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Home/Articles/Culture/Noise Pollution and Why Populism Failed

Noise Pollution and Why Populism Failed

Even if the GOP really is becoming the party of parents, it's becoming the party of bad parents.

I used to be a populist, but it got too expensive. I couldn’t afford the rent in D.C., the dry cleaning, the taxis home from parties on Connecticut Ave. So I moved back home, got a job with a local business, and married a cute girl I met at church. Now we’re living happily ever after.

No, I’m not a populist—I’m the populace. (Sorry.) And I’m glad for that.

Look, I love the Republican base. I am the Republican base. But when you live out here in the sticks, you don’t write paeans to the “multiracial working-class.” Lower-income Americans are getting screwed; there’s no question about that. But a huge amount of that misery is self-inflicted.

Case in point: The other day I was going to split wood at my uncle’s farm in Derry, New Hampshire. Derry is just north of Massachusetts, so property values are pretty high. I passed a trailer park. Without fail, every single home had a brand-new pickup in the driveway. How can they afford those vehicles? There are only two possible answers. Either they don’t have children, or they’re not very attentive parents.

Number two may sound harsh, but it must be true. I find it hard to believe that they’re living frugal, sober lives—socking away as much cash as they can so their kids can have every advantage—and their only comfort in life is a shiny new F-150. (Leases starting at $500 per month.)

Trucks are a hang-up of mine because I love them, too. But, like the Republican base, they seem to be on the decline, and for the same reason. 

To put it bluntly, the GOP is no longer a pro-family party. True, it’s still wedded to the Bible Belt. The social-conservative lobby in Washington still holds a bit of sway. But, in retrospect, the Trump presidency marked a definite shift in party culture. It no longer feels like the party of suburban dads and soccer moms, because it’s not. 

Think about the tools who drive around with the flags that say “F—k Biden and F—k You for Voting for Him.” They’re probably not dads. If they are dads, they’re probably not good dads. And yet the Republican Party is increasingly pandering to them.

Actually, TAC contributing editor Matthew Schmitz noticed this shift taking place way back in 2018 in an opinion piece for the New York Times. He said that the Red State/Blue State model is looking a bit dated. It’s not about conservatives vs. liberal anymore, because Republicans aren’t really conservative the way they used to be:

A third model can be found among working-class whites, blacks and Hispanics—let’s call it purple. In these families, bonds between mothers and children are prized above those between couples. Unstable relationships are the norm, and fathers quickly end up out of the picture.

Baffling as it may be to elites, Mr. Trump embodies a real if imperfect model of family values. People familiar with the purple family model tend to view his alienation from his children’s mother as normal and his closeness to his children as exceptional and admirable.

Much as I admire Schmitz, I think I’m with “the elites” on this one—again, maybe because those people are my neighbors. In fact, my family and I are moving this year, in no small part because the noise pollution has gotten so bad. And all of it falls into three categories. 

First are the tools with the pickup trucks—virtually none of whom actually need trucks. And yet they get the model with the loudest engine, turbo, etc. 

Second are the motorcycles. These are probably the same guys as the trucks. I’ve noticed that not only are the engines getting louder and louder, but they’ve also started using their radios—something my father and grandfather (both bikers) thought was taboo. 

Third are the white trash kids with riced-out hatchbacks. They all pay extra for the loudest muffler, the bumping stereo, and whatever it is that makes the engine backfire.

In other words, it’s all totally unnecessary. Their vehicles don’t need to be that loud. They pay extra for that.

Noise pollution can have serious long-term effects on children’s health. In the meantime, it wakes up our baby from her nap. It wakes us up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. In the warmer months, it makes playing outside or working at the picnic table impossible.

I’m sure many of the parents (and otherwise responsible adults) reading this article will know what I’m talking about. And, believe it or not, most states have laws against modifying a vehicle to make it louder. They’re just not enforced, even in Republican states. 

Why? Because the GOP is no longer the party of parents (or otherwise responsible adults). It’s the party of single dudes and negligent fathers. They think it’s only libtards in their Priuses who get irritated by their souped-up GMCs howling down the road at 2 a.m. when they’re driving home from the bar blasting Kid Rock.

It’s not. It’s also conservative Christians who are trying to raise a family in something like peace and quiet. 

And, yes, the Trump years made things worse in this respect. Donald Trump made the right meaner, angrier, and less considerate, even as he made the Dems deranged. It’s not an Orange Man Bad thing, but the rhetoric of the moment. If and when my kids learn the F-word, it’ll probably be from one of those tools in a Silverado with a “F—k Biden” flag blasting “We the People” on the radio. 

Hey, like I said, these are my people. They’re my neighbors, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles. I do love them, and I thank God for them. But I’m not a populist. I can’t romanticize the “multiracial working class,” because I’ve met them. They’re not a plank for the Republican platform. They’re human beings with virtues and vices, like me. Like you.

That’s why I was glad to read that New York is cracking down on noise pollution. Cameras and microphones are being installed around the city to automatically flag too-loud vehicles. Gov. Kathy Hochul also signed the SLEEP Act, which raises existing fines for vehicles that are modified to be noisier. Mechanics who make these modifications risk losing their operating license or if they’re caught too many times.

According to The City, there’s been a surge in noise complaints since the beginning of the pandemic. We saw the same thing here in New Hampshire. Many businesses shut down, while the rest are desperate for workers; meanwhile, the number of expensive vehicles with expensive modifications has exploded. I think there are two main reasons:

First, most of the middle-class guys who got Covid bailout money didn’t need the extra cash, so they blew it on a big toy. And second, lots of young men who worked minimum-wage jobs got their first taste of welfare thanks to Trump Bucks. So, they decided to quit their jobs, settle into their parents’ basement, and enjoy life as a welfare queen.

Critics of New York’s crackdown are calling it a tax on the underclass. Good! Tax ’em up the wazoo. Why should working families have to suffer so these guys can go VROOM VROOM VROOMMMMMMM?

Noise pollution is a public health issue. Prolonged exposure causes high blood pressure, hearing loss, and anxiety. It can impair children’s mental development, especially their language skills. As Micah Meadowcroft wrote in these pages just last year,

In the observed birds, the noise of traffic hindered vocal development and song learning. Moreover, noise was an enormous stressor for chicks and fledglings, suppressing their immune systems. We’re torturing the songbirds. They can’t sing as well as they used to. What are we doing to us?

Hey, who knows? Maybe those guys are the victims of noise pollution, too. Maybe their dads’ loud trucks killed so many of their brain cells that they turned into the kinds of people who think loud trucks are cool. Really, New York is doing them a favor. Hopefully other states will follow suit.

Michael Warren Davis is author of The Reactionary Mind. Subscribe to his newsletter, “The Common Man”.

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