After watching Bill Clinton’s speech nominating President Obama for a second term, I caught the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
marathon on TLC. For those unfamiliar with six years old Honey Boo Boo (her real name is Alana Thompson), she’s a breakout reality star from TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras which chronicles child beauty pageants. Who’d have thought that the death of Jon-Benet Ramsay would arouse a near-morbid fascination with child beauty pageants? But I digress.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which follows the Thompsons, a family from Wilkinson County in north Georgia, chronicles the efforts of June Thompson as she prepares Alana to enter beauty pageants. June and Alana live in a house with three other daughters (which includes an unmarried, pregnant 17 year old) and Alana’s dad, the tobacco-chawing Sugar Bear. In true hillbilly fashion, June and Sugar Bear are in a common-law relationship. Well, maybe not so hillbilly since the Empire State’s governor has a similar common-law relationship. Again, I digress.
Think of Honey Boo Boo as Little Miss Sunshine if her grandfather (played by the great Alan Arkin) had not died and had sole custody of the child. Like the child portrayed by Abigail Breslin, Honey Boo Boo is overweight and talentless but dreams of being a pageant winner. But unlike, Little Miss Sunshine, Honey Boo Boo is precocious enough to be in on the joke. She and her mom, June, are taking TLC, its money and fame for a ride. Which leads me to my main point: is this north Georgia family — which farts a lot, eats road kill, goes four-wheeling, and dumpster dives– representative of a segment of the electorate worth winning?
The show has its critics. Claudia Marable, who along with her mom runs Shh! It’s A Wig, accuses TLC producers of “trying to make them look foolish.” Ms. Marable didn’t like the way the episode featuring a trip to her wig store in Macon, Georgia called it a “hot mess.” The View’s Joy Behar has expressed her own concern that Honey Boo Boo is on the road to obesity. That might call for an intervention by First Mom-in-chief, Michelle Obama. But that might anger those who rail against big government and [black] elitists lecturing common folks about good eating habits.
The Thompson’s home county of Wilkinson was won by McCain-Palin in 2008. The county was once so blue that Democrats from Jimmy Carter to Al Gore carried Wilkinson from 1976 until 2000. In the last 20 years, Bill Clinton has been the only Democrat to win Georgia since their favorite son, Jimmy Carter did so in 1976 and 1980. Presently, the county, with a population just under 9,500, is 58% white and 38% black. The median household income is $37,902. Eighty-two percent of households own their home. And 12% of residents are college graduates. In July 2012, the county’s unemployment rate has risen two points from 8.9% in April 2012 to 10.9% in July.
Pundits say that former President Clinton has the unenviable task of winning the “Bubba” vote for President Obama. But I think Clinton would do better to focus on winning the Honey Boo Boo vote over to Obama. Unlike Bubbas, Honey Boo Boos are more likely to vote. They are more likely to be motivated to support the presidential candidate who can, yes, improve the economy but also offer healthy, secure and hopeful futures for their Honey Boo Boo and her siblings.
We may have been grossed out when Sugar Bear talked about eating road kill and “shopping” at the county garbage dump but these people may not do those things because they’re poor. I believe they do it because they don’t want to waste resources. That’s their Scotch-Irish sensibility at play. It’s the kind of recycling that coastal elites frown upon while driving their Priuses to Whole Foods Market where they place their organically grown purchases in shopping bags made from recycled paper.
Bill Clinton can certainly relate to these people. I can’t see Barack or Mitt eating crackling and hush puppies. Well, at least, not Mitt. I could see the competitive Obama racing a four-wheeler across mudflats. But Bill Clinton can.
Clinton got his start in Arkansas politics (My Life) courting rural Democrats in the hinterlands of his home state. He won black and white votes because they liked him and his message. And he, in turn, truly liked and respected them. Rural Wilkinson is probably no different.
In Wilkinson, their fears and prejudice probably led them to vote for Goldwater, Wallace, Nixon and McCain. Bill Clinton gets them and he can convince the Honey Boo Boo voter that President Obama, unlike Mitt Romney, likes her, better serves her interests and inspires her better angels.
Despite the high unemployment number, I want to believe that the Honey Boo Boo voters want to come back home to their parents and grandparents Democratic party. They should want to return to the party of social security, rural electrification, V-E and V-J Days, prosperity, Medicare/Medicaid, college access, healthcare reform, and victory over Al-Qaeda.
One thing is for sure, Honey Boo Boo and the rest of the Thompsons are certainly better off today than they were four years ago.
Do you think Bill Clinton can win over Honey Boo Boo vote for President Obama? Leave a comment below.