Home/Rod Dreher/Liberals As Culture War Self-Saboteurs

Liberals As Culture War Self-Saboteurs

He knows they hate him (Steele2123/GettyImagesPlus)

There are people who still believe that the culture war is nothing but a pseudo-event ginned up by right-wing Christians to make gullible people vote against their interests. They should talk to this frustrated reader below, who writes:

I’m a centrist Democrat, in my mid-60s, and by most measures that applied in the 70s and 80s, a liberal. By today’s standards…well, let me give you an example.

Last week, some people I know posted comments about the protesters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and elsewhere. Now, I can accept disagreements, and I think it was way beyond stupid to bring weapons to those protests. But my progressive friends posted the wish that these folks would get the virus and die. They also made a big deal about how this was a prime example of white privilege because these folks would certainly have been arrested had they been black and carrying weapons. Perhaps, although I think in tense times the police thought that making a fuss could have caused more tension. In addition, friends of mine who went to the gathering in Harrisburg, some of them libs, some conservatives, said the number of people who carried guns was much smaller than reports suggested.

Between the condescending accusations of privilege and the wishes that people would get sick and die, I thought it might be good to point out that accusing working class people of being privileged would further alienate a group that in the past was reliably Democratic, and that by ignoring and looking down on them we’ve hurt our cause and helped the current president. Oh, the hue and outcry! Who am I? (I’ll cop to being middle class and lucky.) Blacks and Latinos have long been…(OK, true enough, but it’s not like coal miners in Harlan County have been fat and happy for all these generations.) Finally, I posted the following:

Some important stats: We are closer with each census to becoming a country where whites are at about 50 percent of the population. In 2000, 77 percent of the country was white, in 2010, around 70 percent. By those measures, we are a generation away from that 50/50 split, let alone a white minority, which will probably happen. A lot of things can occur culturally and politically in a generation, especially if progressives operate under the assumption that the demographic change we’ve been anticipating has already happened. In addition, roughly a third of the country is white collar and college educated. The rest is blue collar and high school educated. If the demographics hold, then a majority in each group is white. I’m willing to be that, proportionally, a larger percentage of blue collar folks are African American or LatinX, but that still leaves a lot of people who are left behind in the current economy and are white.

If my nightmare happens and Trump is reelected, he’s gone in 2024. But the judges he appoints will make profound changes that will last for the next 50 years. Roe V Wade is just the beginning. We will see tremendous expansion of executive power, unbridled support for large corporations—manufacturers (actually, companies that used to make things but now let people in China do that), big finance companies, and tech companies—and restrictions on all manner of freedoms we take for granted. As much as I admire RBG, she and Breyer should have retired at the beginning of President Obama’s second term so he could appoint liberal justices who would be in their positions for years to come.

I’m convinced that had the Democratic Party paid attention to the decline in union membership and power over the last 25 years, Trump’s win in 2000 would not have occurred. The Clinton campaign did not go into Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and other rust belt states. Another statistic worth keeping in mind: Cities in those states, such as Detroit, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, are, in fact, minority white, so not reaching out to them may have lowered voter turnout.

As I said earlier, we can continue to call people who are from these states, people who have seen a steep decline in income and a dramatic rise in drug use and drug related deaths, privileged. But there are a lot of them, they’re very angry, and they vote. They’re ripe for demagogues like Trump, Hannity, and Limbaugh to stir them up. And we helped make them this way by ignoring their problems.

The reader continues, addressing me:

I only used Latinx, a horrible term, to avoid that particular discussion.

I realize that you and won’t agree on the court, but keep in mind that all my friends really should. Oh, no! Far more important to demonstrate one’s bona fides in this culture war. And, really, what exactly are people who use the term “White Privilege” actually doing for poor blacks and Latinos? Do they really think blacks and Latinos who aren’t political activists or college professors give a damn that these folks have some exquisite superiority over other white people, especially poor whites.

Because of the narrow minded stupidity of these allegedly educated and sensitive people, we will have to endure 4 more years of this clown. Further evidence: the soft pedaling of the accusations of harassment by Joe Biden. The fatal blow, if one was needed, to the press.

Incidentally, when I looked for an image to illustrate this post, I put “hunters white working class” into the search box at the photo source. I wanted an image that included a gun, because my correspondent said that guns figured into his liberal friends’ complaints. The image above came up. The man in the stock photo resembles more than half the white guys where I live in Louisiana, during hunting season. That guy could be a rich Baton Rouge lawyer, or he could be a guy who does shift work at a chemical plant. Know how Getty Images labeled it? I took a screen shot:

This is what the kind of people who provide stock photos for media see when they look at an image of a hunter with a shotgun: a “redneck” — that is, a backward rural white person. Gosh, I can’t imagine why white working class people vote their resentments, can you?

