There’s been a growing sense of desperation among the #NeverTrump forces for a few weeks now, and as we move closer to largely winner take all states in the primary line-up it was inevitable that full blown panic would set in. One side effect of this increased feeling of urgency is that critics of The Donald have increasingly given up on critiquing the business mogul’s record and frequently mystifying comments, choosing to focus their attacks on his supporters instead. While a seemingly self-defeating strategy, that movement has hit its full stride this weekend with National Review’s endless fountain of Trump blasting, Kevin Williamson. I’ll confess to being entirely taken aback after reading his diatribe, The Father Fuhrer, where he mostly ignores the candidacy of Donald Trump and instead focuses on the many failings and general worthlessness of a large segment of Trump’s voters… working class white residents of depressed manufacturing centers.
As is his style, Williamson starts with a tale of the largely abandoned, upstate New York hamlet of Garbutt. Once a gypsum mining community, it fell into decline more than a century ago when the industry it supported evolved to the point where their natural resources were no longer profitable to produce. From that starting point, Williamson launches into a deluge of attacks on working class white communities which have collapsed under strained economic conditions, blaming them for all their problems because of … I’ll say, a lack of moral fiber. And they are, in Williamson’s view, only attracted to Trump because he excuses their shortcomings and forgives them their many sins while offering false promises to cure the ills they brought upon themselves. Here’s some of the worst of it. It’s a bit of a long excerpt, but stick with me here because this is truly stunning. (Emphasis added.)
It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.
If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.
Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
If you want to live, get out of Garbutt.
Scott Greer at the Daily Caller brought this article to my attention originally and he manages to tear it apart while saying barely a word about the piece itself. All you need to do is extract some of the key sections and allow them to speak for themselves.
This is truly stunning. A broadside attack on America’s middle class is apparently the last recourse of truly lost and desperate souls. Worst of all, it’s a denial of reality. I don’t know how things are in hardscrabble, white West Texas, but I happen to live in one of those hardscrabble, white Upstate New York burgs and Kevin is living in some sort of dream world. Garbutt serves as a useful metaphor in his tale, but it bears little to no relevance to the reality these communities have dealt with nor the government policy failures which let them down. Garbutt failed when the industry moved on and made their offerings less palatable. I live in a town where IBM once employed more than 10,000 workers in a complex which occupied nearly one fifth of the downtown real estate. Today the jobs number in the hundreds, not thousands, and much of the complex sits empty. But the computer industry didn’t go away, nor did IBM. It simply sends more and more jobs out of the country every year.
That tale is repeated with Kodak in Rochester and most of the other former manufacturing sites around the state. The comparison to Garbutt is nonsense. As to the drug abuse and other “moral failings” of white, working class communities, Kevin tells them to grow a spine and take a bus to Pennsylvania’s oil and gas facilities as if you can simply transplant entire communities and the skills are immediately transferable. I wonder if he would advise the the drug saddled communities in Brownsville, New York to take a cab ride over to Manhattan and just get jobs as investment bankers?
To be clear, I’m not saying that Donald Trump has some magic formula which will fix all of this. He doesn’t. But he’s talking about real problems and I can understand why some people in these communities would respond to a message which at least acknowledges the situation. As for National Review’s Williamson… I can only hope he was a bit tipsy when he wrote that and has thought better of it since. It’s fine to promote Marco Rubio or attack Donald Trump, but this wide swipe at the people who built up the nation’s fabric during our periods of peak productivity is sad to see.