Funny thing: telling voters that their hometowns, the places where their families have lived for generations beyond living memory in some cases, have arbitrarily been slated for depopulation and that it is their sacrosanct civic duty to shut the fuck up, cut the nostalgia, get with the program, retrain at their own expense for jobs of the future that may not still be available when they get out of school, and relocate, also at their own expense, to some costly part of the country where they have no friends or family is a losing political proposition. It raises hackles in the heartland. Angry voters who very sensibly believe that their communities and their very survival are under imminent threat vote against it.
Sheltered centrist idiots who have spent a generation or two shitting on these same voters and communities can’t for the life of them imagine what provoked these sore losers to vote for Donald Trump. The lack of empathy here is hard to believe. Intellectually I’m perfectly well aware of how arrogant the yuppie swarm gets when challenged, but I’m still blown away to hear it or hear about it. It’s apparently a total, absolute inability to understand how or why the same voters and communities that they’ve been shitting on for two generations, ever more violently by the year, would want to put a stop to the depredation and would rationally vote for the candidate who explicitly promised to restore their communities to health and prosperity. They can’t imagine that these voters didn’t fully trust the good faith of Hillary Clinton, the her of #WithHer, a woman who had been directly involved in yuppie depredations going back to the seventies, was hesitant to engage with blue-collar voters, and couldn’t hide her contempt when she did comment on their plight. Now that this constituency has cost them their prized election, they can’t refrain from trying to shame these same voters into belated compliance by accusing them of voting against Hillary due to their rank racial and sexual bigotry, since it’s obviously impossible that their woke slay queen alienated them with blatant, open personal insults in the course of bitterly complaining about their lack of enthusiasm for her campaign.
Wisconsin may have been off the schedule, but these good Democrats are always up for a vacation back to their favorite part of Ohio: Whinesburg. Ooh, call Engine 51; you just got burned! As cheap as that was, I can pretty well guarantee that anything the centrists would think up in response would be completely fucking lame. Trump’s “Little Rocket Man” is fun. “Nothingburger” bores the sweet everloving shit out of anyone normal.
Right there we have a critical weakness in Clintonworld. If voters assume that they’re about to get ripped a new one regardless, why shouldn’t they go for the class clown who will distract them with crude jokes instead of the tattletale valedictorian and class president who’s always salty that she isn’t more popular with the misfits? Of course, there’s always the smart kid in the back of the classroom who didn’t have a lot to say but stood up for the loner scapegoats when bullies picked on them and seemed to get along well enough with most of the class. Surely this is one of the reasons why voters admire and trust Bernie Sanders: even if politics are still a glorified high school popularity contest, they’ve got someone stepping up to the plate who seems to transcend the bullshit, a basically normal person who focuses on serious issues like an adult instead of taking a side and stoking the communal unrest while the jocks and the nerds scheme to murder one another.
The Democrats couldn’t tolerate anyone so principled. They couldn’t even countenance him as the running mate on a ticket that he would have singlehandedly won for its divisive principal. They just had to take on that weird dork Tim Kaine and keep trying to humiliate Bernie while he barnstormed for them and their obscenely wealthy, widely hated ex-first lady kept plotting her revenge-of-the-nerds fantasies. They had to ineptly fume at their clownish opponent and, worse, his voters about how consummately meritocratic they were when they couldn’t even come up with serviceable retorts to his playground insults, let alone ignore them and get the debate back on topic. You know, like normal adults.
It’s the damnedest thing, but certain key constituencies didn’t take kindly to their constant belittlement by a sheltered clique of bitter try-hards. They didn’t enjoy being lectured about their bigotry and backwardness by neurotic, hypocritical, goody-two-shoes grifters who would never be sated no matter how much wealth and power they seized. They find it ridiculous, at best, to watch affluent centrist dipshits get triggered when Trump makes fun of Mika Brzezinski for looking like shit after a bad facelift. How in hell would they be able to afford facelifts? They can’t afford dental checkups.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find the decency and the self-control not to make fun of constituencies whose votes one hopes to win. Feeling genuine empathy for them should do the trick. Bernie sympathizes with industrial workers, current ones for doing honest labor well, laid-off and disabled ones for having run into bad luck while trying to make an honest living, and it comes through. He instinctively knows how to talk to and listen to hard hats. He gets their kitchen table concerns and the tricky nuances involved. He doesn’t blurt out that “we” are gonna put a bunch of coal miners out of work, even though he knows that the industry is on the skids and that mass layoffs come with the territory. He recognizes that good leadership requires working around company town busts, and that that’s always complicated and difficult. Plenty of people who’ve lived their whole lives in Appalachian coal towns very much want to diversify their economies so that they stop being dependent on the whims and uncontrollable commodity cycles of the coal industry. They trust Sanders for meeting them well more than halfway.
