that way?

The reporter then hangs out the local cafe, Gator's Drive-in, to interview customers as they come in.

As customers come to order their fast-food items, the reporter asks their opinion on various political issues, hoping that they will "Blame Bush" for their troubles.

A 53-year old woman, Debra McKinnon stops by the drive-in to pick up her order. Finkel quizzes her about health care issues. Debra reports that she nearly dropped dead 9 months ago from heart failure. She now has to take 12 pills a day which cost her several hundred dollars a month. Does she blame President Bush for her health care woes? No. This is what Debra McKinnon said:
"It's a problem from the drug companies to the lawyers to the doctors to Congress, and it's not because Bush isn't a caring man. I think he's a very caring man. I think he's a decent, God-fearing person, and I hope we are, too."
Drat! Finkel strikes out on that one!

Blair Hurd, the high school shop teacher comes in. The reporter tries to get him to express his outrage at President Bush's program to monitor terrorist communications that originate outside of our country. The reporter likes to call it "Domestic Spying". Mr. Hurd gives his answer:
"This whole thing with domestic spying? I think there's a little bit of it that needs to go on. I do! And if he" -- meaning Bush -- "is listening to my calls? I'm not doing anything wrong. Why would I care? He'd be bored to death is what I think."
Hmmm. . . Strike Two!

Next comes 77 year-old Lois McClean, the mother-in-law of the owner of Gator's drive-in. The topic of health care comes up again.
Lois works part time at the drive-in to help supplement her income . . . "because Social Security isn't quite enough to finance her modest life. "I think he'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."
Nooooooooooo! Not actual praise for the President! Nooooooooooo! Not someone who actually believes in personal responsibility, and trying to make her own life better! Why imagine if everyone thought to be self-reliant. What would the government do then! Oh, the horrors! The article continues:
"Bush's believers: One after another, in they come to say "It's not Bush's fault" and "He's trying to protect us," and on this goes until early evening, when what must be the entire population of Randolph gathers at the high school to cheer on the basketball teams."
Strike Three! -- You're Outta Here!

Finally, Finkel has heard enough, he picks up his marbles, and goes home! Despite his best efforts, he couldn't get even one customer at Gator's to blame their troubles on President Bush. He climbs into his rental car, pops in a CD, and shakes his head in astonished disbelief.

Now if only he can find his way back to his home planet!

5 comments:

Noelie said...

David, bless your heart, I went over to that thread and all I saw was RED.

You took that article apart with the elegance of a well trained lawyer. Thank you.

SalGal said...

What a twerp that reporter was!

jeremiah said...

You should take a look at my response to the article on Mormon Mommy Wars. You've simply assumed from the beginning that the article is an attack piece on Randolph. From this assumption, you are forced to reach the conclusion that calling residents of Randolph "less cynical" and "more patriotic" must somehow be a swipe at Randolph, or perhaps (strangely enough) a praise of cynicism and a dig at patriotism! Similarly you reach the strange conclusion that pointing out Randolph's lack of crime and unemployment must somehow be a criticism. Ever considered the fact that the article is, rather, a balanced look at a part of the country that strongly supports Bush, in contrast to much of the rest (which is clearly a legitimate news story)?

Because a Post article on Randolph *must* be a liberal attack piece (because the Post is, necessarily, a liberal outlet out to get conservatives), then all the great things it mentions about Randolph must therefore be *criticisms*, at least from a liberal point of view. Your assumptions lead you to the bizarre conclusion that the reporter must therefore hate all the good things he chose to mention.

If anything your analysis of the article is a great example of how political stereotypes (e.g. how liberals must operate, who they are, what their agenda must be) reinforce themselves and grow more and more twisted, without any provocation at all.

David B. said...

Jeremiah,

Obviously we come from different points of view on this matter.

I, for one, do not place The Post in such high esteem as you. I would suggest that you have such high regards for The Post because it reflects your own point of view. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately, many publications, such as The Post, New York Times, and others do not acknowledge that they have a point of view. They claim that they are "totally objective". Not a chance! The Post and The Times often times act as if they are organs of the Democratic National Committee. It would be interesting to research how often these two papers came out in favor of the President's policies and programs, vs. how often they are against. My guess would be that it would be no where close to a 50-50 split.

Fortunately, these days, there are alternatives to these large publications, and the traditional TV networks. The desire for alternative information, with other points of view is largely responsible for some of the changes we have seen take place in the media the last few years. The rise of the Fox News Channel, The incredible growth of Talk Radio, and more recently the rise of political bloggers (both on the left and on the right) are all examples of a desire for more diversified sources of information, with alternative points of view to the traditional media sources.

I would also disagree with your critique of my post about Randolph. I made no assumption that the article was an attack on Randolph -- until I read the story that is! The reporter takes great care to demonstrate how erudite and sophisticated he, and those from larger urban areas of the country are, compared to the uninformed and ignorant Randolph residents.

The whole point of the author's pointing such things as the crime rate, unemployment,lack of homelessness, etc. is an attempt to illustrate how these people are so unsophisticated, and ill-informed, that it's no wonder they support President Bush. In essence, Mr. Finkel is saying, "Only a dolt could support President Bush, and here's proof!"

I suppose its all a matter of perspective. I wouldn't have assumed that an article from The Post was going to be a hit piece on Randolph, or on rural Americans. However, after reading the article, my perception was that the author came off in a condescending, superior tone. I found the tenor of the article to be disrespectful of the people of Randolph, and by extension to other rural Americans.

Your perceptions appear to have been different from mine, and of course you are entitled to reach your own conclusions. I just happen to disagree with you on this particular article.

By all means, continue to read the publications that you think are best, and that best reflect your viewpoint. As for me, I will do the same.

Noelie said...

David: proving ONCE again just what a good man you are!

Thank you.

By the way I LOVE the story of meeting your wife. Totally a gem of a story.