I have to say growing up in the West I had not really encountered the old working-class type Democrat before. When I moved to Rust-Belt Appalachia I started finding them all over the place. They love America, the military and believe in hard work and yet don't quite fit into the Progressive or Conservative categories. They are a true mix.
And while they have some conservative inclinations they largely embrace the Sixties social revolution. These guys are married to feminist women, of course they also (in my opinion) treat them poorly. They feel very strongly about their wives working and resent stay-at-home wives as anachronistic, lazy and even inferior.
This is where the conservative/liberal labeling breaks down. I don't consider the modern gun-toting fanatic that dresses his daughter in camouflage and takes her out hunting to be conservative. While that's not exactly the picture of liberalism, their values regarding gender are non-traditional. A lot of these guys are also more than happy to see the daughters join the military. Women in combat aside, socially conservative husbands and fathers would not be overly thrilled about their daughters joining the army.
This older generation of working class Democrats tend to like unions, have no problem with government jobs, bureaucracy and programmes. They think we should have conscription because it's for everyone's good.
When I say embrace the Sixties, there's the one caveat. They don't like the Civil Rights movement. A lot of these guys became Reagan Democrats in 1980 but not all of them flipped over to the Republican Party and that was usually due to their union associations, something largely gone today. The big shift was in 1968, another in 1980 and then over the next thirty years those that remained Democratic mostly did so out of commitment to the labour movement.
When I met this guy about twenty years ago I was still coming out of my conservative roots and we used to clash about the role of government, taxes, the military etc...
I was 'in-between' back then, probably more like a Ron Paul follower, Anarcho-capitalist, anti-state (so I thought) and anti-war. I had recently been discharged from the military and had been forced to question and work through my conservative Evangelical uber-Republican upbringing.
I recall vividly in 2000 I reluctantly voted for Harry Browne. The acquaintance I'm writing about liked Bill Bradley during the primaries and eventually got behind Gore. I figured he'd probably like Hilary Clinton. Was I ever wrong.
Today, he supports Donald Trump.
I was kind of stunned but listening to him it sort of made sense and oddly enough I had just heard about growing numbers of working-class Democrats who are joining the Trump bandwagon.
This guy who I worked with day-in and day-out for several years would likely fail a civics test. He has never really understood how the government works, officially or otherwise.
He's woefully ignorant of history, geography and geopolitics. I was with him on 9/11 and in the days that followed. Our responses and interpretations were vastly different.
By the time of the Iraq Invasion in 2003 we were leagues apart but it was I who was continuing to move away from mainstream.
In his mind we (the USA) have done all these wonderful things for 'those people over there' and the fact that they want to kill us really angers him. He'd be happy to see the US 'carpet-bomb' them or 'drop a nuke' on their doorstep.
In the past I have engaged him and tried to explain why such interpretations are erroneous. We'd banter, he'd struggle to follow along but he'd listen, he just didn't like the implications of what I was saying. No, the United States isn't the paragon of all goodness and sometimes does some pretty evil things. He'd usually revert to that old line I run into all the time.
"Well, maybe America isn't perfect but it's still the best country out there."
Interestingly he escaped the Vietnam draft even though he was of age. He says his number was never called but he always gets a little uncomfortable when the topic comes up. I don't know if there's more to the story. Nevertheless he actually regrets not going. It's amazing after everything the nation went through and observing all the post-war revelations, the heartache and emotional damage, he feels like he missed out on something. He feels like he wasn't part of something that was central to his generation. Such sentiments leave me stupefied, and I have to wonder if he's really comprehended what that war was all about or what war even is for that matter.
One would think Vietnam would make one more circumspect but apparently not. In recent years more and more 'Vietnam Veteran' hats and stickers are showing up. As I've written about elsewhere, I can understand an 18 year old in 1966 getting drafted and feeling like he was doing the right thing, and perhaps regretting it all today. But I think rather poorly of people who are 'proud' of their 'service' even after Vietnam was exposed for what it really was. The US record concerning every aspect of the matter is filled with dark deeds worthy of great shame. When I see such people my thoughts are not kind and I immediately view them as moral degenerates.
