Saw this excerpted at Hot Air earlier today and I was astounded by it. I wanted to get the whole article from National Review, but something was screwy with the website and it wouldn’t take my 25 cent payment for it, so I have to go on what is quoted rather than being able to read the entire article. At all events, Kevin Williamson over at National Review has this to say of the sort of people who are backing Trump – and how they view the world:
It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.
If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.
Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
If you want to live, get out of Garbutt.
I don’t know quite where to begin with this from a man who, to this point, has been one of the more intelligent observers of politics. Garbutt, for those who don’t know, is a small town in upstate New York. It’s main product in the past was gypsum – a material used in such things as plaster and drywall boards. Williamson’s point is that it is the fault of the people of places like Garbutt that their lives are miserable. They were morons who didn’t realize you can’t make a living out of gypsum and so should have just moved somewhere else and learned a new trade…like, I guess, moving to New York City and becoming investment bankers, art critics or, well, writers for major national publications. Here’s the thing, though: China produced 132,000,000 metric tons of gypsum in 2015. I have a guess that China would not produce that much gypsum if there wasn’t a market for it. Meanwhile, the United States produced a mere 11,000,000 metric tons of the stuff in 2015…but there lies the tiny town of Garbutt, sitting atop a mountain of gypsum and no one is mining it. Garbutt could be a fine, prosperous community based upon gypsum mining but for some reason we just don’t mine it there any more.
The exact why of it all is beyond my immediate knowledge. I’m sure it was a slow decline of the industry over time and a host of factors provided the reasons for the decline. Could have been bad business practices. Maybe labor troubles played their role. The mining companies might not have installed the latest and most efficient means of mining. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if taxes and regulations made it increasingly difficult to mine at a profit. But I’ll also bet that our various “free trade” agreements opened up our gypsum market to foreigners who sweat their labor and don’t give a darn about worker safety or environmental concerns. But whatever the reasons for the cessation of mining in Garbutt, we should be working to restore it – we use gigantic amounts of gypsum in the United States every year and as we clearly have lots of gypsum in our soil, it is pure idiocy to not take advantage of what we have. Why send our wealth to China for something we can obtain right here at home? And don’t try to lay on me a bunch of globalist nonsense about how China’s gypsum has to be cheaper and it is the mere workings of the free market which dictate gypsum comes from China and Garbutt becomes a dead town. It isn’t the blind hand of market economics which makes this happen – but the warping of economic life by government policy that does it; and warping which is often as not done at the behest of big business which isn’t at all interested in wise policy but in just getting a slightly larger profit.
Because we do, as a matter of fact, produce gypsum in the United States. Nevada produced just under 2.3 million metric tons of the stuff in 2014, representing a 40% increase over the year before. Clearly, good profits are available within the United States in gypsum mining. The conditions which allowed Nevada to produce that much gypsum could obviously be duplicated in New York – but they aren’t. Those jobs are gone, boys, and they ain’t coming back – so goes the old Springsteen song and so go plenty of people in the United States…curiously enough, it is always people who don’t do the jobs that ain’t coming back who assert in forthright terms they ain’t coming back. I wonder if we advised Mr. Williamson that his job is being sent to a guy in China who will do it for 40% of Williamson’s wages how he’d feel about it? After all, I’m sure we can get plenty of Chinese who are just as willing to tell large swaths of the American population they are just miserable failures. It’s just economics, Williamson – the blind hand of a completely free market, you dig?
But what about the immorality Williamson notes? True, our moral failures are all our own. We are created by God with free will and everyone is ultimately responsible for their own choices in life. But it wasn’t the people of places like Garbutt who demanded sex, drugs and rock and roll. That demand was created in places like New York City and Los Angeles by bored, rich people who wanted to spice up their dead, empty lives – and woe to anyone in Garbutt who even made a peep about not wanting it in their community. It is a curious thing we’ve seen for well more than a century – the least eccentricity of the rich must become a requirement among the poor. The rich wanted to live in Babylon, and so everyone must live in Babylon as well. Can’t have some rich guy being held up to moral censure, right? So, the vices a rich man can afford because of his wealth must also become vices among those who can’t afford them, at all. Think of it – the Hollywood producer who puts out pop culture garbage which glorifies bad choices can afford to send his drug addicted son to rehab and bail him out of jail time and again…but the poor slob in some small burg? Can’t do it – his son dies of a drug overdose, or becomes a serial jail bird. But let’s not have any nonsense about calling the purveyors of popular culture to account. After all, no one will want to censor it – but it’s not even that; we can’t even call it wrong to do…that would make people feel bad and, worse, it could lead to a drop off in sales of popular culture products. That, of course would be the worst possible thing – a lowering of profits in the corporations making the product.
