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  Sunday  August 18  2002    06: 33 PM

Real America


Why is it deemed so important to holiday in the heartland? The centre of America certainly contains many wonderful vacation spots, but Plains, Georgia, and Crawford, Texas, are not among them. The simple reason is that Americans regard the heartland as more than just a geographical expression (the country's central and rural areas). It is a moral condition: an embodiment of the authentic American tradition of self-reliance, family values and community spirit. The inhabitants of the heartland are descendants of the rugged pioneers who carved a great civilisation out of mountains and prairies. They continue to make their living by doing proper work—by wrestling with nature rather than shuffling symbols on a screen. Mr Bush is well aware of his electoral success across “real” America, while Al Gore was left with the celluloid bits. Hence the value of that gritty picture in the FT (even if it was largely seen by stockbrokers lounging around Long Island).

But is the heartland really such an embodiment of self-reliance? Sadly, its true characteristics are not vigour and independence but economic decline and government handouts. The small communities that are supposed to embody the American spirit are, in fact, haemorrhaging jobs, people and wealth. [read more]