Cover image from NBC News
On Saturday, when this writer first got a glimpse of what Kevin Williamson had to say about working middle class towns that have either died or are dying thanks to corporations moving manufacturing and labor jobs overseas, I was floored. The man’s diatribe is titled “The Father Führer” and is available at this time via subscription. Thankfully, some others in the political blogosphere have subscriptions and were able to print some of the more objectionable – and downright ignorant – passages. Paragraphs like:
It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.
If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.
Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
Begging pardon, but the truth of the matter is, the man DID close the factories down – and not just in small towns, either. (And it was Billy Joel who sang about this more than Springsteen.) This writer lives in one of the older eastern cities. One municipality here in the county was, 50 years ago, a functioning factory town, complete with the workforce living in the neighborhood. It’s gone now. All the factories, if they are still standing, are hollowed out shells of brick walls. Being in a big, metropolitan area, the workers were absorbed elsewhere in the city, but the skills those people had to work in those factories were suddenly obsolete. We also had a HUGE garment district once. HUGE. A place where all sorts of lower skilled people could find work. It is now gone.
Granted, some of the shipment of jobs overseas has to do with the trade unions pricing labor out of the world-wide market, and some has to do with the over-reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, but that is no call to compare Trump supporters to junkies who move on to herion after their OxyContin runs out. (Besides, the drug of choice in small town America is supposedly meth.)
What Williamson is demonstrating here is the same sort of elitist snobbery that lost George Will a whole lot of readers. It’s been called the Washington Think Tank mentality. There is something to that. The people who perpetuate this attitude are educated policy wonks who don’t have to work on their feet. The American Middle Class is NOT loaded with people who wear suits to work everyday and make a living thinking and typing. They are the people who put roofs on houses, hang drywall, wire houses and buildings, clean living and work spaces. They are the people who take tolls and handle baggage at the airport. In the U.S. they USED to be the people who MADE drywall, and sewed clothes. They were the people who made televisions, phones, and smelted metals. A lot of that is done somewhere else now.
So, the solution, then to people like Williamson, is to blame the American victims of globalization for supporting the only candidate who is giving voice to their concerns? Is the American Middle Class THAT unpalatable to the GOP establishment? It would be a good thing for the elitist snobs to remember who produces their food, and mines the coal needed to generate electricity that powers the computers that spread their messaging. One can not like Donald Trump’s style, or even his platform, but to insult his supporters is downright suicidal. In this, Jazz Shaw put it most eloquently:
As for National Review’s Williamson… I can only hope he was a bit tipsy when he wrote that and has thought better of it since. It’s fine to promote Marco Rubio or attack Donald Trump, but this wide swipe at the people who built up the nation’s fabric during our periods of peak productivity is sad to see.
It would also be well for the elitists to remember that the American people are known quite well to be a sleeping giant that is a most formidable opponent. The most prevalent sentiment from the MILLIONS who support Trump is that they are sick and tired of no one caring about THEIR needs and concerns, which is basically opposition to the establishment wish list. Globalism is mentioned frequently. One thing that is being learned at least by those with their eyes open is that the American people are not anywhere close to being controlled by self-styled elites, and we out here on the fruited plain are far better informed than the likes of Ted Cruz want to believe.