As I write this, robo-calls are reportedly going out to South Carolina voters attacking Donald Trump as showing insufficient respect for the Confederate Battle Flag. You know, the flag that Trump’s close ally Nikki Haley had taken down from the South Carolina state capitol building.
As one of his fellow Yankees, my perspective on this is that a Southern patriot’d be rather stupid to expect Trump to feel any particular devotion to Confederate symbols. Why should he? He’s a New Yorker.
The point is that, unlike every other candidate, he implicitly recognizes that defense and preservation of the cultural integrity of one’s community is a valid interest and even an interest that one may properly expect to be reflected by his government.
If Southerners really want devotees of Southern heritage running for president, they’ll have to start growing them down there in the South. What do we see when we look at the South’s contributions to the presidential primaries? The “Texan” candidate is a Canadian whose campaign strategy so far has been to try to replicate his Cuban father’s business model of exploiting the credulity of poorly-educated evangelicals. Of the 2 candidates from Florida, only the one born to Cuban immigrants has shown any concern for the preservation of the South’s cultural symbols, and good for him, but unfortunately for Rubio his foreign policy views are so abjectly absurd as to render him unsupportable. The other “Floridian” has never once wasted an opportunity to attack the history and heritage of the people who elected him governor. Small wonder his campaign can’t buy a thrill.
Trump is someone who unapologetically embraces his own culture, which is the culture of a New Yorker. This is a blessing for me, because it’s a culture I recognize as my own. Massachusetts, where the Puritan appreciation for mawkish pretense to humility yet survives, has slightly less cultural tolerance than New York for Trumpish ostentation, but otherwise Trump’s culture is my culture, instantly recognizable and accessible to me. And I love that.
But the intrinsic appeal of chauvinistic patriotism isn’t ultimately reliant on shared heritage, culture, or even nationality. I don’t love and admire Putin, Farage, and the Le Pens because I’m a Russo-, Anglo-, or Francophile –I’ve never even been to Europe, why should I care about those places? The reason I find myself a distant admirer of the European Nationalists is that I recognize their devotion to their own peoples, cultures, and national interests as a shared value. I’m devoted to my own people, culture, and national interest too.
Whether South Carolinians shall fall for this last-ditch establishment trick remains to be seen. I can say this: If the shoe were on the other foot –if my choices in a presidential election were between a Southern patriot who exalted in Southern culture and a spiritually anemic Yankee embarrassed of his own people– I’d have no trouble deciding which one to vote for.
But who knows? Ted Cruz gave a solid proof-of-concept in Iowa for the notion that a sufficiently gullible electorate will reward aggressive cultural signaling even at the expense of their own interests.
And you can’t get a much more gullible voting demographic than evangelicals. Or can you? Over on the Democratic side, the hopes of the Clinton campaign are pinned on the expectation that Black voters will monolithically regard the woman who fought tooth-and-nail to prevent the election of our first Black president as the candidate for them. This even as yet another photo is unearthed showing the man she’s fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent from becoming our first Jewish president protesting segregation back when my parents were children and race conflicts in the U.S. pivoted on something more than the provocations of a professional victim class that’s lost touch with reality.
Back in September of last year, in an article dealing largely with the decline of the American Empire, I wrote:
Is there anything broader you can do? I don’t know. Personally, I’d love to take a shot at running for office, but I’m worried that it’s too late to be of much help that way.
Well, I’ve put my worries aside, and am running to represent the Middlesex & Worcester district in the Massachusetts Senate. (Yes, I coded that website myself. How could you tell?) Please shoot me an e-mail if you’d like to help out or donate. Thanks.