SEEK AND DESTROY

There are two distinct groups of people who are really into Trump. I understand one of them very well because I've spent my entire life around them. The other group I only encountered recently.

The first is white people over 50. These people have, for the most part, remarkably good lives (or at least no excuse not to). I'm from the southwest suburbs of Chicago, where about half of all working adults got their paycheck from the public sector when I was growing up. Cops, public school teachers, state-county-municipal employees, streets and san workers, you name it. The people I knew growing up are, for the most part, retired or near retirement, coasting on massive (and massively expensive) government pensions. They live in relatively pricey, lily white suburbs. Their lives literally could not be any easier, and they owe every penny they've ever earned in their lives to the government. They're retiring in a level of luxury and comfort their children and grandchildren will never know, on the public dollar. And, almost to a person, they love Trump, Fox News, constant outrage, etc etc. Some are scared of a new world and a new society they don't understand. Some believe things used to be better and don't understand why that's no longer the case. Some really, really don't like brown-skinned people. These are not, broadly speaking, intellectually curious people. There's a lot they no longer recognize or understand, and they have no inclination to accommodate the way they think to a new reality. So they sit around, double-dipping state and county pensions after they retired (for the first time) at 50, in large homes with two expensive cars ranting about how terrible everything is.

The second group – and color me sheltered, I suppose – I didn't encounter until four years ago when I moved to Central Illinois. They are not all over 50. In fact, many are younger and have legitimate economic grievances, hence the part of Trumpism that appeals to people who are angry about American jobs being outsourced overseas. Nothing in my first 33 years prepared me for how bitter, angry, and flat-out mean people who live in shitty places are. They hate their lives, and they hate them with good cause. They're simply looking for someone to take that fact out on. It's not surprising once I saw it and thought about it; take any relatively normal human and have them spend 30 years in the middle of nowhere in a town that smells constantly from its rendering plant and where the best restaurant is a Hardee's and he or she will be pretty bitter, resentful, and angry too. These are people who have never met a Muslim, yet they're furiously angry at Muslims. They also hate immigrants, Mexicans who are not immigrants, blacks, gays, Big City people, professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers…basically everyone who isn't white and a member of their shitty church. They adopt this cartoonish hyper-jingoistic and faux-Country manner and style, talk a lot about Real 'Muricans and people who aren't Real 'Muricans, and recite lists of grievances about everyone to blame for the fact that they didn't try hard enough in high school to get out like some of their friends did. Obama, Hillary Clinton, ISIS, Jews, gays, welfare queens – anyone will do. They love Trump because he's blaming the same scapegoats. It is emphatically not hard to get these people to be really, really angry at some target. Any half-talented charlatan can do it.

Of course not everyone who lives in these places fits this description; the ones who are enthusiastic about Donald Trump do, though. I've thought a lot about what thread connects these two superficially very different groups, and the best way I can describe it is disappointment. These are people who thought life would be better than it is – or perhaps even feel entitled to more than what they got – and they don't want to blame themselves for whatever shortcomings there are, real or perceived. They're comfortable middle class people who are mad because they expected to be rich, and poorer people who are mad that they didn't become comfortable middle class. Their circumstances are different but the palpable, deep seated sense of having been cheated out of what was theirs is the same. Unable or unwilling to grapple with the complex set of structural economic changes that left them in their respective situations, they take the easy way out and blame it on any convenient target. The politics of blood and culture are the path of least resistance, and the choice between confronting the reality that they're financially insecure because the trickle-down economics they professed faith in for decades does not actually work or blaming the Mexicans and the blacks is no choice at all.

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82 Responses to “SEEK AND DESTROY”

  1. Heisenberg Says:

    Damn, dude. Well done.

  2. lofgren Says:

    The thread that connects the disparate factions of the GOP is that they all believe that they can't prosper unless somebody else suffers. Whether it's capitalists spending millions of dollars to avoid giving their employees a $0.35 raise, racists who think the Mexicans are getting too much free shit from working Americans, Baby Boomers pulling up the ladder behind them as quickly as they can, or fundies fairly slavering at the thought of sinners suffering eternal damnation. They are united by their belief that the pain of others enriches their lives.

    Rather than being the product of dementia or cruelty, I think this attitude has a proven track record of effectiveness. From roughly the time that the borders of city-states began to but up against each other and the best land in the world became a commodity, fucking over somebody else – preferably your neighbor – has been a pretty damn effective method of improving your tribe's lot in life. Not always the best way to do so, but pretty effective none-the-less. That has only been changing in the last century and a half.

    At this point they've had ample warnings to learn the lesson. World War I didn't teach it. WWII, Vietnam, oil rationing, didn't teach it. Iraq I made it seem like maybe they were starting to get a clue but Iraq II proved the first one was just a blip. It's a little surprising that the threat of nuclear annihilation didn't teach them a better way to be. Oh well. Global climate change will force those of us who are left to wake the fuck up real quick.

    There will always be winner and losers. Some things in life are a 0 sum game. But we have got to decouple the instinctive relationship between inflicting pain and receiving rewards or the next generation is going to grow up in a right hell hole.

  3. Safety Man! Says:

    To expound upon one of Ed's points, I grew up in the South, for god's sake, and was genuinely shocked at the level of racism I found in Podunk, Pennsylvania. I honest-to-god believe that most of them have never even met a minority, but dear lord do they hate them. I just don't get it.

  4. mago Says:

    So these people really exist outside a hologram, or is it a ven diagram? I'm confused.

  5. MilitantlyAardvark Says:

    @Safety Man!

    It's a lot easier to hate an abstract, rather than actual living people you might meet in the grocery store. That's why the Nazis complained that getting people to hate Jews was easy enough – but that every German had his "good Jew" and thought that an exemption should be made for that person.

    I grew up in a small town that had long since seen its good days vanish. When I graduated high school and people knew I was heading off to a rather good university, half the kids I knew and had grown up with stopped talking to me all at once, having assumed that I couldn't possibly want to know them any longer, because they were stuck in Goingnowheresville after making no effort to get anywhere with their education.

