Tom the Dancing Bug gets ‘traditional’

After the election, Fox News’ resident zeppelin opined:

The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff, they want things. And who is going to give them things? President [Barack] Obama.

He later “clarified”:

If you look at the exit polling, you’ll see that a coalition of voters put the President back into the oval office. That coalition was non-tradition, which means it veered away from things like traditional marriage, robust capitalism, and self-reliance.

Instead, each constituency that voted for the President — whether it be single women, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, whatever — had very specific reasons for doing so. […]

Traditional American voters generally want a smaller government in Washington, more local control, some oversight on abortion, and believe in American exceptionalism.

Tom the Dancing Bug (a.k.a. Ruben Bolling) sets Bill straight:

A comic from Reuben Bolling that puts "traditional America" into an actual historical perspective.

Click to see full-size

First of all, suggesting that people vote for a politician because they want “stuff” has got to be the dumbest attack I’ve ever heard. Yes, everyone votes for a politician because they want something. Whether they want tax breaks, or a bigger military, or more control sent to the state level so they can exercise more political power, people “want stuff” from the government. That’s why they vote. That’s the whole purpose of voting.

Second, the idea that Republicans are “traditional” voters is stupid. America has always been a country in constant political struggle between competing ideas of the role of government. Most democratic countries share that heritage. It is no more “traditional” to vote for smaller government than it is “traditional” to support sweeping immigration reform and a repeal of the 2nd amendment. These ideas have existed in that country, in all countries, as long as we’ve had states.

Third, American exceptionalism is a dangerous and stupid lie. Nobody should believe in it. America isn’t exceptional, and nor are its people. The thing that is exceptional about America is the idea that people can self-govern without a monarchy or a military-backed junta – an idea that still has not been realized and is no longer unique to the USA (and hasn’t been for at least a century). America isn’t magically granted through Providence, it’s just a place where the first industrialized technologies arrived there late enough to exploit them more rapidly than happened in Europe.

Fourth, America is only about “self-reliance” if you have successfully re-written history in your mind to edit out all of the people who were enslaved, murdered, unjustly imprisoned, and lied to, in order for one class of people to reap the benefits. And considering the fact that many of those same people who are supposedly ‘voting for stuff’ are the ones who have been either coerced or forced into working to make America exceptional, all the while receiving less than their fair share of the products. So maybe there’s a reason they don’t believe in “American exceptionalism”, Bill. Maybe they know it’s a fucking lie that white men tell themselves to justify their exalted position, standing on top of a heap of dead bodies and broken promises.

Fifth, as the comic perfectly illustrates, Bill is pining for a “traditional America” that simply doesn’t exist and never has. The only thing that would make that era better for Bill than this one is the fact that people who weren’t white men didn’t have as many rights. But that couldn’t be what he meant, right?

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  1. Dunc says

    I have to disagree – America and its people are definitely exceptional. Exceptionally self-absorbed, exceptionally pampered, exceptionally obese, with an exceptionally bloated military and an exceptional number of foreign military bases, sucking up a truly exceptional proportion of the world’s resources and producing an exceptional amount of pollution.

  2. says

    Hey Dunc –

    I’m an American, and I am not obese, pampered, or especially self-absorbed (I don’t think…although the most important thing is me /sarcasm). And about the military bases and resource-sucking; I agree with you, but I didn’t vote for that shit.

    Just because our country does those things doesn’t mean that Americans are all in favor of those things or embody those things.

  3. F says


    And yet much of this applies to Americans (U.S.) as a group. It isn’t about specific individuals taken one at a time. But sure, Dunc could have been more exact and said “The U.S. population, on average, and its government”, but I know what was meant, it isn’t code.

    I’m not particularly down with any of those things, either. Yet it accurately describes my country. Weird, right?

    But à propos of “code” and “traditional”, I remember a bit of commentary once from Spinal Tap where they would not say “Black” (as in people, not as in “none more black”) but referred to “Urbans”, then went on to describe, at some length and in a highly circumspect manner what they meant which wound up in an example of, “Some Urbans moved in next door.”

    Some non-Traditionals moved into the neighborhood. And they were voting!

  4. smhll says

    Third, American exceptionalism is a dangerous and stupid lie. Nobody should believe in it. America isn’t exceptional, and nor are its people.

    I agree. But when someone in the US says or types this, some kind of treason warning bell goes off and they append a note to one’s FBI file. :-p

  5. otrame says

    What is “non-traditional” is that many more black and Hispanic Americans believed that it would be worth the trouble to vote, unlike the previous two or three decades (and before that, they were usually prevented from voting).

    But it had been clear since before 2008 that this was starting to happen. More and more “non-traditional” people were voting. The trend has been clear for quite a while. So has the trend in population demographics.

    So when the Republicans went out of their way to alienate not only the “non-traditional”–or should I call them “urban” or “ethnic”–groups but also, tried as hard as possible to alienate women as well it is not especially surprising that they lost so handily in so many races.

    Why did they think they could get away with insulting a largeish percentage of the voters, still expecting to be voted into office? Maybe because they have for many years been quite successful at getting “traditional” voters to vote against their own interests.

  6. lirael_abhorsen says

    Can we not use obesity, which is disproportionately experienced in the US by poor people and people of color (especially Native Americans), as some sort of insult or mark of decadence? In the modern US it is to a large degree a racial/class signifier.

