The New York Times comes to Kokomo, Indiana

My family is originally from southeastern rural Iowa, and regardless of the small town life aspect, they’re very well-educated and don’t talk like hayseeds and goobers. Sit down and talk to them about the election and they have intelligent, thoughtful conversations about the issues. They have slightly different political agendas than those of us who live in cities, but rural American life and uneducated, unsophisticated behavior DO NOT go hand in hand.

I know there are some differences in education levels between rural Iowa and rural Indiana, but does it account for the reason that Kokomo seems to be embracing their inner hayseed in this lovely New York Times article, or is it stereotyping on the part of NYT? (My editorial commentary is inserted, in emphasized text.)

For Indiana Voters, Talk of Change May Fall Flat

KOKOMO, Ind. — With all the talk among the Democratic presidential hopefuls about change, they may wish to consider this as they wander Indiana: People here practically revolted a few years ago when their governor, Mitch Daniels, pushed to change to daylight saving time like most of the country. (DST is a horse of a different color, and not a good example “disliking change.” That falls under the category of “didn’t take the brown acid like the rest of the U.S.”)

Change, it seems, may not carry quite the same political magic in this state as it has elsewhere.

“We hold onto a lot of traditional values,” said Brian L. Thomas, 39, (What a geezer, stop boring us rambling about walking to school in the snow in bare feet, Grandpa… Oh, wait… 39? Hey!) as he bought a cup of coffee along the courthouse square here on Wednesday. “Saying you’re ready to change is probably not the best or only thing you would want to say around these parts. Frankly, we want it to be like it used to be.” (Kokomo was a sundown town, BTW, where black people couldn’t be in down after dark or they’d be lynched. So nostalgia ’bout the “way it used to be” should be given a skeptical eye and a challenge.)

Many of the two dozen voters interviewed in this central Indiana manufacturing city of 46,000 expressed queasiness over the notions of change that both Democratic candidates have proudly pledged elsewhere. Though residents bemoaned economic conditions that have taken away thousands of factory jobs and given the state the 11th-highest rate of foreclosures, they also said they worried about doing things — anything — very differently.

“What are we going to change to?” asked Ron O’Bryan, 58, a retired auto worker who said he was still trying to decide which Democrat to vote for in the May 6 primary. “You mean change to some other country’s system? What do you think they mean?” (Yes, all this talk of giving you health care and bring back the manufacturing jobs your company shipped overseas to communist China – that’s akin to that wicked Socialism. You know, the kind that used to be RUN BY THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF INDIANA, back when your grandpappy was their treasurer in 1933. Ahem. Indiana, being a manufacturing state, was a prominent supporter of the labor/socialist movement at one time.)

Jeremy Lewis, a 28-year-old window washer, said simply, “Old-fashioned can be in a good way.” (Yes, bring back the good old days of Saturday morning Smurfs and Light-Brite makin’ things with light…. Wait, those are MY good old days. This kid is 28. What the fuck was it then, Transformers and Underoos? And Wham!)

As the Democratic presidential hopefuls turned to Indiana as a new battleground in the fight for the nomination, they find themselves facing a different audience in places like Kokomo, a blue-collar city in the middle of endless expanses of farms north of Indianapolis. In some ways, these are voters not so unlike those in other Rust Belt states, like Pennsylvania, but with an added dose of nostalgia and a practical, Midwestern sensibility. (I think they watched the musical The Music Man a few too many times before heading out to the midwest, because this whole article sounds like that song… “And we’re so by God stubborn We can stand touchin’ noses For a week at a time And never see eye-to-eye. But we’ll give you our shirt And a back to go with it If your crops should happen to die. Farmer: So, what the heck, you’re welcome, Glad to have you with us. Farmer and Wife: Even though we may not ever mention it again.”)

“We are manufacturing workers, farmers, beer drinkers, gun owners, pickup drivers,” said Karen Lasley, 64, who was volunteering on Wednesday morning in Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s field office in Kokomo (one of 28 Mrs. Clinton has opened around the state along with Senator Barack Obama’s 22, including one just down the street). “We are full of pride for this country.”

[ snip rest of article ]

If you like the article, you’ll LOVE the photos that go with it.

Kokomo, Indiana Citizens
Kokomo, Indiana Citizens

After the photographers left, they all hopped out of their overalls, slipped on their DKNY and Jimmy Choos and took a stroll around the town square, high-fiving each other at putting one over on the the Grey Lady.

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