Sunday, January 1, 2017

West Coast Observer: Country-club new year

Musings on December 31

By William Silveira

Since the election, my brain has reeled in attempting to organize into one cohesive package a conclusion as to what happened to us as a country. Perhaps the readers of these words will find them too bleak or too far off the mark. If so, I hope those readers are right. What has transpired, and my view of what may transpire, have drained me of a great deal of optimism about this country’s future.

I have an old college friend, John, who resides in Washington, DC. John has always tended to be conservative in his views. But those views rested in a well-thought-out perspective on the course of American political history. In his Christmas letter to me, John broached the subject of the election: “I marked the ballot with my right hand while holding my nose with my left hand.” That was John’s way of admitting to something he found embarrassing: he voted for Donald Trump. I think many otherwise responsible Republicans probably did the same thing. I refer to these persons (for want of a better, more inclusive term) as Country Club Republicans. (I realize the term is not original with me, and I have stretched its boundaries for purposes of this discussion.) These are not people who attach themselves to many far right agendas we have seen emerge from the woodwork with Trump’s candidacy. However, they generally view taxes and regulation with disfavor. Most are Christians in one church or another (including Catholics and Mormons).
    Country Club Republicans, as I am defining them, do not necessarily belong to country clubs, nor do they want to. They include among themselves many small businessmen, farmers, and ranchers. In other words, a very solid, old-fashioned middle-class group. Politically, this group may diverge on local and state issues; however, I think their one commonality is that most of them could never bring themselves to cast a vote for a Democratic Party candidate for state-wide or national office. And if they do, they don’t reveal it to others. I really think it is a matter of their middle-class self-identity. Their historic icon is Ronald Reagan.

As we rolled through the primary elections, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that Trump would emerge as the Republican candidate for president, I decided to test the waters, so to speak, by asking my country club Republican friends whether they would be supporting Trump over Clinton. (I had wrongly assumed that I would savor a moment of triumph in having them admit that Clinton was the only rational choice.) But no, they could not bring themselves to support Clinton.
    My friend, John, stated in his letter that Trump was elected because the public wanted an “outsider” to be president. He likened Trump’s message to that of two other anti-establishment presidents, Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt.
    I thoroughly disagree with that view. Trump is nothing like Andrew Jackson or Theodore Roosevelt, both of whom championed needed reforms at the national level. If Trump articulated any plan of reform of anything, I have yet to see it. His cabinet appointments are oligarchs and plutocrats. His chosen advisors are persons who seem more interested in tearing down the few meaningful reforms we have enacted in the last twenty years than in going forward with new reforms.
    If we want to compare Trump’s election to previous elections, we need to go to Germany in 1932. Battered by the world-wide depression and the inability of the Weimar Republic to effectively govern, the conservative Junker class, who knew better, held their noses and voted for Hitler. I am not likening Trump to Hitler; I am saying that a reactionary and populist bent brought them both to office as heads of state.

It has been said that Trump’s victory in the rust-belt states rested on the disaffection of members of the blue-collar working class – out-of-work coal miners and laid-off employees of manufacturing plants that moved out of the country or to the South. That may well be. But Trump’s victory also came because many otherwise thoughtful Republicans did as John did: they held their noses and voted for Trump.
    Why? I suppose it was a matter of personal identity. Their class could never vote for Clinton or, for that matter, any Democrat. And so, despite trepidation and revulsion, they voted for Trump. It’s the same group that could not vote for FDR in the 1930’s, JFK in the ’60’s, Bill Clinton in the ’90’s, or, more recently, Al Gore. Except this time they were not voting for Dewey, Nixon, Reagan, or the Bushes. And they knew it and did it nonetheless. I suppose it reflects my naiveté that I thought they would transcend their class identification.

Copyright © 2017 by William Silveira


  1. Well, the upside for you is that you are on the West Coast. The rest of us are just F-----

    1. Ed, I counted the spaces after the letter "F," but I still can't figure out what the rest of us are. I need another hint.

    2. Yes, of course: f---ed. Fried? No, that's too few letters....Filled? Flayed? Flamed?...I give up, going to have to come back to this after a long nap.

  2. Well, there's one thing that might be said for the year. Today is so sad here, in Mebane, North Carolina - dark, dreary, cold, fewer than 20 days until the inauguration of America's Celebrity Apprentice - unless "something happens" - it's quite possible that there will have to be happier days than today in 2017....

  3. This is absolutely spot on, William. Thank you for putting it so clearly. I think the "United" in USA is a lie. Some people are their party first, America second. It's disgusting. It's treason.

  4. "Party first, America second" - succinctly put, really nets it!