    Anyway, back on point…oh yeah, traditional American voters wanted small government and local control. That’s why they (the vaunted “Greatest Generation”, at that) elected that noted proponent of limited federal government, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to the presidency four times in a row. And then in the ’50s, those halcyon Leave it to Beaver days of the fantasies of white conservatives, they accepted a top marginal federal income tax rate of over 90% (as opposed to the 35% of today).

  7. smrnda says

    Self-reliance has got to be one of the oldest falsehoods. Unless you make everything you consume, you are not self-reliant, but the labor that enables a privilege person to live is more or less rendered invisible, giving them the illusion that they, unlike the workers who do the labor they need to survive (and often need some form of welfare to survive) are self-reliant. Unless you live in a self-reliant band of nomadic hunter-gatherers, you’re not self-reliant.

    And really, how traditional is the extreme libertarian economic vision of the current Republican party? It’s something that’s really never been tried before at all, so it has zero historical precedent.

    Though I really think racism is a huge factor. Many white people would be happier to contribute to a social safety net if they view the typical recipient as a white person like themselves, just down on their luck a bit. But if it’s some *other* they’d just rather sink the whole ship.

  8. silomowbray says

    All of Crommunist’s points about the existing social conservative narrative coming out of the U.S. are right on, and true, and salient. Which therefore means he needs Jesus.

  9. F says

    Hm. I wouldn’t consider noting obesity in this case as an insult to individuals, but an (even medically) worthwhile observation on culture (manipulated) and the food industry. I don’t think Dunc was pointing at individuals and saying “fatty fat fatty, you suck”. America (US) has all manner of obsessions with food and weight in various contradictory social pressures to the point of causing medical conditions to emerge in some people. No one plans on being anorexic or clinically obese. These aren’t lifestyle choices.

    Now if the comment was intended otherwise, fuck that noise indeed.

  10. Dunc says

    I just knew that somebody would mistake a general statement for a universal one… “Americans are” != “All Americans are”. We can make statements about populations as aggregates or averages without assuming that those statements apply equally to every single member of the population.

    It really shouldn’t be necessary to point this out in every single conversation, or add a load of qualifiers to every statement we make. But there’s always one… It’s very tiresome.

  11. Dunc says

    Thank you. It was, indeed, simply a factual observation, not a moral judgement. And if a moral judgement is required, I would direct it at the social and economic conditions responsible, not the individuals affected.

    It’s almost like people are trying to take the wrong end of the stick here… Which, in itself, may illustrate another aspect of American exceptionalism – Americans (in general and on average) seem to be exceptionally prickly about even the mildest suggestion of criticism.

    Look, I’m Scottish – we’ve got some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world, and we’ve got levels of poverty and social inequality that make us look like a third world nation. (And let’s not even start about the weather…) It’s not like America is the only country with problems… But you need to be able to acknowledge those problems before you can fix them.

  12. sunsangnim says

    The US does have an exceptional role on the world stage, as its policies have a profound effect on the rest of the world. Frankly, I think we’d be better off if we were not the sole superpower. We could actually put our resources into improving the country instead of asserting military power around the globe. Also, the dollar is used as a reserve currency around the world. That’s fine for now, but what happens if it becomes unstable? Perhaps we could do with a little less US exceptionalism.

  13. Dunc says

    Oh great, another one who can’t tell the difference between a general and a universal, with the added bonus of not bothering to read the comments which have already addressed this point.

    Perhaps I should have added “exceptionally poor at reading comprehension” as well? (And before anybody else chimes in: this is a joke.)

  14. Brownian says

    Frankly, I think we’d be better off if we were not the sole superpower. We could actually put our resources into improving the country instead of asserting military power around the globe.

    Just to clarify, you weren’t any less militaristic nor exploitative when you weren’t the sole superpower.

  15. Rodney Nelson says

    If you have to explain that a sneer is actually a “joke” then the chances are good that it isn’t. Pretending an insult is a joke is a tactic that bullies use when they’re caught. “It’s a joke, can’t you take a joke?”

    Sorry, Dunc, but I don’t think you were joking. I think you were being rude to Americans because…well, I’m sure you had your reasons, whatever they were.

  16. carlie says

    Jeez, Dunc, you’re being so oversensitive. You took the opportunity to snipe at the entire country. At least own up to it, and stop sniveling that people are being mean to you about it just because they pointed it out.

  17. DBRB says

    Scotland is an exceptionally violent country. I suggest you don’t piss Dunc off because you might regret it.

  18. Dunc says

    I see what you’re trying to do there, but there’s a slight problem – your claim isn’t actually true. Exceptionally drunk? Certainly. Exceptionally violent? Not by US standards – the whole of Scotland (population 5.2 million) recorded 88 cases of homicide in the year 2011-2012, for a rate of 1.7 per 100,000 population, which is less than half that of the US based on the latest data I can find. (4.8 per 100,000 for 2010, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics quoted on Wikipedia.)

    If anybody would care to show that any of my claims are factually incorrect, as general statements about the population in aggregate, I’m more than happy to be corrected.

  19. DBRB says

    “Not by US standards”

    Indeed, and your argument crumbles there. By X-Y-Z standards, it is. Who said anything about the USA?

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