UPDATE: A reader who is a hunter and a parish priest in the Deep South writes:

It’s not even a shotgun. It’s a lever-action rifle, like a Winchester model 1892 vel sim. Every hunter knows the difference. Not the Getty images people though, obviously.

UPDATE.2: Here’s a really moving, detailed comment from a reader named Muleke:

..more people making unwarranted assumptions about who and what I support.

My father was killed in action in the Vietnam war, and I was raised by my mother, her sister and their mother. My mother did the best she could, but she was a widow trying to raise a child alone in the seventies. Whatever benefits you think the families of dead soldiers received in those days, it was less than that. I grew up in poverty, and I suffered frequent physical and mental abuse at the hands of my aunt and grandmother, both of whom suffered severe mental illness. They were “woke” before it was a thing. They despised men and they vented their rage on the only male in reach, me. I was also physically abused by one of my elementary school teachers.

I suffered (and still suffer) from PTSD and severe depression, but no one understood at the time that children could develop mental illness, and it went untreated for most of my life. I’ve struggled my whole life to create some order and financial stability. I finished college, but I’ve been trapped in low paying, dead end jobs my whole life. I married late, and that marriage ended in divorce when my wife joined a cult.

I am the very model of the disaffected, white, working class male. Fortunately, I’ve never had issues with substance abuse and I’ve never been in trouble with the law, but my life is a mess and I don’t see it ever getting any better.

I voted for Obama in 2008, largely due to my disgust at the war in Iraq, which looked like Vietnam all over again. I didn’t vote for Obama in 2012. I would never vote for Hillary Clinton. I didn’t like Clinton for lots of reasons, but the main one was that she struck me as the worst kind of warmonger… a hawk who personally despises the people who would bear the burden of her wars.

I saw the repulsive, knee-jerk anti-police attitude of my more liberal friends. My white liberal friends claimed they weren’t against white people, they were against white supremacy. They weren’t against men, they were against the patriarchy. And then they would go on long rants against “middle aged white male heterosexuals,” or (if they were middle aged, white and male) “old white male heterosexual cisgendered Christians.”

They said I must be a racist because I didn’t support Obama again in 2012, and I must be sexist because I wouldn’t vote for Clinton. I saw liberal comedians openly mock people who had lost their jobs to globalization and automation. I saw working class salaries devalued by mass immigration. I felt utterly betrayed by both parties.

So I must have been a Trump supporter, right?

…right….

Early in the 2016 primary, Trump said some extremely provocative things, and I understood he was doing it to get headlines, because it was going to be extremely difficult to get people to take his candidacy seriously. And several times I thought he misjudged, and went too far, and it would hurt his bid, and I was wrong. But then, I really thought he misunderstood his own audience, when Donald Trump mocked McCain for being a POW.

And no, I’m no fan of McCain. I remember his role in wrecking the economy in the S&L crisis. But when I grew up, the working class men I knew all flew POW flags. And this man who was born rich, this man who bought his way out of serving in the war that killed my father, mocked a vet in public for being a POW. And I thought, this is the one that sinks his campaign, because I thought I knew his base.
I didn’t. And if I had seen the interview at the time (I have seen it since), I would have heard that Trump got exactly the reaction he was looking for.

So no, I could never vote for Trump, or stand with the fake patriots who did support him. But I wasn’t planning on voting Democrat either, until I watched the briefings on the coronavirus. I watched them on C-span, so you can’t blame CNN for taking things out of context. Day after day I saw a man who was clearly, fundamentally unfit for any position of responsibility.

And I get the rage and frustration at the status quo, because it enrages and frustrates me. But that is precisely why we can’t take four more years of this buffoon. It isn’t that he’s “coarse” or “politically incorrect” or even “divisive”. It’s that he is profoundly dishonest and repulsive, and incapable of placing country before his own re-election bid, even for a moment. When he’s sober, he sounds like he’s having an incoherent, drunken rant. Trump was tweeting -and saying on live TV- stuff that was as crazy as Nixon said on tape. Only Nixon tried to have the tapes suppressed.

I understood the rage and frustration Trump’s base feels, because it is my rage and frustration. What I can’t understand is how anyone can think Trump is actually helping. No one will take the legitimate grievances of working people seriously so long as they idolize this charlatan.

A number of my friends are Republicans, and not at all “never Trumpers”. But they intend to switch sides this time because the conservative brand can’t take four more years of this. All the judges in the world will not save Christian conservatives from the backlash Trump is stirring up.

I’m sick of the left assuming I’m a Trump supporter just because I’m a middle aged, hetero, white working class male. But shame on conservatives if they make the same error.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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