How did my home town become Trumpland?

[OK, I said I wasn’t going to do a Sift this week, and mostly I’m holding to that. But this single article just popped out.]

On the morning of Election Day, my wife and I cast our ballots in New Hampshire and then started driving west, heading to Quincy, Illinois, where I grew up. I didn’t think I was on a research trip. I just thought we would be visiting friends and that I would give a talk at the local Unitarian church.

We listened to the early returns on the radio, then stopped for the night in Erie, Pennsylvania. I went to bed comparatively early, around midnight. Ezra Klein had just explained why there probably weren’t enough uncounted Democratic votes in Wisconsin to erase Trump’s lead, and I decided I didn’t need to see any more.

At least Illinois was a blue state, called for Clinton shortly after the polls closed. But it differs from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan mainly in that Chicago is a bigger city than Cleveland, Milwaukee, or Detroit. Once you get past the Chicago suburbs, you’ll find rural areas and small towns just like the ones that made Trump president.

Small towns like Quincy. It has roughly 40,000 people, a population level that has been fairly constant since it was a Mississippi riverport boom town in the 1840s. It is a small regional center, the biggest town for a hundred miles in any direction, and it dominates Adams County, which has a total population of 67,000. The vote totals from Adams County look like this:

Trump      22, 732
Clinton      7,633
Johnson    1,157
Stein              248

The people I had come to see are all liberal Unitarian Universalists, and their problems put mine in perspective. Like most Democrats, I felt kicked in the stomach by the election results. Trump’s victory didn’t feel like an ordinary defeat; even nearly a week later, it feels like a rejection of everything I believed America stood for. I have been looking at my country, wondering what had happened to it and where it might be headed. But my friends in Quincy are looking out their doors and feeling surrounded by the Trump signs in their neighbors’ yards. They weren’t surprised to see their town go Republican (and truthfully, neither was I), but Trump? Their neighbors?

If I were a real journalist, I would have spent my week interviewing local Trump supporters at random and telling you what they said. But to be honest, I didn’t have it in me. And over the last few months I’ve seen a number of such interviews on television and learned relatively little from them. (Some different language is being spoken, and I can’t crack it. Wednesday morning, during breakfast back at the hotel in Erie, I overheard a table of people telling each other that Hillary was corrupt, but Trump just wanted to do what was right for America. I don’t know how anyone can look at Trump’s long history as a con man and come to that conclusion, but I suspected that asking that question wouldn’t have gotten me an enlightening answer.)

Instead, I did what I usually do in Quincy: I walked. It’s a very walkable town, much of it unchanged since I was a boy. But some of it has changed, and as I walked I thought about that in a new way.

By now, Quincy has exported most of two generations of intellectual talent. At my high school reunions, people mostly fall into three groups: the few who inherited local family businesses and are doing fine; a much larger group that got a college education, moved away, and are mostly also doing quite well; and a third group of probably about the same size that didn’t go to college, stayed, and are surviving. (The people who don’t survive, I suppose, don’t show up at reunions.)

Like any regional center, Quincy requires trained professionals — the town’s biggest employer is the local hospital — which it mostly imports. A few years ago, when I was coming home often and spending far too much time with my parents’ doctors, those doctors were mostly Asians. (The doctors I remember from growing up were old white men with names like Brenner and Johnson.) When I would read articles in the local paper about my old high school, the prize-winning kids would often not have the Germanic names of old Quincy families, but names I associate with China or India.

In the mid-20th century, Quincy was a manufacturing center. My Dad worked in one of the factories, which had been owned by a local family; the corporate headquarters was one building over from the manufacturing plant. The company has long since been sold to ADM, headquartered in Chicago 300 miles away. I doubt it employs nearly so many people now, or that the high school graduates who work there make enough money to own a house and send their children to college. Most of the town’s other factories are either gone completely or are shadows of their former selves.

One other striking difference from the town of my youth is the subdivisions of McMansions on the east side of town, in areas that I remember as fields. When I saw them starting to go up, I was incredulous: Who in Quincy could afford them? I knew there were old families with old money, but surely not this many of them. But strangely, every year, there were more of them and they got bigger.

Eventually somebody explained it to me: Outsiders were retiring here. Quincy has a comparatively low cost of living (thanks in part, I imagine, to my high school classmates working for not much money), and low construction costs. If you sell your three-bedroom in St. Louis or Chicago, you can afford to build your dream house in Quincy.

I’ve known all this for a while, but I had never put it together before. This time, as I walked I wondered: All those people who stayed here without a family business to inherit, how did the town look to them? The promising kids who move away and never come back. The good jobs going to foreigners and to corporate climbers who are spending a few years in the sticks in hopes of returning to headquarters at a higher level. The acres of mansions that you can’t figure out who lives in them. How do they feel about all that?

The word that popped into my mind was colonized. Like this wasn’t their town any more.

