I'm going to ramble a little in this post, just mulling over bitter-gate.
After watching Hillary do a shot and a beer in an Indiana bar last week, I made a wisecrack about the Obama's blunder (Small Town People Don't Turn to Religion and Guns... they turn to whiskey and guns...). It was a joke, but it was intended to reflect something unspoken about stereotypes of small town life. While people of all social and economic strata drink alcohol, and teetotalers can be found in all towns and cities, large or small, the idea of the tavern and heavy drinking as a staple of small town, working class life seems to be part of the 'elitist' view. I doubt that a candidate would ever feel compelled to do a beer and a shot while campaigning in New York, LA or San Francisco.
That post came up in my mind today as I was reading a piece in the Chicago Tribune about Danica Patrick's weekend victory in an Indy car race.
I can see why people are happy to see a woman do well in a sport traditionally dominated by men. Good for Patrick. I'm always a little creeped-out by the idol worshiping cults that can develop around young celebrities and more than a little disturbed by the idea that the first thing some people have in mind when a young, remotely pretty female athlete gets into the spotlight is to pay her as much as possible to take off as much of her clothing as she's willing to take off for the cameras.
Anyway, there's a bit of a cult of Danica Patrick out there and the Tribune offers up a relatively fluffy piece about her small town roots in Roscoe, Illinois, about 90 miles Northwest of downtown Chicago. Chicago is a big city in the middle of small town America. When you get to the perimeter of the suburbs, you abruptly meet farm land, small towns and small cities. The perimeter has stretched considerably in the past 25 years, but Chicago is still a big city in the middle of America's farms and small towns.
I once lived on the western boundary of a thickly populated Northwest suburban village. Heading east, everything was dense suburb leading into the city. If I walked one block west, it was farmland dotted by smaller cities and towns all the way through Nebraska. Patrick grew up about 60 miles sorta thataway. One of the strange things about the people, east and west, is the way regional accents changed abruptly with geography and culture. People a mile west sounded like small town farm people. But in my town and everything east, they sounded like city people. People in those small towns didn't seem much interested in coming into the city for restaurants, theater, opera or other forms of entertainment available in Chicago. The incorporated areas to the west had their share of massage parlors in seedy strip malls and strip clubs in strip malls. And there were lots of churches and, always, taverns.
The Tribune article discusses one tavern owner in Patrick's hometown. His establishment is a sort of shrine to Patrick. This is where the small town stereotype of liquor and bitterness emerges unexpectedly in this otherwise fluffy piece:
But not everyone around Roscoe is a star-crossed Patrick fan.
"She's a spoiled, rich brat," scoffed Tom McCarthy, who was enjoying a Sunday beer with some friends in Neighbor's Bar and Grill.
He also remembers watching her race go-karts. "She'd run over anyone and anything to win," McCarthy said.
I don't know if this was supposed to somehow offset the fluffiness of the article or if it's the Tribune's notion of fair and balanced reporting. You know, to be fair, while most local people adore Danica, some people hate the little brat. That's how they reported it on the front page of the biggest paper in the third largest city in the United States. But, all that aside, I found it interesting that they felt compelled to include nasty comments, tinged with bitter economic resentment from a guy out for beers in a local bar, in small town America.
I see that Chicago's other big paper, the Sun-Times, ran a page two story today on how Obama and Hillary are faring among beer drinkers. The story discusses the relocation of a Hershey Peppermint Patty factory to Mexico. The article quotes a woman who sounds bitter about the decision: They're going to frickin' Mexico," says a 50-year-old social worker. The plant closure and beer drinker candidate preferences are part of one article, although the article doesn't explain what the connection between beer drinking and plant closures is supposed to be. Hmm...
About a third of the page is covered with a photo of Obama hoisting a brew with beer drinking Pennsylvanians at the Bethlehem Brewery. You know Bethlehem... where they're drinking beer since all the steel jobs went to Japan. I'm just sayin'...