The elusive Bubba Factor, and why it matters

Ed Quillen

I was surprised when I got a call from Ananias Ziegler, media relations director for the Committee That Really Runs America; it was the first time he had ever called me out of the blue.

After the usual pleasantries, he asked, “Got time to answer a few questions for me today? Seems only fair, since I try to answer yours.” I told him I would, but wondered why he was soliciting my views.

“Did you see the May 5 edition of Newsweek?” he asked. “It’s about the Bubba Gap. Here at the Committee, we’re working on the best ways to exploit it, and our database search produced you as a rural white guy. The other Committee staffers were scared to go out on the ground in flyover country to meet a Bubba in person, so I volunteered to call you, since we know each other.”

I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted, so I let it slide and told him to ask away.

“Have you ever lost a job on account of affirmative action?” he asked.

“About 35 years ago, I applied at the Boulder Daily Camera. I was more than qualified to write obits. But the newspaper had just lost a sex-discrimination lawsuit, so I didn’t get hired.”

“Are you bitter about that?” he pursued.

“At the time, yeah. But I know now that my ideal workplace is where you can scratch yourself, belch, tell raunchy jokes and otherwise be comfortable while focusing on your work, instead of trying to control every little thing you might do or say. Newspaper offices aren’t like that anymore, so I’m better off working from home,” I explained.

Ziegler moved to the next question. “Do you prefer venison, elk or generic roadkill?”

“Never much cared for wild game,” I said. “I’ll sample it to be polite if someone’s serving it, but give me beef any day.”

“So I take it you prefer mass-market beer, like Bud or Coors,” he proceeded.

“I like local microbrews,” I said, “and have ever since I first tasted Anchor Steam in San Francisco.”

“So you drive a Volvo and enjoy wine tastings?” he continued.

“Nope. I just bought a used Ford pickup, but usually I drive our old Prizm because it gets much better mileage. And I’m not much of a wine guy, since I usually can’t tell the difference between a good vintage and the screw-top stuff that was aged in transit.”

He jumped to another conclusion: “So I take it you enjoy NASCAR events and country music.”

“I wouldn’t walk across the street to see a stock-car race. As for music, Hank Williams was a genius, but country music has generally gone downhill since his day.”

Ziegler sighed. “You’re not helping me to define the red, white and blue bloc.”

“Red, white and blue?” I asked.

“Redneck, white trash and blue collar,” he explained. “And why do you sound so peeved?”

“Because I’m sick of your ignorant stereotyping,” I replied. “Most of my friends and neighbors are rural white folks. Some are vegetarians, some hunt and eat wild game. Some love classical music, others like down-and-dirty rock ‘n’ roll. Some are gearheads, others read a lot, some manage both. Some go to church every Sunday, some don’t. Some quote Rush Limbaugh, others prefer Amy Goodman. About all we have in common ” be we janitors, ranch hands, machinists or shopkeepers ” is that we don’t make a lot of money.”

He cut me off. “I get the picture. But how’s the Committee supposed to divide Americans into discrete demographic groups that can be manipulated by political campaigns if you guys don’t cooperate by having a common culture?”

“That’s not my problem,” I said, and hung up on him.