YESTERDAY, AFTER WHAT SURELY MUST have been a night of very little sleep, Joe Wurzelbacher probably opened his eyes to a television with his face on it, while news networks were trying to explain to the rest of us who, exactly, Joe the Plumber is.
Joeâ€™s introduction to much of America in Wednesday nightâ€™s final presidential debate was a big one â€” he was mentioned more than two dozen times. Very few of these included his full name though, with the candidates preferring just â€œJoeâ€ or the now-familiar â€œJoe the Plumber.â€
And it seems to me that thereâ€™s a reason theyâ€™re calling this guy Joe the Plumber instead of Joe Wurzelbacher, and it probably isnâ€™t just because theyâ€™re having trouble pronouncing his last name.
Itâ€™s because they arenâ€™t the same person. Joe Wurzelbacher is not Joe the Plumber, at least not in the sense presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain used him Wednesday night.
McCain, in particular, latched on to Joe as a symbol for blue-collar workers and â€œaverageâ€ Americans. Of course, Wurzelbacher, as we learned Thursday, is considering buying the plumbing company heâ€™s working for and is concerned about being taxed at a higher rate for the income he will be earning over $250,000, under Obamaâ€™s proposed income tax policy.
Still, in a spectacular bit of â€œmonkey see, monkey do,â€ most media outlets bought the â€œaverageâ€ American bit hook, line and sinker.
So while Joe Wurzelbacher says he is â€œinfuriatedâ€ by Obamaâ€™s tax plan, it seems to me thereâ€™s a whole lot more for him to be angry about. The candidatesâ€™ and the mass mediaâ€™s appropriation of his name and occupation as a marker for American â€œcommonnessâ€ is one. Because in truth, thereâ€™s not really much common about being a plumber â€” most of us canâ€™t do what they do. Thatâ€™s why we have to call one and dish out $200 an hour when our sinks and toilets start acting up.
Thereâ€™s nothing common about it, and thereâ€™s nothing common about being a construction worker.
Thereâ€™s nothing common about being a fisherman, or an auto mechanic or a factory worker. Thereâ€™s nothing common about â€œblue-collarâ€ workers.
While these people might have average yearly incomes, thereâ€™s not much common about who they are. They live in Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as in Tennessee and South Carolina. They have a diverse set of skills and interests. They are Protestants, they are Catholics, and Muslims and atheists.
Shame on John McCain, and Barack Obama and the media who lapped it all up.
Because the average Joe isnâ€™t average at all. Hell, heâ€™s probably not even Joe.