When you hear someone being accused of having stereotyped a group, it is not normally a very nice accusation. It has this veiled feel to it like you have just been called a racist. Well, that is perfectly true and stereotypes can be degrading especially when used to dump a minority into a particularly unpleasant common pot.
On the other hand, it is almost impossible to avoid the use of stereotypes when discussing American politics even in politically correct discussions. What for example would we do without the terms conservative or liberal. The problem is, however, that certain groups do not have a stereotype and without a stereotype they have a very difficult time being heard or listened to.
With the untimely demise of trade unions under the Reagan Administration, one very large group was left without leadership and without political power. Not only are they having trouble re-organizing themselves, they suffer from another big problem ... they do not have a stereotype and as a result it is difficult to locate them on the political spectrum and they are basically, for all intents and purposes, ignored.
Let's give a prime example of what happens when you cannot quite identify a large group of people because they do not have a stereotype -- the devoted fans of Imus. Both sides of the political spectrum tend depending upon their specific audience attribute his downfall to either the liberals or the conservatives. The problem Imus had was that he really didn't quite fit in either group -- and as a result had no allies and as soon as a concerted attack occur he went down without much regret being displayed by either liberals or conservatives -- except an occassionally brain-dead conservative calling it a liberal conspiracy.
Yet, the Imus fans are an important group and they are the center of a culture war that the Democrats have been losing for the last six years. So how do we describe this amorphous large but under represented and largely ignored group?
There are some existing stereotypes, usually of the derogative and social slur type which covers part of this group. The ones coming most commonly to mind are: redneck, hillbilly, trailer trash, white trash, yuppies, centrists, working stiffs, common ordinary joe. But all of these are actually subsets of the group. So, I believe there is a new label and stereotype needed. All stereotypes breakdown when you get down to specifics and specific individuals -- if they didn't they wouldn't be stereotypes.
I do not know a lot about the medical condition called Autism, but a close friend of mine who had an autistic child once indicated that the diagnosis process used at that time which was in the 1980's was they had this long list of attributes or symptoms and if your child displayed say two-thirds of the symptoms on the list then the child is considered autistic. I think this is a useful technique and for political purposes exactly what is done.
So, lets take a shot at describing this amorphous group's attributes:
1)They listen to either pop or country music, rarely like classical or jazz;
2)If they are in the child rearing age, they are fiercely devoted to their kids;
3)They normally drink beer, not wine;
4)They tend to exceed the speed limit, and are very into what type of vehicle they are driving;
5)Their major social connections are likely to be the public school their children or grandchildren are in, a fraternal lodge or veterans association that involves a bar;
6)They tend to not be overly engaged in politics and generally distrust politicians and government;
7)Their entertainment is likely to be auto racing, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, softball or bowling leagues fishing and/or hunting, and on TV they tend to pay attention to football, basketball, and baseball.
8)They have normally graduated from high school and may have an associate or bachelor's degree, but not normally a graduate degree except possibly in business or law;
9) They are generally in the middle class economic strata;
10) They generally do not run for public office, but may run for school board or town board and are frequently involved in a volunteer fire department if their town has one.
11)They frequently are involved in Scouting and coaching youth in baseball, hockey, etc.
12)They commonly have small businesses especially in the building trades, and both parents work outside the home.
13)They are not bothered by racist, sexist, or other politically incorrect comments by talk show hosts, in other words they might have listened to Imus.
14) Many have had military experience in one form or another, or have family members or close relatives that have.
15)Unless they belong to a trade union, they are not overly involved in organized politics, but may turn out in numbers if there is some local controversy.
So if they exhibit say ten of the above fifteen symptoms, they are in this group. Perhaps they could be referred to as the American commons. They have not had effective leadership since the demise of trade unions, but sometimes will respond to populist politicians if they are in hard times.
They are nevertheless a very important segment of our population. They constitute the prize in the culture war that is currently being waged by liberals and conservatives. In their hands rests the future of America, if they can be startled out of their slumber by a politician who can make politics meaningful to them.