Part 2—The rustics' lament: Before airing last week's "town hall" special on CNN, Van Jones journeyed to Ohio. While there, he interviewed a family of white working-class blokes.
The rough-hewn patriarch, Scott Seitz, was described by Jones as "a life-long Democrat who voted for Obama twice." This time around, though, something had happened:
He'd voted for Candidate Trump!
Seitz's wife, Derinda Seitz, had also voted for Obama. This time around, she voted for every Democrat down-ticket, but she didn't cast a vote for president at all.
The Seitzes' three strapping sons also voted for Candidate Trump. In 2012, Cameron Seitz had voted for Obama. At that time, he was the only one of the sons old enough to vote.
Why had the Seitzes flipped? Why had these classic "fly-over" folk supported Obama in the past, then flipped over to Trump?
On last Tuesday's town hall program, Jones played tape of his earlier "kitchen table" meeting with the Seitzes. He then interviewed Derinda Seitz and Scott Seitz in person.
Why did the Seitzes flip from Obama to Trump? During the town hall program, the Seitzes began to explain in this part of the videotaped interview:
JONES (12/6/16): What did you like about Obama, and then what did you like about Trump?Scott Seitz was never asked to explain how Obamacare had "affected me personally with my own mother." He said this played a role in his vote, but no explanation was sought, and no explanation was given.
SCOTT SEITZ: I think Obama represents a lot of love. And I think that he's a good man and he did all he could and we supported him for two elections. And then when those changes really didn't come about, and Obamacare actually affected me personally with my own mother, I think we needed a change once again.
Trump seemed to come through here and he's speaking change again. So I think we still voted for change.
DERINDA SEITZ: I just, you know, I— I wouldn't vote for either one.
JONES: So you voted for a Democrat all the way down, but could not vote for Hillary Clinton?
DERINDA SEITZ: No. It was just her morals and his morals. I just— No, it—They, they both scared me.
Derinda Seitz wasn't asked to explain her comment about Candidate Clinton's morals. That comment also went unexplained as Jones sought to explain the Obama-to-Trump switch, while observing his one-hour time limit and speed-interviewing three hundred thousand other people.
So it typically goes at CNN "town hall" events! That said, Scott Seitz did offer some intriguing remarks on that videotape. After the family briefly claimed that they aren't a gang of snarling racists, Scott Seitz was shown saying this:
JONES: So how does a billionaire—I mean, you guys are seriously like the working-class backbone of America in the industrial heartland. I mean, how does a billionaire break through to the blue-collar worker?All the way from Ohio, the Seitzes appeared, then answered several more questions. Ironically, they'd been given more time to explain themselves on the Anderson Cooper program one night before.
SCOTT SEITZ: We put Democrats in office. And she turned around and forgot completely about us.
We are what makes this world go round. We built the tanks and bombs that won these country's wars, and for you to come through here and completely neglect us, we would have rather vote for, for anybody instead of her. And all the other stuff that Donald said didn't seem to make a hill of beans. She hurt us. And that's what it is.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JONES: Please welcome Derinda and Scott Seitz right here, all the way from Ohio.
Jones had appeared with Cooper to preview the town hall program. When he did, Cooper played longer excerpts of Jones' videotaped interview with the Ohio rustics.
Why had two-time Obama voters flipped over to Trump? On those longer videotape excerpts, Scott Seitz seemed to explain his wife's remark about Candidate Clinton's morals:
"You know, Hillary, we couldn't trust her...Anybody who deletes, as I understand it, 30,000 e-mails two days after she was subpoenaed, and then she takes her server and acid washes it and clears it, that, to me, is admitting guilt. And people in this area kind of really looked at that."
Scott Seitz was describing the claims our own team's mugging, clowning TV stars never deigned to address. They were too busy pleasuring us with all manner of tribally pleasing porridge and pap.
During Cooper's longer video excerpts, Scott Seitz also put more flesh on the bones of the family's economic concerns. After the airing of the tape, Jones even told Cooper that Seitz's remarks had brought CNN's own workers to tears:
SCOTT SEITZ (12/5/16): Hillary could have certainly been the commander in chief. If she would have spoke to the blue-collar worker, she would be sitting there.The next night, in the formal town hall program, viewers actually heard a bit less of Scott Seitz's economic-cum-"no respect" complaint.
JONES: So how does a billionaire—I mean, you guys are seriously like the working class backbone of America and the industrial heartland. How does a billionaire break through to the blue-collar worker? And what's it about him? I mean, it just drives me crazy. I don't understand. I'm confused.
SCOTT SEITZ: She wasn't even close. She never even mentioned us.
JONES: That's the—
SCOTT SEITZ: Is she— She heard us. We put Democrats in office and she turned around and forgot completely about us.
We are what makes this world go round. We built the tanks and bombs that won these country's wars and for you to come through here and completely neglect us, we would have rather vote for anybody instead of her. And all the other stuff that Donald said didn't seem to make a hill of beans. She hurt us. And that's what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's so— I'm so glad you did this and then we played a long chunk. And there's going to be a lot more tomorrow night. And that hurt is so real and it is—so it's not political pundits talking. It's people whose lives have been affected and it's so easy, I think, for folks on the left to demonize Trump voters as being—as painting everybody with a very unfair broad brush.
JONES: When he said that, "She hurt us," camera guys teared up. It wasn't the rage and this stuff and the "lock her up" and all that stuff. That was so far from that kitchen table. And I just hope that people will watch this thing tomorrow and start to understand we've been talking past each other. We don't understand each other.
What was the complaint about Candidate Clinton? "She never even mentioned us," Scott Seitz said, evoking something Professor Lilla had said just a few weeks before.
Might we state the obvious? The Seitzes are just one Ohio family. You can't "explain" the nation's 63 million Trump voters just by speaking with them, or just by speaking with anyone else.
That said, we heard quite a few echoes in what the Seitzes said. In particular, we heard an echo of Professor Lilla, whose essay for the New York Times we'll discuss by the end of the week.
We also heard the words of the old labor song we cited not long ago. "I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister," Jim Garland wrote long ago, in the 1930s. Way back then, during labor wars, Garland also wrote this:
We worked to build this country, mister,
You enjoyed a life of ease.
You've stolen all that we built, mister.
Why must our babies starve and freeze?
The Seitzes' sons didn't starve and freeze. But like Garland, the Seitzes felt that they had "built this country," and that they'd been thrown away.
Professor Lilla had an eminently sensible thing to say about that general perception. We liberals have responded with silly op-eds which evaded his point, and with ruminations about the way we sometimes sneer about the folkways of rustics like the Seitzes—for example, about the way we sometimes sneer at such folk for eating too much fast food.
Drum tried talking sense to Krugman. All in all, we'd have to say that the conversation supported the Seitzes' lament.
Tomorrow: Fast food concatenation