Friday, February 04, 2011
Our mixed economy routinely causes politicians to substitute such red flags as bribery and flattery for rational forms of persuasion. One result is that such flags end up being missed altogether -- or even, in a sense, being mistaken for political bunting -- in a sort of "warning fatigue." But another, happier, result is that howlers, such as Michelle Obama's recent declaration that Charlotte, North Carolina, is some sort of barbecue capitol, become inevitable.
In listing Charlotte's many virtues, Obama named southern charm, hospitality, diversity -- "And of course, great barbecue."Needless to say, the siting of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was, itself, both bribery and flattery, and was plainly motivated by a desire to win crucial southern support in Obama's 2012 reelection bid.
That was news to residents, who know that North Carolina's best barbecue lies farther afield. "We appreciate the compliments, and they're all spot-on until that last one," the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer newspaper wrote in a blog post titled, "Charlotte = great barbecue? Who knew?"
"Everybody knows to get the best stuff, you gotta drive north to Lexington," the board added.
A local Associated Press reporter quoted a barbecue expert, retired University of North Carolina professor John Shelton Reed, who said that Charlotte for barbecue was "like Minneapolis for gumbo."
The gaffe was enough to make you wonder whether the White House had simply cut and pasted Southern clichés to create the first lady's announcement. [links dropped]
Interestingly, the 2012 Convention will also be called, the "People's Convention," and is to feature more "grassroots" involvement. The name and theme seem calculated to echo both Scott Brown's reference to Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat as the "People's Seat," as well as the grass roots Tea Party movement. If imitation is, indeed, the sincerest form of flattery, this week's Senate vote on ObamaCare reveals the nature of the sincerity: The Democrats imagine that populist cliches and nodding (-off?) references to the New South will win votes. But the sincerity stops there.
As an educated southerner who sees a beleaguered Democratic Party running short of new ideas and struggling to connect with the citizens of the greatest nation on earth, let me suggest, as a measure of good will and a show of my own level of grass roots involvement, an even more plainspoken and down-to-earth theme for the 2012 convention: "A People's Convention for a People's Republic." Call it, "The People's Name" for the Convention.