David Wong at Cracked has written what is perhaps the best article I’ve yet read explaining the rise of Donald Trump. Published last week, it has already been read by more than 3 million people.
(Warning: the article contains some profanity.)
The headline of the article, “How Half of America Lost Its F**king Mind,” is a bit misleading. The primary target of Wong’s article are not Trump’s deplorables, but those who sneer at them.
“It feels good to dismiss people, to mock them, to write them off as deplorables,” Wong writes. “But you might as well take time to try to understand them, because I’m telling you, they’ll still be around long after Trump is gone.”
Wong, who grew in a deeply red county in the deeply blue state of Illinois before landing at Cracked, understands what is dividing America better than most. Progressives tend to see Trump’s rise as the product of reactionary cultural attitudes. Wong attributes Trump’s rise more to macro-economic and geographic changes that have adversely affected people in rural America, people who pride themselves on self-reliance and individualism.
Rural America, whose scorn for “prissy elites” is engrained in their fiber, owns the electoral map as far as geography. (see below)But the electoral college and pull in Washington, D.C., is another matter. Rural voters are losing the fight, and the results are difficult to overstate, Wong says:
They’re getting the shit kicked out of them. I know, I was there. Step outside of the city, and the suicide rate among young people fucking doubles. The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed.
See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been….
If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness.
Capital and jobs are flowing to cities, Wong explains. And even if these people wished to pick up and move there is this – “around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called ‘Cost of Living.’”
Now, this phenomena would be painful enough, but Wong hints that rural resentment has been exacerbated by attitudes pervasive in our intelligentsia:
[T]he hopelessness eats you alive…and if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege.
Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down…. The foundation upon which America was undeniably built — family, faith, and hard work — had been deemed unfashionable and small-minded. Those snooty elites up in their ivory tower laughed as they kicked away that foundation, and then wrote 10,000-word thinkpieces blaming the builders for the ensuing collapse.
It’s a stinging critique, and I encourage readers to read the entire article.
As someone who grew up in a small blue-collar town (much like the ones Wong describes) before moving to a city, I found myself nodding my head (and laughing) throughout the article. Many of his anecdotes about the people who make up these communities are spot on.
These people are not deplorable. Nor, I think, are there many racists among them (though many despise political correctness). What they are is desperate. And afraid. They sense something coming apart, so they picked a street fighter to be their champion. A bully with bad hair and small hands who promised to make everything great again.
Now, Wong anticipates your obvious protest:
“But Trump is objectively a piece of shit!” you say. “He insults people, he objectifies women, and cheats whenever possible! And he’s not an everyman; he’s a smarmy, arrogant billionaire!”
Wait, are you talking about Donald Trump, or this guy:
Rural voters may have miscalculated in their choice, but Wong is right about this and a great many things: we’d be wiser to try to understand so-called deplorables than mock them.
Because in many ways, America needs them more than they need America.