My neighbor gave it up. So now Trump will too, right?

late Trump signs

Well, I have some good news. I went for a midday walk today, and didn’t see any Trump campaign signs in the neighborhood.

You may find that unremarkable. But you don’t know the whole story.

After I came back from Memphis — we’re talking the day or so after the election — I saw them for the first time: Two Trump/Pence signs, both in the same yard but spaced as far apart as possible, perhaps to give the impression that they were in more than one yard. I had seen this before — someone a couple of blocks away had resorted to the same approach, perhaps in an effort to compensate for the fact that there were so very many more Biden signs in Quail Hollow.

No biggie. I had taken down my signs the minute I got home, but not everyone had done so yet. One neighbor with signs for Biden/Harris, Jaime Harrison and Adair Boroughs left them up for another week.

But here’s the thing: I had not seen those two Trump signs before the election. That’s OK, I said. My last walk that way had been two or even three days before the election. Maybe this neighbor had put them up on the very last day, while we were driving to Memphis. It was possible. And then, I thought, making excuses, he had decided to keep them up for a bit, having just erected them.

Maybe.

But then they were there the next day, and the next, and the next. The three signs for Democrats in that other neighbor’s yard came down about a week ago, but these stayed.

Perhaps, I thought with dismay (after all, this is someone in my neighborhood, not some famous loony way off in D.C.), this was in support of the incumbent’s — sorry, but I’m going to have to use that word — unprecedented refusal to concede the election he has so clearly lost.

And they stayed up. They were still there yesterday, Nov. 19.

But today they were gone. Thank Goodness.

Now, no doubt, it’s only a matter of minutes before Trump himself does the grownup thing, right? I said, right?…

61 thoughts on “My neighbor gave it up. So now Trump will too, right?

  1. Pat

    I’m still stressed. I’m shocked that elected republicans are allowing this charade. It’s one thing to say “let it play out in the courts” and a whole other thing to let disinformation about the integrity of the election go unchecked. One report says that 79% of Republicans believe there was fraud in the general election. 79%?!!! It’s not good that that many people distrust the electoral process.

    Reply
    1. Ken

      “79% of Republicans believe there was fraud in the general election.”

      Yes, and my father is one of them. And he doesn’t even watch Fox News. I weened him off of that.
      But there’s still the internet.
      And that guy in the White House.

      Reply
      1. Barry

        79% of republicans would believe Trump If he said he flew to the moon on an engine than ran on tomato sauce.

        Just be thankful that 79% of republicans is not a majority of Americans.

        Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “It’s not good that that many people distrust the electoral process.”

      Absolutely. And it’s far, far worse that the president of the United States is not merely encouraging it, but going to insane, sci-fi fantasy lengths to encouraging it.

      On top of four years of telling weak-minded people that anything they don’t like is “Fake News”… They believe it now. They have nothing connecting them to reality…

      Reply
  2. Bob Amundson

    I made a $100 bet with a classmate (retired Air Force officer, libertarian) that President-Elect Biden would win, and he paid off within two days (donated to a charity of my choice). Another classmate, an Evangelical, a good musician who stayed in rural NY after the Navy using his technical training, believes the earth is only 6,000 years old and was put in Facebook “timeout” for posting a meme more or less stating this whole situation is unconstitutional and it is time to “bear arms.” I have several Evangelical friends on Facebook, and all believe the election was rigged.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      I guess you can call me evangelical and Biden won and it wasn’t that close.

      I’ll add though I have become very disillusioned with the Bret majority of evangelicals. It’s a very negative term now because many evangelicals have hitched their hope and prayers to a political party.

      Matthew Sheffield on Twitter does a great job of covering this phenomenon.

      “Self-proclaimed “prophets” are still telling their millions of evangelical followers that Trump is going to get his second term, in part so that evil people won’t be able to mock God’s servants for predicting victory“

      https://twitter.com/mattsheffield/status/1330115977149898764?s=21

      Reply
      1. Bob Amundson

        No large group is monolithic, including Evangelicals. I assess probabilities, and the probability that people who identify as Evangelicals support President Trump is quite high. Barry, I am so glad you and others are “outliers.”

