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: