When the student is ready, the master will appear. A useful saying, applicable not just to the esoteric world of kung fu fighting, but also to entertainment and politics. When the public is ready, their leader will appear. If the public needs to consume something, then that Something will materialize into the void where previously there was nothing, pushing – or rather, oozing – towards the boundaries of social acceptability like an upturned can of gelatinous cranberries oozes towards the sloping edges of a bowl. If society erects no boundaries, then you have a bona fide monster on your hands, a morally-deficient Übermensch gradually accumulating more power. I call it the Kardashian Principle. I don’t blame Kim for being a repugnant human being. She’s just filling a void. If not her, some other diva would rise to take her place. I instead blame the people who keep her in the headlines by consuming the ideas she represents.
Similarly, I don’t blame Trump. I think the media has taken the wrong approach in dissecting his campaign like a fetid frog. There’s too much of a focus on blaming the man while ignoring the supporters responsible for his success. After he cinched the Republican nomination, a thousand think pieces sought to humanize Trump supporters as pitiable, wayward souls who – left behind by industrial evolutions and technological progression – were all but forced to throw their lot in with a bigot and a racist and a fool. The implication? It’s Not Their Fault, these simple sheep – these Good Americans – who were led astray by Nazi Voldemort. I disagree. Without his legion of Good Germans, Hitler would have been an obscure painter. Without his Death Eaters, Voldemort would have languished in the magical antiques business. Indeed, Trump would not exist without his supporters who, in reality, are borderline mental defectives that fit neatly into one-dimensional stereotypes.
I pondered this on a sunny September afternoon as I found myself at a Trump rally in a packed 2,500 person auditorium in Toledo, Ohio. I was sitting in-between a mountain of meat and a geriatric whose drooping flesh was in the process of making a daring escape from his face. Of course, they were both white, as were 2,495 other people in the room. (A whole two people of color? I’ll get to that later.)
The most salient of the human cartoons surrounding me was undoubtedly the Male White Trash Thug, or “wanksta.” This variety of lowlife stuck out because of their affinity for superlatives. They pulled up to the auditorium’s parking lot in the biggest, loudest trucks. They wore the most oversized clothes. Their forearms and calfs were adorned with enormous Celtic cross tattoos. Their wrists were weighed down with softball-sized diving watches. (Ironic, given that their only time spent underwater is when they drunkenly fall off their jet skis into Lake Erie; boy do white trash love jet skis.) And they smelled the most-est of cherry Black & Milds. They were trash so white that the pure absence of color evoked a dimensional void, the Phantom Zone into which Superman chucked General Zod.
At first, one might think that wankstas obsess with size in order to compensate for their microscopic penises. And while I’m sure that many a melanin-challenged FUBU aficionado does indeed have a member to make the ladies chuckle and point, it’s biologically unlikely that they all do. The more likely conclusion is that their lack of economic opportunity compels them to seek identity based not on money, but toughness – an exaggeration of masculine traits. A cornered cat turns sideways and arches its back to present a larger, scarier profile to an attacking predator. Similarly, polite society is always backing white trash’s perception of self-worth into a corner, but they’re damn well going to make sure they don’t go down without a fight, showing the world their biggest possible profile. These aggressive, atavistic tendencies dovetail nicely with Trump’s jingoism.
Of course, the fairer, female white trash specimens also lack economic opportunity, but they’re more likely to compensate – in an exaggeration of feminine traits – by becoming human versions of the Ford assembly line, cranking out babies in lieu of Model Ts. Indeed, the trashettes at the rally had accessorized that day with an average of three toddlers at the hip and one baby at the nip, each of whom will invariably grow up stupid. At least, given their stalwart conservative integrity, they’re not abusing the welfare system to raise these kids, right? Right? [Crickets chirp]
The older version of the wanksta is the Blue Collar Biker. They may or may not actually own a motorcycle, but they sure dress like they do. The BCB has gotten a few years older, but no wiser: they’re still prone to drug use and drunk driving. They work in some capacity around metal, whether in construction or at a machine shop. To the Celtic cross tattoo template of the wanksta, the bikers have added a clichéd mélange of unironic naval images, barbed wire biceps, and – a Nuyorican favorite – family member RIPs. (Who says white trash don’t appreciate other cultures?)