        Reply
  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, about this, which I said in the original post: “Two Trump/Pence signs, both in the same yard but spaced as far apart as possible, perhaps to give the impression that they were in more than one yard.”

    I want to point out before anyone else does that yes, I had two Biden signs (Biden/Harris signs later, as that’s all I could get after my Biden signs were defaced and stolen… I didn’t like the new ones as much because they were made of cheap-looking plastic, like the Trump/Pence ones in the picture above). I also had two Jaime Harrison signs.

    But that’s because I have a large yard on a corner, so I put one set on one street and the other set on the other street. You had to maneuver around and get at the right angle to see both at the same time.

    This yard, and the other one I’d seen earlier with two Trump signs, were both narrow, mid-block lots, which is what made it a bit odd for there to be two…

    Reply
  4. jim Catoe

    While channel surfing the other day I came across Jim Bakker’s show (he of PTL fame). As is his modus operani, he is fervently asking for offerings. He is also “preaching” that the election was fraudulent and that God would intervene to right the ship.

    Reply
  5. Bart

    Fascinating comments. I find one critical element missing among all of the insults and arrows shot at the 73 million who voted for Trump and that is the simple question, “why did they vote for Trump in the first place?”

    The comments if read by Trump supporters will only reinforce their opinions and beliefs because not one comment gives any of them any credit for being sane human beings. All of you have placed them in Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” and Obama’s “guns and religion” categories along with a few other totally negative categories. This along with the comments coming from Democrats encouraging what basically amounts to “re-education” camps or training. Calls for Trump supporters who have assisted him in his efforts over the vote counts to have them ostracized from society, black-listed from future employment, and pariahs among the general population. Ending friendships with Trump supporters, some that have lasted for years and years because of their support.

    All you have done is denigrate, marginalize, mock, and dehumanize a major segment of the citizens of this country because they voted for Trump.

    I gather the accumulation of comments here are representations of Joe Biden’s meaning of “unity” and “coming together” he calls for in its true context. If this is the approach to reconciliation then I want no part of it. If you cannot be the “better angels” and reach out, then you are as much of the problem as the ones you have shunned as outcasts and yes, that is exactly what all of you are doing.

    Enjoy the Biden victory but continuing your condemnation will only reinforce the will of Trump’s supporters to even greater resistance and entrenchment. And they will gain more and more followers if the overt anger and elitism continues against them.

    As much as I distrust Biden, Trump, Clinton, Harris, and others in the political arena, my friends and acquaintances who don’t share all of the same convictions as I do, we will remain friends and denigrating them or ostracizing them is not the path I choose. They are too valuable as fellow human beings to simply throw away over political differences. Choosing to live in a protected and safe bubble is no way to go through life, something I have learned the hard way during my lifetime.

    Again, stop and ask yourselves the question of “why?” did 73 million vote for Trump and if you are willing, do so honestly without preconceived conclusions.

    Reply
    1. Pat

      I’m not seeing what you are. Most of these comments are related to whether republicans trust the electoral process and the rational for these opinions.

      Reply
    2. Barry

      Bart,

      The Trumpers on my social media and Trumpers that I know refer to non Trumpers as evil, America hating, communist God haters.

      Makes a conversation or wanting to break bread with them quite difficult. So I don’t.

      Reply
      1. Bart

        Then the Trumpers you are associated with on social media are not the same as the ones I associate with. So far, not one has made the comment to me that non Trumpers are evil, America hating and communist God haters. If anything, conversely, the Trump haters on social media I am associated say Trump is equivalent to Hitler, he hates minorities, he is a criminal, a racist, misogynist, white supremist, the most dangerous individual threatening our republic, and a host of other accusations.

        My point is that whether you or others agree or not, the rhetoric is toxic on both sides and if it continues it will only get worse and the divide in this country will never be closed in any meaningful way.