Trump supporters have been telling us this for a while, of course. They’ve been saying “We need to take our country back.” But I had always interpreted that as metaphor, having something to do with gay rights and racial integration. But maybe they very literally feel like the natives in a colonial empire.

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  • Roger Green  On November 14, 2016 at 9:03 am

    My condolences to all of us

    • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Thanksgiving is going to be “fun” with the Hillary-hating/Trump supporting members of the family………….I’ve stipulated to the hostess (daughter) that if one comment about the election comes up, the cranberry sauce will adorn the fool’s face……….Still too raw. Turkey, family, and tension – worth it this year?

      • busterggi  On November 14, 2016 at 10:33 am

        No, no it isn’t.

    • Trent Saxton  On November 15, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      Did you get to keep your doctor? Did your fuel costs go up? Did inflation take a toll insidiously? How about that transparency he promised? Libs need to suffer like the other half of the nation that has been ignored for 8 years.

      • 1mime  On November 15, 2016 at 7:50 pm

        Did you get to keep your doctor? A: Were you one of the people who has always had health coverage? Never been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition? Couldn’t afford coverage no matter which doctors were on the plan?

        Did your fuel costs go up? A: Assume you’re not talking about gasoline or diesel because those have been low, low, low…like $2/gallon?

        Transparency? You’ll have to flesh that one out before I can respond.

        Suffer like the other half of the nation that has been ignored for 8 years? A: Please provide more detail about your suffering so I can respond.

      • B Schleppenbach  On November 15, 2016 at 8:41 pm

        I did. They didn’t. If you look at the numbers, things improved mightily between 2008 and 2016. Jobs for the unskilled aren’t coming back. Trump can con these sad folks, but as always the economy will fare badly under the GOP. (You can look it up.)

      • Bill G  On November 16, 2016 at 7:27 am

        Trent…yes I did get to keep my doctor, my fuel costs, ….diesel, gasoline and propane, all were less, inflation did not take an insidious toll on me over the last eight years and I need some specifics re; your comment on transparency to comment further.

  • Bill G  On November 14, 2016 at 9:12 am

    The irony is, it seems they’re looking to heap all the blame on the government for either creating or not “fixing” their situation. So much for personal responsibility.

    The day after the election, NBC National news did a piece in rural MIch. interviewing a young Trump voting farmer. In the first portion of the spot, the farmer lamented that government had forgotten people like him. At the end of the spot when asked if Trump would be able to provide the kind of government he wanted, he answered that if he could just “get government out of the way”, that would be a good start.
    Watching, I was furious with the reporter for not asking the obvious follow up question……..asking for an example of how the government could “get out of his way”.

    Could the government get out of his way by not allowing the farmer to collect unemployment comp. like many do in the off season? Could the gov. move aside and not provide pricing subsidies for corn and other crops?
    Could the gov. get out of his way by eliminating farm fuel subsidies and credits not afforded us city dwellers?
    Could the government get out of the way be eliminating other special farm tax credits and deductions?
    It’s hard to have a constructive honest conversation with people who can’t even be honest with themselves.

    • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Yep, lump this farmer in with all the seniors who hate Obamacare while stating “don’t touch my medicare” ?? There are no words………

  • Tim  On November 14, 2016 at 9:17 am

    I tried to explain something similar to a professor that came in Wednesday morning complaining about the election (I work in a very liberal town in a very liberal ivy league school). He didn’t want to listen, of course, as he was feeling distraught and only wanted to rant.

    I can’t say that I’m happy about the results and I understand why people are overly concerned, but I’ve long felt that both sides consistently use their own facts when considering politics (and the world) and that if we can’t learn to listen to the other side, then we will gradually grow further apart. It’s why I can’t bring myself to unfriend Trump supporters, even though in the moment I may want to: I need a check on my own assumptions, even if I disagree with the other side.

    Where we go from here is an interesting question and I’m not sure that I have an answer except to continue to fight hate with love and try to understand our neighbors, even if we disagree.

    • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Fight hate with love……yes, that worked well for the Jews during Hitler’s reign…

      • Martha Legare  On November 14, 2016 at 10:26 am

        Loving people we don’t agree with, does not imply collusion – just an openness to see them as human.

      • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

        Of course, point was to illustrate that you have to have a receptive listener on the other side. Enjoyed your retrospective on the south.

    • Salpy  On November 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

      That thing about facts struck me as well–it’s really come home to me how we all have our own facts, and refuse to believe that the other side’s facts might be right (usually because they directly contradict). It also seems like we can no longer agree on which sources are trustworthy. How are you to have a discussion when you can’t even agree on the facts or who to trust? I keep running into this problem.

      • Ken Rhodes  On November 14, 2016 at 2:46 pm

        Salpy and Tim–You’ve got my curiosity aroused.

        “…long felt that both sides consistently use their own facts when considering politics.”

        Has it been your personal experience that the claims of the two sides, when stated as “fact,” are equally valid?

