PEEK

Can 'Whole Foods Conservatives' Make the GOP "Safe for Smarties Again"?

The Grand Old Party Appears to be caught between a rock and a very dumb place.

There are, of course, still non-crazy and non-dumb conservatives among us. Some, like the Hoover institute's Michael Petrilli, live in places like suburban Maryland, where they shop at Whole Foods, presumably enjoy arugula and might even drive a Volvo or Prius.

And occasionally one among this group will take to the pages of a publication like the Wall Street Journal to decry the anti-scientific rural tea-party types that have made them so uncomfortable within the big tent of the Republican Party. It's gotten to the point where it's an embarrassment to toodle around Silver Springs with a Palin/McCain bumper-sticker, and the're here to urge the GOP to think about people like them once in a while, perhaps by not basing the entire party platform on inspiring the peasants to grab their pitchforks.

Here's Petrilli, picking up the tune during a riff on red-neck GOP identity politics ...

To be sure, playing to personal identity is hardly novel, nor is it crazy. Bill Bishop and other political analysts have noted that people's politics are as much about their lifestyle choices as their policy positions. Republicans live in exurbs and small towns, drive pick-up trucks or SUVs, go to church every Sunday, and listen to country music. Well-heeled Democrats live in cities and close-in suburbs, drive hybrids or Volvos, hang out at bookshops, and frequent farmers' markets. These are stereotypes, of course, but they also contain some truth.

Widening this cultural divide has long been part of the GOP playbook, going back to Nixon's attacks on "East Coast intellectuals" and forward to candidate Obama's arugula-eating tendencies.

The problem for Petrilli isn't so much that widening that divide represents a rather ugly, superficial brand of politics, or that those who appeal to right-populist sentiment are themselves usually well-heeled urban hypocrites just putting on the 'golly-gee' act for the rubes (think George W. and all that damn brush-clearing).

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