        Breaking bread with someone you disagree with is the best and most effective way to find common ground that can lead to a peaceful co-existence. It also provides the opportunity to soften the atmosphere and create an opportunity to make your point and hopefully change their mind. If you cannot, then avoid any conversations that are politically oriented and concentrate on the things in life that are enjoyable. I called one of my best friends on Saturday and he is as far left and a total Trump hater extraordinaire. He is convinced Trump will be prosecuted after he leaves the White House and hopes he gets the maximum sentence possible. I have made it clear I am not a Trump fan but I won’t abandon nor break communion with Trump haters or Trump supporters.

        Ultimately, it is your choice. Maybe ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”.

        Reply
        1. Barry

          “Then the Trumpers you are associated with on social media are not the same as the ones I associate with. ”

          Yes, obviously so.

          “So far, not one has made the comment to me that non Trumpers are evil, America hating and communist God haters”

          Obviously my experience is 180 degrees different than yours.

          “If anything, conversely, the Trump haters on social media I am associated say Trump is equivalent to Hitler, he hates minorities, he is a criminal, a racist, misogynist, white supremist, the most dangerous individual threatening our republic, and a host of other accusations.

          I also believe Donald Trump is racist. I would never compare him to Hitler. I don’t how how to capture his feelings about women. He’s made many extremely disparaging and disgusting remarks about women over the years, including admitting he grabs them between the legs when he wants to, that I’ve given up trying to understand the disdain he has for them.

          “Breaking bread with someone you disagree with is the best and most effective way to find common ground that can lead to a peaceful co-existence.”

          I have people I will eat with – but we never talk politics at all. WE are not going to see eye to eye on Donald Trump. It will never happen. Many of the people that I know that are Trumpers treat him almost as a messiah. I can’t relate to anyone that treats a politician as such.

          ““What would Jesus do?””

          I don’t know. Many of the Trumpers I know – including leading Christian leaders in the evangelical community tell me he’d be fully supporting Donald Trump for President. I can’t relate to that.

          Reply
    3. Barry

      Bart wrote “ All you have done is denigrate, marginalize, mock, and dehumanize a major segment of the citizens of this country because they voted for Trump.”

      Another view

      “All Fox News, right wing media, and all of talk radio have done for years is denigrate, marginalize, mock, and dehumanize anyone that would not follow and support Donald Trump.”

      As evidence of this, right wing media now labels Trump supporters as “real patriots.” Anyone that doesn’t support trump isn’t a “patriot” and obviously doesn’t love their country. We’ve even seen some fairly well known and supposedly respected conservative media members echo this nonsense over the past few years including people on Fox News like Brit Hume who once said, before deleting the comment, that Democrats don’t love America. https://apnews.com/article/a047603f15264c198321ecf774a323cb

      Reply
      1. Bart

        The right and left wing media and talk radio are part of the same entertainment industry and they thrive and succeed on fomenting division, hatred, and radicalizing ideological differences to suit their own agenda. They live to create divisions and their pontifications about their side being right and the other wrong can and does attract like minded individuals.

        It is the individuals I am addressing and apologize if my point wasn’t clear. When someone from the right reads comments on this blog or comments on a blog that is more right wing and the comments are insults, it has as much if not more of an impact than what is said on the national media sites.

        Whether it is Rachael Maddow or Sean Hannity, it makes no difference because each one is on the air to attract an audience for ratings that if successful is sufficient to increase advertising costs that go to the bottom line and financial rewards. For years, CNN couldn’t come close to the Fox audience but during the election coverage, CNN was the ratings leader and Fox was close to if not at the bottom of the ratings. Fox lost a lot of faithful viewers over the way they handled the election returns and it is very likely some of their most popular opinion hosts may seek employment somewhere else.

        When I sit down with another individual I have been friends with for years and our political differences are night and day, to me rejecting the other person is not who I am or what I believe in. I have friends and relatives who are totally obnoxious about their support of Obama, Clinton, and Biden but I accept their position and our differences as part of the human experience. If any one of them were to call me in the middle of the night needing help, I would go to their aid as soon as possible and do whatever I could do to help.