The Donald comes at industrial policy from a cruder, simpler, and frankly more ridiculous stance. He’s the guy who’s gonna fuck up everyone who took your job and make someone put you back to work. Most people in and around the coal industry know that this isn’t too damn likely, since they’re a lot savvier than coastal reporters and editors tend to gather on their occasional prole-whispering tours, but they also know that the thing about a Hail Mary pass is that it might, against the odds, be completed. Besides, there’s probably something to be gained by having a rough guy go rattle the cages of globalist elites and see what he can shake out of them.
It is not, then, irrational or self-destructive to vote for a man one considers a vulgar clown with no attention span because he seems to have his heart more or less in the right place and against a famously detail-oriented social climber because she seems to have her heart firmly in the wrong place. Frankly, Hillary Clinton did better with young people and minorities than I expected. That is, she established more popular credibility than I expected, far more credibility than I was willing to grant her at my most sympathetic. I expected more of Hillary’s supposed base to defect to Trump in an effort to protect their own economic self-interest. Hillary’s lack of gratitude to this base for turning out really rubs me the wrong way, and I can’t imagine that it hasn’t been damaged the Democratic Party’s overall reputation.
The Democratic strategists, the numbers nerds, knew where the disaffected voters were: specifically, in hella swing states. They knew that a bunch of Midwestern states that are always up for grabs were once again up for grabs. Knowing this, Hillary could have stumped in Wisconsin. Instead, she went to three performances of Hamilton. She didn’t have the time to tell Midwesterners living and voting today what she was planning to do for them, but she had plenty of time for encores of a trendy Broadway rap opera about what certain politically correct elements like to call dead white males. Engaged, independent-minded voters in the Midwest must be looking on like, what the fuck, man.
It’s perfectly reasonable, prudent, in fact, to wonder what the talented tenth wants to do with, or to, the teeming masses of provincial losers. I have a bachelor’s degree and no debt, and I just barely feel safe from their direct depredations. I have marketable craft and trade skills, too, and these seem pretty close to worthless in socioeconomic terms. It’s inevitable that the neoliberals will move the goalposts again, probably after they’ve successfully marketed their way into a STEM trainee glut.
Those of us left behind have been described as the “Unnecessariat.” The idea is that we’re surplus and irrelevant and therefore should be left to our own devices, to flounder. A darker, but no less credible, assessment is that our betters want us to go to hell and die. The link above includes some alarming maps of suicide and drug overdose epidemics. These are obviously true crises devastating large regions of the country. It should come as no surprise that voters in many of the affected counties supported Donald Trump. That’s the least they could do to rebuke the neoliberal order and the Wellesley-Yale yuppie trying to brightside them into continuing to support it.
The things that national and transnational elites have done to many of these communities are the stuff of civil wars. We’re all lucky that the devastation of these places hasn’t provoked systemic insurrection or guerrilla violence, but it would be hard to blame people for taking up arms when their hometowns are in the grip of deliberately engineered social collapses verging on genocide. The language and intellectual framework of international human rights policy really are apt and useful here. The neoliberal masters of the universe would rather not have to send in tanks stateside, but they most certainly are scheming to force the removal and internal displacement of vulnerable minorities from their hometowns. It’s no defense that these minorities happen to be majority-white and distinguished mainly by class, not indelible ethnic or racial markers. It’s still absolutely inexcusable.
Liberalism, as it has come to be construed over the past thirty or so years, doesn’t offer a fucking thing to the victims of this patchwork Trail of Tears. (Sick sidenote: more than a few of the white victims of the current dispossession campaign have significant Cherokee blood. #RaceTogether.) It offers sexual liberation on condition of chronic exposure to homelessness and starvation; fuck whom you like as you like, but go to hell if you expect to somehow get three hots and a cot out of this deal without enlisting in the armed forces. Don’t expect the universe to hand you enough money to afford car repairs, medical care, or food just because you work yourself to the bone every week, you whining ingrate.
This is a flagrantly illiberal regime. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: great, looks like we’re three for three in the foreclosure of human development in a country that was founded on that very proposition and continues to overflow with grievously misallocated wealth. This is a grotesque scandal.
And sexual liberation? Lol jk, you have to ask for explicit consent every fucking step of the way, all the way up to the actual fucking, or risk being accused of rape for making clumsy, artless moves on some club skank. Unless you’re a sexy scumbag, that is; in that case, you’ve got your license to grope a bitch. A decent person is hopeless to navigate this minefield of disorder, dysfunction, and burgeoning dysgenic horror, but an indecent person is in great shape.