Understand this – the support for Trump is precisely among those who have been victimized by a system they don’t control. No, there isn’t a Conspiracy making it happen – just rank immorality, as is always the case when things in human life go wrong. A host of factors have all played their role in destroying communities both economically and morally – and our job is not to arrogantly say, “too bad, so sad” but to identify where we went wrong and then fix it. It is not stupid to want small and mid-sized communities of hard working people. It is the only thing a Conservative should want, for crying out loud. What the heck does Williamson want to conserve? Manhattan? Sweated labor and bribery in the People’s Republic of China? What? Trump is, as I’ve said again and again, no answer to anyone’s problem but he or someone like him will continue to garner support as long as people who should have answers don’t provide them. And as 2016 has gone on, I’ve come more and more to the conclusion that a very large number of people on the alleged right don’t even want to try for an answer – they’ve got swell lives as it is and don’t want to rock the systemic boat which allows them to maintain their swell lives. But grab a clue – there are many, many more millions of people who are shut out than doing well…their numbers grow. Many of them have been suckered into voting Democrat because at least the Democrats say they care…but even that is wearing thin. Trump likely won’t get anywhere, even if he did manage to win the White House but if we on the right don’t start thinking about how to fix this broken nation then mark my words, some sort of authortarian dictator who says he or she will fix the problem will gain majority support in the United States.
And fixing this broken nation means, precisely, finding dignified, profitable work for people who are now out in the cold…and not just in dead mining communities like Garbutt, but in the hollowed out cities like Detroit. People don’t want to live without hope – either we give them real hope, or a tyrant will give them false hope. You can say all you want that the feeling of betrayal by Trumpsters and BLM people is based upon falsehood. It doesn’t matter – it is what they believe. And, truth be told, even if the over-arching narrative such people have is false on many points, it is based upon a true enough situation. A working or middle class African-American man can easily feel that the system is against him; that the cops are unfairly targeting him; that he can’t get out from underneath a byzantine set of laws. A working or middle class white man can also feel that the system is against him; that his job was sent to China for no good reason; that Corporate and government bosses are living high while he’s left with scraps. The two men live it, every day – telling them they are wrong to even think that way just insults them.
I think our best bet is to go to people where they are – listen to them, acknowledge their grief and propose solutions to the problems they think they have. I was out and about among the people today – just regular folks at the swap meet. Working people; people with families to support. If I’d been taking a poll, I bet I would have found two men who would be spoken of most highly among these people: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Neither Trump nor Sanders are what these people need – but they are what these people are going for, because no one else is even giving them the time of day. What’ll it be, folks: leave these people to demagogues who will use their rage as the path to personal power, or will we step up and provide them something better? It’s our choice, for now. Very soon, if we do nothing, it will be taken forever out of our hands and we’ll just have to endure what is chosen with no reference to us. One thing is certain in my view, if we just yell about how stupid they are for believing as they do, we’re going to lose.
UPDATE: After I had written this and pondered it for a while, it occurred to me just what I was trying in my very poor way to say – and then I recalled where I had read it before. Below the fold you’ll find it:
Here, it may be said, my book ends just where it ought to begin. I have said that the strong centers of modern English property must swiftly or slowly be broken up, if even the idea of property is to remain among Englishmen. There are two ways in which it could be done, a cold administration by quite detached officials, which is called Collectivism, or a personal distribution, so as to produce what is called Peasant Proprietorship. I think the latter solution the finer and more fully human, because it makes each man as somebody blamed somebody for saying of the Pope, a sort of small god. A man on his own turf tastes eternity or, in other words, will give ten minutes more work than is required. But I believe I am justified in shutting the door on this vista of argument, instead of opening it. For this book is not designed to prove the case for Peasant Proprietorship, but to prove the case against modern sages who turn reform to a routine. The whole of this book has been a rambling and elaborate urging of one purely ethical fact. And if by any chance it should happen that there are still some who do not quite see what that point is, I will end with one plain parable, which is none the worse for being also a fact.