        IMHO, this election and Trump’s four years brought the underbelly of this nation to the surface and that is not necessarily a bad thing. What has been hidden on both or many sides has been brought to the surface and now we as a nation are faced with the ultimate question and challenge, “What do we do now? Where do we go from here? Can the healing really start or is this the open wound that will never heal?”. This was inevitable and if we cannot face the future together in spite of our differences, then the future is rather bleak and I am not prone to being a bleak person.

        For the first time in decades, I actually watched Fox during the campaign to see and hear for myself what they have to say. I didn’t watch the other networks because their coverage on my homepage was more than sufficient and until I cancelled the NYT and WaPo due to budget considerations, I was able to glean more than enough information about their position on social and political matters. I still support ProPublica and recommend anyone to do so.

        I know I have a different approach and interpretation of events that doesn’t match with most on this blog but that is okay with me. Agree or not, I would rather read a dissenting opinion than live in a secure and protective bubble with others who share my beliefs and opinions only.

        When I wrote the post, it was in response to some comments I heard over the past few weeks and months. My conclusion is that it begins with us at the Main Street level and it is up to us to bring us together, not talking heads and politicians who are only interested in being elected and then re-elected, time and time and time again until they no longer have any connection to us, the citizens they are supposed to represent as a whole, not pieces and parts.

        Reply
  6. Ken

    You got it backward. We’re not insulting Trump voters They insulted the country with their choice. Which was irresponsible and reckless.

    As for your question, voters’ motivations for voting for him are many. But it doesn’t really matter what reason they give. Because, in case you’ve forgotten, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. Put differently, people can have all the right reasons for making the wrong decision. In this case, it’s not the subjective intentions that count, it’s the result, the choice made. Because the man is objectively unfit for office, as he’s shown time and time and time again.

    As for reaching out, I have no choice but to do so, because I’m surrounded by “his” people. Even so, my opinion of them will forever be colored by the choice they made for president.

    Reply
    1. Bart

      “We’re not insulting Trump voters They insulted the country with their choice. Which was irresponsible and reckless.”

      A denial with a contradiction. In two sentences, you made my point, intended or not.

      Reply
    2. Barry

      Ken wrote”

      :As for reaching out, I have no choice but to do so, because I’m surrounded by “his” people. Even so, my opinion of them will forever be colored by the choice they made for president.”

      Well- I don’t have to reach out to any of them. I’ve no longer have 3-4 friends over the past few years because of Trump but I don’t regret it.

      One was a mentor to me for many years, but people change and mentors come and go. I remember his wise advice when he wasn’t beholden to a politician. HE’s no longer the same person and I have no interest in the new version of himself.

      Reply
  7. Phillip

    On a related point, I am really liking these Biden Cabinet appointees so far. I don’t think anybody can accuse Biden of “caving to the Squad” or whatever the AOC crowd is called, except for those who think that giving climate issues a seat on the National Security Council is somehow “left-wing”. Like COVID, global warming doesn’t care what your politics are.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, that’s probably a good post for Kerry — “climate czar.” Giving that to a former secretary of state and one of the leading architects of the Paris climate agreement shows the world we’re serious about getting back into looking out for the planet.

      And that’s very important.

      As for “the Squad” — they’ll get the same consideration as the rest of the country. Biden intends to be the president for every American, which includes them — and Republicans. Knowing that, I’m waiting to see how many of them have the decency to show shame for standing by and humoring Trump’s childish — and damaging to democracy — behavior…

      Reply
      1. bud

        We don’t actually have a democracy when it comes to “electing” a president. This outrageous system must change. We dodged a bullet this time but in 4 years we may see Trump becoming president again in spite of losing the people’s vote by several million.

        Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Actually, this should please bud…

            I think I’m at the point at which I would endorse doing away with the electoral college. I was thinking about it a lot while listening to a podcast on the subject, and reached that decision in the middle. But I haven’t written about it, because it’s complicated enough that I just haven’t had time.

