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Of Hockey Moms and Plumbers named Joe

The effort by Republicans to boil people down to working and middle class stereotypes is kind of like watching your grandpa try to use slang – insulting at worst, and embarrassing for everyone, at best. And, like Grandpa’s attempt at slang, the Republicans’ efforts to reduce people to one adjective and/or noun is incomprehensible to the people who actually live those lives.

Joe Six-Pack, Hockey Mom, Joe the Plumber – who are these people? I have done a bit of research and provided my findings below for others like me, whose plumbers are not named Joe.

Hockey Mom: Sarah Palin has famously referred to herself as a hockey mom, which is a variation of soccer mom, a group identified since the Clinton-Dole race as a key swing voter group.

According to its entry, a soccer mom is “a middle-class suburban woman who spends a significant amount of her time transporting her school-age children to activities such as soccer practice and music lessons.” It should be added that transporting her children around in a minivan is the most important, fulfilling thing that the Hockey Mom does as a mother, a woman and a human being.

Joe Six-Pack: This is a variation on Joe Q Public, or Man on the Street, and was used by Governor Palin in the Vice Presidential Debate. A euphemism for the workingman, the Six-Pack refers to the six-pack of beer the man drinks every night after work while watching the football game, before beating his wife.

Joe the Plumber: Joe the Plumber became a star after being mentioned several times during the last Obama-McCain debate. Inspired by a man who was neither a Joe nor a plumber, Joe the Plumber is the business man and is worried about having to give away his hard earned plumbing dollars to the government, which will immediately spend it on welfare queens.

Welfare Queens: This oldie but goodie came from the first presidential campaign of Ronald Regan in 1976, and is used to describe the women who lead lavish and extravagant lives while living off the government dime.

It’s funny, I have never met any of these people; have you? I have never met a mother who described herself by the errands she performs, or a man who describes himself by how much beer he drinks. I have heard of a Queen that lives off the government. Luckily, she’s in England.

Mostly, when I meet people, they describe themselves by their hopes and dreams, by what they aspire to be and achieve, and by their accomplishments. People are multifaceted and resistant to reductionism.

It is embarrassing to hear Sarah Palin call herself a hockey mom, and insulting to moms who consider themselves more than just that.

By putting human beings in neat but false categories, the Republican Party has illustrated its subtle disdain and condescension for the people it professes to serve.

– Kathleen Donovan, senior