Alcohol inevitably fits into this equation most uncomfortably. Americans have had a plainly insane relationship with alcohol for over a century and a half, in addition to our recurrently weird sexual hangups. If we were just privately dysfunctional that would be our unfortunate private problem, but we make public policy on the basis of this dysfunction. Alcohol has been used to catalyze sexual trysts for as long as there has been alcohol, but we’re really fucking touchy about both, so hoo boy, we’ve got trouble. We have an exceptionally louche celebrity culture and more than our share of alcoholics, many of them trying to ape that culture, but we also have a huge cottage industry of rape panic, very little of it focused on actual threats of actual rape. Brock Turner committed a true rape, but he can’t hold a candle to the sexual predation of Daniel Holtzclaw, and rather few of those who got swept up in the Turner thing seem to know the first thing about the Holtzclaw scandal, or to care.
I can’t shake the feeling that much of the outrage over Turner came from women who secretly wanted him to not exactly rape them but at least give them a good hard dominant fucking. Don’t get me wrong; I never thought the guy looked particularly handsome or charming, but I can see how he might, so I can definitely see some room for sexually repressed dipshits to project onto him and use him as their scapegoat for sins of the flesh. He may have had that almost sickly pale white look and been straying dangerously close to that classically sexy Lynn Majors hairstyle, but he was on an elite university swim team, and that’s almost as fuckable as the lax boys who captivated the Hall and Oates Effect bitch what’s-her-name who roomed with Charlotte Simmons. Nah, on second thought, Brock didn’t do that shabby, half-assed high-and-tight thing on top while letting it all hang out in the back, so I guess he had that going for him, but still.
Sexy male nurse Lynn Majors memes are still an improvement to the American sexual discourse. It’s that deadly. All these irresistible liberties are dangled in front of us, just beyond our reach. We’re allowed to indulge in theory, but in practice we lack either the time, the money, or the social skills to take advantage of them, and we’re liable to be punished arbitrarily for some trifling misstep or bit of forwardness while some total asshole gets off Scot free for everything shy of indecent exposure and public lewdness in the same trashy nightclub. Meanwhile women, especially, but maybe also men are supposedly unable to give any consent whatsoever to sex acts when they’re so much as mildly drunk, as if the average clubber goes out to stay sober or gets drunk to stay chaste.
There’s no coherence or principle to this regime. The cultural mainstream of sexual liberation in the United States is still decisively on the side of public loucheness under conditions of moderately diminished capacity; sober, thoughtful consent is for prostitutes, and so is not getting the damn clap every few weeks. No car salesman or military recruiter worth a damn would execute a contract with someone who showed up drunk, but the nightlife scene is deliberately set up to blur the lines between sobriety and intoxication, between reality and fantasy. Hey hey hey!
If we all assumed normal adult competency and ethics, adjusted for intoxication levels, this might be a manageable arrangement, but we’re beset with busybodies who insist that, especially where the fairer sex is concerned, there is no middle ground of competency between stone cold sobriety and Rob Ford muttering himself to sleep in an increasingly slurred and incoherent screed about the Jamaicans while the cocaine inevitably wears off and by the way Mark Saunders is second-in-command of the police force.
There’s always a middle class somewhere not that far off in the background, trying to make the center somehow hold. Or, in the US case, maybe there isn’t one. Let’s maybe not count on things that aren’t fully present and accounted for, how about that.
Cultural liberalism isn’t a slam-dunk in a country as traditionally religiously preoccupied as the United States, but paired with an economic platform that doesn’t beggar workaday people so that the already obscenely successful and wealthy may continue to gorge themselves, it’s somewhat within reach. For one thing, the working class in flyover country bristles at religiously tinged meddling in its sex and domestic lives by intrusive landlords, bosses, social workers, and the like.
So what does NPR do? Why, it flies a crew out to Muncie to brownnose factory owners while they complain about how the applicant pool is nothing but lowdown druggies. Everywhere it fucking goes, House Voice sniffs out the local yuppies and sucks up to them. This is what we get for allowing people who’ve known nothing but success and acclaim to run everything for us.
These assholes can’t imagine that struggling communities in forgotten, out-of-the-way places and the people trying to get by in them deserve some space to find their way and also some help when they ask for it: that is, the opposite of letting the company close the factory down and fire everyone without consequence and then telling the locals to pack up and abandon the lives they’ve struggled to build. They’re fine with “redevelopment” scams for the center-right and “revitalization” scams for the half-assed center-left, but they can’t brook any arrangement that doesn’t have some Boss Hogg or Elmer Gantry or yuppie asswipe wielding the whip hand over the most vulnerable and helpless.
