06/09/2004: Thought for the Day:
Like all Midwesterners, Missourians believe they reside in the most authentically American of places. I grew up in Kansas, just a few miles across the Missouri state line, and I'm guilty of this Midwestern indulgence—I'm fond of telling my wife, who's lived in New York, Texas, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C., that she has yet to reside in the United States. What distinguishes Missourians, though, is that they stake their claim to genuine, right-thinking Americanness on more than mere geographical middlingness or plainness of speech. Show-Me Staters marshal reams of scientific data to back up their assertion of pure red-bloodedness.
Texas brags that it's a "whole other country," but Missouri proudly declares that it is the whole country. Talk to a Missourian about the state's politics for more than a few minutes, and the words "microcosm" or "representativeness" are likely to surface. During a three-day swing through the state last week, I discovered that an inner demographer resides within nearly every politically minded Missourian: The state is a perfect blend of North, South, East, and West, I was told again and again. Missouri was born in compromise in 1820, and it's still that way today. It has the same percentage of African-Americans as the nation as a whole, the same percentage of union workers, the same rural/urban mix, and on down the line. And invariably, the one fact that every Missourian knows surfaced: With the exception of the time it foolishly cast its lot with Adlai Stevenson in 1956, in every presidential election since 1900 Missouri has proudly voted for the winner. The implication is that you might as well call off the balloting in the other 49 states as a cost-saving measure.
Missouri's presidential voting record trumps even that of Ohio, which has voted for the loser twice in the past 26 elections. The world's David Broders—including, in fact, David Broder—descend on the state every four years to pay homage to its predictive power. It is the swingiest of swingers, the oracle from which all political wisdom can be divined. Unlike Lake Wobegon, here everyone is exactly, quintessentially average. The slogan plastered on billboards outside the town of Rolla says it all about the state's self-conception: "The Middle of Everywhere."
Len on 06.09.04 @ 08:33 AM CST