      • Tim  On November 14, 2016 at 4:03 pm

        Hi Ken, I agree with Salpy that the real problem is agreeing on who to trust. I have friends that trust Breitbart for their news, and it is hard to tell them to consider using other sources when (to them) it seems that most sources get it wrong. I always encourage use of Politifact, but that doesn’t mean that people will check it.

        To be perfectly honest, I don’t think both sides work from equally valid sources. But how do you convince someone to change their sources when they claim every source is corrupt? (Even/Especially when a major party will condemn fact-checkers and the media in general.)

      • Salpy  On November 15, 2016 at 12:47 pm

        Hi Ken,
        So speaking of personal experiences, yes, I’ve run into the situation where someone has rejected my facts because they were culled from a source that “lies” (I believe I was relying on an NYT article, though I also check out governmental sources, this website, snopes). I’ve also had the situation where they tell me that x course is what we have to pursue because of y and z facts, but when I research y and z, I’m finding them to be not true at all. Trying to point that out gets me nowhere.
        Now, and I think this is answering what you’re actually asking, if y and z were true, then x would be a perfectly acceptable solution. I have had the opposite, too, though, where the conclusion is, what I find to be, a ridiculous one that does not follow logically from the given facts.
        Hah, so I guess my actual answer to your question is: sometimes. Sometimes the claims would be valid, if the facts are true, and sometimes, the claims have made no sense to me whatsoever and make me question what I know as true. Depends on the person. The first scenario frustrates me (as it teases me with the hope of resolution if we could only agree on facts), and the second just makes me throw my hands up in frustration and give up.

      • 1mime  On November 15, 2016 at 2:47 pm

        Here is a perfect example of the failure of this logic. Trump pledged to fire federal employees because of “corruption”….which corruption hasn’t been substantiated and which firing would result in other consequences in terms of services. Rather than justify staffing “reductions” or even “firing” based upon actual situations or justifiable need, there is the simple announcement that firings will occur. Under Pres. Obama, the federal workforce was reduced below the increases that occurred under GW Bush, and salary levels were as well.

  • Larry Benjamin  On November 14, 2016 at 9:35 am

    With Trump’s election and the Republicans in charge of Congress, it may seem as if “America” has spoken and they have a mandate to do whatever they want. In reality, the country is still deeply divided, and with a tiny percentage of votes in the right places going the other direction, we would have had a very different result. Now the Republicans are going to have to deliver on their promises as they have no excuse of anyone standing in their way.

    At the same time, this is a stark demonstration of how the Democratic party is no longer the party of the working class. They’ve become the party of urban dwellers, and because our system is set up to favor small towns and rural areas, it’s unlikely that Democrats will even be able to win elections on the state level unless they can come up with some way to appeal to the third group you identified. “Colonized” is a very accurate way of describing how they feel, and is far less condescending than dismissing them as bigots who only want to return to an imaginary past when they were in charge and everyone else knew their place.

    • busterggi  On November 14, 2016 at 10:35 am

      “this is a stark demonstration of how the Democratic party is no longer the party of the working class. They’ve become the party of urban dwellers”

      Because people who live in cities don’t work? Because they’re .. those people?

      • Larry Benjamin  On November 14, 2016 at 10:45 am

        That’s part of it, but it’s also that city dwellers are seen as a bunch of simpering intellectuals who look down their noses at the “real America.” Even though Trump spent his life in NYC, because of his deliberate political incorrectness, he’s an honorary redneck.

      • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 10:46 am

        No, different sensibilities, experiences, opportunities. It needs to be said that many, certainly not all, who live in desperate situations – whether rural or abandoned cities – are choosing to do so. Even with legitimate reasons for staying (family, finances, educational limitations), the choice to remain, remains. It is fair to ask why more haven’t migrated to cities where there are opportunities. At the core of the problem lies educational and class issues, but choice is there. One can understand the frustration while wondering why more haven’t risked moving out of the circumstances that entrap them. Is it easier to stay? Fear of the unknown? I assume many if not most benefit from SNAP, etc, while railing against the government that is ignoring them. The irony is that the Republican Party has never considered this group with sufficient relevance to offer them the help they want. Trump played them, they said, “why not”, and history will determine the rest. With total control of all branches of government at the federal level, majority control of state legislatures and governorships, it would be easy for the GOP to feel they are the chosen ones for the majority of Americans. The Red Wall is dominant, but will it shut more out than invite in?

      • Larry Benjamin  On November 14, 2016 at 10:53 am

        Slate recently had an article about how immigrants are moving to rural areas and small towns, and in most cases are revitalizing them. This also comes with resentment from the locals over the inevitable cultural shift, and these are the people who voted for Trump. ironically, they may have voted to exclude the very people whose presence will eventually improve those areas.

      • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 11:51 am

        Once again, I would like to observe that many who complain about the plight of their towns – no work, blight, etc. – are choosing to stay in these places – and that is OK but don’t blame others for your choice. The irony of being resentful that others would move there, infusing these areas with their taxes and community interest, is disingenuous. As legitimate as the problems resulting from globalization of our world and the growth of technology in the workplace, those times will not come back – not with a DJTrump nor a HR Clinton as president. At some point, unemployed or underemployed people have to accept responsibility for the choices they make and accept the consequences of their decision(s). Resentment of others who have been more fortunate in life may make one feel better but it changes nothing. Educational and family limitations complicate change and moves. Yes, there are things government can do to help those who are willing to acquire new skills and better educations. What is not acceptable is using personal situations as an excuse to do nothing while complaining that it is all government’s fault. That may sound hard, (I am a true blue liberal), but it is true.

      • Marty  On November 14, 2016 at 4:25 pm

        1mime, you are vastly overstating the freedom of the lower sections of America. When you have the choice between working two jobs at minimum wage (taking all your free time) to feed your family, and your children starving, that’s really no choice at all. When imigrating to a city means that your children will go hungry for a week, it isn’t an option. When, to feed your family, you spend all your time working to feed your family, getting an education isn’t possible. These people are resentful, because in a very real way, they are slaves in a part of America that has been largely forgotten.

      • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 5:43 pm

        Marty, what I said was simplistic, and I apologize for that, however, at various points in people’s lives, they made choices that left them with fewer options. They didn’t go to college or re-train for a new skill; they had more children than they could afford; they stayed in a setting that guarantees more of the same. I understand people get “locked in” but I’m trying to focus on the big picture here. My point dealt with the early decisions people make in their lives which impact their future and that of their families. Many men during the depression had to leave their families to go where work was. It wasn’t any easier for them than it would be for men (or women) today. Single parents have a tougher time – they have to be both bread winner and head of household. Being poor or near poor is tough but if anyone thinks the jobs of yesteryear are coming back, they are wrong.
        That’s why education/employable skills are so important. One never know what is ahead but tries to prepare for it as best they can. There are lots of lessons from the depression years which most here are probably too young to appreciate but the poor today have social safety props (SNAP, welfare, Workmen’s comp, Medicaid, etc) that people during that horrible time didn’t.

        I ask you, if a person is working two jobs with a family and is still poor, what would you solution be for them? Stay where they are barely eking out a living?

    • jh  On November 17, 2016 at 11:35 am

      the democrats are the party of the working class. When I turn on the faucet and I have reasonably clean water, I thank the democrats. When I can go out and not get into a coughing fit, I thank the democrats. When I get paid overtime (when I had an hourly job), I thank the democrats. When the company provides me safety gear to ensure my health and safety, I thank the democrats. This is just a few things in a long line of things that democrats have done for me and all Americans.

      meanwhile – this is what republicans have done. They have destroyed unions so it will always be one against the full strength and power of a company. They have used abortion to wage war against 50% of the human population because they believe that women are animals. They have wasted money on trickle down economics that has failed for 30 years. They have cut social programs such as medicaid and SNAP so that families with too little have even less. They have started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to get oil. They have repeatedly investigated Hillary Clinton and her husband and gotten zip, zilch, nada, zero of those “heinous” crimes they tell their gullible masses. They have reduced religious liberty and freedom for all by enshrining a fundamentalist evangelical Taliban version of christianity. They have raped the public institutions that are designed to protect all Americans including the SEC, the IRS, the EPA. They have catered to the 1% and ignored the rest of us for decades. They have lied, cheated, and stolen not only from liberal america but from their own conservative republican voters.

      So no – I will not be ashamed that I am an east coast liberal. I will not be ashamed for standing with LGBT people and demanding that all people be treated well in my society. I will not be ashamed for demanding that companies not pollute my waters, my land, my air. I will not be ashamed that I stand with BLM and demand that police not shoot first. I will stand with minority groups who are gerrymandered and denied their right to vote as American citizens on some dubious massive voter fraud. I will not be ashamed that I am for feeding hungry children at the expense of another military weapon. I will not be ashamed of wanting every single american to have the security that they can see a doctor and not face a medical bankruptcy because of republicans. I will not be ashamed that I am for religious liberty for all and not just for a small radical fundamentalist variant that is no different from the Taliban’s version of Islam.

      Go on – tell me why I’m the uppity one when I’m the one that wants to help and all I get is my hand being bit.

      • Larry Benjamin  On November 17, 2016 at 9:48 pm

        I agree that in a practical sense, the Democrats are the party of the working class, since the greatest proportion of improvements in the lives of working people can be attributed to them. Unfortunately, many of them don’t see it that way, and their support of Trump is merely the latest instance of people voting against their own interests.