But I digress. Returning to my story...
I've noticed my acquaintance has become a little more emotionally involved since his grandson joined the military a few years back.
But now I notice he's suddenly grown really emotional and angry. He liked Obama back in 2008... though he liked Hillary better. But now he's absolutely hostile to him. I told him a Trump presidency will likely lead to civil and geopolitical unrest.
"Good!" he said. He's mad and would be quite happy to see the US lock some people up, torture them etc...
This guy has worked very hard all his life and he's actually made a lot of money but he's also played hard and spent it. He's old enough to retire but he's also the kind of guy that never will. He has no hobbies outside of his work. He's a very skilled carpenter and general contractor and (unlike me) actually loves his job.
And yet he's bitter that he doesn't have more. He insists he can't afford to retire. He could but he wouldn't be able to maintain his lifestyle. It's not my intention here to comment on the whole question of retirement. He's not a Christian so I don't expect him to view it as I do. In his case, he doesn't really want to retire. He's the kind of guy that wouldn't know what to do with himself.
He sees a lot of people (as do I) that don't work very hard and yet they've got a lot. We've both worked for a lot of them. He also sees people who are lazy and take advantage of the system. There are also plenty of those about.
But in the past he used to see there are also a lot of people who work very hard and yet can't make ends meet. Their wages, even from multiple jobs are insufficient to pay the bills. They're not living well, in some cases they're barely surviving. They live a car repair away from disaster. He used to understand that the issues surrounding this were more complicated but now he just seems bitter and angry. If you're unwilling to work 7 days a week then you deserve whatever you get.
In a small town rural environment you also are sometimes able to see things that you can't in the city. Everyone knows everyone else and if someone is collecting disability (SSI) and yet still working under the table, people know about it. There are quite a few cases of that around here and it upsets people.
He's grown more racist. As a part-time deputy in a law-enforcement agency he's rabidly pro-police and the events in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere have made him very angry.
9/11 was so emotional for a lot of people and some of them are really disappointed and frustrated. The last fifteen years have not brought satisfaction. He would have been one of the people that completely bought into the Bush administration propaganda with regard to Iraq even to the point of believing Saddam was responsible for the Twin Towers. Arabs, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are all 'ragheads' to him. They're all the same.
The War on Terror (which has basically been one long deception) has not defeated 'terror' but if anything has generated it ten-fold. I believe that was at least one of the goals all along but to people like him he's grown angry and confused. By the time the US got bin Laden it was anti-climactic. They were excited about Iraq for a few months in 2003 but then it all went wrong and is worse than ever today. The "We're not winning anymore" rhetoric resonates with someone like him.
Actually the United States has made sweeping gains over the past fifteen years but most Americans aren't going to be able to see it. Even celebration is supposed to be within a climate of fear and you can be sure the prostituted media is never going to actually explain or contextualise anything going on. And if they make an attempt at it, the interpreters will all be members of the US Establishment. Who did NPR interview this morning about the attacks in Belgium? Who else? Michael Hayden the career bureaucrat and imperial insider.
My former co-worker is angry with Apple and supports the Orwellian State and can't fathom why it's not stopping 'these people' and why so many Americans are resisting the US line.
Basically the America he knew in the 1950s-1970s is long gone. He can't understand why or what happened. He of course is part of the problem. Many years ago he left his wife for another woman. His family is broken, his relationships with his kids are a mess and their lives are a mess. At one point many years ago his visiting daughter was about leave town in a huff and he couldn't bring himself to leave 'the job' to try and patch things up before she got on a plane. Work, money, pleasure and consumption are the foundation stones of his ethic and his life is a wreck because of it. He's not alone. It's a pretty typical (if sad) tale.
