Buyer re­morse sets in for ‘fly­over’ Trump fans

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - GENE LYONS © 2017, GENE LYONS DIS­TRIB­UTED BY AN­DREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION FOR UFS

”You can fool too many of the peo­ple too much of the time.”

— James Thurber

Out here in fly­over coun­try, you can’t hardly go by the feed store with­out run­ning into a re­porter do­ing one of those Wis­dom of the Heart­land sto­ries. Seems like they could have saved them­selves a bunch of trou­ble by lis­ten­ing to a Hank Wil­liams Jr. al­bum in­stead.

“I live back in the woods, you see / My woman and the kids and the dogs, and me / I got a shot­gun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive / And a coun­try boy can sur­vive ... “

Un­til a few months ago, that was pretty much my life, although I’d have had a hard time with­out some real coun­try boys’ help. You know, load­ing round bales into my truck; teach­ing me how to keep the trans­mis­sion run­ning. Mak­ing a skit­tish heifer stand still and teach­ing her new­born calf to suckle. Stuff like that.

On the ter­ri­ble win­ter day my horse Rusty col­icked and died, my neigh­bor showed up to bury him with­out be­ing asked. Some­body down at the One Stop — ga­so­line, hay, live­stock feed, bait, gro­ceries and sand­wiches — told him about it. A dead horse was news at the One Stop. He went straight home, put the back­hoe on his trac­tor, and came right over. I can’t tell you how grate­ful I was.

There wasn’t a man on our road that couldn’t do a dozen things I couldn’t. I used to say you could give my neigh­bor Micky a chain­saw, a ham­mer and a box of nails and he’d build you a house from scratch. The plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal work might re­quire a trip to town, but he’d do that, too.

Me, I’m good at catch­ing ru­n­away horses and herd­ing cows back where they be­long. I tried to keep an eye out.

So I knew damn well the Rus­sian trolls who sent me threat­en­ing emails last sum­mer hadn’t talked to any­body I knew. I’d have been warned be­fore they got out of Perry County.

That said, ex­cept in a cou­ple of cases, I have no idea who my friends voted for. In ru­ral Arkansas, peo­ple just don’t talk about pol­i­tics. Es­pe­cially if they sus­pect it might cause bad feel­ings. Some were aware of my pub­lic iden­tity; most were not. My wife went around with a Hil­lary bumper strip, but no­body said a thing about it. They al­ready knew she’d grown up in Lit­tle Rock.

Perry County voted 70-24 per- cent for Trump; Pu­laski County, which in­cludes Lit­tle Rock, 56-39 for Clin­ton.

Be­cause here’s the deal: the same ur­ban/ru­ral di­vide big city re­porters are ex­plor­ing ex­ists within states and re­gions, too. Some Lit­tle Rock neigh­bors feared we’d be un­safe among the red­necks when we moved to our farm. Perry County neigh­bors ex­pressed sur­prise we’d risk go­ing back. What’s more, it’s as old as civ­i­liza­tion: “What can I do in Rome?” wrote the poet Ju­ve­nal around 100 AD. “I never learned how to lie.”

So I am un­moved by Gary Aber­nathy’s hurt feel­ings. “The re­al­ity of life in ru­ral fly­over coun­try is lost on those who mock us,” writes the small­town Ohio ed­i­tor in The Wash­ing­ton Post. “These are the places where Don­ald Trump won the pres­i­dency, where peo­ple know they are ridiculed by East and West Coast elit­ists.”

Where have I heard that song be­fore? Oh, yeah, Hank Jr.:

“I had a good friend in New York City / He never called me by my name, just hill­billy.”

Well, boo-hoo-hoo. An elit­ist, to Aber­nathy, seems to be any­body who ob­jects that the pres­i­dent of the United States acts like a wholly owned sub­sidiary of the Krem­lin.

Ul­ti­mately, such cul­tural para­noia — GOP-style iden­tity pol­i­tics, if you will — is self-de­feat­ing. I find my­self more per­suaded by New Yorker re­porter Pe­ter Hessler’s con­clu­sions.

Even af­ter be­ing penned up and screamed at dur­ing Trump prowrestling style ral­lies last sum­mer, he ended up think­ing that “peo­ple have rea­sons for the things that they be­lieve, and the in­ten­sity of their ex­pe­ri­ences can’t be taken for granted ... Al­most ev­ery­body I met in Grand Junc­tion seemed more com­plex, more in­ter­est­ing, and more de­cent than the man who in­spires them.”

Amen. Yes, many Trump vot­ers have un­de­ni­able fas­cist lean­ings, even if they don’t like you call­ing them that. Mil­lions of oth­ers sim­ply got conned into giv­ing their vote to some­body they saw as crude but hon­est — a bil­lion­aire apos­tle of the work­ing man.

But even here in Dark­est Arkansas, buyer re­morse is set­ting in. Last Fe­bru­ary, vot­ers here gave Trump 60-35 pos­i­tive over neg­a­tive rat­ing. By July’s Talk Busi­ness & Pol­i­tics-Hen­drix Col­lege sur­vey, he’d fallen to 50-47 pos­i­tive, a sharp drop. A re­mark­able 40 per­cent of Arkansas vot­ers “strongly dis­ap­prove” of the Trump pres­i­dency.

And that was last week, be­fore the pres­i­dent’s bul­ly­ing and be­rat­ing his own (South­ern-ac­cented) at­tor­ney gen­eral, pos­si­bly pre­sag­ing a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.

If Trump starts that fight, I be­lieve he’ll lose it.

Arkansas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Mar­tin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eu­gene­lyons2@ ya­hoo.com.

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