      • 1mime  On November 17, 2016 at 10:45 pm

        This is true. What is equally true is that the Democratic Party leadership has poorly communicated how it has and is helping working class people. Instead, they’ve allowed Republicans to seize the bully pulpit and create a narrative that the Democratic Party is doing nothing for the working class. Repeat something often enough to people who are frustrated, and it becomes fact. When has the Republican Party ever championed the working class? Donald Trump used this ploy but with how much sincerity, only time and actions will determine.

  • JRa  On November 14, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I am glad you wrote an article today. I never comment, but always read. I think it’s an interesting perspective. I live in an interesting county that’s both rural and has large-ish cities built by unionized factory jobs that no longer exist. Our county went for Clinton 51% to 41% (about 8,000 votes) and had high turnout (almost 85% of eligible voters). I haven’t crunched the numbers, but just briefly scanning the results by district, I’d say your observation likely holds even though Clinton won overall. I suppose the lesson there is probably the difference turnout makes.

    We homeschool and I was looking forward to taking Inauguration Day as a school holiday…I think we’ll skip it this time around. For any other Republican and any other candidate we would have continued. For this president-elect? Tough to want to do that.

  • Doug Watkins  On November 14, 2016 at 10:01 am

    You certainly have a better experience than I in visiting your home town. I have two places I consider to be my home town: Springfield, Massachusetts and Lima, Ohio. When I grew up both cities had lots of manufacturing and both were the county seat of their respective counties. In addition, Lima’s county was a rich agricultural area with numerous family farms surrounding it.

    I visited Lima in 2006 and was heart-broken to see what deterioration had occurred in this town. Everything was in decay and showed lack of maintenance. I chose NOT to stay in Lima but found a motel in a nearby smaller town that was also the county seat of its county, but it had always had an economy based on the surrounding agricultural prosperity and the businesses run by local families.

    Springfield is another matter. I left there in 1963 never to live there again. But before I left, I saw some of the local industries moving south in search of cheaper labor. Westinghouse home appliances had been a large employer, but Westinghouse has long vanished from Springfield and from the home appliance market. I still visit Springfield where a few of my friends from my childhood still live, but I find it depressing to see how the city has deteriorated over the years. I admit that I have not been there for several years and that I understand there has been some resurgence of its economy.

    My point is that I understand how frustrated those who live in Lima, in Springfield, and in hundreds of American cities just like them may feel because the jobs that fostered a strong middle class in those cities are no longer there. They went south and then they went overseas.

    Trump promised to bring these jobs back, but it seems to me that nobody asked him how. It’s like the lady in the old commercial said, “Where’s the beef?” These industries are gone. Go shop in Lowe’s or Home Depot and pick up a tool. Look where it was made — China. This was not caused by Republican or Democratic politicians. This was caused by consumers wanting to buy products for less money, and the labor content of those products was a big part of the expense and lower in 1950’s North Carolina and 2016’s China than it would have been in the United States.

    Yes, there are still good jobs out there, but most of them require skills that come only from higher education. And with our burgeoning costs for college, it limits some people from gaining an undergraduate degree much less an advanced degree. When I left Springfield in 1963 it wasn’t because the city was dying; it was in pursuit of a better paying job in my field that would be located in a town where I could attend college at night. In my view at the time I was investing in my future.

    So many today think that they can remain in the old home town and the jobs will come to them, but it just does not work that way. Of course, if you are in your 50’s, have always worked for the same company, and both that company and that industry have left your town, what can you do?

    These are the folks who heard Donald Trump’s “siren song” and voted for him. I hope that I am wrong, but I doubt that the kind of jobs which lots of these folks have always known just are not coming back.

    • Sal Petrillo  On November 14, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      This touches on the most heartbreaking thing: no one is going to get what they want from this election. Trump’s a professional con artist.

      I think this is a reason for the hostility I (and many associates) feel towards Trump voters. Even if I stipulate the validity of the reasons for their vote, as a citizen in a democracy you’re responsible for not following Foxy Woxy into his den, regardless of the apparent condition of the sky.

    • Kim Cooper  On November 17, 2016 at 2:25 am

      The jobs aren’t coming back. If the factories come back, they will be automated. Conservatives look to the past for their ideals, liberals look (a bit more) to the future.
      Trump isn’t going to bring back jobs — unless he really does rebuild infrastructure. But how would he pay for it? Only by raising taxes on the rich and corporations would there be enough money to pay to rebuild — or cut the military budget. None of which does he want to do. Businessmen know nothing about economics — people keep assuming if you know business you know economics, but they are different things. Trump appears to have swallowed the lie that cutting taxes will spur the economy. That has been disproved over and over again.

      • Doug Watkins  On November 17, 2016 at 5:37 am

        I totally agree with your comments.

      • 1mime  On November 17, 2016 at 9:20 am

        How will he (Trump) pay for it (infrastructure)? The way conservatives always do – cutting programs that benefit the middle and lower classes. It’s a tried and true method. No pain for the wealthy at all.

