Last night, a British friend of mine asked me if I found this election “incomprehensible.” The answer, if only in retrospect, is no. Not to those of us who know that a candidate running on a platform of reinstating slavery would win a few states. After all, someone running just a shade this side of Jim Crow did win the White House.
We found something out about our country this election, but don’t call it a surprise. “Lament of the forgotten white man” my ass. The height of white privilege is mistaking any shift in institutional power for an existential loss of sovereignty. In retaliation, “working class whites,” to use a term dangerously close to making folk heroes out of scared bigots, have imposed their ignorance on all of us. In doing so, they’ve proved that if there ever was elite control of the United States, it was for their own good. Clearly, this is a population unfit for self-governance.
Condescending? Come back in two years, when Donald Trump is the least popular person ever to hold the Oval Office. Rommanticize your populist revolt then.
The people who elected Donald Trump are precisely the ones who know nothing about what makes America great. American exceptionalism, to whatever degree it exists, hasn’t come from racial or social purity. That’s something nearly every country in the world has plenty of. What we have is diversity and magnetism. We’re great, and rich, because we attract global talent. The innovations that won World War II were developed by German Jews, refugees from their own fascist government. Steve Jobs, mastermind behind the planet’s most valuable brand, was the son of exactly the kind of Syrian refugee Trump would have excluded. Elon Musk, a South African Canadian, could have chosen anywhere to base his quest to take humanity to a different planet. He didn’t choose America because of heartland values.
The nativists who elected Trump have no idea how lucky they are to share a country with the brilliant inventors, capitalists, innovators, and artists whose glow they reflect. Maybe they don’t care about Apple, or Musk, or even the atom bomb. But if all they want is to bow to their folk religion and enforce their traditional norms, they’re not after anything the Soviet Union didn’t offer its citizens better.
That’s part of the reason I don’t feel like scapegoating the media for being out of touch with red-state America. Listen to conservative radio in the rural voids of our country: there’s nothing to talk about. They like it that way. The people who elected Donald Trump are identical to the low-information hayseeds you find in every dusty corner of the world. People who think theirs is the greatest nation on earth because they haven’t seen anywhere else.
I admire anyone willing to talk about “healing the divide” so soon after our republic, once a gem of Enlightenment thinking, embarrassed itself. I have no interest in healing the divide. In President Trump’s America, there isn’t much use for Democrats or Republicans or regimes designed to promote stability, any longer. Today, I’m not even sure I feel like there’s an America worth saving. There are the forward-thinking people who have made this country great, and there are its lucky hangers-on: small, mean, superstitious, ignorant. One of those nations I choose to be part of. To the other, we’re all hostage.
There is a way forward for those of us who value open societies and respect progress. Likely, that will take place under the stars and stripes. But I have never been so indifferent to whether that is the case. Michael Moore was right. We’ve seen the “real” America. As I face it fully, through the lens of the racist meme it chose to be president, I hate it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.