Joe Klein emptied what’s left of Time magazine’s expense account in order to engage in a cross country journey from coast to coast to find out whatAmericans are thinking this election season.
It’s a classic journalistic trope, the road story, a journey to find out what makes Americans, Americans. While it’s no “On the Road”, one appreciates Klein for getting out of the Beltway and finding out this littlenugget of information:
“I’ve covered more than a few midterm campaigns, but this one seems particularly fraught. That was made clear by the next speaker, a Republican public-relations consultant named Kurt Davis, who agreed with much of what Woods had said about “the far left undermining American values.” But, he added, “when the middle class looks to the right and sees how free trade has sold them down the river, exporting millions of jobs … they feel whipsawed, pissed off at both sides. I can’t tell my kids that they’ll be able to get a good job with a good company, work there for 30 years and retire with a good pension. I’d be lying. People know that doesn’t exist anymore, and they’re angry about it. That was the anger that elected Obama. He was the anti-Establishment candidate — and John McCain was anti-Establishment too. And so was Bill Clinton. But none of them did anything to change the reality that’s making people angry.”
Congratulations Joe! You figured out that free trade isn’t the nirvana elites have been making it out to be all these 30 years. You ventured out from your glass towers and saw the damage for yourself, 30 years later but nonetheless you made the effort to find out what was really going instead of penning anonymous novels about Presidential candidatespeccadilloes.
But alas, a trip is just that, a trip. You’ll be back in the Beltway and back in the echo chamber in no time. One can explore and report back, but in order to really understand one has to live in places one drives through on the interstate or flies over in the jet plane.
So here’s my invitation to Klein and other national political reporters and pundits that you might be better served and write better articles the further away from Washington you live. Why not? Technology allows for one to keep in touch even in some remote areas. In fact I can find a realtor here in Pepin County, Wisconsin where and find a decent and cheap home to live (compared to Georgetown real estate market). And maybe Tom Friedman can join you and find a place to settle down, maybe in my ancestral homeland of southwest Wisconsin near Plain. And maybe MaureenDowd can join us as we find her a lake home in western Minnesota (then again, maybe not).
In any case perhaps Klein’s article can spark a sort of reverse Free State Project where the elite and political class sign up and pledge to spread themselves out across the hinterlands and light out for the territories in order to better their writing and reporting by being amongst the people. They certainly can’t do much worse.