You always hear the pundits talk about “outreach”. Outreach to gays, outreach to Blacks, outreach to Hispanics, outreach to Asians, outreach to …….. Until Trump, few have spoken about or even desired “outreach” to the forgotten (purposely maybe?) to the “flyover”. “rustic” or “Appalachia like” whites. They are referred o as “hillbillies” or “red-necks” even if they live in Brooklyn, NY; Lumberton, North Carolina; or Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
This segment is the “working class whites”. They don’t sip Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut on Friday after a hard “day in the office”, they might instead opt for a Foster’s Oil Can and some wings with a bunch of friends. When they go “fishing” it might not entail “catch and release” unless the fish is undesired. Most of the fish caught will go home where it is prepared for eating.
Friends, family and America – that is what this group is all about. Some are uneducated, some are “lowly educated”, some are in the middle ground and others “highly educated”. They are, for the most part, more patriotic and unquestioningly so. They are tired of being referred to as racists and made to feel ashamed for their race or heritage. And…… they are turning out in large numbers for Donald Trump. These are some of the people who could not afford the price of a Lincoln Day ticket but stood up on the bridge to the Mar-a-Lago Club holding Trump signs and giving the “thumbs up” sign to the Bentley’s. Mercedes and other fine carriages carrying the guests to the lovely venue.
My father was in the Army for all of my childhood. Before we moved to Germany, we spent the bulk of our time in “fly over country”. You know, Fort Knox, Kentucky, Junction City Kansas, Cumberland County North Carolina, Fort Sill Oklahoma, and well…. you get the picture. Not exactly on the list of “places to visit before you die”.
The people I met and the friends that I made have been “lifelong” and they welcomed a family of Jamaicans with funny accents into their homes and lives with no reservations. I did not experience true racial bias until I entered the “well educated” and “tolerant” liberal universities where I was told by a Harvard educated professor that “Black women on a whole do not write well”.
It is impossible for me to rightfully tell you much about this segment of society because even though I have spent much of my life around them, I am not “one of them”. BUT, I have been a couple of Donald Trump rallies and they are there is full force. Do not count on them to answer the pollsters calls, however, they are more likely to ask YOU “What’s it to ya'” when asked “who will you vote for” on a random telephone interview. That is …. if you get that far. The first thing they will ask is ” Who gave you my number”.
But, going back to the rally……. I watched the men sitting on my row and the two below me as they watched Trump speak with the reverence that you often see in church. These were the plumbers, small business owners, and the like. The guy next to me had his three sons, the off duty policeman below him brought the whole family. Sure, there was a protester here and there but they lacked enthusiasm because I sense that they knew this “was not the crowd” that would suffer them lightly. They did not come to hear the protesters. They came to hear “The Donald”. No one is as enthusiastic about the alternately bellowing and screeching voice of Hillary Clinton. And many in this crowd would rather be …. well whatever than face the prospect of that woman for the next 8 years.
For those who are interested in finding out more about this group of Americans, I recommend J.D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture In Crisis.
If you want to understand America in 2016, Hillbilly Elegy is a must-read.The book is an autobiographical account by a lawyer (Yale Law School graduate) and sometime conservative writer who grew up in a poor and chaotic Appalachian household. He’s a hillbilly, in other words, and is not ashamed of the term.
I am loving this book.