In every election, candidates promise to fight for the average citizen, John Q. Public. Candidates from around the world pledge to fight for the politically powerless, for he who has no voice in the course of public policy. The Germans call this figure Otto Normalburger, the Russians call him Ivan Ivanovich and the British call him Joe Bloggs. Here in the United States, Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin continually invoke the name of Joe Sixpack, and place all their hopes of winning the election this Tuesday on him. However, their dependence on Joe Sixpack is outdated, obsolete and bound to fail.

So who is Joe Sixpack?

Joe Sixpack is an abstraction and a stereotype, but very real to the Republican ticket. According to McCain and Palin, Joe Sixpack is a normal, everyday American. Joe lives in a small town in the heartland of America. Every morning he wakes up and goes to his 9 to 5 job at the factory or the office. He works hard at his job, knowing his family depends on him to earn the food on their table and the roof over their heads. Every evening, Joe punches out and goes home. Weary from a hard day of work, he sits back, flips the TV to SportsCenter and enjoys a beer or two. Or six.

McCain and Palin tell us constantly Joe Sixpack is furious at the big-city coastal elites. Joe Sixpack has had enough of the greedy corporate fat cats who have wrecked the economy. Joe despises the liberal fat cats in Washington who raise his taxes. Joe resents the stuck-up media and Harvard graduates who sneer contemptuously at Joe and call him a redneck. Joe, according to McCain and Palin, plans to vote for the Republican ticket next week. He can especially relate to Sarah Palin, who is a walking, talking Joe Sixpack minus the working class job. She promises not to rest until the “normal Joe Sixpack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency.” She’s part of the “real” America, ready to shake things up among the elitist establishment on the coast. McCain and Palin alike promise to keep Joe’s taxes low, secure his job and uphold his values in office.

In appealing to the Joe Sixpack persona, the Republican campaign is following nearly three decades of established tradition in American politics. Small-town, high school-educated white males like Joe Sixpack have traditionally voted Republican in droves, while urban coastal minorities and women have leaned heavily Democratic. Democrats and Republicans alike have typically exploited this divide. Republicans have sneered at the pretentious, pointy-headed, secular socialists of the coasts, and vowed to champion Joe Sixpack’s low taxes and small-town Christian values. Democrats derided the ignorant, selfish rednecks of the heartland and promised to fight for the little guy’s welfare programs and a separated church and state.

Yet as hard as McCain and Palin try to spark the same old, tired class warfare by claiming to speak for the small-town, white male Everyman, they will only meet with failure this election cycle. The unpopularity of the current administration and the current economic crisis has already set the Republican ticket back among those who normally support them. This election marks the first time in three decades that a Democratic candidate is pulling even with Republicans among white males. Joe isn’t as dependable anymore.

Meanwhile, McCain and Palin focus on such a narrow definition of the “normal” American among their Republican base that they have excluded and alienated every other kind of “normal” American stereotype. Jos? Sixpack resents McCain’s unwillingness to address his party’s xenophobic stance on immigration. Jamal Sixpack is turned off by the racists who lurk among McCain and Palin’s supporters at rallies, and the candidates’ tepid response to them. Yusuf Sixpack probably dislikes the constant invocation of Barack Obama’s middle name and the repeated reference to Obama as a Muslim (as if it would be a bad thing even if he were). And let’s not forget Joe “I’m Gay” Sixpack’s reaction to McCain’s opposition to gay adoption.

Obama also pledges to fight for the Everyman, but his rhetoric expands beyond the Joe Sixpack American. Obama gears his rhetoric to all middle- and lower-income Americans, and hardly needs to lift a finger to encourage blame on the current administration for wrecking the country as a whole. He runs on a platform of unity among the red states and the blue states, and an end to the culture wars of the last several decades. On top of that, he is one of the most moderate Democrats we have had in a while, more moderate, I think, than most of his ardent followers realize. Whether he will succeed or not in ending political cultural spite is debatable. But based on his poll numbers, it seems like Joe Sixpacks of all kinds are already growing tired of being fought over for the last several elections.

Jack Garigliano ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in history and English.