            I’m ready to do away with it not for the reasons bud would. The Framers did not intend for the process to be “democratic” in the sense I think bud means it, and I think they were right. Here I could go at some detail into my admiration for their wisdom in creating their system of checks and balances so that each element is chosen differently, so that the different elements of government answer to different constituencies. Only the House was intended to be chosen by direct election by the general population. Senators represent states (unfortunately, we have the 17th amendment, which switched to direct election — but we still have two senators for each state, which many, many Democrats rail against). Judges were chosen by nomination of the executive, and confirmation by the Senate. And presidents were chosen by electors, who were chosen by the states — not by general election.

            That way you had the representatives of various, differently composed constituencies balancing each other.

            But over time, the Electoral College was diminished by various means, starting with the general elections. And the electors themselves became powerless and useless.

            Ideally, I’d go back to Hamilton’s approach. But I know that will never happen. The trend throughout our history toward greater democratization would never allow it. So now that we ALMOST have election by voters, and everyone thinks that way, it’s probably best to go ahead and eliminate the electors.

            Before anyone applauds that, though, be warned: It would only take a small shift in the electorate for a Trump to win the popular vote. He probably would have this time, if the Democratic nominee had been anyone but Biden. In spite of his horrific performance, day after day, for four years.

            And THAT — a sort of popular insanity sweeping through the general population — was what Hamilton et al. were trying to protect us against, by having the states appoint serious, sober electors to make the decision.

            Everyone should be aware of that…

            Reply
            1. bud

              The framers did not intend for the process to be democratic …

              This may be the biggest difference between Brad/Bryan and me. I just really don’t give a tinkers damn about what the framers intended. I care about what is the right thing to do. I also don’t care about giving states any roll in our national government. It is nonsense to talk about different constituencies. That is just weasel talk. Sometimes simple is better. This is one of those times. Let’s let people pick their leaders not some vague notion of constituencies.

              Reply
            2. Barry

              I read an interview recently where are the CEO of Newsmax actually advocated for doing away with the electoral college. His line of reasoning had to do with the fact if Texas ever becomes a democratic state along with Florida conservatives won’t ever have a chance to win the presidency again. I’m not sure his logic really makes sense because if they’re losing those states in the EC, they’re probably losing the overall popular vote.

              recall Donald Trump wanted to do away with the electoral college when Obama was president.

              When Trump won in 2016, he was 100% for the electoral college and conservatives in the media, especially on Fox News, talked about how outlandish and reckless it would be. (They ignored Trump’s previous call for it to be abandoned).

              I think we all know Trump only cares about what benefits him

              Reply
  8. Ken

    More on the authoritarian bent of the Republican Party, by former Republican Max Boot:

    “[Trump’s departure] might represent only a middle chapter in the Republican Party’s transformation […] into an authoritarian party similar to the Fidesz party in Hungary, the Law and Justice party in Poland, the Justice and Development Party in Turkey and the Bharatiya Janata Party in India.”
    “Even before Trump came along, Republicans had shown their willingness to use any means necessary to exercise power.”
    “Trump’s ascent turbocharged the Republican revolt against democracy.”
    “Many Republicans seethed in private but supported these undemocratic acts in public.”
    [Recall Vaclav Havel’s observation.]
    “Much of the GOP has already decided that achieving its policy preferences is more important than preserving America’s democracy.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/23/trumps-legacy-may-be-an-increasingly-authoritarian-republican-party/

    Reply
    1. Bart

      I find these type comments tedious and boring just as much as I find the ones in the same vein on the Republican side. Likening one party to a heinous standard by one side and the other side engaging in the same rhetoric and comparisons is a total waste of valuable time while we are here on this earth.

      What damn good does it do for a Max Boot to author like this one when a conservative author writes one about liberals that says the same thing?

      Trump and McConnel did nothing different than Obama and Reid when they were in power. If anything, Reid committed judicial choice suicide when he exercised the nuclear option and left the door open for Gorsuch to be denied a hearing and for Trump to nominate and seat three conservatives to the SCOTUS bench. Something FDR threatened to do and Schumer has threatened to pack the SCOTUS bench by adding Puerto Rico and Washington, DC as states.

