In his recent article, Time.com's Joe Klein makes the case that the white male vote is the key demographic in the 2008 presidential campaign. So if you're Joe Klein - and you want to speak to the typical white male voter - who do you interview? Well, you were right if you guessed has-been country singer Merle Haggard.
That's right. Joe Klein's article is titled "Does Merle Haggard Speak for America?" and of course details Haggard's alienation from the Republican Party and support for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
During the interview with Klein, Haggard spews some familiar liberal rhetoric:
"The thing that gets under my skin most about George W. is his intention to install fear in people," he said, after walking me down a hallway lined with gold and platinum records. "This is America. We're proud. We're not afraid of a bunch of terrorists. But this government is all about terror alerts and scaring us at airports. We're changing the Constitution out of fear. We spend all our time looking up each other's dresses. Fear's the only issue the Republican Party has. Vote for them, or the terrorists will win. That's not what Reagan was about. I hate to think about our soldiers over in Iraq fighting for a country that's slipping away."
The fascinating political analysis enters, however, when Klein translates the feelings of Merle Haggard to all white males. Klein asks: "Is Merle Haggard indicative of a larger movement among his white male country brethren?"
Klein then cites to a book by David Paul Kuhn, The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma, in which Kuhn points out that "[t]he percentage of white males identifying themselves as Democrats has declined from 47% in 1952 to about 25% in 2004."
In Klein's mind, the Democratic nominee will have to win back some of these white male votes to win the presidency. Klein sums up his analysis with this jewel: "Kuhn accurately links the Republican dominance of the past 40 years to the [Democratic] loss of the Haggard vote." So there you have it - the key to the 2008 presidency is the Merle Haggard vote (sorry soccer moms - it's not your year). And to carry the "logic" forward, if Merle Haggard can flip, then every white male in America might flip too. That would be terrific for the Democrats (and Klein).
The article, of course, is complete nonsense, and represents Joe Klein's personal hopes as opposed to any intelligent political analysis. First (and least importantly) it is funny to observe that Klein has called upon a country singer to prove his theory that white males might abandon the Republican Party. Of all the different fields of entertainment, country music singers are notoriously conservative in their politics, and so it is not surprising that Klein had to go searching all the way down the charts to Merle Haggard to find a country singer to provide the quotes he needed.
The bigger point, however, is Klein's condescension. Klein's sentiment parallels the recent story of the political staffers urged to gets vaccinations before attending a NASCAR event. When Klein refers to Haggard's "white male country brethren," he is casting all white males who have left the Democratic Party as being similar to Haggard. Haggard hardly represents the ideals of southern and midwestern conservatives, having been married five times and previously serving two years in prison. But this is the liberal media's charicature of the between-the-coasts, country brethren, NASCAR-loving white male.
I hate to break the news to Joe Klein, but Merle Haggard does not speak for me, nor does he speak for America.