  6. Noskilz Says:

    Probably something to that – disappointment does sound like a logical common theme.

    I've often wondered if some sort of low-grade PTSD might explain some of Trump's appeal – it's certainly not his insight or sophisticated arguments. For over a decade, there has been something of an industry devoted to trying to convince people to be frightened of more or less everything at all times. I was under the impression that one of the possible contributing factors to PTSD was being in situations where one could never feel safe, and I'm not sure it matters if the threats are real as long as the subject believes in them.

    Or perhaps I'm just having some difficulty wrapping my mind around how anyone could seriously entertain a word-salad spewing bullshit artist as presidential material without some kind of serious impairment.

  7. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    Not everyone is fit for a university degree and a white collar job. The reality of the situation is that these people (the second, younger group you describe) have been put into direct competition with the rest of the world's labor supply by ineluctable economic forces. The only job prospects they have left are those that can't be outsourced–e.g., in the service industry.

    I can't excuse their scapegoating mentality, but I also realize that "study hard and go to college" cannot, and shouldn't necessarily, be a viable life strategy for everyone.

    So, how to resolve this conundrum? I don't see any solutions. But I do resent the idea that, without a degree, one must automatically be relegated to the lower, toiling, resentful class.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    Pretty much everyone has mirrors where they live.

    Some just either don't look at them at all, or only see their reflected image, and look no further or deeper…

  9. quixote Says:

    @ConcernedCitizen, there's no law that says service jobs have to have dreadful pay, horrible hours, and no benefits. We could have labor laws that secured decent wages and hours, and social laws that provided health care and real pensions.

    Everything would be more expensive, but people would be more content, even in Nowheresville.

    The US has decided that costs too much.

  10. Talisker Says:

    Good stuff, Ed. But this didn't ring true for me:

    They're comfortable middle class people who are mad because they expected to be rich

    Let's say Joe is 65 years old, a retired high school principal, and a Trump supporter. Maybe Joe never got over his youthful dreams of being a rock star, and he's still bitter about it. But more likely, Joe had a pretty good career, now he has a very good pension, and intellectually he understands that. So I don't think this is a personal economic grievance.

    I think it's more a case of anger at American decline, both real and imagined. America was rich, powerful and respected when Joe was growing up in the 1950s, much less so today. If Joe is not a completely horrible person, he may be worried about his children and grandchildren in the modern economy. This combines with the usual Old Person unhappiness about declining faculties, changing society, and how things were better in the Good Old Days.

    As far as Joe is concerned, America used to be Great, and now it is not so Great. He's been encouraged in this belief for years by Fox News and dubious forwarded emails. Now along comes Trump, who promises to Make America Great Again. Unsurprisingly, Joe is a receptive listener.

  11. MilitantlyAardvark Says:

    "They're comfortable middle class people who are mad because they expected to be rich"

    Probably, as Talisker says, not the cause of their resentment. More likely, they expected to be little tyrants of their comfortably homogenous communities and are absolutely furious that women don't show them automatic respect and deference, that people of color can gain positions of power and authority, that the moral certainties they grew up with are no longer seen as default choices by most people. I suspect that the recent talk of white privilege gets them especially angry, because it implies (all too rightly) that some of their achievements weren't quite as wonderful and heroic and special as they had believed.

  12. Wim Says:

    In both cohorts you're speaking of people who genuinely believe it is far worse to be called a racist than to profess or practice racism. They're what I came to call 'muttering racists,' back when I used to work with a broad range of white lower-middle-class types: they'll sidle up to you and mutter imprecations about people safely out of earshot, but they won't stand up and say it out loud. They're probably most of the assholes commenting on the Internet these days, anonymously, of course. They're almost certainly all going to vote for Trump.

  13. Katydid Says:

    I live just a hop-skip-and-jump down the road from a city that had a huge industrial base that grew up out of WWII. By the 1970s that industrial business had pretty much ground to a halt. During the war, companies built company housing and schools and stores and moved in folks from Appalachia, who for the first time lived in modernity (electricity, running water, a car in every garage, guaranteed job for every white man age 16 and up). I moved to this state for work in the late 1980s and my first crappy rental was in the basement of one of these company homes. What I observed back then still holds true; there are generations of folks who are still depending on those jobs that have been gone for almost half a century. And they're angry–angry that the boys can no longer drop out of high school to marry their pregnant middle-school girlfriends and get a family-supporting job down at the factory. Angry that all but the most menial of jobs require some sort of literacy plus discipline (to get up every day and show up). These folks are also outraged at the notion that an education can be a ticket out of menial labor–70 years ago, great-great grandpappy Cletus didn't need him no ejumacation, so why should their kids Emersyn and Taylyr? They see it as a real insult to their specialness that the booming jobs in the area are stuff like biomed, aerospace, IT; stuff that requires education.

    Where I live, *these* are Trump's base. Unwilling to help themselves but furious and jealous of anyone who does.

  14. Katydid Says:

    @SafetyMan: I was surprised to see Confederate flags on pickup trucks and SUVs in northern Pennsylvania (north of Williamsport), but then again, that's part of Pennsyltucky, so…?

  15. Major Kong Says:

    My in-laws down in Appalachia (SE Ohio) are actually pretty nice people.

    I generally don't bring up politics, but most of them are less conservative than one might think. I can think of one or two that would go for Trump but I don't know about the rest.

    What strikes me most about them, though, is the almost total lack of ambition.

    Any industry there might have been moved out long ago. Ohio took a huge hit on manufacturing jobs in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    Yet none of them have ever made an attempt to get an education and get out of there. They're content to stay there and maybe work whatever few shitty jobs Vinton County Ohio has to offer.

  16. Katydid Says:

    @Major Kong; thanks for sharing that–the culture you describe ties into what I'm seeing here: don't prepare for the jobs that are actually here, just hang around and wait for steel to rise again. It's only been half a century, after all!

