The elite liberal id has been let out of its posh little box, and boy is it on a rampage.
First there was Markos “dailykos” Moulitsas hoping that West Virginia voters died from lack of healthcare under the Trump administration, because apparently West Virginia voters (and Susan Sarandon) are solely responsible for Trump’s electoral victory.
Now Frank Rich is getting into the action with his essay, “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly,” which makes a more pointed tactical argument for hating heartlanders of limited means.
Fuming over a recent spate of editorials that seeks to understand the motivations of rural Americans, Rich argues, “for those of us who want to bring down the curtain on the Trump era as quickly as possible, this pandering to his voters raises a more immediate and practical concern: Is it a worthwhile political tactic that will actually help reverse Republican rule? Or is it another counterproductive detour into liberal guilt, self-flagellation, and political correctness of the sort that helped blind Democrats to the gravity of the Trump threat in the first place?”
This is a lesson in how liberal elites believe it’s okay to hate people based on class. Read the piece and you find that Rich wants us to know that rural voters aren’t worth our time because they’re racists who live in far-flung barbaric places without recycling or gluten-free dining options. They’re…ANIMALS! To give their predicament any consideration would just be “political correctness.”
Or would it? I can’t think of a single instance when “political correctness” ever been used to defend the rights or dignity of poor people. It’s never applied to class consciousness, only identity (feel free to prove me wrong in the comment section below). It’s very easy for liberal elites to see the ugliness in hating people because of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual identification. But class? Those people should be getting advanced degrees and creating software start-ups. “Get a job, morons!”
Part of the problem with Rich’s essay is he conflates hating Trump, to it being okay to hate people he stereotypes as Trump voters. This is apparently everyone who doesn’t commute to work on a train connected to DC or Manhattan. Are we to believe that hate is okay as long as it’s poor white people who are the object of contempt?
Throughout the essay he insinuates that heartlanders don’t deserve our empathy because they’re addicted to opioids, don’t like big government, and didn’t like Obama because he was “wealthy and well spoken.” What a Harvard-educated elitist such as Rich can’t understand is that these negative attributes are functions of poverty, and the threat of downward mobility. Also, Obama won many of these heartland areas. Twice.
The jobs that sustained their families for generations are never coming back. People who have broken bodies from military service or a lifetime of physical labor were sold OxyContin as a best practice for treating chronic pain. When that was taken away, they turned to heroin. This created a feedback loop within the working class drug culture that had been simmering since I was in college. Now it’s so bad that one Ohio county had to bring in “portable morgues” in the form of tractor-trailers to store bodies of overdose victims.
This isn’t party culture. It’s despair, pure and simple, and I find it sickening that liberals such as Frank Rich are so enshrined in their bubble-worlds that they can’t see past their own privilege to find even the slightest bit of sympathy for whole populations being wiped out by desperation.
I lived in Appalachia for more than 10 years. The people he calls “hillbillies” used to be TVA Democrats. They were our allies when government cared about them. Same as anybody else, when government turns its back on them, they will turn their back on government. People in the heartland are no less enlightened than coastal city dwellers. As a matter of fact, the staunchest radicals and progressives I’ve ever known hailed from the mountains of East Tennessee.
The first thing my ex father-in-law said to me was “I won’t live to see it, but ya’ll are going to take these bastards out and shoot them in the head.” That’s pretty radical. He had been digging garden beds, wearing overalls with one strap undone when I met him. He came from a family of railroad workers—union. Did tours in two military branches, and returned to the mountains to settle down, working as a “possum cop.” I have yet to meet a better Democrat. And no, I have no plans of shooting anyone despite his enthusiasm.
I could tell dozens of stories of hillbilly radicalism.* The son of a preacher who dedicated his life to stopping clear cuts. The veterans from the V.A. who saw enough war to know that younger generations should never be saddled with that burden. Hell, even the performing and visual artists who refuse to leave because it’s home, and continue to make the mountains a wonderful place to live, even though their careers would benefit from casting off to another place.
They’re decent people. They’ve been waiting for generations for someone to pick up where FDR left off.
Instead we send them elitists who promise to smash “glass ceilings,” when it’s the floor disintegrating under them that they’re worried about. These people lost their jobs to NAFTA, then lost their homes in the crash. Both of these economic disruptions can be traced to policies associated with the previous Clinton administration. People like Frank Rich want us to think hill people are stupid. They’re actually pretty smart, and have long memories.
