Charley Pride (may have) voted for Clinton: Kevin Drum isn't a country music star, no matter what he may tell you.
He does remain our favorite blogger. Last week, he wandered into the ongoing debate about the 16-hour Ken Burns film, Country Music.
Politically speaking, the PBS film emerged at a somewhat peculiar time. Burns was exploring part of the national culture of Southern and rural white working-class America. He was doing so at a time when this part of the blessed community has become especially unpopular among PBS contributors and other top people who know.
The blessed community has split into tribes. And on the whole, Nashville's tribes have aligned themselves Over There:
Kathy Mattea grew up in West Virginia—and her family had come from coal. The state, the industry and the lingering culture of coal are all aligned Over There.
Merle Haggard grew up in central California, not on the state's golden coast. He grew up in a family which had been derided as Okies.
According to a 1969 Rolling Stone review, his songs "romanticize[d] the hardships and tragedies of America’s transient proletarian." He "addressed himself exclusively to Nixon’s 'silent majority,' the suburban working class."
In the present day, California is massively blue, but central California is red. And even as early as 1970, country music was part of the national culture of much of the white working class, with Tex Montana starring on stage in far-north Massena, New York.
The remarkable Dolly Parton grew up without running water in rural eastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky is part of the red tribe today.
The remarkable Charley Pride grew up the son of a sharecropper in rural Mississipi. Across the nation, the descendants of Charley Pride's people are part of the blue tribe today.
Tomorrow, we're going to journey all the way back to the young Minnie Pearl, before her years at the Opry. But for today, we'll only note this:
As Burns related the stories of these musicians and their families, he was largely describing the national culture of today's Trump voters, the people found Over There.
Over Here, in PBS country, those people are frequently seen as Those People. This gave the Burns film a somewhat peculiar political feel, one Burns almost wholly avoided.
Out in Cali, Drum waded in last week, offering an interesting post which many readers disliked. Truth to tell, we thought Drum was pretty much wrong in the part of his assessment which drew tribal complaints, but his post helps direct us toward an important point.
"Conservative Kool-Aid Is Powerful Stuff"—so read the headline on Drum's post. And just for the record, there is no doubt that this claim is true.
Drum listed four crazy things The Others believe, one of which didn't necessarily strike us as crazy. But then, he turned the tables on blue-tribe voters, eventually offering the highlighted remark:
DRUM (9/30/19): And besides, even if Trump was a little over his skis in his conversation with Ukraine’s president, there really is a huge scandal surrounding Joe Biden. Right? Clearly the guy tried to call off the Ukrainian dogs in order to help his son make a ton of money, and used a billion dollars in taxpayer money to make his threat good.Uh-oh! Readers disliked the possible suggestion that we liberals believe as many crazy things as they do Over There.
Don’t just shake your head at this. Lots of Republicans believe it. And frankly, a lot of you probably believe equally crazy things about them. The big difference is that while some liberals may watch more MSNBC than is good for them, they also ingest other news that prevents them from going entirely over the edge. A great many conservatives don’t. It’s just Fox and Hannity and Breitbart 24/7.
We liberals don't "go entirely over the edge," Drum was quick to say. But readers didn't like the highlighted statement, and we think it mis-assesses our own tribe's role in the destructive national schism we have described above—in the division and conquest which lets the powerful rule.
Do modern liberals believe as many crazy things as modern conservatives do? In our own knee-jerk instant assessment no, we probably don't.
At present, we don't have a corporate apparatus directing as many factual absurdities at us as The Others do. Our long-standing tribal problem mainly lies somewhere else.
To what tribal problem do we refer? A few months before releasing Okie From Muskogee, Haggard described a deeply unhelpful tribal impulse in his song, Hungry Eyes.
He was describing the struggles of the "Okie" class during an earlier era. But we'd have to say that his basic indictment basically holds true today:
Another class of people put us somewhere just below;Another class of people put them somewhere just below? By all accounts, that was true when (white) Dust Bowl refugees arrived in California in the 1930s. But we'd have to say it's basically an accurate picture of one part of our national struggles today.
One more reason for my mama's hungry eyes.
Blue-tribe members, please! By the time of our own struggle with Tex Montana at the Golden Horseshoe, the nation's bicoastal pseudo-elites were deeply invested in free-floating disparagement of the white working-class. (Far-left politics of that era tried to address this problem.)
This condescension has never gone away. It's what keeps Donald J. Trump in power. Before that, it's what got him there.
Don't get us wrong! We liberals do believe all kinds of things which aren't true, most of which involve our frequently self-flattering, performative stances concerning race and gender.
We believed that Michael Brown had his hands up and that he said don't shoot. We believe that women are paid 80 cents on the dollar for doing the very same work.
(When candidates repeat the latter claim, we praise them for their candor. When candidates say Michael Brown was "murdered," we praise them for not backing down.)
(When candidates criticize an opponent for having opposed mandated busing way back when, we ignore the fact that they themselves don't support mandated busing today. Up in Gotham, we'll slander Asian-American parents and kids in the most unprincipled ways, insisting that they're fiendishly taking our own tribe's seats in the best schools away.)
There's no mandated claim in these areas that we won't rush to support. And as we engage in this endless ridiculous conduct, we never stop telling the world that The Others are crazily dumb.
Bicoastal liberals, please! We're so dumb that we were able to see Stormy Daniels as a "feminist hero" and as a "feminist icon" when she shook down Donald J. Trump for a big sack of cash. We're so spectacularly dumb that when we gazed on her visibly crazy lawyer, we actually thought that we were seeing a guy who should run for president!
When The Others see us doing these things, they think that we're stupendously dumb. Anthropologists tell us that this view can't exactly be said to be wrong.
Do blue-tribe voters believe as many crazy things as red-tribe voters do? It's hard to say, but we would say that we probably don't.
They've been told, by people they trust, that climate change is a hoax, and they've long been inclined to believe it.
They were told that Obama was born in Kenya. According to surveys which we were too lazy to "interrogate," a large percentage of red-tribe voters believed that crazy claim too!
Maybe Drum wasn't all that wrong in the outlandish thing he said. Red-tribe voters have swallowed a lot of Kool-Aid down through the years. But in fairness, we blue-tribe voters have done our share of swallowing too.
That said, the basic tribal stance that defines our role in our current national breakdown is our condescension toward the white working class. Topping the charts is our tribal insistence that Those People pretty much have to be racists.
Each of our tribes has a very strong tendency to be extremely dumb. Anthropologists keep telling us that nothing is going to change that.
They tell us that our blue-tribe dumbness is a function of basic human wiring. They tell us we're wired to spot the dumbness, but only when it's found Over There.
Tomorrow: On the road with the young Minnie Pearl