Editor’s Note: This article contains explicit language.
By Horus Alas
Earlier this week, Sheriff Troy E. Nehls of Fort Bend County, Texas, posted a photo of a white pickup truck to his Facebook page. The truck was emblazoned with a rear window sticker reading, “FUCK TRUMP, AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.”
Nehls captioned the photo with the following text, “If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you. Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”
The post was removed from Nehls’ Facebook page yesterday, purportedly amid virulent responses directed toward him and his family.
“Since the owner of the truck has been identified, the Sheriff took down the post. Due to the hate messages he has been receiving towards his wife and children, the Sheriff will not be commenting on the matter further,” the Fort Bend County sheriff’s office told The Washington Post.
The preceding anecdote is just one example of how the 2016 election continues to create a sharp cultural divide in our country.
President Trump currently has a job approval rating of 41 percent, with 59 percent disapproval, per a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll reported in The Hill. Common criticisms of the president include his unruly activity on twitter, time spent at his golf courses and Trump-branded resorts, refusal to acknowledge criticism and independent facts, etc.
Even so, the new Harvard CAPS-Harris survey finds that 79 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of those who voted for Trump approve of the job he’s doing in office. Much of the president’s 41 percent support base is therefore comprised by GOP loyalists and ardent Trump voters.
It’s not just numbers that separate the 41 percent from the 59. Demographic trends from last year’s presidential election point to stories of voters of different stripes living disparate lives, in seemingly different worlds, within the same country.
Some of the media landscape’s most brilliant minds have spent the past year dissecting Trump’s win and Hillary Clinton’s loss. Their takeaways are diffuse and striking in a multiplicity of ways.
Ta-Nehisi Coates has predicated his formidable theorizing on race. George Packer points to economic and cultural anxiety among the white working classes. Molly Ball’s forays into cultural anthropology point to zealous partisan indoctrination via region, race, education, etc.
Despite our elusive search for the definitive factors that propelled Trump to victory over Clinton, we can posit with minimal effort that Trump and Clinton voters don’t get along.
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain spoke of, “the utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes…”
Conservative columnist David French recounts a conversation with an elderly white woman, who, when confronted with the fact that President Trump lies frequently, simply replied, “Well, the Democrats are worse.”
Molly Ball notes in her piece how a chamber of commerce official in southern Florida remarked, “We don’t have any Muslims here, and that’s a good thing, because Muslims are trouble.”
I could list examples here ad infinitum, but the basic point is clear.
The key demographics that currently constitute a Democratic party support bloc can be summed up by this New York Times lede following the statewide elections in Virginia earlier this month:
“… A muscular coalition of college-educated voters and racial and ethnic minorities dealt the Republican Party a thumping rejection on Tuesday and propelled a diverse class of Democrats into office.”
In contrast, we might still generalize the GOP and Trump base, as scores of writers have done by now, according to the much the same criteria used above by Bourdain: “red-state, gun-country, working-class America.”
The former group might be described as progressive, inclusive, diverse and optimistic about the future. And while it might seem simplistic to just use antonyms as descriptions for the opposition bloc, the terms, “conservative,” “exclusive,” “homogeneous” and “pessimistic about the future,” don’t appear altogether inaccurate.
Trump must have known in mid-2015 that the people whose support he wanted to court were in despair.
They were farmers, construction workers and manufacturers. They were, in Trump’s own words, “poorly educated.” Their factories had closed down. They found and held down jobs with difficulty. They resented the influx of immigrants in major cities who had come to take their jobs, and in their scorn, they applauded the branding of Mexicans as “rapists” and “murderers.”
Overwhelmingly, they were white.
Last year, they ventured off to the ballot boxes in overwhelming numbers, effectively powering Trump to victory in the Electoral College against the efforts of the Democratic base described above.
Well before Jack Kerouac penned “The Town and the City,” these two settlements comprised altogether different modes of life for their inhabitants.
We might generalize that in the city, inhabitants prize professionalism and specialized knowledge, thus pursuing education that allows them to follow those career paths.
In the town and country, on the other hand, it’s not outlandish to claim that people value tradition and a hard work ethic. In today’s political atlas, these areas are dominated by working class populations.
That two competing visions for the future of this country are now vying for its political control isn’t unusual. Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic wrote a prescient analysis one year ago comparing today’s cultural divide between town and city to one that existed in the 1920s.
Brownstein claimed disparity in cultural values for each region would likely be exacerbated by a Trump presidency.
And if the misadventure of Sheriff Troy E. Nehls of Fort Bend County, Texas, or the graffiti I encounter daily saying, “FUCK TRUMP” in Adams Morgan are indicative of any pulse in our nation’s cultural climate, Brownstein’s observations proved absolutely right.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr account.
Horus Alas is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.