Democrats abandoned heartlanders first. Now liberal elites think it’s cool to disparage the people we’ve left behind. Aside from being morally repugnant, it’s incredibly bad strategy. It belies a belief that whoever doesn’t shop at Whole Foods or Nordstrom isn’t fully human because they don’t belong to the right tribe. Once you’ve wished death on whole castes of people based on their presidential voting preference, there’s no taking that back.
For the “smartest people in the room,” these elites sure do some stupid shit.
*And lest you think I’m romanticizing rural America, think for a moment of how liberals romanticize the “rising American electorate.” Women and people of color are held up in Rich’s article as morally superior because they’re assumed not to be racist. Clearly, there’s no evidence that all racial and ethnic groups are completely without animus toward other racial and ethnic groups. It’s a claim that’s absurd on its face.
If you’re really interested in understanding why Trump was elected (and what Whole Foods has to do with it), listen to this interview with Mark Blyth below. From the podcast description: “Mark Blyth wasn’t surprised by the rise of Donald Trump, nor Brexit, nor the crises spreading across Europe. He actually predicted them all. Blyth, the author of “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea,” and professor of political economy at Brown, explains how economic crisis has led to upheaval in a political establishment that worked obsessively to eliminate inflation and maximize profits at the expense of general wellbeing.”
I was born in a farmhouse outside the village of Lost Creek West Virginia in the early 1940s. Factories lined the rivers that were filled with barges that carried what the railroads couldn’t handle because their miles of cars were filled with coal. They state population was twice what it is now and more than 50 colleges sprouted up in village and town. The Heritage of Blair Mountain maintained worker solidarity throughout the state. With deindustrialization, mechanization and union smashing the communities lost many good people who had to leave for work. There is no fast path to a PhD for these people. Their schools reflect their condition. Abandoned by the Democrats they have no political path for improvement. They are despondent and angry with little hope for the future. Their cynicism has grown to the point that they will vote to make the point that they exist and might make a difference. They present an opportunity for a party that truly believes in inclusivity, equity and justice for all.
Let’s build that Party.
Agreed but so many of the elites in the Democratic Party don’t want to build that party. I can’t get over the sneakiness and nastiness from these so-called liberals when the topics of these areas or people’s comes up. Just two weeks ago on Facebook when I lauded how much I love the natural aspect of North Florida, so many South Floridians (all Democrats btw) took offense. Of course even though the three south Florida counties have huge Democratic majorities, those majorities have allowed developers to “pave over paradise” to quote Joni Mitchell. But pointing that out gets you in trouble because identity (in this case of south Floridians as tolerant, liberal city-dwellers) makes them superior to “redneck” North Florida. It’s lazy rhetoric and getting more and more dangerous.
Also so few made an effort to win folks back after West Virginia the most reliable of Democratic states where economics not race or social issues determined Dem success defected to the GOP in 2000. It was like “those dumb ignorant so and so’s” let them get what they deserve. I really have a hard time staying in a party where so many exhibit such vile attitudes toward our fellow Americans.
Saddens me Kartik, these are my people,
Leave it to this pseudo-GOP site to defend the racist white trash that put Trump in office.
If you care about inclusion and fairness support Democrats. If you are a racist redneck trashy white who is intolerant why should we care about you?
Why don’t you put your name to your comment? I hope it is because a part of you is ashamed of what you wrote.
So stereotyping white voters in middle America as “racist white trash that put Trump in office” is inclusive?
In fact blue states are givers and red states are receivers. There are many good, fair minded people in the red states, but they aren’t the majority. Red states voters saw what Trump was as easily as the rest of us did. They voted for him anyway. I’m proudly elitist. I find Trump and his followers disgusting.
Thank you for this insightful piece, Brook. As a woman of color, I do believe many people who voted for Trump failed to get past a well-entrenched racism– exhibited in the form of failing to acknowledge that their knee-jerk distaste for Obama was grounded in racism, or failing to acknowledge those of us sounding the alarm about just how bad things would get under Trump for people of color and minorities in general. However, I refuse to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It is not ok to throw whole groups of people into a “basket of deplorables”. Some people are deplorable, to be sure… all along the ideological spectrum. And don’t even get me started on the obnoxious and self-serving elitism of the Dem establishment and their followers. I think a parallel can be drawn between each party and a good chunk of their supporters who choose to follow them blindly… right off the edge of the cliff.