      The what-about-isms are rampant and reasonable conversation no longer exists. Refugees from each party end up writing articles about the failures and power hungry denizens on the side they left. Then the other side seizes on their writings as absolute truth and feel justified pointing fingers and a sense of self-satisfaction to comfort them in proving they were right all along.

      At this point, it is apparent Trump has finally accepted the inevitable, he lost the election and no amount of legal maneuvers will change or reverse the decision of the voters. It is time to move on and let Biden do whatever he can and will do. Hopefully he will have some success bringing a more reasonable tone to the public conversation in this country.

      Biden will be my president come January 20, 2021. Not Trump, Biden. He will have my support even though I don’t really like him just as I never liked Trump. Biden will call on what he is familiar with and it will disappoint a lot of his more radical supporters because they won’t get everything they want or demand.

      Time to start the healing process even if it is one step at a time. Hopefully after 47 years as a senator and VP, Biden will bring much needed leadership to this country. If he doesn’t, then in 2022 when mid-terms come about, the jury will decide and send a message of approval of disapproval once the results are in. If he gains seats in the House and Senate, a sign of approval. If not, then disapproval. Let us hope for the best.

      Happy Thanksgiving All!

      Reply
      1. Bob Amundson

        I own a business in rural Western New York, in the foothills of the Allegheny/Appalachian mountain range. I “escaped” by going to college, etc., returning only to visit family and attend funerals. “Returning home” is cathartic; the differences between “them” and my wife and me (classmates – she was raised on a dairy farm) are certainly noticeable. I understand the frustration, as the factory my father managed and the dairy farm where my wife was raised are gone. The trend of the “best and brightest” leaving at graduation continues.

        However, others, like my wife and me, see opportunity. President Trump’s administration funded grants for rural economic development, and as a local business owner, I have been very engaged in the process. We are not alone in returning to our “hillbilly” roots and practicing “social entrepreneurship.” I believe as we grow the rural economy, we’ll “nudge” our friends and classmates towards seeing their lives in a more positive way.

        I am a big fan of J.D. Vance and Hillbilly Eligibility; we watched the Netflix movie last night. It is a story of resiliency, surviving in a tough environment. My wife and I survived by leaving and leaving paid off. I have a great deal of gratitude for those that stayed, keeping the fires warm. Their staying is why I see opportunity, and as I interact with “the locals” I thank them. I believe there is so much on which we can agree, and if we don’t agree, to kindly agree to disagree.

        Bart, I am writing this with you in mind, and I always appreciate your point of view. There is a long history of conflict between the privileged elites and “the masses” that is well documented. I remember milking the cow, butchering, canning, throwing hay bales. I’m still part hillbilly/farm boy. I can, and do, where multiple “hats.”

        Reply
        1. Bob Amundson

          I just realized I am giving thanks; a safe and Happy Thanksgiving to “Brad’s Bloggers!”

          And “wear” not “where” …

          :-)

          Reply
        2. Ken

          Just one comment, on Hillbilly Elegy, which I read and fundamentally dislike. Here’s why.

          Several years before Vance’s book appeared, Irish-born Frank McCourt wrote a book, Angela’s Ashes, that also became a best-seller and which also was made into a movie. But McCourt, unlike Vance, had no ulterior motive in writing the book. He didn’t use his mother’s story the way Vance used his grandmother’s story to make a particular political point. It was just a portrayal of a somewhat dysfunctional family facing difficult circumstances in hard times. If Vance had done just that, I would’ve had no problems with it. But he didn’t, he turned his story into a political morality tale. Then the media and reading public made the book into a best-seller. But not because of any intrinsic value in the story. Instead, it was eagerly embraced as a key to understanding all those white crackers who allegedly put Trump in office. That was an error, as many “hillbillies” recognized, both at the time and now that the movie has hit the screens:
          https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/11/20/searching-real-appalachia-netflixs-hillbilly-elegy/

          Reply
          1. Bob Amundson

            I appreciate and understand their point of view, but their view is not shared by those that have gone back to Appalachia. I understand very well the politics of the region, the lack of diversity, all the points made by Johnson and Byrd. There MUST be change in rural America for all the reasons enumerated in the article, and I agree the book simplifies reality. Johnson’s and Byrd’s points of view are indeed shared by those that left never to return. I get that; my perspective is clearly different, and I am very ok with that.