  17. Anubis Bard Says:

    I think some of this can be laid at the feet of the great Myth of the Meritocracy. The myth states that you occupy your place based on your merits (some combination of ambition, ability and luck). It is the definition of all of your success. Look at the vast, cultural undertaking (in evidence here at G&T as well) to convince those at the bottom (minorities, poor people, etc.) that they are the ones to blame for their crap situations. Who believes most desperately in this threadbare Myth? Well, White People do. What violates this Myth? Well, being a White Person with a shitty life. Did I fail because I didn't have what it takes to succeed? (Some answer yes, but those aren't the ones who are Trump supporters.) No! my failure must mean that someone, somewhere has cheated! – and got something they didn't deserve! and took what is rightfully mine! (which is the fear and the obsession that gnaws at the heart of American conservatism). And what bugs Ed's materially comfortable suburbanites? The flip side. People who question the myth of the Meritocracy – like Democrats with all their structural inequality bullshit, and the Blacks and Browns with all their insulting talk of privilege – as they try to cheat the system and get stuff they don't deserve. The hullabaloo threatens the whole edifice of Meritocracy that justifies their privilege and status, so I'm not surprised that they support a blowhard like Trump – whose braggadocio is rooted in the same Myth.

  18. Well...mostly Says:

    Just to fill in a part that hasn't been mentioned, the airwaves are full of promises of a better life, even prosperity, if one simply believes in the right God. No doubt Trump is a charlatan, but some far better at the game have been at it for decades and have been milking people who can least afford it with a myth of Devine grace, or maybe call it spiritual meritocracy: do the right thing, get a good life. Of course, that doen't work and it betrays a profound misunderstanding of life. The failure of that myth is as much a part of this bitterness as the trickle down economics, though few will admit that.
    Why is it that the explanations, the instructions for how to think and feel about things, always seem to come from folks who are pretty damn comfortable themselves? Life can be confusing, and a confused mind always says no, or, when hyped up by demagogues, hell no and get off my lawn or the political equivalent – get out of my country.

  19. Dave Dell Says:

    They don't tell you when you join the armed services that, even in a time of war (Vietnam for me) more than half the time you'll be idle with very little to do. So you read quite a bit.

    I recall a series of novelettes by a Sci Fi author published in the late 60's/early 70's – Mack Reynolds. The story line was a future U.S. where government had basically ceded control to large corporations with largely automated production. Massive unemployment. Solution? A stipend sufficient to meet basic needs but not more. Free drugs to keep you content with your lot. Large doses of mindless entertainment.

    Why bring this up? The recent vote by Switzerland for a guaranteed income for everyone, defeated but the idea is out there. I've seen other articles about this for the U.S. on financial web sites. The mindless entertainment is already in place – video games, reality TV, sports, Law and Order shows, etc. Cheap Marijuana anyone?

    As a side note, a portion of the mindless entertainment was coverage of the battles fought by Corporations over market share and patent disputes. The armaments used in these battles was restricted to pre-1865 technology. People had their favorite corporations and career mercenary fighters just like pro football, baseball, ad nauseam today. If you weren't born into the elites or managerial class your route out was as a mercenary.

    Bear in mind I read this stuff in the 60's/early 70's so the details might surprise me today but I'm sure I have the correct ideas if not the fiddling facts.

  20. Safety Man! Says:

    PS I recommend everyone watch Lightning Bug, which is a film about an aspiring special effects artist getting the hell out of Alabama in the 80's, if you want to get an idea of how hard it is.

    @katydid
    All seriousness, be very, very careful in the remote reaches of PA and even MD.

  21. Deggjr Says:

    The first category mystifies me. I received a forwarded email from someone not yet aware of my political outlook: 'the government can't do anything right'!

    The original author was a public school superintendent for many years with a wonderful salary, lifetime benefits, wonderful pension. He is clearly one of life's winners. I asked the note forwarder who knew the author, 'how can this guy crap on his life's work like this'?

    The response was that the government should limit itself to its core competencies, like the military and education. The response came from a staunch practicing Catholic, a religion known for its parochial schools.

    'Your church doesn't believe education is a government core competency'. No more emails but I remain mystified.

  22. Katydid Says:

    @SafetyMan, I'm well aware that once you get outside the Baltimore/Washington corridor, a lot of the natives think they're still fighting the Civil War…and the south is winning. Stunningly, a lot of Annapolis is filled with these folks, too. You'd think the state capitol would be a little more…not-insane…but nope.

  23. Katydid Says:

    @Deggjr; what cracks me up are the gov't employees with the "I demandsmaller gov't" bumper stickers. I always think, "Great, let's start by firing your stupid ass".

  24. Dave De;; Says:

    I realized after I posted that I hadn't really tied my comments to today's theme. It's the Trump millennials I had in mind. My great-nephew for instance. Gamer. Part time nights at the supermarket. Still lives at home. Feels hopeless. Doesn't think about much at all. Little ambition. Trump's target audience.

  25. Dave Dell Says:

    Oops, that's Dell. Don't know how my immigrant German-Russian grandparents originally spelled or pronounced the Americanized version of their actual name.

  26. Katydid Says:

    Here's an interest recent interview with Jon Stewart talking about Trump and cognitive dissonance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut8C_IOqEtU

  27. mago Says:

    Despite my smart ass remark, I'm quite familiar with both demographics described by Ed. The Western town where I grew up was bad enough 50 years ago when the railroad and assorted manufacturing still provided an economic base, but all that died long ago leaving a large base of seething overweight malcontents.

    My own brother who is an educated professional spews anti-immigrant racist sentiment and will probably vote for Trump, although I wouldn't ask him and we both have a tacit policy to not discuss politics with each other.

    Oh, yeah, and as a criminal lawyer, he spends a lot of time dealing with the fallout from the current heroin epidemic, which seems to be replacing meth as the drug of choice in despairing rural America.

  28. philadelphialawyer Says:

    I think the second group is genuinely disappointed, and perhaps many of its members with good reason. Growing up in a smelly town, without cultural or other amenities, and, for whatever reason, not turning a public education into a ticket to bigger and better things is not necessarily attributable to laziness.

    Lashing out at "The Other" in response is classic false consciousness, but there is at least something to be mad about.

