Kevin Williamson of the National Review has emerged as one of the leading, and most formidable, intellectual opponents of the movement to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States. While he often aims at Trump himself, Williamson also targets Trump’s voters.
In his latest article, he argues that the white working class that has backed Trump is largely to blame for its own woes, and ought not foist Trump on the rest of us as the solution.
He begins by criticizing conservative anti-elitism. He is responding primarily to baseball writer Michael Brendan Dougherty, but he may as well have picked on Breitbart News (and, later, does). “Donald Trump is the headline, and explaining the benighted white working class to Them is the main matter” — “Them” being “polite society,” i.e. the establishment of D.C. and New York, who presumably (Williamson bristles) cannot fathom the world beyond.
Williamson’s answer is pure H.L. Mencken: why would you want to live beyond? Or, as he puts it: “What, really, is the case for staying in Garbutt?”
He tells the story of the rise and fall of that 19th-century town, emptied by the decline of the gypsum industry. Only a sentimentalist, he says, would wish for its preservation. “Yes, young men of Garbutt — get off your asses and go find a job: You’re a four-hour bus ride away from the gas fields of Pennsylvania.”
Get a job, Bubba. And, for good measure: “Stonehenge didn’t work out, either: Good luck.”
He goes on to argue, plausibly, that the answers Trump is providing for such communities, such as restricting immigration and tearing up trade agreement, are not going to save the white working class, but will impose large costs on society as a whole.
Less plausibly, he argues that conservative ideals about nation and family are little more than nostalgic illusions.
Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart London has done more to put homosexual camp in the service of right-wing authoritarianism than any man has since the fellows at Hugo Boss sewed all those nifty SS uniforms. He refers to Trump — this will not surprise you — as “Daddy,” capital-D.
Leave aside the awful Nazi metaphor. This is pop psychology posing as erudition: Trump voters are “waiting for Daddy to come home … the father-führer figure they have spent their lives imagining.”
While the white working class may pine for Father, and enjoys giving the “middle finger” to the imagined elites, “… nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.”
He goes on: “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 Trump; get a U-Haul.
It is one thing to argue against sentimentality. It is quite another to argue that communities “deserve to die” — and to miss the various ways in which big government, as aided and abetted by “Them,” is trying to kill them.
California’s Central Valley, for instance, is not being emptied by natural economic forces. Its plight is the result of elitist — and bipartisan — “green” utopianism that places the fate of a near-extinct fish ahead of human beings and science itself.
I’m not sure Donald Trump understands that, but neither does Williamson. His disdain for “Stonehenge” is like Mitt Romney’s “47%” — not only tone-deaf, but also blind to the possibility that rich and poor might share the same values and the same fate.
It indulges the big-government snobbery of Gov. Jerry Brown, who said of the millions leaving his state: “[S]mart people figure out how to make it.”
As Trump might say: “[O]ur leaders are stupid.” Not necessarily the people.