  • Joshua M  On November 14, 2016 at 10:11 am

    I can’t remember how I found you, but I’ve been consistently reading every Monday morning over my cup of coffee since I’m in the Cascadia region.

    I realize now that I’ve stuck with you because you are first and foremost insightful, but what really allows me to connect with you is that your insight is always driven by empathy and an attempt to understand. I, too, am from Trump country originally (Montana) and everything you said about your hometown is true about mine (in Billings, you either stay and do the family business to achieve success, toil in minimum wage jobs or, more recently, the oil fields in North Dakota, or you leave and don’t come back for more than a week or so a year if at all). I do not and cannot support Trump, nor do I or can I condone my friends and family who do, but I can at least try and see where they’re coming from.

    That felt a little too much like a rant, but I’ve never commented before, and this little piece inspired me to do this and say thank you for your kind words, for even if they aren’t fawning or exempting, they are still kind.

    • jh  On November 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      the thing that bothers me

      Trump says something racist about Mexicans. The Trump voter was okay with that.

      Trump says something about people with disabilities. The Trump voter was
      okay with that.

      Trump says something bigoted about Muslims. The Trump voter was okay with that.

      Trump says something sexist. The Trump voter was okay with that.

      I question at what point the Trump voter will go “That’s the end of the line. I don’t care how much you promise me to make america great, that’s a line I can’t cross.” Would it have been child rape? I’m not sure. And that’s the disturbing thing. I don’t know if there is anything that Trump did or said that would have disgusted the Trump voters… even child rape.

      The fact that the Trump voter could listen to this, be challenged on this by liberals, and still support this man disturbs me. It says something about the quality of the people who voted for Trump. They are all deplorable. (And I find it ironic that they were aghast when they are upset at being called racists and bigots but they had no problem supporting a man who lived on race baiting and name-calling.)

      • Larry Benjamin  On November 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        It’s enlightening to listen to right-wing talk show host Michael Savage, who was a Trump supporter from the beginning, and who articulates what Trump’s appeal is. The women accusing Trump of doing what he said he did in the Access Hollywood tape are all opportunistic liars. Trump sneezed in the back of a plane 20 years ago, and some moisture hit someone and now they’re complaining. Trump isn’t a racist because some illegal immigrants really are criminals. Trump isn’t Islamophobic because many terrorists really are Muslim. Trump isn’t a con man; he’s a brilliant businessman who created jobs and erected buildings in spite of the burdensome government regulations in Manhattan.

        Where we see racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and dishonesty, they see common sense and making mountains out of molehills. So when we accuse Trump supporters of these things, they feel that we’re just calling them names because they do not see themselves this way.

  • Martha Legare  On November 14, 2016 at 10:11 am

    “Colonized” is a word that kept popping up many years ago when I was proofing my friend’s dissertation on Appalachian Women’s Oral History. Though we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, we both belonged to a Southern Women’s Group, which went on hikes, led anti-racism workshops, and had “comfort food” potlucks (the latter being one of my reasons for leaving the South, but I digress).

    Nola’s dissertation examined how the whole South was “colonized” after the Civil War. The economy was devastated (75% of Alabama’s budget went to supplying artificial limbs), taken over by outsiders (carpetbaggers making money), blacks never getting a mule (much less 40 acres). And THAT, as you know, was when the Klan rose to prominence.

    That sense of colonization by whites and the continued economic slavery of blacks left the South with a pervasive sense of hopelessness prevalent to this day. Although Atlanta, where I now live, is a vibrant city, not far outside the perimeter the emotional tone of post Civil War continues to seep throughout the culture. (Read “Hillbilly Elegy” for an interesting perspective.)

    I wasn’t surprised by the election, but am grappling how to deal with the repercussions. And trying to shake off the hopelessness that came from both past heritage, and personal experience that shows me how complex systems of finance/ government/ business interact to bring about the current state. Fortunately, I’m meeting with a group of international colleagues this week to help process some of this from a world perspective. Wishing all well…

  • Terry Newberg  On November 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Wow, that’s an interesting insight into Quincy, and one I wouldn’t have thought of. Whether the idea of feeling colonized can apply to so many other rural areas that voted for Trump, I don’t know, but I’ve seen those McMansions popping up in rural areas here in the Northwest also (and always assumed they were local people who somehow made good).

  • Matthew Carlin  On November 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Good, sad post.

    This is a worldwide byproduct of globalization. Basically everywhere, the failed are colonized by the successful. If you’re the least bit plugged into the global economy, but you’re not doing well, what you see is people reorganizing the world for their benefit, and yourself in the way, and only a limited patience for your existence. It sounds rather like being Palestinian, living too close to settler land, doesn’t it?

    I work as a mathematician/programmer in Silicon Valley, and I have sometimes thought of retiring to a rural community, though, critically, not the one I grew up in. I would never build a McMansion, but I would definitely retire with enough money to build a nice house, and I would definitely be an outsider. They used to call people like me “carpetbagger”. But I would likely be one of the more powerful people in town. I’d be the colonizer.

