A pickup truck rolls through the town square in Kinsman, Ohio.
Trumbull County, Ohio is one of those quaint little patches in the American quilt. Located in the Mahoning Valley, on the far northeastern edge of the Buckeye state, Trumbull borders Pennsylvania and serves as a microcosm of Ohio itself, with a mixture of Rust Belt decline, Appalachian culture, small cities, rural hamlets, and lots of corn fields. The county’s combination of redneck charm and economic anxiety have made it a go-to stop for vote-craving politicos, who barnstorm Trumbull’s many barns every election season promising an imminent return to a mystic Mayberrian past of small-town fuzziness and industrial might embodied by the now-defunct Republic Steel blast furnace in the county seat of Warren.
With a rich history of organized labor, Trumbull (along with neighboring Mahoning County, home to the former “Steel City” of Youngstown) has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. In fact, the last time Trumbull voted Republican was for Richard Nixon in 1972. That is, until the county balked tradition and supported Donald Trump for president in 2016. Trumbull County is now Trump country thanks to a fear of death — a death brought on by economic stagnation, declining public health, the opiate epidemic, and the impression that America has been lying comatose in an open grave for too long.
In 21st century America, meet the new “neighborhood” town center.
Few institutions represent the bloated, socially stratified, natural-environment-degrading, corporation-worshipping, beached on a mile-wide parking-lot corpse that is 21st-century America better than Walmart. The voracious Aspidochelone from Arkansas is not only the current twentieth most valuable brand on Earth, it’s also the largest employer in America, providing dynamic, food-stamp-assisted careers to some 1.3 million people. Unless you’ve been living under a boulder shamelessly draped with the American flag, you know that Walmart has for years been the subject of controversy. For some, it represents the essence of American freedom, to others, it’s the ultimate symbol of the ethically challenged, cheapness-obsessed, soul-degrading state of modern capitalism.
Walt Curlee, Taking Pumpkins to the Market (2012). The idea of a “Chick-fil-A Country” is really just a re-tread of the old agrarian myth.
Ah, the American press. The third estate. Delivering the hard journalistic facts to an information-starved American public. Okay, so those are the ideals that the more idealistic fools among us would wish upon U.S. journalism. Instead, we have programs like Meet the Press, now hosted by renowned Beltway fluffer Chuck Todd, who, like famed NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, has two first names. In a recent segment in which he discussed the upcoming 2014 midterm elections, the goeteed sage decided to frame the current political narrative through the lens of that most American of institutions: fast-food. You see, Todd believes that the current liberal-conservative divide in American politics has split the country into a “Starbucks Nation” and a “Chick-Fil-A Country.”
Fleshy Fox News gas geyser Todd Starnes, the epitome of American manhood, thinks the Doobie Brothers never smoked weed. Isn’t that precious.
It’s a fairly well-established trope in American politics that conservatives are overly obsessed with the past. Anyone whose ever spent time experiencing the ear-invading ceti-eel that is conservative talk-radio, or viewing the idiot-box propaganda that is Fox News knows that conservatives love to reference a past that was invariably better than the allegedly freedom-crushing nightmare of the Obama era.
For those to the right of the political spectrum, the space-time continuum is defined by two — and only two — eras: before and after the authoritarian reign of Barack Obama. And, of course, the era before Obama’s conquest was much better (and whiter). That’s because conservatives imagine the past to be a simpler, morally superior time, and they want to return to that time pronto!