Joe the Notaplumber on stage with John McCain: Doesn’t Joe look appalled?
OK! OK! I’ll comment on Joe the Plumber (Notaplumber)!
In this blog and in all of my writings I’ve not said word one about Joe the Notaplumber. I’ve done that intentionally as I really believed that, as an icon, he really didn’t bare mentioning. Here was an average guy, yet he was planning on making a quarter of a million dollars a year, but it was really more like two hundred-thousand; a plumber, but not really a certified plumber, but he worked with plumbers so…OK! Enough.
Politicians often use individuals as symbols of their campaigns. By taking an average man and placing him in the public spotlight a multimillionaire with more houses than he can remember can make the claim that he has the “common touch.” The common touch is virtually of archetypal symbolic value in American politics. That’s why Bill Clinton downplayed his impressive educational credentials (Rhodes Scholar, Oxford) to perpetuate the “Bubba” image.
But as a common man icon, Joe the Plumber was a dud, at least as far as results were concerned. Regardless, standing next to Senator John McCain and travelling the campaign trail with him vouched this Joe the Icon a certain amount of fame and notoriety.
It looks like he plans on cultivating this fame beyond McCain. According to Politico and Crooks and Liars Joe the Notaplumber raked his erstwhile mealticket over the coals, claiming that he was “appalled” by McCain’s politics. APPALLED!
So this begs the question, “Why did you support him?” He responded by claiming that Barack Obama was even more appalling than McCain. Apparently Obama was still appalling that Joe was willing to sublimate his values to support the lesser of two evils.
Still, one has to wonder about the veracity of such values when an individual can stand on stage and smile before an audience of millions of people with a man he found appalling. Exactly what does Joe the Notaplumber stand for?
In the 1950, sociologist Robin Williams describe ten core American values. If he were to do his research fifty years later he would have to add a few more. Among them would be “self promotion.” A great deal of socialization is dedicated to self promotion. Book racks are full of expositions on how to stand out, influence people, get the promotion, win the girl/guy of your dreams, be noticed, stand out. Our schools emphasize self promotion, especially at the college level when almost all students are informed that they have to make themselves marketable, they have to “sell” themselves. Now we have websites, Facebook, Myspace, EHarmony (and, yes, blogs like this one) dedicated to presenting ourselves to a cyber audience.
Joe the Notaplumber may not have been an effective symbol of the “average Joe,” but he is certainly a great representation of self promotion. For Joe, as for millions of us so socialized, it’s not about principles, it’s not about values. It’s about being noticed, being marketable. It’s about airtime and photo-ops. This isn’t just about personal ego, but also the means for status in the market place. And if you want that spot in the market place it’s best to not get tied down to making a moral stand. Better to just swally your principles and accept that which is otherwise appallling.
The problem for Joe was that McCain did not win. That McCain placed so much emphasis on Joe the Notaplumber, for the campaign to fizzle could be perceived as Joe fizzling. Well, for the ardent self promoter, this just won’t do. But turning on ones benefactor might merit some air-time.
This is my first, and as far as I’m concerned, last statement about Joe the Notaplumber. It turns out that he was not symbolic of the working class, or of conservative politics, but rather illustrative of a mostly unexplored American value…self promotion. I would expect to see more of Joe in the future. It’s been reported that he has a publicist and there are rumors of a 2012 political run for some office. I don’t think Joe will stop there. Look forward to Joe the “Plumber” merchandise, a dotcom, magazine…who knows.
But one thing you won’t find, or if you do you shouldn’t believe, is Joe taking making a courageous stand on his principles. It’s apparent that principles are not high on Joe’s to do list.
And as with any symbol, Joe represents more than himself, he represents society as a whole. If the blatant self promotion you see from Joe the Notaplumber is offensive to you, you might want to take look around.