As the wanksta graduates to biker, the obsession with size remains. Thus, the ultimate expression of being is owning a big ol’ jet ski, a big ol’ motorcycle, a big ol’ Ford truck, and – of course – a few big ol’ guns. All the better to keep the turrorists and blacks, forever scheming on the margins of White America, away from all that is Good and Holy (namely, the jet skis). There are entire towns in Ohio where the male population consists solely of wankstas and bikers. (I grew up in one.) Start planning your next vacation! Hope you like jet skis!
Many bikers were there that day with their female counterpart, the biker babe. These (dyed) blonde women were drowning in middle age, once 7s in a favorable light with a metric ton of concealer, now straining with two metric tons to be 5s. Likely a waitress or bartender by day, by night she strives to maintain sexual relevancy despite her age. With a few divorces under her (leather studded) belt – and her nest long empty of the accidental pregnancies of her early 20s – she now defines herself by the men in her life and she’s probably at the rally because one of her biker beaus dragged her there. The good news is that it’s unlikely she actually gives enough of a shit about politics to turn out for Trump on election day, when in any case she’s likely working a double shift at the local Denny’s.
Of course, Trump rallies attract more than simply white trash. In fact, they’re real family affairs! However, the families also fit stereotypical profiles. That day in Toledo, they consisted of pot-bellied middle-aged men in 110% polyester golf shirts, their Petunia Dursley-esque wives, and their late-teens children who were dressed like they were leaving the golf course for a Kenny Chesney concert.
The dads ranged in size from merely fat to morbidly, polyester-straining-at-the-seams obese. These were men who, decades ago, captained their high school football team but now consoled themselves with armchair lamenting about the days The Blacks knew their place and just allowed the police to shoot them without getting so damn uppity about it. This is a lot that lives and dies for sports, yet for whom exercise means shuffling to the bathroom between reruns of 24. Like their white trash brethren, these cholesterol-sodden blobs have a few guns as well, but not to actually use. No, they own guns simply to talk about owning guns with other gun owners.
These types of men were often accompanied by wives: busybody baby boomers setting the social aspirations of their twilight years somewhere between The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but achieving little more than Married… with Children. Strapped into garish summer dresses and waddling precariously on wobbling cork wedges, they walked to their seats with heads tilted back, looking down their noses into the middle distance, content with their husbands’ middle management pensions never again to have a thought challenging their parochial worldview. From here on out it’s all Silver Sneakers at the local YMCA, followed by gossipy brunch at Target.
There were quite a few youngins in attendance as well, usually with their parents but sometimes also in groups by themselves. The girls wore conspicuous cross necklaces and averaged about three selfies per minute. The guys were dressed from Banana Republic’s College Republican collection: the predictable assortment of Sperrys, salmon chinos, and pique polos. The girls were all blonde and giggly, the guys all gangly and awkward. I’ve heard that conservatives are the wildest in the bedroom because of all their outward sexual repression. Judging by attendance at the rally, I figured there would afterwards be a mad rush on the local BDSM sex dungeons.
Finally, old folks with flaking, crusty, cronut skin were also interspersed throughout the crowd. You could tell where they were at a glance, as their walkers, canes, and wheelchairs were parked nearby and – when no one on the stage was shouting something about reducing government spending – you could hear their telltale asthmatic wheezing as they clung to life by virtue of, ironically, the latest in medical technology afforded to them by state-sponsored Medicare.
These were people for whom the act of dressing seemed to be a rebellion against society. But not in the Hot-Topic-black-nail-polish way. Rather, these sloppy septuagenarians were deliberately seeking to offend the sartorial senses with Shape-Ups, jorts, and Crocs. Each item of loose, mismatched clothing seemed chosen solely to elicit maximum repulsion. Compared to the preppy College Republicans, who made an active choice to abstain, these old bastards aged unwillingly out of the dating pool and consequently cast aside any pretense of fuck-giving; God was the lifeguard and their public swim was over. But they still had a little left to contribute to society: vehement racism.
