When Washington is broken, enter the 'outsider'





Back in 1780, while the Revolutionary War still raged, a village in eastern Georgia had a notion. The hero of that uncertain hour was Gen. George Washington, and the community of Heard's Fort became the first of nearly 30 towns and cities across the U.S. to take his surname as its own.

Today, barring traffic, it takes nine hours and 31 minutes to drive south from the White House in THAT Washington to the town square of this one, where you'll find, among other attractions, a taxidermist, Miss Fanny's Tours and a monument to Confederate battle heroes of the Civil War.

This is an outpost in the small-town America coveted by John McCain and Barack Obama, and none of those "Beltway insiders" — much maligned wheeler-dealers who operate inside the ring-road that circles the national capital — is in sight.

Viewed from here, the District of Columbia — the Washington that John F. Kennedy wryly called "a city of southern efficiency and northern charm" — seems like another world.

"I feel out of touch with them. I think most Americans do," Ashley Barnett, Wilkes County's tourism director, says in her office on Washington's town square.

That refrain has resounded through administrations from Lyndon Johnson to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, and never more than at this moment: To candidates and many voters, Washington — D.C., not Georgia — is, simply, broken. Insiders are out, and outsiders are most definitely in.

America, the thinking goes, needs a leader with a non-Washington sensibility to parachute in and repair the damage, to infuse heartland-bred common sense into a faltering federal behemoth whose corruption and ineptitude is dragging down the nation.


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