I’m sure thousands of bottles of Budweiser will be raised tonight in those white, working-class neighborhoods of the upper Midwest that put Donald Trump over the top in the electoral college. You folks should enjoy your moment and don’t trouble yourselves with the thought that plenty of celebratory champagne is being poured in corporate board rooms, country clubs and in the spacious mansions of hedge fund managers.
Thanks to your votes, Mr. and Mrs. White Working Class, all those rich people will soon get a massive tax cut and relief from the environmental regulations that have kept them from polluting your air and water and from the financial oversight that has restrained them from milking every last penny from their employees and the victims of their big-money schemes.
Yes, congratulations. At the same moment you elected a billionaire who claimed he would drain the special interest “swamp” in Washington, you kept in power insiders such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the biggest snakes in the swamp, plus all the other Republicans in Congress who have fought to keep the mighty flow of corporate dollars streaming in.
You think you have struck a blow against the “elites” on the coasts who look down on “real Americans” in the heartland. You say you have been forgotten or misunderstood by the powers that be. That may be true. But I must say that those of you who act as if you are the only ones in the country who work hard, care for your families and love your country are pretty damn elitist, as well.
I look around at my friends and neighbors here on the West Coast and I see lots of patriotic people who put in long hours of labor to put food on the table and put their kids through school.
There is Keith, a guy with whom I recently got acquainted when we discovered our common affinity for good drinks, good ribs and good jazz. Keith is a muscular black man who would likely be subject to unfair and unfriendly scrutiny from the local sheriff if he showed up in a small Midwestern town, but forget the stereotype. Keith had a career in the Marines before taking a job managing security for Hollywood celebrities. In his free time, he works to help the homeless in downtown Los Angeles.
There is the Korean family that runs the laundry down the street from my apartment who never seem to take a vacation or even a day off. There are the Latino men I see laboring every day in the Southern California heat cutting lawns and repairing houses. There are the men of every race I pass by on my way to work who are hauling steel, handling jackhammers, driving trucks and raising girders as they build new subway lines and raise up towering skyscrapers.
And there are my colleagues in the newsroom, both the seasoned veterans of the news business and the charged-up millennials. There’s nothing elite about them, unless being able to spell and use proper grammar are now elite attributes. The men and women around me are working harder than ever for wages that are not rising in an industry threatened by rapid change. Sound familiar?
Most of us here do not live in Beverly Hills. We live in more modest places such as Pasadena, East Los Angeles, Inglewood and Long Beach. Of course, the working class here is a lot more brown than where you might live. They sweat just as hard, though, and put in long hours just like you — maybe longer, and maybe for less money. But you have not done them a favor by electing a guy who threatens to start a trade war based on an illusion. The illusion is that if America cuts itself off from the global market, all those manufacturing jobs your fathers once had will come flooding back. It won’t happen. The robots have taken over the assembly lines. But what a disruption in trade would do is shut down the West Coast ports and, according to expert estimates, kill more than 600,000 working-class jobs in California.
I know you didn’t think about that sort of effect when you cast your protest vote to Make America Great Again, but what exactly were you thinking? Whenever one of you was interviewed by a TV reporter all I heard was you parroting the vague generalities being spouted by your candidate: America doesn’t win anymore; we need a wall to keep out immigrants; political correctness sucks.
I didn’t hear any of you say you were happy with the longer droughts, bigger storms and more vicious wildfires that are devastating farms, ranches and rural communities. But your new president has promised to rip up the international treaty that might mitigate some of the extreme weather caused by climate change.
I didn’t hear any of you say you were tired of the peace and order created by the NATO alliance and would rather have a cozier relationship with the Russians. But you just elected a man who has denigrated NATO and has warm and fuzzy feelings about Vladimir Putin.
I did hear plenty of you say you hated big government, but is that because you are someone who got fined by the EPA because your industrial plant was poisoning a river? Or because you are a rancher who doesn’t want to pay grazing fees when you exploit publicly owned land? Or because you are a farmer who doesn’t want to admit that government price supports are what keep your business viable?
Does your hatred of government mean you voted for more pollution? With your vote, were you demanding that big banks be set free to run the economy into the ground? Were you eager for less consumer protection? Did you insist that more of the tax burden be put on average Americans and less of it on the super-rich? I hope those are the things you wanted because that is what you will get from a Republican Congress and a Republican president.
Do I sound angry? That is because I am. I’m mad because your misguided hissy fit is messing with the country I love. I am as much a patriot as you are. I choke up when I visit the Lincoln Memorial or the graves of the Kennedys. I love the flag and do not cringe from the Pledge of Allegiance. When I ride a horse across open country, I feel a link with all my ancestors — the first of whom arrived on the Maryland shore in the 1640s. Those family members who came before me slowly made their way West, generation after generation, until they finally found a home within sight of the Pacific. I am about as “real” an American as you can get.
But I am fed up with those of you who think there is only one way to be American. Some of the truest Americans I have met are among those whose ancestors came here in slave ships. Some of the Americans who give me the most hope are the children of parents who slipped across the border in search of a better life; young dreamers working hard for an education and a chance to contribute to our society. Some of the Americans I admire the most are like my friend Jack who left the narrow-mindedness of his home state and came West to Los Angeles, where he met and married the man he loved. America is great because it has room for all these people and more.
If, ultimately, the real reason you voted for Trump was because he promised to start shutting doors that have been opened for people who do not fit a narrow definition of American, you should understand you are in for a fight. It’s now my turn to say it: I want my country back.
Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter
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