Sitting on Our High Horses

Politics often turn into morality plays. Each side sees their cause/candidate as morally superior to the other. That’s particularly problematic when the choice is a binary one.

In my opinion, it’s a shame how historically illiterate we’ve become. We seem to have forgotten our past. It shouldn’t be too hard to look back 50 years and see parallels between a candidate like Donald Trump, with appeals made to white, working-class people, and a Democrat (who later ran as an third party candidate) like George Wallace.

Of course, the brain-addled, responding like dogs to a whistle, immediately whip out their “racist” or “fascist” signs when presented with Wallace’s name because they’ve been trained to do so. Partly this is due to the small-minded lacking the ability to go any broader than that. You shouldn’t feel too bad. Wallace got the same treatment 50 years ago from the same groups of people, mainly the elite media, liberals, and other high-minded types.

There are several books that look at Wallace much more broadly than do leftist media heroes with an agenda—like Rachel Maddow at MSNBC. She’s probably one of the best at taking a thimble worth of history and turning it into that night’s hour-long screed against her chosen villain. Here’s the CliffsNotes version: Republicans were stupid before and now, they are stupid again.

Even Amy Goodman, who I once thought had some journalistic integrity, seems intent of painting with a brush designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate. Ah, the American media—mainstream or the alt-variety—as useless as they’ve ever been.

In one of my recommended books, Daniel Carter had this to say concerning Wallace. It offers insight into the phenomenon and support for Wallace in 1968 (and later, 1972), and it provides us with a broader understanding about the support currently garnered by Mr. Trump.

Carter indicated that it was far more than simple racism. “Wallace was able to compound racial fear, anticommunism, cultural nostalgia and traditional right-wing economics into a movement” that exploited the apprehension with which the white working and middle class viewed the rise in street crime, social unrest and the erosion of cultural values. This tapestry of issues “laid the foundation for the conservative counterrevolution that reshaped American politics in the 1970s and 1980s,” argued Carter in his Wallace biography, The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, The Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics.

But Carter’s book is big and heavy. There are lots of words, too.

If you can’t (or won’t) read, the Drive-By Truckers catalog offers some interesting lessons in so-called Southern bigotry (because those of us in the North know that all Southerners are slack-jawed and segregationists at heart). Pop in a CD, or better, I’ll post the video for you to watch at the end about George Wallace (see the 2:50 mark).

Then there’s Facebook, filled with the worst kind of moralists.

Smug. Filled with pride, and able to use a platform that’s designed for preaching to the choir if there ever was one. That’s easier to do when you can’t get outside your own arrogance and even elitism.

I’ve spent time in (religious) movements and following people that made me feel morally superior to others. I ran around talking about “sin” and making my crowd out to be the ones occupying the high ground. Liberalism often is tinged with the same kind of religious fervor, and holier-than-thou attitudes.

I look back on that time in my life some 30 years ago with a great deal of embarrassment. How did I get duped by a bunch of religious rubes and yahoos? Shutting off my brain and relying on pre-packaged talking points was one of the ways. Also, closing myself off from anything critical of the ideological soup du jour being offered at the time was another way.

The lessons from that time were hard ones to learn—but immensely valuable. I’m still in the process of growing and expanding my understanding of the world from where I sit.

Is Trump the candidate boorish and even a bit frightening to anyone that’s never landed a punch, or taken one before? He most certainly is. However, for a good portion of America long left behind by the political class, business types, and academic elites, they hear his message and it resonates with them.

Call it stupid or ignorant if you want to. But people without hope and a future often turn to desperation and candidates that tell them what they want to hear.

One thought on “Sitting on Our High Horses

  1. Isn’t this cute? I mention Amy Goodman and guess what one of her segments was today? Trump=Fascism.

    I guess there is a “Father of Fascsism Studies,” too.

    There’s this, from the segment:

    People as varied as actor George Clooney, comedian Louis C.K. and Anne Frank’s stepsister Eva Schloss have suggested Trump is a fascist.

    Clooney and Louis C.K., an actor and a comedian, are both pillars upon which you should be building any serious argument.

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