    • Ken Rhodes  On November 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Don’t worry about being perceived as a carpetbagger. My experience is that outsiders who come in to extract what they can from the locals are seen that way, but those of us who are lucky enough to retire with a nice little nest egg are generally welcomed. We’re not seen as taking anything away from anybody (a job or some other opportunity). Rather, we’re usually welcomed with “help keep Quincy green–bring money.”

  • HA Bond  On November 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

    I’m glad you posted. I read your posts every week but rarely leave a comment. This is really to thank you for hanging in there and generally being able to shed an interesting light on whatever is going on. We are pretty devastated in my family and church community right now. Many of us believe that more climate changing denial is going to make all this moot in about 20 years as there won’t be much of the world still inhabitable. It was iffy if it could be changed with HRC in the White House but now, really, we’re all just screwed. My friends in Indiana and Arkansas and Missouri think that Trump will bring back manufacturing and save them. Not only will he not be able to do that, but their towns will be lost to super tornadoes and their farms will be lost to drought. There’s no answering their facts, their truths. Which in the end has doomed us all.

    • Marty  On November 14, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      Things aren’t as bad as you suggest, there are upcoming technologies to remove carbon dixoide from the air. We will manage to reverse global warming. That said, it will be far more expensive than it could have been.

      • 1mime  On November 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm

        Just what financial and political commitment do you see from the Republican Party or Donald Trump, Marty, for reversal of global warming? Who will fund this?

  • rabbiadar  On November 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for your insightful, compassionate post. I live in the SF Bay Area, but I grew up in Tennessee. I spent Election Day working as a volunteer nonpartisan poll monitor making sure that every citizen got their vote in a rural county in Georgia. African Americans there worry about a resurgence of the Klan.

    “Colonization” is a great word for the feeling I picked up from everyone: those who have been cut off from prosperity and those who are doing well but feel threatened by forces critical of their gains.

    Thanks for giving me a new frame with which to think about things.

  • Andrew  On November 14, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Colonization is exactly the right word. The cities have colonized the rural areas. They mine them for low cost labor and materials, and install friendly regimes of locals for personal benefit. Use local infrastructure projects like sewer systems and water treatment to drain city coffers over the long haul through interest payments; use the interest payments to finance city banks and shareholders. None of this necessarily happened deliberately. But it is happening. And the locals are throwing off the yokes.

    There are three possible responses of course. Double down on a city-friendly strategy. Or, reunite cities and their immediate countryside. Make them less strange to one another somehow. Or keep doing the same things, and wait for the city or country to explore or implode.

    • wtfthatnoise  On November 14, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      Really? Cities colonizing rural areas? Where? Please give me an example. I feel somewhat sorry for folks who feel colonized, but maybe they should join the clubs left in the wake of this country’s history. Because Trump’s campaign was so mixed with messages of hate, there plight moves me much less than it otherwise might.

    • Lee Thomson  On November 15, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      My understanding about the city/suburb interactions is that the suburbs are parasitic on the urban area, requiring infrastructure that is more expensive per capita to install and ultimately serves a smaller population than similar work in an urban setting.

      I had not thought of cities as colonizing rural areas ever. It is absolutely true that cities draw population from rural areas, and possibly resources, but it is not clear to me how that constitutes colonizing. If workers move to cities but send money back to rural areas, that is one thing, and in that case the support those area.

      • 1mime  On November 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm

        Maybe we need a definition of terms, here. Suburban and rural. Most people consider rural areas more blue collar whereas suburban areas are typically white collar. Farming collectives are replacing small farmers; big box stores are replacing small businesses. That leaves small, rural communities without major employment opportunities – meaning, the young typically move “in” to find both work and activity, and those who are middle aged and older, remain – many with subsistent lifestyles.

        Suburban areas may morph into larger “small” cities (100K+) but eventually require taxes for services which their more affluent, educated populace demands. What is interesting is when a small city annexes a larger area as a means of identifying a tax base, while still maintaining the seat of government and control. It’s a dynamic process except for rural areas which depend upon revitalization efforts, retirement population to shore up the local economy. Industry is never going to come back as it did in the past nor will truck farming pay the bills. Coal miners and others in industries that are becoming obsolete through improvement in energy sources need re-training in related or new fields. One simply has to do what they can to survive. There is no more “big brother”.

  • Ean Behr  On November 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    If your assessment of this one part of this travesty is on point, it is…well, let’s just say it…insurmountable. If the people who are being colonized, as you say, don’t see the ‘karmic’ justice viz their ancestors and the native peoples, if they are determined to confuse deism with democracy and democracy with Disney and persist in believing that all they have to do is vote rightly and they will be saved from the ugly truth that the planet is not their exclusive Garden of Eden, if they continually support the very people who have reduced them to ruin decade after decade, what hope is there? We don’t have forever.

