Stop Talking About “Real America!”

We first started hearing about “real America” from Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign.

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.

The inverse of that sentiment is what drove this tweet from Matt Drudge yesterday.

In other words, California and New York don’t qualify as “real America.” And so, if you discount their votes…Trump wins.

But it’s not just Republican politicians and conservative media that imply that there is a real America. Remember when Bernie Sanders responded to a question about whether or not the Democratic primary was rigged by suggesting that having so many Southern states go first distorted reality? That sent a similar message.

This kind of thinking has also permeated the mainstream media. Take a look at the title of a post by James Fallows reporting on what he found when visiting western Kansas: “A Note About Trumpism, From the Real America.” Yesterday, during an interview with Chuck Todd about the failures of the Democratic Party in the 2016 election, Charlie Cook used the phrase.

The thing is a lot of Americans and a lot of these voters out in sort of real America where I grew up and okay, sort of where you grew up. These are people with a different value structure. And they don’t recognize what the Democratic party has become.

As someone who actually lives in what is otherwise known as “flyover country,” it is infuriating to hear someone from what I might call “the D.C. bubble” talk about what constitutes real America. Suggesting that he has an inside track on our thinking because of where he grew up doesn’t get him off the hook.

There are myriads of ways to slice and dice the American public. Many of them are helpful in understanding our body politic. But the one way that is absolutely NOT acceptable is to suggest that we are divided between “real America” and (by inference) “not-real America.” End…of…story.

But it’s also important to note that referring to real America is code for the fact that we are talking about a portion of this country that is primarily white. Suggesting that is what it means to be “real” is also code for white supremacy. While I’m sure that isn’t the message someone like Cook intended to send, it is the foundation on which that phrase is based. It is beyond time for us to start calling that out.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.