“…the lower-income, rural and older voters who formed the backbone of his electoral support” is how Ruth Marcus labels Trump supporters. She might have added low-education, low-information, appellations that have also been accurately applied to them. What is inside these people? Here I draw on my own small town Midwestern background. These people, my age, grew up as I did: most everyone had a job b/c it was the post-war boom. The pent up energy and demand gushing out of the WW II hiatus blew everything up. That’s what we remember: progress, building, good jobs, money for a new car every three or four years, vacations for two weeks, union benefits, and so on. My uncle was in the Teamsters Union, a truck driver, but before the war had the experience of losing 4 fingers in a press accident and being wrapped up, sent home, and told to report for work the next day.
Underneath all that were lurking creepy crawly things, like the cancer that killed my uncle at 49 not long after the report on carcinogens in tobacco came out. He mentioned bennies but that was not short for union benefits but rather the pills truckers popped to keep driving. Scurrilous magazines carried lurid articles about “key clubs”, gatherings of suburban couples who exchanged house keys for the night. In what might be termed, has been termed, the Southernization of America, shouting churches or holy rollers began to appear in neighborhoods previously occupied by mainstream Protestant churches. Catholic churches came out of the immigrant ghettos of big cities and began the assimilation to Protestant values and Southern values, chief among them hostility to Blacks.
But Southernization goes further than that. Its deep religiosity is brilliantly depicted in the masterpiece of Robert Duvall, The Apostle. The movie is placed in the exact home of the church my wife was raised in, East Texas near the Louisiana border. The people in her church, one I attended for 3 years in the early 60s, came from there, so the ties among the congregants went way back. The difference between these people and those who voted for Trump is that they are Black and recognize Trump’s dog whistles (one minister did vote for Trump – see my entry ….
Well, almost a month after writing this and 3 months after my visit to a home where this minister said he voted for Trump, I can find no write-up of that. I know that somewhere I wrote about how the minister said Christianity was under attack. When I asked him for specifics, he pointed to some sort of directive sent down from the directors of his denomination (Church of God In Christ) to cool it on the anti-gay vituperation. Apparently, some gay civil rights groups had asked the board of directors to cut back on the vituperation and this minister sees that as an attack on him and his church. Apparently, I never wrote it up but I can’t believe that. It’ll turn up in something I wrote some time in January of 2017.)
I did find a reference to Frank Rich’s No Sympathy for the Hillbilly and that is what I want to add in here, a couple of quotes from that article. “Liberals…. shoud endorse the core conservative belief in the importance of personal responsibility. Let Trump’s white working-class base take responsibility for its own votes – or in some cases failure to vote – and live with the election’s consequences.” Further: “But if his administration crashes into an iceberg, leaving his base trapped in America’s steerage with no lifeboats, those who survive may at last be ready to burst out of their own bubble and listen to an alternative. Or not: Maybe, like Hochschild’s new friends in Louisiansa’s oil country, they’ll keep voting against their own intrestes until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.”
Very tough words. I think of my neighbors, my son’s former landlords. If you talk to these people, you find them to be good in the broadest sense. What you do not find is broad knowledge. So they believed, at least last year, that ISIS elements were already in the small towns of southern Arizona where they had arrived like parasites on the body of illegal immigrants, despite the immigrant flow having slowed. Any remonstrance with them (my son and wife tend to talk to anyone they run into – I prefer to sharpen my own understanding of what is going on) meets with a rueful shake of the head and a well-I-just-don’t-know-it’s-hard-to-know-who-to-believe comment….. and another puff on the cigarette.