    The first group, though, the retired civil service pensioners, and those like them, are not, in my experience, disappointed. Rather, they are either scared or just complacent. They like their lives. They like their suburbs. Their big houses and cars. Their lawns and gardens. The money they have in the bank. And, to be fair their families and circle of friends too. They don't sit around and fantasize about being rich (again, in my experience, that is more what the other group–the really poor folks from East Podunk–do).

    The middle class retirees don't want to lose what they have. And they are scared of losing it. As has been mentioned, there is a whole industry set up to keep them scared. And from scared to angry is not a big jump.

    Back in the day, there were rich Nazis, poor Nazis and middle class Nazis. I see the same thing with Trump supporters. The bottom line is that it is always easier and more comfortable to blame whatever problems you have, whether they are real (like those of the poor), mostly imaginary (like those of the middle class) or entirely made-up (like those of the rich), on the Other, than it is to really think things through.

  29. Timurid Says:

    White privilege is the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
    Trump is what happens when the suckers at the bottom of the pyramid finally realize that they've been robbed…

  30. Katydid Says:

    @Mago: I hear ya. My father, the child of immigrants…hates immigrants. He's also a triple-dipper (military, gov't service, private pension) plus receives Social Security and rants and raves about "entitlements" and how the Wrong People are getting them. He and my mother are also receiving Meals on Wheels (don't ask me how–clearly there's no financial threshold for that) but go all spitty and hissy about the idea of free school lunch for children living in poverty. He's got medical-care-for-life through both the military and Medicare, yet he rants and raves about "Obamacare giving health care to lazy people". Yup, he's a Republican. The only thing saving him from being a Trump follower is that he remembers him from the 1980s and disliked him then.

  31. Mo Says:

    I've often wondered if some sort of low-grade PTSD might explain some of Trump's appeal … Or perhaps I'm just having some difficulty wrapping my mind around how anyone could seriously entertain a word-salad spewing bullshit artist as presidential material without some kind of serious impairment.

    There does seem to be some deep emotional grief that's causing this angry hate response. Humiliation seems likely, it can be scorching and leave serious scars, and human society dishes it out daily in generous doses. Sucks to be the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order.

    The middle class retirees don't want to lose what they have. And they are scared of losing it. As has been mentioned, there is a whole industry set up to keep them scared. And from scared to angry is not a big jump.
    "Fear of falling" seems to be a real thing – again, it might relate to fear of humiliation. Poor people are at the bottom of the pecking order.

    And what's the best drug to counteract this humiliation and fear? Validation.

    Religion has the distribution system down cold: you're really superior, the best, the most moral type of human, and you'll be rewarded in paradise [no need for delivery while you're actually still alive and could use it].

    And authoritarian political movements dish up the next drug – a feeling of vicarious power. I'm a Republican! So therefore I'm powerful! A winner! Great! Even if I'm a fat white ignorant nobody living in a tract home, I'm a member of The Ruling Class.

    Time for more amygdala research? Maybe we can come up with a pill, or something to put in the water besides lead. We could call it "Soma."

  32. anotherbozo Says:

    Instructive post, but I'd want to emphasize that many in the last group, if not both, qualify as "low information voters." Not that information is hard to come by, the internet being what it is, but that they don't really care. I speak of my brother-in-law as a case in point. I'm sure he's typical of a broad swath, as they say.

    He can tell you in detail about football teams and basketball teams and baseball teams, recite stats perhaps, and provide his own version of odds on any upcoming game, not to mention the team he favors. Oh yeah, he likes Trump, because he "tells it like it is," is bound to "shake things up" and "get things moving" in stalemated Washington, which, as we know, is both parties' fault. He treats the upcoming presidential election as he might World Cup soccer–a sport he's not that interested in, is only minimally informed about, only enough to have an opinion, perhaps.

    My brother-in-law is retired. Moreover he rarely watches national news on TV, never goes to the internet for anything, hardly does more than glance at the headlines in his ultra-right-wing town newspaper, which publishes unopposed in his right-wing county. He's likely not heard anything out of Trump's mouth for the past four months, let alone heard any discussion about it.

    Maybe, as I say, both Trump factions are "low information voters." I use that euphemism because I really like my brother-in-law otherwise. He's a personally generous, good-humored, former business owner who can get informed about anything he really cares about. But, look, he's got only one vote, right? How much can that matter?

    He voted for Obama in the last two elections, then caved to right-wing smears and now thinks Obama was a "lousy president." Our transcontinental phone conversations are limited, since he hands the phone promptly over to my sister. But if he allowed time to discuss politics, wouldn't know where to start.

  33. Mo Says:

    As to harping on a fave subject, why not? China's Cultural Revolution is the poster child for this revolt of the haters against anyone with education or wealth, and deserves more study than it's gotten.

  34. Tim H. Says:

    Decisions were made in the late 70s and early 80s to gimp the economy to protect the 1% from inflation and increase the contrast between the haves and have nots, now we have low inflation, the 1% has excellent self esteem and the economy has gone to hell. Sad thing is, the architects of all this joy are trying to blame the victims.

  35. John Danley Says:

    Homogeny and hegemony live together in perfect harmony.

  36. Robert Says:

    I apologize if this sounds selfish, but when I read things like this it makes me very grateful to my great great grandfather for not stopping his trek Westward until he hit the Pacific. The San Francisco Bay Area has numerous faults (pun intended) but it seems better than the dead-end dying small towns Our Gracious Host describes so eloquently.

    For the record, I am a retired civil servant who is an open and enthusiastic proponent of socialism. My father was career USPS, my oldest brother teaches English at a city college, another brother was USAF (retired) and now finishing his second career with the DoD, and I was career VA.

  37. Jestbill Says:

    Human society or baboon troop, there will be a pyramid.

    Those at the top get favors, those at bottom endure.

    If absolutely everyone were tall, white and had multiple Phds, some would be rich and some would be poor. What counts is how rich, how poor and the trend.

    Occupy Wall Street was killed by purists. RIP.

