The level of contention in American has reached such a level that even Anthony Bourdain has managed to piss me off, and that’s saying something since I went out of my way to give him a shout out in my travel memoir. Following the election, I’ve basically had to stop watching political talk shows – I’ve been a junkie of them for years. I didn’t want to hear the overly broad and sweeping conclusions I knew they were sure to serve up: “The Dems are completely out of touch”, “Trump had a masterful understanding of America’s mood,” “PC culture lost the election,” etc., etc.
These are all gross exaggerations and misunderstandings of what actually occurred on that fateful November night. Americans didn’t give Trump a mandate: He lost by nearly 3 million votes and won by less than one percent in three key states in our fucked up mockery of a democracy. And as it turns out, he’ll be taking office with just a 37% approval rating, according to Pew Research, a record low for a modern president.
With a margin of victory that paper thin, a person would be both wrong and right for pointing to any little thing that transpired during the election and saying it swung the results one way or the other, including Russian hacking, fake news, voter suppression, and Hillary not choosing Bernie for her VP. This is to say nothing of the fact that she’s a woman and some people don’t like them very much. Still, that doesn’t stop political pundits from making sweeping declarations about the results and how liberalism is crumbling.
Even more annoyingly, once these incorrect conclusions are drawn, pundits move on to trying to figure out what the side that got nearly 3 million more votes did wrong. For many, the mistake of Clinton, progressives and the media was in failing to understand and relate to rural, uneducated, working-class America.
As Bourdain put it in a recent interview with Reason magazine, “The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.”
Perhaps I’m not meant to be included in his talk of “privileged Eastern liberals,” since this phrase tends to have a strong white connotation. However, I am liberal, from the East, have had a lot of advantages in my life and do often speak of Trump supporters as “morons.” Regardless, my response to Bourdain’s comments and the countless other post-election articles asking people to be more understanding and considerate of Trump voters is to say, “Fuck off!” (Is that non-PC enough for you?)
Whats more, many people who have, similar to Bourdain, pointed fingers at liberals for that dumpster fire of a human being winning have asked for more than just understanding; they’ve asked for people to have sympathy for Trump’s supporters. According to them, people who voted for the Orange Menace have grown resentful of being called racist, stupid, bigoted, homophobic and sexist.
Well, that might be the case, but if I was tired of people calling me an idiot, I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors by sticking my tongue in an electrical socket to show how upset I was. Especially if I then walk away from doing something that objectively stupid wondering why people think I’m a “moron.” If you’re tired of being called racist, don’t vote for a racist. If you’re tired of being viewed as a moron, you should stop doing moronic things like getting suckered by an obvious con-man and an endlessly hypocritical and morally bankrupt party.
And here’s the deal, we keep acting like this election is the only time these people have tried to do something as idiotic as ironing a shirt while wearing it, but it isn’t. Remember Sarah Palin? Many of Trump’s supporters also wanted to put her a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Of course, there’s also George Bush, who they elected and re-elected — even after he invaded the wrong country and got a few hundred thousand people killed.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think either Bush or Palin were as dangerous as Trump, but that’s far from meaning they didn’t represent a huge risk to America and the world. If Trump is like jumping out of an airplane with no parachute – while on fire, they were like skydiving with a parachute packed by a blind person. So when Bourdain and others talk about the “utter contempt” people like me sometimes speak about Trump supporters with, I hope they appreciate the fact that it’s because many of them have earned it.
I’ve closely watched for nearly two decades as many of these same people got tricked by an unscrupulous GOP into doing things like voting against their economic interests in favor of supporting homophobic legislators: “Screw an increase in the minimum wage and unions, I gotta make sure gay marriage isn’t an option or else I might leave my wife.” I mock them because they rail against the imaginary welfare-queen, but voted for a party and a man proposing tax cuts for the rich and companies on corporate welfare – again. My annoyance with them stems from them both claiming to love the country, but supporting something as unAmerican and unconstitutional as a complete and total ban on all members of a certain religion entering it. They get viewed as morons because despite so many of them being uneducated, they will conveniently substitute their opinions over information collected by experts anytime that information goes against their personal interests or what they have chosen to believe.