To kick off the rally, a fat black minister resembling George Jefferson waddled out onto the stage and asked that everyone rise for a rambling prayer in which church was very much not separated from state. He tried desperately to link the values of the Trump campaign to black America, with about the same amount of logical soundness as a neo-Nazi campaigning for an Upper East Side city council seat. As he continued his meandering speech, most people sat back down and I almost forgot that it was still technically a prayer. Well, I would have forgotten had a devout father and son in front of me not been standing in pious, rapt attention throughout.
The kind of people who attend Trump rallies are categorically not huge aficionados of black culture. Thus, when Rev. Jefferson affirmed that “The Man is trying to divide us along racial lines… we need a whole new system, inclusive of people of color,” I let out an audible chuckle at the awkward silence of two thousand people with confederate flag bumper stickers wondering whether Führer Trump was playing some kind of cruel joke. The pasty parochials standing in front of me were surely trying to reconcile their need to be Good Christians and remain standing for a prayer with their primal urge to denounce everything to do with The Blacks. Perhaps sensing his tepid reception, the good reverend closed with a surefire racist crowd-pleaser: “All lives matter!”
Astonishingly, there was a second black man in the room that day: Don King, who came out on stage wearing a glittering sequined Dolly Parton jacket and waving American and Israeli flags. (Because nothing says “fiscal responsibility” like America’s annual $3 billion love affair with Israel.) Following up his use of the N-word earlier that day to describe “magical negroes” for a giggling white audience, he went on to reiterate that All Lives Matter. Given King’s evident dedication to the plight of American race relations, he must be related to Martin Jr. In any case, I expect that an NAACP Image Award is forthcoming. Fifteen minutes later, he began to wrap it up.
“I’ve always felt a camaraderie with Trump supporters, and I’d never do anything to help the Hillary campaign,” he finished ironically as he alienated every black human in America.
When Uncle Thomas left the stage, Bobby Knight stepped up to the podium, followed by Mike Pence rounding out the toxic coterie. Each gave a speech pushing the boundaries of truthiness and sanity. Then, after a long wait, the malignant man of the hour – the Dark Lord himself – ambled to the podium and pandered a predictable screed:
“Jobs, jobs, jobs… family… prosperous…” Yada, yada, yada. We’ve all heard it before.
Every once in a while, one of the white trash in the audience would interrupt their liege with a supplicant shout:
“Lock her up!”
“Trump that bitch!”
Or, my favorite, referencing Hillary’s recent characterization of Trump supporters: “We’re deplorable!”
Finally, at the end of his harangue, Trump walked off the podium to the front of the stage to greet his minions. Looking over the balcony at the scene below, I observed the tight mass of people pushing forward through the first floor aisles towards the stage, like a stream of dog piss finding the path of least resistance through a cobblestone path. When Trump finally left, the autograph-seekers, well-wishers, and Klansmen slowly trickled out and the auditorium emptied like the bladder of said dog. By this point I had to sadly accept the fact that no one had smuggled a 3D-printed zip gun past the venue’s metal detectors, so I wouldn’t be seeing Mike Pence pick Trump clumps out of his hair. Thus I left too, contemplating the sad state of The State.
Perhaps the pissy mutt that is American politics needs to be put down. The country has, deplorably, become content with superficiality over substance. People who consider themselves Tuned In are merely strays in the Washington dog pound, lining up for intellectual euthanization every four Novembers. While Trump supporters are a new variety of inbred mongrel, those who enthusiastically attend Hillary rallies are just as easily stereotyped: Lena Dunham’s Twitter Army of screeching SJWs, New York Yehudim, the Massachusetts Catholic Sperry-sporting set, stentorian black ministers, etc. They’re deplorable, you’re deplorable, I’m deplorable.
Such distinctions held little practical relevance after the Trump rally in the parking lot, where 2,500 people crammed into 500 cars all at once and the road rage began to build. The hillbilly camaraderie had evaporated and shrill honking filled the air as Cadillacs, minivans, and pickups towing jet skis jockeyed to move five feet a minute. I was getting pissed.
“Let me out, goddammit,” I shouted as a decrepit World War One vet in full regalia shot out in front of me in a demented dash for the street. “I’m just as deplorable as you!”