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My friend Brian "Schmoove" Prenoveau and I were talking earlier this evening, and Brian posed a question this way:

"Have you ever been out somewhere where someone you know said anything along the lines of 'Hey man, did you watch 'Two and a Half Men' last night?'"

And, I had to admit: no.  Not only have I never watched "Two and a Half Men" before--this show has been on CBS now for a whopping five years now and lands weekly in the top-ten most-viewed shows--but I have never heard someone quote lines from "Two and a Half Men", or talk about how much they love "Two and a Half Men", or tell me I need to rent the most recent season of "Two and a Half Men" on DVD.  That's because no one I know watches that show...and, to a larger degree, it's why I am sure I don't know Americans at all.

You see, it's important to note during this election season that the people who read Bellview--and, naturally, the people you hang out with regularly--are not really "Americans" in the sense that pollsters talk about them.  You, generally speaking, are like me and like a lot of your friends: you live in a major city, probably on one of the coasts; you live in a household that can fairly be described as upper middle class with a household income well north of six figures; you are well educated (many of you have one, sometimes two, advanced degrees); you have a good job.  Even if you don't fit the high-income piece of this, you probably fit the rest, also placing you outside of what we call "the American people."  You stray far from what candidates call "the people", "middle class", or "struggling."  You are not in touch with what real Americans deal with on a day-to-day basis, although you might watch TV shows or read stories on the Interweb about real Americans and their troubles.  (Hint: real Americans don't sweat option packages on their new BMWs, or $470,000 one-bedroom condos, or season tickets at professional sporting events...these issues NEVER OCCUR for real Americans.)

I would like to think that as I have gotten older, my worldview has gotten bigger and I am able to process information outside of my social circles to leverage that against what I know, love and believe in.  As such, I know this--the majority of my friends, although not all of them, believe that Barack Obama will be our next president, and in speaking with some of them, they will be somewhat surprised if he does not win this fall's election.  What's interesting in this argument is that most of my friends, and I'll include myself in this, don't know many people that live in "America", that strange, somewhat foreign land between New York and LA where people still work in plants, mills, fields and mines, go to church and drive American cars.

Have you ever driven through America?  Let me ask you this:  what have you seen more of, in total days, since you were 18--cities OUTSIDE the US or places INSIDE the US that are not on a coast?  Let me ask it another way--since only 10% of Americans have an active passport, what percentage of your friends have an active passport?  Let's try this--have you visited anywhere in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, or Missouri?  Or, just London?

It's a magical place, really; America has got a lot of pretty sweet sights.  Nice people, too.  Although it appears to be different on TV, most Americans actually don't spend time hangin' out in coffee shops; most of them don't know what "trans fats" are and don't care; most of them (in some places, as much as 75% of the populace) go to church on Sundays.

What percentage of your friends go to church every Sunday?

All of this is to say that it's likely you don't really understand how the mind of the true American really works, even if you have spent your whole life here.  It's why you probably looked up at the sky with your arms raised in November 2000, wondering how "the people" could vote for George W. Bush as our nation's president.  I'll admit, I stared blankly at the sky too...in fact, my buddy David "Dave" Lee and I still joke about the conversations we had in 2000 and '04 when we both thought it would be worth investigating a move to Europe until another president was put into office.  It's why many of my friends look at John McCain and Sarah Palin and wonder how anyone could imagine them as our next executive office holders...until you realize that you don't know America at all.

I like to talk often about the Bush approval ratings that the Gallup Poll releases every so often; lately, it's been hovering in the 25-28% range, which I find interesting for one reason and one reason only:

28% of Americans will look you dead in the eye and tell you that they believe George W. Bush is doing a good, sometimes great, job as our current president.  They are happy, they don't notice a deteriorating job/financial market, they are satisfied that we are essentially at war, and they envision a brighter future based on a bright present.

THAT should shock you.  Think about that, REALLY think about that hard--one out of every four Americans would answer the question "How do you feel about George W. Bush as our current president?" with something along the lines of

"Hmm...well, I think he is doing [okay/great/fantastic].  I can't complain, really...and, I am perfectly content with the direction this nation is heading and thankful that President Bush is our leader."


Apparently, "only" 60% of Republicans are satisfied with Bush's work in office.  That means that 60% of a large populace is happy with the current administration.  That means "more than half."  Essentially all of these people will vote for McCain.

Personally, I am excited for the 2008 election, generally because I am intrigued by the drama.  I have never been a believer in wholesale change, so no matter who takes office in January, my hope is that the country will be, I dunno, two to five percent "better" than it was three or four years ago.  McCain won't come in with sweeping change, making the country a more beautiful, sunnier, safer, more financially prudent landscape...and, neither will Obama.  But it's fun to watch them sell their game that way and I can't blame them, since that's politics.  Both sides are counting on their base plus a wide array of voters who have never been bothered with coming out to vote to swing their way and take the White House.  It's going to be a fun ride through debate season as the American people make their pick.

Speaking of which, do you know anyone who has watched "Deal or No Deal" more than once?  (That's the NBC show where contestants pick numbered steel suitcases to win cash using nothing more than blind luck, making it the only game show currently on the major networks that requires zero talent to win money.)  "Deal" was the #9-rated show in last week's Nielsen ratings...just one spot higher than "Two and a Half Men."  Guess how many viewers those two shows took in last week?  18.8 MILLION people.

Isn't it strange that you don't know one person who watches those shows?


Random Bellviews, courtesy of Bell & Longer Community Trust:

  • Living a hundred feet from the grocery store:  Opening Weekend

  • Those ozzie rolls at Sweetwater Tavern/Coastal Flats:  $9.50 Show

  • Free tickets to Redskins game...96 in the sun:  Matinee

  • Standard-definition televisions:  Rental

  • UVA football (and getting pounded by--gulp--UConn):  Hard Vice



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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09