  38. geep9 Says:

    I hear a palpable dislike of the Clintons among Trumpists. According to these people, they (the Clintons) got everything with ill-gotten gains, not like hard working Americans (and Trump). Also, she's a girl.

  39. LynnJilly Says:

    My family, for generations, has lived in Central Illinois. I split my youth living half-time in Oregon with my mom and half-time in Illinois with my dad. I loved having a large family, living in a small town where everyone knew each other, but by my junior year I knew I could not spend the rest of my life there. I graduated and immediately moved to Oregon permanently. Even as a kid, I could see the vastly different ideologies of the two locations I lived. It shocked me that people had no desire to learn, or change, anything about their lives. It is what it is, was their mindset. Most of them had never left the state, some didn't even know where Oregon was located…and they didn't care that they didn't know. I read a Mark Twain quote once and think of it often in this situation: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

  40. gakster29 Says:

    I just want to add that a lot of what makes the scapegoating so easy is this weird "John Wayne-as-moral-North-Star" thing that Americans (even me, at times) can't seem to shake free from. That's how we've learned to judge people in this country: to compare them to the tough guy who has found, through experience, that life is just really simple if you go with your gut and don't complain. If you fall short of that behavior, you might as well be The Worst Person Ever.

  41. philadelphialawyer Says:

    "…all spitty and hissy about the idea of free school lunch for children living in poverty…rants and raves about '"Obamacare giving health care to lazy people"'…

    The petty spitefulness is really appalling.

    I had a relative who lived in a mansion, and paid almost no property taxes on it because she maintained a fake "farm" on the grounds…and got rich off government contracting. Yet when one her own relatives (a working mother with three kids) managed to get some kind of modest subsidy for making her home more energy efficient, was up in arms about it!

    Similarly, she hated Bacon-Davis because her business had to pay prevailing wages, even though all of her competitors had to do the same! In other words, the law did not hurt her at all. It was just the "principle" that a wage earner got more than she thought was his due that got her goat.

    The begrudging of any crumb that might fall off the table. The "Welfare Queen," the Food Stamp user who doesn't buy rice and beans only, the "Obamaphone," etc.

    The nastiness and bitterness is just disgusting.

  42. mothra Says:

    I'll tell you what blows my mind: that the Trump supporter, no matter what variety, resolutely swallows every bit of swill The Donald spews. Even the most fantastic. Our firm has a client who keeps sending me all this right wing crap–and actually said that Trump would build the wall, keep Muslims out and make America Great Again. Verbatim. I reminded him that presidents are limited in their powers…unless, of course, he fancied a dictator?

  43. Major Kong Says:

    @mothra

    I keep telling my right-wing coworkers:

    "Trump will be the dictator you guys all think Obama is."

  44. Major Kong Says:

    "John Wayne-as-moral-North-Star"

    You mean the guy who dodged the draft so he could stay home and cheat on his spouse with Marlene Dietrich?

  45. Katydid Says:

    @philadelphialawyer; back in the old AOL days (early 1990s?) I was active poster on a board about dogs. One of the other regulars inherited a small business (not dog-related) in Kansas from her parents, who inherited it from her grandparents. There were a handful of employees working for the business, and the board regular was just apoplectic that she "had to" by law pay them minimum wage. Were they bad employees? Not at all–they pretty much ran the place, allowing her to take cruises and otherwise loaf around. But she begrudged paying them minimum wage for their labors (she didn't offer health insurance, either). It was absolutely astounding how entitled she was and how much she wanted to deny any sort of comfort to anyone who worked for her.

  46. Skepticalist Says:

    Donald Trump is Eric Cartman all grown up…well 12 at least.

    "I'm so thankful that I was born when I was." I hear this all the time from ageing boomer friends.

  47. Michael Says:

    I don't know people's background, but as an adult survivor of child abuse, I understand TRUMP supporters just fine.

    He appeals to my parents, who are Ed's first category, straight up. Some people live through rage and hatred. It's just how it is.

  48. Monte Davis Says:

    Sondheim's 'Assassins' nailed it:

    There's another national anthem playing,
    Not the one you cheer
    At the ball park.
    (Where's my prize?)

    It's the other national anthem, saying,
    If you want to hear
    It says, "Bullshit!" — It says, "Never!" — It says, "Sorry!"
    Loud and clear

    It says: Listen
    To the tune that keeps sounding
    In the distance, on the outside,
    Coming through the ground,
    To the hearts that go on pounding
    To the sound
    Getting louder every year
    Listen to the sound…
    Take a look around…
    We're the other national anthem, folks,
    The ones that can't get in
    To the ball park.
    Spread the word…

    There's another national anthem, folks,
    For those who never win,
    For the suckers, for the pikers,
    For the ones who might have been…

    There are those who love regretting,
    There are those who like extremes,
    There are those who thrive on chaos
    And despair.
    There are those who keep forgetting
    How the country's built on dreams
    People listen…
    (And the mailman won the lottery)

    They might not want to hear it,
    But they listen,
    Once they thinks it's gonna stop the game…
    (And the usherette's a rock star)

    No, they may not understand
    All the words,
    All the same
    They hear the music…
    They hear the screams…

  49. old white person Says:

    Rage and Hatred: as mentioned by others, 25 years of right wing radio and Faux news has added greatly to both rage and hatred and also low information voters.
    As to the lack of ambition mentioned by many, I may be totally off-base here, but having lived in both cities and rural areas, I think there is a cultural tradition in many rural areas to live where you grew up. In my small town, where i have lived now for many years, we are considered newcomers because our parents and grandparents didn't grow up here. Thank gods we raised our children to leave home, go to college and never look back. Just like the two of us did back in the day.

  50. Paul Burneko Says:

    Good christ! I used to enjoy the cute, hipster snark of Gin and Tacos (even when it was a touch precious and cloistered).

    I found it…clever.

