The public clash over Confederate monuments today underscores why so many right wingers embrace Rebel icons. For many on the Right, the Confederacy embodies conservatism’s core tenant that privilege for the minority rests on dominating the majority. Rights for me, but not for thee.
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.
A long time ago, Jesus and Ronald Reagan took some time off from cracking the skulls of petulant Berkeley protestors to write the Christian Bible. After receiving divine inspiration from the prophets in the oil, gas, and coal industries, Reagan wrote the now famous verse in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
Ever since that sacred meeting between The Gipper and Hey-Zeus, the unofficial Republican platform has loosely revolved around the Dominion Mandate, which supposedly gives man (and maybe woman, if she asks politely and still has supper ready) the right to exercise dominion over the earth and plunder its natural resources at will for the glory of God and Exxon Mobile. Of course, not all Christians subscribe to this hollow interpretation of Scripture, and not everyone who wants to defile the natural world is a Christian. Consider President (“I got 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton”) Trump.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless you’re a loser. That’s right, the end of 2016 is upon us, and aside from remorselessly swiping David Bowie, Prince, and Natalie Cole from the world of the living, 2016 also installed a boorish orange Philistine into the highest office in the land. There have been numerous watershed elections in U.S. history, but the race that hacked the astringent Trump loogie out of the dankest corner of America’s collective nasal passage and spat him into the Oval Office will surely rank as one of the rankest examples of American democratic excess.
Donald J. Trump — he of the speed-bumped squirrel bouffant and Tang-tinged rice-paper skin — rode a tidal wave of white resentment that allowed him to give high-school swirlys to the aloof establishment nabobs in both political parties. But anyone who cared to pay attention to the festering cloud of amorphous fear mixed with shoulder-chipped resentment that has floated across the Heartland for decades should have noticed that Trump wasn’t some new development in American politics; rather, he’s the culmination of a long-building new American identity: that of the hopelessly besieged.
One seemingly silly movie from the 1980s perfectly envisioned the idea of a besieged America that would push voters into Trump’s charlatan claws some three decades later. I’m talking about the 1984 Steven Spielberg-produced, Joe Dante-directed holiday horror/comedy Gremlins.
Note: The following is long-form guest piece by Alex Hamilton.
We are now over three weeks into debating why and how the most powerful nation in human history elected as president a fascist orange man with a childish intellect — previously best known for a reality show — who ran a publicity stunt that went horribly wrong. One seriously wonders if Donald Trump actually wanted to be president.
This marks a seminal and possibly apocalyptic culmination in American politics. The presidency was the last thing the Democrats had left: the GOP will soon control the Presidency, House, Senate, fill a vacant Supreme Court seat, and dominate 33 of 50 statehouses. They are one statehouse away from being able to pass constitutional amendments. The Republicans are at their zenith, while the Democrats are at their absolute historical nadir. Not since since the height of the New Deal Coalition, when the Republicans were in exile, has a party been so weak.
If you were masochistic enough to watch the third presidential debate of 2016 between Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican nominee the pissed-off Great Pumpkin, one line in particular ought to have stood out amidst what was otherwise the rhetorical equivalent of scraping the floor of a dive bar with an old bottle cap. “Such a nasty woman,” the Trumpkin muttered in the debate’s closing moments. He was, of course, referring to the first major-party female presidential candidate in American history, and the line quickly became an internet feminist rallying cry; an embodiment of the typhoon of chauvinistic misogyny that has characterized the Trump phenomenon from the moment its spray-tanned gargoyle of a leader announced his pursuit for the nation’s heretofore most respected office.
Be honest. Did you ever really believe that the foul-mouthed, swirly-coiffed, animate bottle of Tropicana Pure Premium that announced his presidential run by marking the guys who mill about Home Depot parking lots as the greatest threat to Western Civilization since the Barbarians sacked Rome would eventually run neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in a race for the White House?
Depending on where you stand politically, the 2016 race is shaping up to be either the election of your sweetest dreams or most abominable nightmares. Following the thinly-veiled Klan rally that was the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, erstwhile reality TV pimp-turned-trucker-hat-sporting Grand Dragon Donald Trump sunk in the polls like a snitch in the Hudson River. Heck, for a few halcyon summer weeks, it seemed like America might emerge from its collective fever swamp and realize that, while by no means perfect or even necessarily desirable, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was the far more stable option over which to hand control of the nuclear arsenals.
Alas, this is America we’re talking about.
There’s a country called America. It’s a place where amber waves of grain dance along the horizon like so many sprouting capitalist entrepreneurs. It’s a country that built an impressive interstate highway system to provide weary travellers with easy access to Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s a place that might elect as its next president a filthy-rich, xenophobic, muskrat-domed can of sentient Spray Tan.
Not every corner of America is Donald Trump country, of course. But if you wanna know what pockets of this great nation embrace the Great Orange Demigod, then look no further than the small towns and boroughs of William Penn’s old stomping ground. Referred to derisively or proudly as “Pennsyltucky,” the swath of ‘Murica that sits between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia like a super-sized Norman Rockwell diorama loves itself some Trump. In particular, there’s a region in western Crawford County (straddling the border of Ohio’s Ashtabula County) where you can watch ducks and geese traverse the wet backs of thousands of Wonder Bread-chomping carp. Here, amidst all the fish and fowl, Trump signs abound.
Remember when the sun never set on the British Empire? Remember when political decisions made by dentally challenged limeys on some dank Atlantic island had far-reaching implications for the entire globe? Of course you don’t, but that might change in the very near future.
When the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016 (a move popularly designated as “Brexit,” as in “Britain + Exit,” get it?! Yes, yes, very droll indeed), global markets shook, and badger-bouffanted blowhard Donald J. Trump went to Scotland to congratulate the Highlands’ heroic William Wallaces who “took their country back,” even though the Scots voted to stay in the EU. As he does about every world event about which he knows nothing, Trump has an opinion about Brexit, and like most of his opinions, it’s spectacularly wrong.
There was a time in America, not so long ago, when thumping your dog-eared King James, warning about the threat posed by the queer-o-sexuals, and arguing that life began at the moment you noticed that glint in your girlfriend’s eye while watching Beach Blanket Bingo at the Podunkville Drive-In theater could transform you into a political kingmaker. From at least the late 1960s until the mid 2000s, presidents ranging from Richard Nixon, to Jimmy Carter, to Ronald Reagan, to George Dubya Bush ceremoniously kissed the totally not gay rings of Evangelical Grand Poobahs whose political clout ensured that so-called “Values Voters” would turn up at the polls to reclaim America for one VERY specific God.
But in the year 2016, America has a new God. His will is capricious. His hair is supernatural. And His wealth is so yooooge it would make King Solomon blush. This God is Donald J. Trump, and he appears to have rendered the once mighty Religious Right as impotent as a crew-cut Samson.