The Campaign Spot

Has the GOP Been ‘Joe the Plumber-ized’?

Patrick Ruffini – acknowledging that he knows he’s going to get a lot of hate mail over his views – laments “the Joe the Plumberization of the GOP.”

To say that the McCain campaign milked Joe Wurzelbacher’s story and then some would be the understatement of the century. Now, conservatives are making him a foreign war correspondent and he is sure to be feted at CPAC – so I’m sure to get a certain amount of grief for what I’m writing now.

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

I have a quibble or two. First, I’m not sure who Ruffini is directing his objection to – the entity that first “milked” Joe, the McCain campaign, closed up shop after Election Day. Second, “conservatives” as a whole didn’t make Joe the Plumber a war correspondent, Pajamas Media did.

JTP is free to write his book, to do television appearances, etc. He will garner an audience or lose it based on his abilities in those areas, which may or may not exceed his ability to fix leaky pipes. The idea that Joe the Plumber is a spokesman for conservatism stems from those who write about him as if he were (the Politico’s Patrick Gavin in the link Ruffini provides), those who give him the soapbox (Pajamas Media), and, to a certain extent, those who feel the need to write in response to him (Ruffini).

Another point is that Joe the Plumber isn’t the first ordinary citizen catapulted into national prominence by a random encounter with a Democratic president. (Paula Jones first told her story to the world at CPAC!) Twists of fate may give an ordinary citizen a moment of fame and the spotlight — but whether anyone keeps listening depends entirely on what they have to say.

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