I’ve said unflattering things about his base of support because they voted for a candidate endorsed by the KKK and neo-nazies and many of them did it while denying the existence of racism, and while simultaneously arguing that the PC notion that black lives should matter is threatening to them. And I know, I know, not all Trump supporters are racist, but forgive me if my radar isn’t good enough to distinguish between racists and the good-hearted people who align themselves with racists to help elect a racist. I think Trump supporters should understand my shortcoming. Many of them claim to have an equally hard time telling the difference between a Muslim and a terrorist, and let me assure you that the ratio of terrorists to Muslims in the world is gigantically larger than that of racists to Trump supporters.
So forgive me for not holding these people in high esteem. I mean, all they did was hear a man brag about and be accused of sexual assault, mock a disabled man, consistently make degrading comments about women, talk about how he wished he could date his own daughter, get caught in lie after lie, re-tweet white supremacists, call Mexicans rapists and viciously bully anyone who dared question or criticize him and still consider him a decent enough person to lead the free world.
With all that said, I do actually have some sympathy for Trump voters. Like Bourdain, I’ve spent a lot of time in rural areas of developing countries with people who are often both isolated from the larger world, and uneducated about and frightened by how it is changing their lives. So I feel like I get what some of Middle America is going through while trapped in their bubble. I can also appreciate that they are hurting economically, but it would be fair to say that my life hasn’t played out exactly the way I planned it. I, too, feel like something broke along the way in terms of me doing what I was supposed to do but not making it as far as I was promised. Hell, I had to move to South Korea for work in 2008, after graduating law school. But here’s the thing, I, like so many other similarly situated people, didn’t resort to blaming other groups who are also hurting. I listened to the message of groups like Occupy Wall St, and people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and trained my sights on the real enemy the working class: the greedy people who profit off of poor labor standards. That has proven to be one of the most frustrating things about Trump’s election. Just as our target was coming properly into focus and range, Trump’s supporters voted to turn the whole ship around. Even worse, they elected a fox and his billionaire buddies to guard the hen house, which has left many of the hens justifiably frightened for their well-being.
I don’t care what your bank account looks like, you are not justified in threatening and terrifying marginalized groups of people, even if it does make your life better. That’s not what decent people do, and that’s where I’m at. A large portion of America watched a man – who is not a decent human being by any measurement I’m aware of – run a divisive, fact-free and threatening campaign, and rallied around him. Sorry if I think that should be a reflection on them. But to hear Bourdain and other’s tell it, members of the party of “personal responsibility” shouldn’t be held accountable for their choices because me calling them out on their endless bullshit drove them to do it.
Still, I know that something has to change about the tone of our politics because as Americans we’re stuck with each other. I also know that when something in this country has to change, has to be fixed, it is, nearly by definition, up to progressives to do it. So even though I can call Trump supporters morons with the kind of righteousness that only comes with being right, going forward I will refrain. This will be my one and only rant against them. I will focus my attention on the people who matter: Trump, and the GOP who will willing do his bidding if they think it will help them win the next election. I will also remind all the Red State people trapped in their bubbles that they are welcomed to step out of it and join the diverse and integrated world anytime they want. All they have to do is respect everyone else as a human being deserving of the same rights, freedom and protections they would want for themselves. That might sound like a tall order, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than changing your race, or where you were born or who you love in order to be treated decently.
SideBar: To all the people who think liberals’ negative reaction to Trump is just the other side of the coin of how conservatives reacted to Obama, please remember that our fear of Trump is the result of the things he has said and done. Your fear of Obama came from the things you imagined he would do. Y’all still have your guns, right? No one was put in a FEMA camp and we’re not under Sharia Law, right? Oh yeah, and it turns out Obama was born in America. Meanwhile, Trump is still acting like a temperamental child on twitter and nominated a man considered too racist to be a judge to head the Justice Department, and that’s just a tiny handful of things I could mention.