Joe the Plumber: Pushing The Limits of Viral Fame

Posted in: Iowa City Owl
Remember “Joe the Plumber,” the disgruntled voter who questioned then-Senator Barack Obama about his tax policy during the 2008 campaign? He’s back. We’ll, he never really went away. The “plumber” turned media star, political commentator, author, and Tea Party headliner announced on Wednesday that he would be running as a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District.
This would be a somewhat interesting development if he hadn’t hinted at running for the last three election cycles and started acting a lot more like a politician than a “plumber” since he gained national media fame in 2008.

Normally, I would be thrilled about someone like “Joe the Plumber” running for Congress. What our nation needs right now is for everyday Americans to raise their voices and challenges the status quo that has resulted in a do-nothing Congress that seems not to care about the people it supposedly represents. But “Joe the Plumber” is not the working class, common sense hero that he and the media claim he is. In fact, he’s not even plumber, or named Joe.

The media turned this guy into an overnight sensation for the sole reason that he asked a good question of a presidential candidate. It’s a little perplexing, if not sad, that a single concerned citizen became a huge media story. I still do not quite understand it. After a couple days of intense media scrutiny, it was discovered that “Joe the Plumber” was not at all who the media made him to be. It turns out his real name is Sam Wurzelbacher, not Joe, and he wasn’t actually a plumber because he was not licensed (hence the quotation marks around “plumber”).

In anointing Wurzelbacher, or “Joe the Plumber,” as a working man’s superstar, the media missed the point entirely. “Joe the Plumber,” not Sam Wurzelbacher, but the idea itself, was significant because he represented working and middle class Americans. He stood for all the little guys who felt as if they didn’t have a say in the political process. The media got it right at first, but then they blew it. “Joe the Plumber’s” question was a great way to focus on all middle class Americans. The media could have used this opportunity to press candidates to increase their focus on middle class issues and take more questions from working class voters. Instead, by singling out one man and turning him into a celebrity, they created another media whore who ironically, after railing against government and the major political parties, now wants to be a Republican politician. Give me a break.

Sam Wurzelbacher did everything he could to stay in the spotlight as long as possible, travelling around the country headlining Tea Party rallies and authoring a book that I’m sure is incredibly insightful and full of brilliant policy ideas. This congressional campaign is just a last ditch effort for the former wannabe plumber to stay relevant. The media, once again, has taken the bait. Don’t get me wrong, Congress is in desperate need of middle class American voices to shake things up. What it does not need is another self-absorbed, attention hungry blowhard who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. Maybe the media should start calling him “Joe the Cowboy,” and let him ride off into the sunset.

This story is syndicated from Verum Magazine. Kevin Paulsen is a writer for Verum.
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