            Reply
              1. Bob Amundson

                Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems none of the writers currently live or do business in Appalachia. Again, I agree with everything these people are saying; I just have a different perspective. It’s hard to explain until you’ve walked in the shoes of those who have returned to try and correct the mess. Understand to be understood.

                Reply
                1. Ken

                  One of them teaches in Louisville. So it’s not like he’s living in, say, NYC or LA. Plus, it seems far too confining to conclude that understanding to be understood requires that you continue to live in the place you’re describing. Vance, for one, doesn’t.

                2. Bob Amundson

                  Deciding to do business in Appalachia was not an easy decision for all the reasons discussed in the three articles. I still question my decision at times, but the fact is I bought the business and have begun improving the business at “bargain basement” prices. Dealing with people whose thinking often offends me is a cost of doing business.

                  I see myself as a social entrepreneur, and it turns out there are others like me, seeing opportunity in the “muck.” I’m reminded of a boy not known to like farm chores working really hard to clean out a horse stall. When asked why he is working so hard, he replies “I know there is a pony down here somewhere.”

                  I see Hillbilly Elegy as a story of resilience. Vance may take some poetic license in telling his story, but the truth is he was raised in a VERY DYSFUNCTIONAL family, and he is not afraid to describe how hard it is for a child to survive when surrounded by that much dysfunction. To me it is a story of escaping chaos, and then having the courage to go back and try to understand what the hell happened.

                  I understand; it happened to me. Returning has been cathartic. There are others that have returned to do business in the area, and we have a strong support network. Funding from the USDA in what is called the Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) initiative brought us together, and we continue to grow our network. Perhaps I am too hopeful; Brad knows I’ve used the term heuristic several times on this blog. I do “get” that “understand to be understood” and “a rising tide lifts all boats” are heuristic statements. That’s ok; the pony underneath the muck is the natural beauty of the mountains, the ease of finding a peaceful place to hike. It is our summer retreat away from “the city” and the heat and humidity. I give thanks for the fine education I received in rural New York State schools. I give thanks that my childhood prepared me for the roller coaster of my life …

                3. Ken

                  ” To me it is a story of escaping chaos, and then having the courage to go back and try to understand what the hell happened.”

                  For me, if it had only been that, I wouldn’t have had any problem with it. As I said, Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis told much the same story. But he wasn’t interested in using it to prescribe political solutions. He simply let the story stand on its own. That would’ve sufficed Vance as well.

                4. Bob Amundson

                  I’ve read both and I understand your point of view. However, the facts are that Angela’s Ashes was written in 1996 and is a story of growing up in Ireland and Brooklyn during the depression. Different worlds, different time, but still compelling.

                5. Ken

                  Different time. But essentially the same story: dysfunctional family with alcoholic father struggling with very difficult circumstances, but sons escape and achieve success.
                  Only real difference is that McCourt didn’t turn it into a political morality tale.

              2. Bob Amundson

                Process not people; I agree with critics of Hillbilly Elegy that the story does not delve deeply into relevant systematic issues in rural America (Appalachia included). However, some of these systemic issues begin with individuals, such as racism. As I interacted with friends and classmates from the region prior to the 2020 election, I often challenged them to ask a non-white friend about their posts, knowing they didn’t have any. Systemic racism is a “wicked problem” throughout our country, but the probability of seeing it in rural areas is higher, most likely due to a lack of diversity.

                Brad may find it interesting that Vance converted to Catholicism in 2019 because he “became persuaded over time that Catholicism was true,” and has described Catholic doctrine influence on his political views.

                Thanks Ken for the interesting discussion!