A little while ago certain doctors and other persons permitted by modern law to dictate to their shabbier fellow-citizens, sent out an order that all little girls should have their hair cut short. I mean, of course, all little girls whose parents were poor. Many very unhealthy habits are common among rich little girls, but it will be long before any doctors interfere forcibly with them. Now, the case for this particular interference was this, that the poor are pressed down from above into such stinking and suffocating underworlds of squalor, that poor people must not be allowed to have hair, because in their case it must mean lice in the hair. Therefore, the doctors propose to abolish the hair. It never seems to have occurred to them to abolish the lice. Yet it could be done. As is common in most modern discussions the unmentionable thing is the pivot of the whole discussion. It is obvious to any Christian man (that is, to any man with a free soul) that any coercion applied to a cabman’s daughter ought, if possible, to be applied to a Cabinet Minister’s daughter. I will not ask why the doctors do not, as a matter of fact apply their rule to a Cabinet Minister’s daughter. I will not ask, because I know. They do not because they dare not. But what is the excuse they would urge, what is the plausible argument they would use, for thus cutting and clipping poor children and not rich? Their argument would be that the disease is more likely to be in the hair of poor people than of rich. And why? Because the poor children are forced (against all the instincts of the highly domestic working classes) to crowd together in close rooms under a wildly inefficient system of public instruction; and because in one out of the forty children there may be offense. And why? Because the poor man is so ground down by the great rents of the great ground landlords that his wife often has to work as well as he. Therefore she has no time to look after the children, therefore one in forty of them is dirty. Because the workingman has these two persons on top of him, the landlord sitting (literally) on his stomach, and the schoolmaster sitting (literally) on his head, the workingman must allow his little girl’s hair, first to be neglected from poverty, next to be poisoned by promiscuity, and, lastly, to be abolished by hygiene. He, perhaps, was proud of his little girl’s hair. But he does not count.
Upon this simple principle (or rather precedent) the sociological doctor drives gayly ahead. When a crapulous tyranny crushes men down into the dirt, so that their very hair is dirty, the scientific course is clear. It would be long and laborious to cut off the heads of the tyrants; it is easier to cut off the hair of the slaves. In the same way, if it should ever happen that poor children, screaming with toothache, disturbed any schoolmaster or artistic gentleman, it would be easy to pull out all the teeth of the poor; if their nails were disgustingly dirty, their nails could be plucked out; if their noses were indecently blown, their noses could be cut off. The appearance of our humbler fellow-citizen could be quite strikingly simplified before we had done with him. But all this is not a bit wilder than the brute fact that a doctor can walk into the house of a free man, whose daughter’s hair may be as clean as spring flowers, and order him to cut it off. It never seems to strike these people that the lesson of lice in the slums is the wrongness of slums, not the wrongness of hair. Hair is, to say the least of it, a rooted thing. Its enemy sweep upon us but seldom. In truth, it is only by eternal institutions like hair that we can test passing institutions like empires. If a house is so built as to knock a man’s head off when he enters it, it is built wrong.
The mob can never rebel unless it is conservative, at least enough to have conserved some reasons for rebelling. It is the most awful thought in all our anarchy, that most of the ancient blows struck for freedom would not be struck at all to-day, because of the obscuration of the clean, popular customs from which they came. The insult that brought down the hammer of Wat Tyler might now be called a medical examination. That which Virginius loathed and avenged as foul slavery might now be praised as free love. The cruel taunt of Foulon, “Let them eat grass,” might now be represented as the dying cry of an idealistic vegetarian. Those great scissors of science that would snip off the curls of the poor little school children are ceaselessly snapping closer and closer to cut off all the corners and fringes of the arts and honors of the poor. Soon they will be twisting necks to suit clean collars, and hacking feet to fit new boots. It never seems to strike them that the body is more than raiment; that the Sabbath was made for man; that all institutions shall be judged and damned by whether they have fitted the normal flesh and spirit. It is the test of political sanity to keep your head. It is the test of artistic sanity to keep your hair on.
Now the whole parable and purpose of these last pages, and indeed of all these pages, is this: to assert that we must instantly begin all over again, and begin at the other end. I begin with a little girl’s hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict’s; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.
It is most emphatically not we, the people who must adjust ourselves to society but society which must be adjusted to suit we, the people. First things first.