Wednesday, November 09, 2016

How Did We Elect Trump?

Flannery O’Connor, in her 1961 short story “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” tells the story of Julian, a recent college graduate, now living with his mother until he can find a job. Julian is miserable living with her, embarrassed by her racist and paternalistic attitude about blacks, typical of the institutional racism of the deep south. But in his mind, he had transcended his upbringing:

The irony was that in spite of her, he had turned out so well. In spite of going to only a third-rate college, he had, on his own initiative, come out with a first-rate education; in spite of growing up dominated by a small mind, he had ended up with a large one; in spite of all her foolish views, he was free of prejudice and unafraid to face facts. Most miraculous of all, instead of being blinded by love for her as she was for him, he had cut himself emotionally free of her and could see her with complete objectivity. He was not dominated by his mother.

What becomes apparent is that Julian’s judgment of his mother is far harsher than the bigotry borne of his mother’s ignorance—that his “rising” as an educated man has made him the bigger bigot, unable to appreciate the sacrifices his mother made for him, incapable of forgiving her for the way she was raised. In the end, his vicious judgment kills her, as she dies from an apparent heart attack, prompted by his repudiation. Thus O’Connor’s title: That which rises must (again) converge--distancing oneself and judging from “on high” destroys the very people that we might otherwise help rise, too.

The day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, I read a number of articles revolving around these themes: “How could we have allowed this to happen? How could we have elected such a bigot? What does this say about us as Americans? A Facebook friend summarized this sentiment succinctly:

"The DNC didn’t underestimate Trump.They underestimated how uneducated, xenophobic, racist and misogynist rural America is. Idiocy has landed.”

How did we elect Trump? Like Julian, like my Facebook friend, we have been harshly judgmental of working class, rural Americans— “deplorables,” Clinton called them--and the deplorables decided to give the intellectual elites of our country, those of us with advanced degrees and sophisticated tastes, a giant middle finger.

Take North Carolina, an important swing state in this election, as but a simple example: Obama won North Carolina in 2008, lost by 2 points in 2012, and in this election, Trump doubled that margin, winning by almost 4 points. Why has North Carolina turned increasingly "red" ? It didn't help Hilary's cause that last spring, the U.S. Justice Department decided Carolinians needed mentoring about proper bathroom policies for transgenders, suing them for discrimination. Rock stars canceled concerts in North Carolina and NBA executives rescinded a contract to play an all-star game there. But the people North Carolina held fast, resentful of being treated like the village idiots.

This wasn’t an endorsement of Trump. I’m not sure it was even a rejection of Hillary on a personal level. It was, however, a complete rejection of the intellectual snobbery of the ruling class, of which Hillary and “establishment” Republicans were the power-brokers.

Everything that rises must converge. Future presidential candidates, take heed.

1 comment:

Clayton Grigsby said...

Earlier in the year you posted a blog from Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput concerning the evils of Obamacare.
I have friends in this area of PA that posted about waiting an hour and fifteen minutes to vote- and they explained that some had to wait 4 hours to vote with police helicopters hovering over the line (remember the intimidation at the polls in Philly in 2012?).
One interesting thought about unintended consequences that occurs to me is that the higher healthcare premiums go- the greater the reduction in discretionary spending. And this reduction is hurting liberal causes- because more and more people are cancelling cable television (ie no money going to morning after pill commercials or liberal media channels). This also would explain why the cagillions in the liberal election warchest did not matter.