                Reply
          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I plan to watch that film, perhaps tonight. Even though reviewers have been pretty rough on it. In the Post, a little less so in The New Yorker

            I didn’t read the book, although I heard and read quite a bit about it at the time. I remember it being hailed as something everyone should read after the 2016 election debacle.

            But it didn’t sound like something I’d get a lot out of. The supposed insights it contained always sounded a bit too pat to me. The Trump madness was far broader, and had far more causes, than what I heard about that book.

            But if I’m intrigued by watching the film, maybe I’ll think about reading the book — less as some sort of oracle about 2016, but more as a historical thing, a book people briefly thought important in recent history, and what that said about our national bewilderment.

            Or maybe not. My stacks of unread books around the house are still pretty huge.

            People presumably had various excuses for voting for Trump in 2016. But that’s not as interesting to me right now as the far greater insanity of so many people voting for him this year, after his gross unsuitability had been on such stark display, daily, for four years.

            And from what I’ve heard, Hillbilly Elegy seems unlikely to explain that to me. If I’m wrong about that, I’d like those of you who have read it to tell me.

            Because I’m always on the lookout for explanations.

            There are a lot of them, and the problem is that none of them add up — at least, in any defensible way. Y’all have seen, for instance, my efforts to dig into the problem of so many Catholics — almost half of them — voting for Trump.

            And the “explanation” is like every other explanation I’ve seen for this bizarre behavior: I can state it, but it doesn’t add up. In totality, it makes no sense.

            Here’s the explanation: “Catholics vote for Trump because: Abortion.” And I suppose if you’re someone who reduces things to absurd levels of simplicity, and ignores everything else in the universe, that adds up for you.

            But it makes NO sense to me as a Catholic. I look at the entirety of what Catholics believe, or are supposed to believe, and there is simply no room in that for choosing such a creature as Trump to be the most powerful man in the world.

            Opposition to abortion is a piece of a piece of what Catholics believe. And you don’t go with somebody who pretends to agree with you on that, and will provide you with some magic beans (justices) who theoretically MIGHT move you in a certain direction on that (but probably won’t), but who spends the rest of his time flagrantly violating everything else you believe in.

            Abortion is, again, a piece of a piece of the central Christian idea. It’s a piece of respecting and cherishing human life (something Trump disrespects in every other possibly way), which in turn is a piece of what the faith is about. And if you wonder what that is, see what Jesus said about the Great Commandment, and the Second which is like unto it.

            And if that’s too complicated, I refer you (as I think I have done before) to the succinct explanation provided by an atheist, Douglas Adams, as to what the faith is about. He did it in passing, on the way to saying something else:

            And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change…

            That’s pretty much the essence. And of course, Donald Trump is about pretty much the opposite of that…

            Reply
            1. Ken

              Hillbilly Elegy became a best-seller largely on the basis of the belief that it explained why the working class voted for Trump in 2016. It doesn’t. That, in turn, grew out of the assumption (in particular among cityfolk and the media) that it was the working class vote that gave Trump the presidency. When, in fact, the average income of his voters was higher than those who voted for Clinton.

              Vance’s book fits into the Horatio Alger mold, the “up by your bootstraps” narrative. And Vance holds up his grandma — mamaw — as his ideal. In some ways she may be. But in general, both she and her family are too out there to be prototypical of anything. I mean, who in their right mind holds a church congregation hostage at gunpoint just because she’s got it in her mind that somebody stole her grand-baby away? And who sets a family member on fire to try to get him to stop drinking? Sure, it offers some colorful scenes of “exotics” that may be entertaining to urban readers, but it’s not exemplary of much of anything.

              As he makes obvious in his introduction, Vance aims to use the stories about his kin to serve as a morality tale in service of an anti-welfare, anti-big-government message as contrasted with personal responsibility, self-help and grit.

              Haven’t seen the movie. But from what I hear — and knowing Ron Howard — it’s been stripped of most if not all of its political messaging. Instead, it’s pretty much just Glenn Close and Amy Adams doing cracker accents and having really bad hair days.

              Reply

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