    But really, I've come to realize that this is the voice of the smug, white, privileged little snot. The self-congratulatory and superior Hillary supporter who insists that s/he /is/ a progressive–that likes to get things done! (Yes, you little achiever you!) And the broadbrush filth linked here is a great example of overplayed snark-of-the-creatives slander against an entire swath of Americans as barely human "others"; We're supposed to accept this hate speech because it is nominally "only Trump supporters" being described. But remember, this is the same playbook G&T used to attack Sanders white working class supporters (dumb-millennials hate-jokes replaced class slander for Sanders younger, better educated supporters).

    People like "Ed" will keep the Democratic Party locked into policies that flatter the suburban professional class, continue to direct all new income to the weatlh(ier than themselves) and (real) power elite, and ignore the interests of the working class and working poor.

    "Ed" says his "his goal in life (and this blog, in case they're not one and the same) is to channel Bill Hicks, Mark Twain, Carl Jung, and Mencken. Albeit without the virulent racism in Mencken's case." EPIC FAIL Ed…except on the Menken part, with the racism intact which you have transubstantiated into virulent and vile class hatred.

    (People who find themselves nodding along and smirking with Ed at the rural whites and aging government workers as archly skewered in this bit of filth, check your fucking privilege.)

    YOU, Ed, are the reason the Democratic Party is destroying itself. Nice job!

    ‪#‎GinandTacosReactionaryfucks‬

  51. Paul Burneko Says:

    And learn to use "literally" properly. Illiterate.

  52. Aurora S Says:

    Some of these comments are heading into holier-than-thouism with implications that poor white Trump supporters are uneducated rednecks with no ambition, blaming others for their laziness. This smacks of the Meritocracy Myth, turned around on poor rural white people. Having a degree doesn't necessarily get you a job anymore–you can work hard and get an education, but it guarantees you exactly nothing (save perhaps a big putrid pile of student loans to carry on your back into your late 30s).

    I went to college in a smallish city that was basically a machine which spat out overeducated people who drove down wages. We have a job market saturated with people with degrees. My BFA might get me that second interview at Staples. I'm no Trump supporter, but I resent the implication that I don't have a well paying job due to laziness on my part. Granted, I'm not a Trump supporter and not from rural Bumblefuck, but the notion that education and success go hand in hand just simply isn't true anymore. I actually worked my ass off and got that education everyone told me would be the golden key, but was sold a lie.

    Trump appeals to people's feelings. Supporting him is the same impulse that motivates people to repost bullshit on Facebook without a cursory Google-search to see if it's a hoax. It may be that every time Trump opens his mouth, a turd falls out–but it "feels" true, that's all that matters.

  53. S M McBean Says:

    Here are the first comments
    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2016/06/13/seek-and-destroy/comment-page-1/

    I had to ponder, but I guess we need to tolerate the intolerant.

  54. Nunya Says:

    Sometimes I'm taken aback by the sheer lack of empathy coming from the highly educated urban liberals (and I include myself here).

    While most of us will agree with the view of equal rights for all, acceptance of every ethnic group on the planet, express sympathy for inner-city youth there seems to be an immediate lack of empathy for the poor rural whites of this country. If they're fucked, it's assumed that they did it to themselves.

    Now take a look back two or three generations into your own family. If your great grandfather wasn't a farmer, a factory worker or a peasant, consider yourself a rare breed. Those hardscrabble folks managed to make a decent lie for themselves and provided a better one for their children. If your grandfather made it to college, again, consider yourself among the privileged few.

    I've never been to Peoria or anywhere near it but I know Caterpillar is based there and I've heard of the countless massive layoffs in stock reports over the years. How many of those people who were shitcanned thought it was temporary? How many of them couldn't just leave because they owned a house that they couldn't sell? How many of them could just start over again in a strange city when their only skill was factory work?

    What is left may be shit but poverty in a big city is generally a lot more dangerous and frightening than poverty in a small town. Those family connections in that dying Rustbelt town are a lot more than they'll find when they wander into the next metropolis and find themselves living even worse lives than they were at home.

    Being poor is miserable anywhere it happens to occur. Being poor while being surrounded by the rich is absolutely devastating to the psyche. If I had to choose between working as a janitor in Manhattan or being a day laborer in Nowheresville, USA, I'd probably take the latter.

    Not everyone can rise to the top. Sometimes relying on a strong network of family and friends in a shitty location is a better choice than risking it all to chase an unattainable dream.

  55. geoff Says:

    @Aurora S/ Nunya, YES. I think the supermeritocracy of DC/NY journalists really don't understand what's happening out here in flyover land where most Americans live. And I certainly don't agree with racists who blame all our problems on immigrants and blacks. But from say 1945-1975 ('80?) a lot of not too terribly well-educated people in this country were able to earn a decent living by going to work. Now, you're lucky to FIND work at all, much less a living wage.

    I think That Guy With The Stupid Hair (if he's serious) could ride that very real and earned anger into the Presidency. I know the electoral map is daunting (thank FSM), but I don't know. What happens in a presidential election between two of the most hated figures in American politics, with (assuming) a very low turnout? STAY TUNED. (Or not.)

  56. diana Says:

    Amen.

    They're not new, though. This describes my mother, dead of alcoholism at 65, who was a die-hard Nixon voter.

  57. wetcasements Says:

    I've described my father before — free education via GI bill (served in the navy but not during a war), then a life-long Federal employee. Gold-plated health care for life, very lucrative pension for life. Trump supporter.

    You can't argue with these people. If you do, it goes like this:

    "But you benefited greatly from the government, in many different ways."

    "But I _earned_ it!"

    Which is to say, people who get far off of government don't see it as benefits, they see it as due compensation. Anybody else who gets benefits, and who happen to be non-white, are welfare queens.

    Just look at the Bundy clan — those fuckers have gotten millions is subsidized Federal land use. Do you think even for a second they realize that they're basically living off of the Western American equivalent of welfare?

  58. wetcasements Says:

    _get fat off of_

  59. MilitantlyAardvark Says:

    @Paul Burneko

    "YOU, Ed, are the reason the Democratic Party is destroying itself."

    You missed out the all important closing line:

    "P.S. I am not a kook."