How can I, a Palo Alto native and proud Californian, insist that these forgotten, godforsaken places in the hard interior deserve to exist and endure? Because it’s wrong to arbitrarily tell another person where to live. Because it’s wrong to destroy communities. Affluent people from the coasts and the big cities are free to buy getaways in the interior fairly; they have no right to have the natives run out like so many besieged Indians so that they can later snap up their abandoned property at fire-sale prices. That’s completely fucking wrong. Quiet resentment of losers in flyover country for actually having intact communities instead of loose, unreliable networks scattered across a multinational yuppie archipelago is no excuse. Cowboy the hell up and admit that the losers are clinging for dear life to something worth cherishing.
This is all easier said than done. Look at what the neoliberal ratfuckers did to New Orleans after Katrina, scattering the poor to Baton Rouge and Atlanta and Houston to more smoothly turn the husk of their city, the only place many of them had ever known, into a Cajun-Creole-ass tourist theme park. Look at what’s being done to Detroit, with all the whiteys rolling in from the suburbs while still registering their cars at Mom and Dad’s place back in Grosse Pointe to save on the insurance while amazingly not noticing the existence of black people in a city that’s ninety percent black and Kwesi Millington for Sheriff. Well, I’ll be shocked! Ray Nagin’s Chocolate City grandstanding was obnoxious, but conceiving of Detroit, of all places, as a Whitey Rez is batshit fucking insane and rather pernicious, even at a myopic neighborhood level. Like, do you motherfuckers have any idea of who has been living there? Any idea at all? For fuck’s sake, one of the black Detroit homicide detectives on The First 48 was raised in Hamtramck, which actually was Honkytown for a long time and still has more of a community than a Community.
It’s about time that I did some capitalization. Hell, the cracker contingent in Camden doesn’t erase anyone who doesn’t mind being around some damn drugs. Wasn’t no white people up in that motherfucker before the dope started shipping, or so goes the word on the street, but drugs were what integrated the West End of Sacramento before Brown v. Board of Education, too. #TeshTips: Alcohol is a drug. Why do we have more racial comity and goodwill from nihilistic dipshits who are chasing bad dope sets into the ghetto than from sober, stably employed bougies? Probably because they, unlike the gentrifiers, so cherish their drugs that they don’t mind living in the ghetto (in the ghetto) to get them. Elvis was against drugs when he wasn’t holed up in Graceland taking drugs, but at least the old boy ate well, and if you’re gonna die young, that’s the way to do it.
Drugs, amazingly enough, are a positive reason to move somewhere new. Best chicken in Camden, as the cops say when they figure that it’s futile to keep chasing junkies around the hood and they might as well just drive around until end of watch. Hey, it works for the California Highway Patrol when the lieutenant hasn’t approved an hour and a half straight on the clock at the Truckee Starbucks. I must grudgingly admit that gentrification scams are also a positive reason to move somewhere new. The arts district may be a gaping existential void, and it’d be a horror show to see who all they drove out of the neighborhood and where they drove them, but I generally avoid considering it my problem unless the yuppies are seriously fucking up Sacramento. (Spoiler: they are.)
What’s not a positive reason to leave town is that hostile outside forces shut down the mill and it’s just about impossible to make a living. That’s coercive, and coercion is inimical to liberty. Good luck explaining this to right-libertarians, but it’s true.
How crazy or pie-in-the-sky am I to assert that any legitimate liberal project would strive to eliminate this sort of economic coercion from citizens’ lives? Am I nuts to claim that this is the only way for liberalism to be electorally viable? FDR might not have carried on so about bottle rats at nightclubs when he had secretaries to bang, but this much he would have seconded wholeheartedly.
Let’s flip the script. How many bricks would be shit if the hip urban elements of the yuppie swarm were arbitrarily dispossessed and told that the Economy had moved to South Bend and Lincoln, which by the way had just seen the cost of housing multiply by a factor of five? Those are both cities that I’ve ridden through on the train and mean to visit before long, and Lincoln apparently has a labor market that isn’t in the toilet. The yuppie swarm would still be up in arms, and rightly so. It would be wrong to tell a bunch of people, okay, we just wrecked Brooklyn for shits and giggles, so you have to move to Nebraska at your own expense if you want to stay above water, and tough shit if you’re broke.
It’s just as wrong to tell people who’ve spent their whole lives in Crete or Friend or Youngstown or Flint that they have to pack up and move to one of a handful of overpriced hot markets on the coasts if they want to have a chance of not being completely ruined by hostile forces that are deliberately wrecking their local economies and public infrastructure for the easy profit. If the Democratic Party were actually liberal, there’d be no need to spell any of this out, and likewise if the Republican Party were actually conservative, but thievery isn’t an ideology.