Not Ready to Make Nice – Trump voters and the limits of compassion and empathy

By Tim Wise
Aug 21

Much has been said about the need for liberals and progressives — or at least Democrats — to understand Trump voters. We are told we should learn to listen to their fears and insecurities. We are supposed to respect their deep sense of anxiety, born of job losses, dying small towns, and cultural transformation occurring at a pace with which they find it difficult to keep up.
Missing from these calls for civility and compassion are any comparable entreaties for the same from the other side. No demands that Trump voters seek to understand, or even respect the essential humanity of black people in large cities, asylum seekers fleeing violence, or immigrants from the global south seeking a better life for their children. For these, calls of “send them back” or “build the wall” will suffice, or perhaps endorsements of stop-and-frisk so as to catch the presumably dangerous criminals responsible for what the president calls “American carnage.”
We are to empathize with white folks in small towns suffering the ravages of the opioid crisis, in ways they were never expected to — and certainly did not — when the crack epidemic was wreaking havoc on urban communities of color. The very same white people who called for stiff prison sentences and three-strikes laws in the latter case now plead for rehab and treatment options for their cousins, their children, themselves. Meanwhile, they stare wide-eyed at the lack of such programs, oblivious to the irony: namely, it was their calls for a ruthless prosecution of the war on drugs that has left them, as with people of color, bereft of such options now.
These one-way calls for compassion infect 2020 election analysis. Democratic candidates are expected to pander to small-town whites and sit with them in diners across the fruited plain to mine the depths of their despair. Why? Because these are, or so we are told, the swing voters without whom they cannot cobble together an electoral college victory. Republicans, apparently, need not appeal to the so-called middle, or moderates, or swing voters. They need not find out what black folks are talking about in the barbershop, what Latinx folks discuss at the bodega, or what members of the Unitarian Church are thinking. No, outreach is only for liberals.
Enough of this.
As the administration launches ICE raids on hard-working parents in Mississippi, ripping them from their kids on the first day of school, all talk of compromise with these people is perverse. To speak of understanding those who sanction such evil is a sickness.
I need not sit around and discuss politics with people such as this as they wolf down their biscuits and gravy or sop up their toast in a cholesterol pond of runny eggs, while adjusting their dirty trucker caps and holding forth about the Mooz-lims or the Mex’cuns who have come to take their jobs. Especially when those they’d be griping about would already have been working for three hours while Billy Joe Jim Bob sat there telling me about how he can’t work anyway because of his disability. For which he receives a check, along with his Medicare. But he wants me to remember that he’s tired of people living off the government.
What. The. Fuck. Ever.
I understand these folks all too well. There is nothing more to learn.
They are scared, simple-minded people who believed, against all historical evidence to the contrary, that the world would stand still for them. They are people who assumed their coal mines would never close, that the economy would never globalize, that jobs would always be there for them, that their norms and beliefs would always be paramount in the culture, and that they would forever and always remain the very floor model of an American. In short, they fell for a lie that only they, as white people, could ever have managed to believe. And while that must be tough, I find it hard to cry tears for them now.
After all, what they have only recently discovered — that the system is a scam, that companies move jobs overseas for their own profits and don’t give a shit about you, or your diners, and that you can take nothing for granted — is stuff people of color already knew. It’s stuff those people of color had been insisting upon from the beginning, but which white Americans could ignore, because after all, what do black people know?
I’m sure the folks on the middle-to-upper decks of the Titanic also wondered what all the screaming from steerage was about. Meanwhile the ones below thought to themselves: “Oh just wait, you’ll see.” Because steerage knew the folks on the promenade well, and knew how few lifeboats there really were, even while the middling classes thought there would always be room for them.
When manufacturing jobs began fleeing the urban core in the 1970s, leaving blacks who had moved north for good jobs unemployed, these white folks who now moan about job losses in their towns showed no compassion. They told black folks to up and move; to go where the jobs were. If blacks were out of work and unable to find new jobs, it was their own fault. It was their pathological culture, their dysfunctional family structures. It was surely not a systemic problem.
But now, as their own worlds crumble around them, they sing a very different tune. Now, these same people demand that politicians promise to bring the jobs back to them. No insistence that they up and move, as they instructed people of color to do. If job creation has occurred mostly in large metropolitan areas as of late (and it has), one might think it would be incumbent upon these Andy of Mayberry types to get up off their asses and go where the jobs are. But no. They like their little small towns and by God, intend to stay there, and we should accommodate them.
But then, when they don’t line up to take those jobs at the meatpacking plant, or picking strawberries, or roofing new home builds — and the people who do get rounded up like cattle and separated from their families — they dare complain about how things are changing?
It is not necessary to pander to people like this in order to win elections. They are not the key to victory for Democrats. Donald Trump is not president because bunches of these people once voted for Obama but suddenly switched to the guy who told them Obama wasn’t even an American. These are not people who voted for Obama and then turned around and voted for the guy who promised to take away the very health care Obama got for them.
Donald Trump is president because the Democratic base did not turn out in sufficient numbers in 2016. Obama voters didn’t switch to Trump so much as they stayed home. In Wisconsin, for instance, Trump got fewer votes than Romney; but depressed Democratic turnout and a significant vote share for third parties catapulted Trump to victory in the state.
One does not need to kiss the ass of people who chant for the building of walls, for the deportation of congresswomen, or cruelty for cruelty’s sake.
One need not appeal to the worst this nation has to offer.
One need not negotiate with terrorists.
One need only trust that there are more of us than there are of them, and then act like it.
And then, once we win, we can drag the rest kicking and screaming to universal health care, affordable college, and a cleaner environment.
At which point, all we will need to say to them is: “You’re welcome.”

