Thursday, September 04, 2008

Heyna or No, Joe?

Since Joe Biden landed on the Democratic ticket, we've all been treated to commentary attesting to the Lincolnesque rise of this proud son of Scranton, Pa. Here we read the references to "working-class roots." There we see a headline trumpeting a "blue-collar messenger." And everywhere we turn, we bump into the most treasured compound-adjective of them all: lunch-bucket.
Something the man never owned. In fact, even at his age owing the abject unfamiliarity with what actual working people do, only an eccentric would have had a lunch-bucket after 1970 at the latest. But let's not get hung up on that, let's gat back to proletarian-hero-Joe, elected at the age of 29, that veritable Mister middle class who has spent more than half of his life in congress. After all, Scranton, PA is a lunch-bucket kind of town (when the allusion is politically useful), and not just a place where mafia induced insurance fires are more common than factory openings for all those Joe-lunch-buckets that the lifelong senator is supposed to be just like. Where exactly was this working-class nature and these supposed coal-country origins of his when he's adamantly opposing coal mining?

The baffling and evasive use of this allusion goes on:
The New York Times started it off with a column hailing this "lunch-bucket Democrat." The Boston Globe adds ethnicity, writing about "an Irish Catholic lunch-bucket Democrat." The Dallas Morning News emphasizes personality, celebrating a "gregarious lunch bucket Democrat" -- to distinguish him, evidently, from the nongregarious variety. The Economist contributes virtue, characterizing Sen. Biden as "a perfect example of a lunch bucket Democrat made good." And on it goes, with everyone from the Washington Post and Huffington Post to the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Associated Press serving up allusions to the senator's lunch bucket.
A rich piece of Americana, the lunch bucket evokes coal miners toting their picks and pails to work in some Thomas Hart Benton mural. Leave aside that coal mining is probably not Mr. Biden's favorite imagery. It's also somewhat out of date. In class terms, the circular lunch buckets that the sons of Scranton once carried into the mines have largely yielded to Tupperware containers stacked up inside the Dunder Mifflin fridge.
Were it not for "antiquing" excursions looking for precious junk they don't understand, I'd really like to know if anyone at the New York Times has actually seen a lunch-bucket. You know the type: in search of Americana to carefully place as conversation pieces in their "genuine" renovated rowhouses on the historic register... entirely unaware that their attempts to impersonate Americans aren't really going as well as they think they appear to...
Back to coal-crackin' Joe working hard at the colliary, we find his "humble" upbringing is hardly humble by the standards of Lackawanna, Luzerne, and the rest of the coal counties. In fact, while there really were coal crackers, strapped severely during the depression, reduced often to sending children to pick the same coal off of the railroad tracks that many of the same children (yes, those were the days - children) were mining, young Joe's father was doing rather much better as a sales representative for Amoco, and later a specialty products rep. He was one of those dreaded "businessmen". A middle-man of simplistic-lefty myth that they would tell you (were it not a democrat running) parasitically gets in the way of the people owning the means of production, and all that stuff they learned about in graduate school.
In 1941, Mr. Biden, while employed as a sales representative for Amoco Oil Company in Harrisburg, PA, married Jean Finnegan of Scranton.

During World War II, Mr. Biden was an executive in Boston, MA, of a war industry that supplied "plastic hulls," a special waterproof sealant, applied to all U.S. merchant-marine ships built during the war.

Following the war, he was co-owner of an airport and crop-dusting service on Long Island, New York.

In 1953 he moved with his family to the Wilmington suburb of Mayfield in Claymont, DE and returned to sales as manager for several Wilmington automobile agencies.

He then spent 15 years working in real estate condominium sales in New Castle County and in Rehoboth Beach for the Patterson-Schwartz agency.
In other words, he was more like one of "the bosses" of Marxist paradigmatic falsehoods or John Edwards Edwardian myth of two Americas – one always being fit to pit against the other. Like Joe, with his union card, cloth cap, and yes that lunch bucket we're treated to a smokescreen that is supposed to lend credibility to his planned cantankerous role as an attack dog in this election. It's okay, after all, he's one of those working men who's just come off his shift and is entitled to be drunk. Every one of those "proletarians" at the NYT probably quite sure that that's all those people are good for.

In the mean time, they're going to be objective and try to shoot holes through his female opponent who actually IS middle class. Not the kind of middle class that is said to suffer, pity itself, and lend credibility to those pretending to care about some sort of one of "two Americas" that are now to magically unite... the kind that finds a way to genuine accomplishment without the fake pity of a morally repugnant elite trying hard to appear sympathetic for the sake of their self-image.

The litmus test is even simpler: Heyna or no, Joe? If you've never heard that phrase, you wouldn't know a Northeast PA working class root if it smacked you with a sweaty kielbasa.

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