The False Case Of Us v Them

More than two years have passed since America elected Donald Trump as President. The fact that we have survived an incompetent maniac for nearly two years is proof of America’s greatness. All that time passed and I’m still trying to understand how the people of Appalachia and the Rust Belt (which I come from) helped make this happen. Despite soul searching and a lot of reading I still don’t have a conclusive answer but I do have another clue which I’d like to share with you today. Let’s explore.  

America is going through what I call a second industrial revolution. We are a post-industrial economy which is becoming an intellectual property/digital economy. The factory, mill and mining jobs of my youth are all but gone and they are never coming back. The family farm is on the verge of extinction and that has everything to do with industrial agriculture and virtually nothing to do with tax laws. So you can see where a huge pool of those who feel they have been forgotten formed. Perhaps by chance more than anything else, most of that pool is white. Most of them have deep family roots in the areas they live. People who live in Appalachia and the Rust Belt can often trace their families back several generations in that geographical area.

Along came snake oil salesman Donald Trump who told them they were getting screwed by a rigged system (he stole the term from Bernie Sanders). Trump also complained that as an outsider he was getting screwed by the political system. Right up to the final debate on October 19, 2016 he said he would not accept the results of the election unless he won (which he didn’t think he would.) Trump turned the race into the false case of “us” vs. “them”; with Trump being part of “us”. Other than age, gender, skin color and to a degree education (more about that later) Trump and I have nothing in common.

The only reason I have a comparable education is because I was fortunate enough to live within commuting distance of a state school I could afford (I paid my way 100%) that happened to be in the global top 25 in my major. I worked a full time job during college. Trump went to a (very good) private school which daddy paid for along with giving him a very generous salary/allowance. My father never gave me anything approaching four let alone nine figures in financial aid in my lifetime. He also didn’t have a hugely successful business for me to take over. I, like almost everyone in the Rust Belt didn’t come from that kind of background.

If you look at the denizens of Appalachia and the Rust Belt (which I didn’t leave until 1999) I am much more one of them than Trump ever could be. This is part of the dirty little secret: Trump is not one of the mythical “us”.

Trump started with the “them” from his announcement speech where he attacked Mexicans. He used a lot of dog whistles (remember Charlottesville and good people?) along the way but it was clear that he was as racist as any Klansman. Here is the reality: when it comes to life experiences and opportunities I have a lot more in common with African-Americans than I do with Lucky Sperm Cell Club members like Donald Trump. The same can be said for most Appalachians and the friends I left behind in the Rust Belt.

Instead of “us” vs. “them” I would suggest that it is more a case of exploiters (very much including Trump) vs the easily exploited. While many of the friends I left behind at the end of the last century may not be as well educated as I am and they don’t read the kind of material I do, they are far from stupid. Sooner or later they will realize that Trump is playing a game of divide and exploit. Remember his only legislative victory during his first two years was the Trump Tower Tax Cut. I stole that moniker from Chris Matthews because the only people it benefited are those wealthy enough to afford to live in Trump Tower. There may be an “us” but Trump certainly isn’t part of it and if there is a “them” Trump is their poster boy.

This article is the property of and its content may not be used without citing the source. It may not be reproduced without the permission of Larry Marciniak.