How to Be a Great American

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by Conor Friedersdorf

Joe's story is the iconic American tale. He's a patriot who became instantly famous for simply asking a question that millions of us wanted asked. As my friend Sean Hannity would say, Joe is a great American! -- Mike Gallagher, Syndicated Talk Radio

Yes, "Joe" the "Plumber" has "written" a book. What strikes me about that promotional blurb, taken from its Amazon page, is what it implies about our national standards: these days, it is apparently instant fame that confers status as an iconic American. In order to be "a great American," one need no longer distinguish oneself by achievements in commerce, science or the arts, nor display valor on the battlefield, nor serve fellow citizens as an exceptional leader.

On the populist right, asking a question is now a sufficient achievement to be a great American. And the unironic metric for measuring a good question? How successfully it spreads in the 24 hour news cycle. It is disconcerting that Mike Gallagher's blurb was chosen due to a belief that it would make the book appealing to the widest possible audience on the right. My faith in the conservative base's ability to elevate credible leaders wanes daily.

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