Dr. Dobson is mistaken. Leftist values didn't destroy his life and his family. The American system itself promotes these values. Consumerism, self-focus, fear and pride are just a few bedrocks of the American system the very system and values championed by the Christian Right. They are just as much a part of the problem but can't face the reality and thus try to lay blame elsewhere. The American system until recently didn't openly terrorise its citizenry. And yet it's an evil system that's cancerous to the soul.
Now even my acquaintance sees that society is falling apart. He can't understand the parenting of today, the kids of today and he's distressed to see the society and nation 'falling apart'. He's bitter and confused. This has generated anger unlike anything I've ever seen before in this one-time pretty optimistic and cheerful guy. His optimism was partly rooted in the fact that he cannot sit still. You may know people like this. He doesn't read and can barely sit still long enough to read the newspaper. He's a bundle of energy. The only thing he genuinely enjoys reading is trade magazines about the construction industry.
He likes noise and lots of it. I always hated the endless zombie radio that he insists on blasting while we worked. He admits that if the room was quiet, he'd have to think and he doesn't want to do that.
Now on the cusp of old age he's fallen in with Donald Trump. He 'tells it like it us'. I wish that was the case but it's not.
The sad part is that this particular man, and there are many like him, have been brought to a place where they don't have enough basic understanding of law, government, sociology, history, geography, geopolitics, economics to even grasp the fact that Trump represents fantasy and delusion. Most of what Trump says is pure fiction. Amidst the endless lies he asserts things he's going to do that are more often than not illegal. Yes, presidents break the law all the time but they do so through other means. Trump doesn't seem to understand how the law even functions.
I'm reminded of the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon "I'm just a Bill" from when I was a kid. I think someone needs to have Trump sit down and watch it. He talks like if he wins he'll have dictatorial powers and yet apparently his followers don't understand how any of this works.
The truth is my acquaintance shouldn't be allowed to vote. He's not qualified but that opens quite a can of worms doesn't it?
Of course I won't be voting which in his mind means I'm not worth talking to and nothing I have to say even matters.
Ah, but it does. In fact I think that being 'outside' the debate affords us a greater opportunity to 'bear witness' to what is going on. I don't have a dog in the fight. I want Babylon to be peaceful but if Donald Trump wins, then so be it. I don't think he will but sometimes I wonder. Maybe this is how Providence will bring this nation down. Whatever the means, its days are numbered. Like other empires of old, just as it reaches for the stars and immortality the foundations begin to collapse.
Would the Establishment risk the social cost of an assassination? Even if it was perpetrated by an 'angry Muslim', the social backlash could be tremendous and terrible.
Some have suggested Trump may (in the end) prove more manageable and malleable than someone like Cruz. That may prove true and in the end the Establishment could maybe live with Trump. The Establishment which is mostly conservative would probably prefer Clinton (who is hardly liberal) but they have to weigh the costs of upheaval and social scepticism. The Democracy illusion is a game that's getting really hard to play, they know it and are preparing for the day when the music stops.
No one knows how this will turn out but the fact that Trump has arisen and the fact that he's gotten this far is itself telling and transformative. American politics will never be the same.
Maybe I'm just starting to get old and maybe this experience is common to all as the years go by but it's startling to me to watch people change and to realise that in the case of my acquaintance there's almost nothing I can do to reach him. He won't listen and at this point his attention span is so short (like many Americans) that he's incapable of grasping a basic explanation. It takes too long and is too complicated. He sure isn't going to read anything. When I explain something to him, I feel like I've got about 45 seconds... and they start to lose him. Thank you Twitter, Texting, Apple and all you vile enemies of civilisation and society.
We always engaged in friendly argument but I have to say this time I started to shut down. He was getting so upset and I was getting tired of the profanity and racist bile coming out of his mouth. It was much worse than it had ever been.
I decided to not answer fool according to his folly.
I thought about CS Lewis' Dufflepuds. Trump could say 'water is wet' and get a rise out of his crowd. They're that dumb and handed over. I thought about the dwarves in 'The Last Battle'. You could give them food and drink but all they tasted was stable filth and dirty water. All discernment is gone, just gone.