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Mick Dalla-Vee

Early days 1976 - He moved to Western Canada, after leaving Bawating High School from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with the band Shama. Shama toured Western Canada and was managed by Bruce Allen (Bryan Adams, Martina McBride) before disbanding. 1981 -From that point he became the lead guitarist of Trama, managed by Sam Feldman (Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall), 1984 - then on to playing bass for the band Paradox which evolved into his current band Cease & Desist. 1989 - Cease & Desist has been described as "one of Vancouver's most popular bands" by Tom Harrison the rock music critic of The Province. He also plays the part of John in a Beatles cover band, Revolver, that was put together for Expo 86 Songwriting Mick has written or co-written many songs on albums for artists as diverse as country music's Brent Howard and Canada's Singing Cowgirl: Marilyn Faye Parney, the heavy rock sounds of Blackstone (released on the Delinquent label in Canada), the soul/R&B sounds Belinda Metz and 'Emily Jordan' to the 'smooth jazz' sounds of internationally acclaimed Lori Paul. 2005 - He co-wrote ten of the eleven songs on Paul's album Vanity Press. 1998 - His first country song 'The Wrangler' reached the country top 30 charts right across Canada. It also achieved 'Heavy Rotation' on C.M.T., Canada's country music video channel. One of the songs from Mick's 'A Whistler Christmas' album entitled, 'All I Want is You at Christmastime' has been recorded and released by Canadian country star, Brent Howard Currently - He has also written music for movies, television, videos, video games and promotional spots. His writing styles run the gamut from 'Smooth Jazz' to 'Heavy Thrash'. (A Whistler Christmas and Dalla-Vee's original Christmas songs are often heard on Canadian radio during their Christmas music programming.) Producing Aside from producing himself in an array of projects such as 1994's A Whistler Christmas album, he runs his own studio 'Millennia Sound Design', producing and engineering for artists like: Randy Bachman, Twitch, Swaggerjack, Emily Jordan, Russell Marsland, Lori Paul and Suzanne Gitzi among others. 2007 - has provided theme music and soundscapes for two network television series and Simon Fraser University. 2005 - Randy Bachman's CD "Jazzthing" had some work done on it at "Millennia Sound Design". Vocals Dalla-Vee has contributed to projects as diverse as, 1991 - the multi platinum heavy rock of the "Mötley Crüe" album "A Decade of Decadence" to the 2001 - country/rockabilly sounds of Brent Howard and Southern Cherry to Colin Arthur Wiebe. 1989 - Canadian legends, Trooper and The Powder Blues Band have also used Mick's voice for recordings. 1991 - He has worked extensively as a studio session singer/musician, with his talent of many voices being used on a worldwide 'Karaoke' album package marketed over the dreaded U.S. infomercial. He has sung a number of commercial jingles for radio and television. Awards Having recorded with a host of other Canadian and international recording acts such as Randy Bachman (of the band The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive), Mick was awarded a 'Gold Record' for his work on the 'Trooper' album 'Last of the Gypsies' in 1991. In 1997, he received the Saskatchewan Album of the Year Award for his song writing/musician contributions to an album with proceeds going to people affected with multiple sclerosis. 2011 – Gold Award for Bachman & Turner DVD – Live at the Roseland Ballroom 2013 – Platinum Award for Bachman & Turner DVD – Live at the Roseland Ballroom Appeared in ‘The Campaign’ with Will Ferrell, Zack Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and directed my Jay Roach (shot in New Orleans) Current – Write music for the popular ‘Holmes’ TV series on HGTV Releases: “Bachman and Turner” in 2010 Producing the Toronto pop/soul band ‘Hello Beautiful’. Heads the ‘Music in Motion Workshop’ for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, a pilot project designed to develop a musical camaraderie with children, youth and young adults with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Live [edit] He keeps an extremely steady schedule playing guitar, bass and keyboards with his main band, Cease and Desist, and “The Atlantic Crossing Show” featuring Mick as John Lennon and Elton John. Since 2001 - He is the bass player/vocalist with Canadian Rock Legend, Randy Bachman's band 2004 - Bachman’s recent foray in the jazz world with his new CD, ‘Jazz Thing’ features Dalla-Vee on the ‘upright bass’. Ongoing - He plays mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitars and harmonica in the Brent Howard and Southern Cherry band, Ongoing - and has toured as John Lennon in 'Revolver - The Worlds Best Beatles Show'. Ongoing - In addition, he also works as a solo artist appearing regularly at special events and casinos. Affiliations 2004 - A longtime member of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, he has sat on the panel as a judge for Canada's Juno Awards (Canada's Version of The Grammy's). 1989 – 2001 He was on the board of directors of the Pacific Music Industry Association for 3 years, and is also chair of 2000 – 2005 The Carolyn Foundation Musician's Assistance Society; a non-profit organization he and colleagues set-up in the wake of his daughter Carolyn's sudden death in November 1999