MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2020
Searcey returns to Nebraska: Dionne Searcey grew up in Wymore, Nebraska—population, roughly 1,800 at the time.
She has gone on to a major journalistic career.
For our money, she wrote a somewhat peculiar essay for the New York Times Sunday Review in March of this year. We'll issue a "possible TMI" alert to those who would read the piece.
In fairness, the essay was designed to support Searcey's book, In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away. The book concerned Searcey's four-year stint as the Times' West Africa bureau chief.
Today, she returns to her native Nebraska with a front-page report in the Times.
Searcey's report concerns an important question: Why do (a whole lot of) people support Candidate Donald J. Trump?
No single front-page report could hope to answer that question. That said, we thought Searcey's report may be the most interesting profile we've ever seen of Trump voters in one location.
(As for the apparent arson incident around which the report is built, we'll only say that we've learned to be suspicious of all such events and incidents, even when they're true.)
Searcey lets some rural Nebraskans explain why they support Trump. We aren't supporting Trump, but we're interested in hearing this dispatch from Henderson, population roughly one thousand, a town in rural York County, 117 miles south of Omaha.
We think our "cable news" channels would have been much more informative in recent years if they'd ever conducted the kind of interviews Searcey is reporting. Along the way, we agree with Henderson's Jonathan Rempel, who's voting for the very same guy we've already voted against:
SEARCEY (11/2/20): The fire has trained Mr. Rempel’s focus on the divisiveness of the country, something he said he was tired of even though he knows his views are starkly different from many people who support Mr. Biden.
“Everybody wants to put people in a box so we can decide right away if we hate you. You’re a Trump supporter! You’re a Biden supporter! We hate you!” he said. “We need to quit that as a country. You are who you are, and I am who I am, and I can love you even if I don’t agree with you.”
We're voting the other way from Rempel, but we strongly agree with him about that.
It's very, very, very hard to hold a large continental nation together. A nation as large as this one is an amalgam of many different regional histories and regional cultures.
At present, our ability to see ourselves as one nation is under a great deal of stress. In the passage shown below, Searcey may perhaps open a window on one part of our sprawling continental cultural mix:
SEARCEY: Mr. Rempel enjoys the lonely feeling of being on the farm, where he can zone out in the cab of his combine or behind the wheel of his pickup, bouncing down gravel roads.
“I love being in flyover country. I love it. I embrace it,” Mr. Rempel said, walking through his rows of corn and fretting over every bent stalk. “I lived in Omaha. Nobody knew who you were. You could do whatever you wanted. You could go steal a car and run into a post and run away and nobody cares.”
Rural life, he said, offers accountability among people who share a set of values. Being around parents, grandparents, those “who take pride in you,” is grounding. It’s something he thinks is lost in big cities.
"Rural life offers accountability among people who share a set of values?" A few years ago, we were struck by something strongly resembling that sense during a short trip to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where we conducted a federal workshop for a group of employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
We probably wouldn't choose to live in Henderson, or in the larger Aberdeen, population 26,000 (though we wish it was cheaper to get there). But liberal elites have been mocking such locales at least since Hollywood produced such flyover-loathing William Inge vehicles as Picnic and Splendor in the Grass back in the mid-1950s.
(Secret message: Everyone in flyover country is mad with boredom, resentment and despair. Especially Rosalind Russell!)
Our enormously self-impressed liberal tribe tends to mock the flyover folk. When we do, the flyover folk can pretty much see who we are. For ourselves, we were strongly struck by the Aberdeen vibe, but also by Searcey's report.
Concerning the arson at the heart of the piece, we're always a bit unsure about politically instructive events of that type. Our team stages all kinds of hoaxes. Maybe the others do too!