  60. April Says:

    Watch "The Brainwashing of my Dad"

  61. Katydid Says:

    @Aurora; so, what you're basically saying is that if we see someone tying an anvil around their neck and getting ready to jump off a cliff onto a charity picnic for orphans while insisting they can fly, they can FLY, we are not allowed to say, "Hey, doing that is a pretty stupid thing and you're not only hurting yourself, but everyone around you". Because that would be…elitist. Or something. Got it.

    @Geoff; where do you suppose the "supermeritocracy of DC/NY journalists" come from? Many of them escaped the flyover states because they saw no opportunity there for them. But I guess it's okay per Aurora to denigrate people from cities; just not rural people cause they're Rill Murkkkuns and nobody can possibly understand how hard they have it.

  62. Major Kong Says:

    I think Aurora is correct in that an education in no way guarantees success and can leave you with a pile of debt.

    Statistically, however, higher levels of education equate to higher wages in the broader sample.

    As for the term "flyover country": the only people I've ever heard use that term are people from the middle of the country who THINK that's what people on the coasts call us.

  63. Katydid Says:

    @Major Kong; very true that education is not a guarantee of success, but as you yourself pointed out, sitting around doing nothing is pretty much a guarantee of NOT succeeding.

  64. taffysaur Says:

    i'd be remiss if i didn't once more point out that by far the worst and most of any violence if seen so far this year has been from the anti-trump protesters. i mean it isn't even close, really.

  65. Pee Cee Says:

    @Major Kong: "Statistically, however, higher levels of education equate to higher wages in the broader sample."

    I'd replace that with "Statistically, higher levels of education CORRELATE WITH higher wages." And since correlation is not causation, it's plausible that higher levels of education and wages correlate because in the past higher education has been a class marker that employers could use to discriminate against having to interview or hire various "undesirables".

    @Katydid: Working all day at various crappy jobs that pay minimum wage (which is what your typical working poor person is actually doing) isn't exactly "sitting around doing nothing". Even getting a two-year degree under those conditions is difficult … close to impossible for a lot of folks.

  66. geoff Says:

    @Katydid, I don't think you're going to find a lot of (say) FSU or Oklahoma State grads working at the New York Times or Washington Post or whatever's left of our top tier media. (Another industry gutted by mergers and aquisitions/ downsizing etc.) Also, see David "I have been living in a bubble and had no idea GOP voters were so angry" Brooks (h/t Driftglass). (No shit Dave! Maybe listen to 20 minutes of call-ins on Rush Limbaugh's show sometime! They pay you how much?!)

    @MK (best name on the internet!) I've never heard anyone say "flyover country" either, but I think it's obvious to most everyone that the people and institutions that MATTER in this country are in NY/DC/LA/SF/SEA. 'Cept Chuck Koch, of course. Pretty sure he still lives in Kansas.

    (Thank you both for replying. As I've said before, if we weren't kind of on the same page we wouldn't be commenting. Certainly don't want to be a jerk here– I save the bile for DailyKos. Also, that was a joke.)

  67. Racer X Says:

    @Nunya These people keep voting for politicians who’s policies shovel money to the top 1%. In 1980 they elected a president who demonized our US Government and started a host of failed (unless you are rich) themes and policies.

    So yeah – it’s kinda hard to feel empathy for a group of people that keep effing themselves and the rest of us over by voting to keep syphoning off this countries resources off to the highest bidder.

  68. Mo Says:

    After what seems like a lifetime of hearing hicks referred to as the Real Americans [unlike the rest of us phony Americans], I have no sympathy. Grew up in small towns, understand the mulish mindset completely. "I'm not rude, I'm honest" – no, you're just a boob. Let me amend that – an ignorant, racist, self-pitying boob.

    Am not gonna validate the impoverished rural population segment. All us us in the 99% are trapped by economics, one way or another. We all need empathy. Living in Bumfuck doesn't make you special.

  69. Katydid Says:

    @Geoff; you might want to take a look at the population of the workforce of Washington DC (which is mostly not from DC) and NYC (many incomers) and I think you'll be amazed at the number of people from "the heartland" who have moved there.

    @ Pee Cee; Major Kong brought up that most of his Appalachian relatives are in fact not employed. In my first rental in my current state, I was the only person in the house with a job; my landlord had been laid off from his steel mill job 30 years before, his wife and (adult) kids had never worked. His kids hadn't finished high school, either. The daughter had 3 kids by her also-unemployed boyfriend. They mostly got by on gov't aid and illegal basement rentals. They were all very much pro-St. Ronnie Raygun (it was that era) and had a lot to say about lazy minorities (they didn't use that word).

  70. Katydid Says:

    @wetbasements; I had a discussion about the Bundy and other "Rill Patriots" with a guy in my division who's from Utah. He informed me I "just didn't understand the Western mindset"–what, taking in foster children as free ranch help and using their foster money on yourself? Letting your cows feed off public lands and refusing to pay for your share? Yes, I understand it and think it's reprehensible.

  71. duquesne_pdx Says:

    All of this is the bastard mutant child of resentment politics that came after the Civil War. After emancipation, the rich, white landowners saw that the poor whites and the poor ex-slaves had more in common with each other than they had with rich folks. So the rich white guys emphasized the differences: you're white and you're black! Let's you and him fight.

    Politicians have been capitalizing on this for years. Nixon and Reagan both used it to great effect. Hate radio lives on it. Trump is only unique in that he's saying out loud what others have only been able to whisper or dog whistle about for years, and is using that to stir up the angry resentment of people who have been — or believe they have been — shit on their entire lives.

    People who think that everything is a zero-sum game and that someone else getting "entitlements" lowers the amount of stuff that they themselves can get are easy targets for demagogues and con-men. Unfortunately, it's a vicious cycle and extraordinarily hard to break. Education and economic opportunity creation take time, effort and money that these self-same people are generally unwilling to vote for cuz taxes is too damn high already.

    But you know what's even worse? Asshats like Burneko up there. "Oh, noes! You're objectifying an entire segment of the populace! Therefore there's no difference between Hitlery and Trump!"

    DIAF, buddy.

