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In Real America, Shining a Light on Faux Pas

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The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches Barack Obama's rally in Richmond, Va. Video by Akira Hakuta/washingtonpost.com

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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, October 23, 2008

RICHMOND

Something unreal is happening here in the real America.

Two hours before Barack Obama's appearance at a campaign rally here Wednesday, they played the national anthem -- and people stood and sang. Some even put hands on hearts! In the first row sat a woman -- we'll call her Margaret the Corporate Trainer, in Joe-the-Plumber style -- wearing an actual flag pin on her shirt. "I'm American!" she said proudly. Really.

Then Obama took the stage and gave a stirring speech about those soldiers who "fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America! They haven't served a Blue America! They have served the United States of America!"

The audience took up a chant of "USA! USA!"

And these are Democrats?

This scene did not fit neatly into the Sarah Palin view of the world. In that view, there is the "real America," the "hardworking, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation," the place where "we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans." We can identify this part of America because they vote Republican.

By inference, there is also a faux America, where people are slothful, unpatriotic, anti-American, misanthropic, bad and cowardly. We know these areas because they vote Democratic.

By that definition, you can't get much more real-America than Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy and the political center of a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat for president in 44 years. And yet, a CNN poll released Wednesday found Obama leading Republican John McCain by 10 points in the Commonwealth. And Obama, taking the stage at the Richmond coliseum Wednesday afternoon, just a few blocks from the Museum of the Confederacy, eagerly mocked Palin's two Americas.

"There are no real parts of the country and fake parts of the country," he told 12,000 supporters. "There are no pro-America parts of the country and anti-America parts of the country. We all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, city dweller, farm dwellers, it doesn't matter. We're all together."

In recent elections, Democrats were cowed by challenges to their patriotism. But the crowd in Richmond, confident of an Obama victory, brushed off the Palin insult with laughter, a survey of the first row in the arena revealed.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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