    Most of us commenting here have lived in towns like this and among these people for years. If anything, Ed is showing a hell of a lot more compassion for these folks than I ever would. Because he's a nice guy, and I'm not and I hate these morons who vote against their own interests over and over again.

    Go vote for Jill Stein to ease your conscience. Meanwhile, over here in the real world, the rest of us have work to do to prevent the shitstain that is Trump from getting closer to the presidency.

  72. Katydid Says:

    Really good blog from Stonekettle Station on this very topic: http://www.stonekettle.com/2016/06/the-return-of-tail-gunner-joe.html

  73. geoff Says:

    @Katydid, thanks for the link. YIKES.

    As for the pop. of NY/DC/etc., obviously there are a lot of transplants. I self-transplanted myself to sunny LA after college. Nowadays however I'm concerned that only the children of the wealthy can afford the kind of highly credentialed education (not to mention rent!) needed to live and work in the Big Cities Where Important Things Happen.

    Full disclosure, however. I grew up in a small town, but it was a college town. TWO of my friends in HS had fathers who were college professors. So honestly, I have not had nearly as much personal exposure to the "RILL (white) 'MURKINS" we're talking about here as most of the other commenters, thank dog.

  74. Katydid Says:

    Geoff, because of a hobby of mine that got a lot of attention, for about 20 years I dealt frequently with the newspapers of the tri-city area I live smack dab in the middle of. I'm a transplant to my area and invariably the person who came to interview me was also a transplant to the area. I also have some contacts in local television news that I occasionally see socially, which had led me to pay attention to just how frequently news people move around.

    I do agree with you that it's becoming increasingly harder to mark your mark in the world; I've got one kid in grad school and one in undergrad, and both are working for free this summer, because apparently jobs on campus don't actually pay in money anymore. But they'll be rich in experience! (sarcasm off)

  75. Major Kong Says:

    Minor correction. Most of my Appalachian relatives are employed, but the ones that are have crappy, low paying jobs. There is very little opportunity down there.

  76. Templar Says:

    duquesne_pdx: goes back much farther than 1865. It was started by Bacon's Rebellion in 1676: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacon%27s_Rebellion.

  77. Origami Isopod Says:

    Nunya: Agreed entirely.

    It’s not like it takes money to move. Or stable mental health to leave all your community ties behind. And it’s not like people without academic aptitude should be able to make a living or anything.

    I have no sympathy for racists. But poverty beats you down. The “bootstraps” rhetoric in this thread is disgusting. And, FWIW, I’m from a blue-collar background.

  78. navarro Says:

    if one were to read through my various demographic markers–middle-aged, white, male, texas native (hell, 8th generation texas native)– one might think i would be a natural pick for a trump voter. not for a minute! i am a proud liberal democrat who has probably gotten more liberal as i have grown older. my father was an obama voter in 08, the last election before dad died, and was proud for america that he was elected. i was an obama delegate to the state democratic convention in 08. i have been arguing with republicans at work and with republican relatives for so long it's second nature but this year is different. this year the republicans i know are mostly freaked out. when i point out that the party's trajectory over the past 20 years made it easy for trump to take the nomination they stare at me like i've started speaking in finnish or basque. it would be funny if it weren't so hideous.

  79. duquesne_pdx Says:

    @Templar: Thanks for the link. I knew that there had been movement towards it earlier, but didn't have the opportunity to dig into it. Looks like after the Civil War, they put a new shine on a much older movement. Resentment politics: 340 years old and still going strong!

  80. Aurora S Says:

    @Katydid: Yes. That is exactly what I'm saying.

    I actually literally lol'd at the implication that I'm from "Ril Murikka" or romanticize it in some way when I'm actually from Baltimore—a small city as far as cities go, but certainly Counterfeit America (or what have you) if the qualifications for being authentic are being lily white and out in a cow field. I moved for a stint to a bleak little Appalachian town in Western Maryland, where the Americans are "ril", white, broke, extremely resentful, and fearful of anyone they don't already know. A "good" job might make you $11 an hour that was all spent on drinking cheap beer in shithole bars while complaining about everything in life. I had never seen racism like that before.

    The Donald gives them people to blame for their crappy lives. If you're born in a town like that, you're probably not getting out. It's a kind of white-people equivalent to being born in the projects. They get crappy educations at crappy schools and don't pursue higher education because they don't have the money and what's the point? (Which is a legitimate question.) They don't have perspective, sure, but they sure hate being condescended by "city folk" who don't have any perspective about *their* lives, telling them who they should and shouldn't hate. They want to be able to turn their hatred for themselves and their lives outward and be validated for it, for once.

    So, yes. If I'm being an asshole for not dismissing these peoples' frustration, so be it. Looking down our noses at them isn't helping anything. Telling them to just get an education and move to a place with more opportunity is obtuse and smacks of privilege. Which is a major reason why they're so suspicious of "educated liberals"–they see them as privileged people with no perspective telling them they're being poor white rednecks wrong.

  81. Brian M Says:

    Origami (and nunya): I agree with you. The meritocratic biases in this post are disturbing (even if I agree with our host's distaste for too many of the cultural markers of the Heartland.)

    The reality is Expert systems are going to replace many of the vaunted intellectual class jobs. (The ones that cannot be offshored). Many "smart" people will be reduced to the gig economy. I am suspicious of the "ambition" he celebrates. Too often such ambition in the Big City is in service to the more pernicious aspects of modern Transnational Capital.

    And, Ed realizes this and has talked about this in other posts.

    Heck, I lived in Peoria. I know it can be grim. But should we really be organizing a society around rootless nomadism, destroying community ties? This is a very reductionist, conservative view of human beings. Heck, the amusing thing to me is how similar the conservative view of human nature is to Soviet Totalitarianism. How different is the Ownership Society (which is fundamentally what Ed is promoting) from The New Soviet Man?

  82. Brian M Says:

    At the same time, I do understand the cultural problems in Heartland America. I just don't think everyone loading everything into their car and crowding (6 people to a $1500 per month apartment) into the Big Cities to be coders is the answer. There are only so many good jobs.