    Clinton, without realizing it, made the most cogent observation when she referred to half of his supporters as a basket of deplorables. There was his winning coalition.

    It may be time to concede, for we have no idea of how to effectively fight this. They have a bible that informs them of the righteousness of their actions and now they have the trifecta. All we have is reason. No competition.

  • Mike  On November 14, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    The Trump voter feels colonized? The Trump voter IS the colonist (weapons and all). The colonist who is not able or willing to adapt to a global economy and lacks the skills for survival in this new world. The Powhatan people took pity on their inept colonizers and gave them food when they were starving. As a native, that’s about all I have for the Trump voter, pity.

    The colonists have taken Pocahontas (America) prisoner and she is being told she needs to be less a savage and be civilized by converting to Christianity.The leader of this round of starving Christian colonists is the heathen Donald Trump and he has the same message today as his predecessors had, “those brown people are the problem”. And he’s promising the colonists lots of gold and they believe him.

  • Tod  On November 14, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    I think there is also a place here for the carefully nourished feeling of victimhood many of these voters experience. Far too often problems are framed as “Us against Them,” with “Us” usually getting the sort end of the stick. There is little power in being a victim (recent election notwithstanding), so it’s hard not to also see the efforts to promulgate this attitude as an attempt to maintain and expand a pliable body of voters.

    The other part of the story is that the Democrats ran a candidate whose character had been under assault (often on the taxpayers’ dime) for years or even decades. It worked. Even though the scandals Clinton has suffered have been mostly smoke with little fire, she couldn’t get the smell of smoke out of her clothes.

    The cries of “Crooked Hillary” have always seems strangely ironic to me. How many millions of dollars of very aggressive investigation have been directed toward everything she has done — and yet the best they could come up with was carelessness with email. I guarantee you that Trump (or likely any prominent Republican with enough history) would not fare nearly as well under such scrutiny.

    And in the end, it’s important to remember this is a race that wasn’t won by enthusiasm for Trump (he got fewer votes than either McCain or Romney) but by distrust of Hillary. That is cold comfort for me, but it’s all I’ve got to hold on to right now.

    • Kim Cooper  On November 17, 2016 at 2:48 am

      It’s really sad that all the accusations and innuendo worked to make Hillary “not trustworthy” because she is, by dint of being investigated very thoroughly, over and over again, the proven most honest person in the government.
      I think part of it was a lot of unconscious sexism — America just isn’t mature enough for a female leader.
      Do you think Bernie would have won if he had been the nominee?

      • Doug Watkins  On November 17, 2016 at 5:40 am

        Yes, especially when you look at areas that voted significantly more for Trump than for Hillary. The are, for the most part, states with lots of old, white males who consciously or subconsciously are against having a woman in charge of anything.

  • Donna Victor  On November 14, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I need to echo a thank you for posting. It does help to see some reason in the incredible insanity and dysfunction of this very messy election. I agree the Democratic party focused a bit too much on what it presumed its base was…and could have focused more on the rusted and left out belt. It is just terribly sad that the best the Republican party could offer up is the most mendacious unqualified person they had.

  • Haze Myth  On November 15, 2016 at 7:52 am

    If you didn’t realize that there is genuine hardship among the white working class then, yes, you needed that wake up call. But recognizing that hardship does not negate the ways in which white supremacy shapes resentment.

    White working class people are doing less well than their parents, less well than they feel they deserve. But that deserve was only ever the prerogative of white working class people. Never the poor. Never people of color. This crisis of precarity is a crisis of white supremacy and the understanding that the white middle class was uniquely insulated from hardship and securely guaranteed prosperity. For this reason, the meager gains of the poor, people of color, and others seem egregious and detrimental. The insecurity is heightened by the newfound visibility of those others as legitimate variations in American identity. Economic precarity and white middle class identity are interdependent aspect of the politics of race/class resentment.

    I would go further and suggest that our current eagerness to understand and forgive white working class resentment is also a product of white supremacy. So deeply did we want to believe in the basic goodness of white people that, when faced with a belligerent and reactionary election outcome, we rush to rehabilitate the image of white people in our mind. So, economics becomes a carpet under which we can sweep racial resentment and guarantee the pristine identity of whiteness.

    • jh  On November 16, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      We’ve done this numerous times. Understanding is always offered to the white position.

      Slavery? No big deal. We need to preserve the Union. We’ll just pencil in some clauses about 3/5s and what not.

      Civil War? No big deal. We will walk away after Reconstruction because you are still good people.

      Jim Crow? No big deal. After all, it’s just those folks.

      I confess that I’m offended at calls for understanding the poor widdle white folks who voted for Trump. For me, there is a visceral urge to vomit because I don’t know how far they would go. I don’t know if there is some point where they would go “this isn’t good”. They are beyond amoral. They are immoral.

      • Larry Benjamin  On November 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        If it didn’t bother them that Trump was being sued for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl, then he may have been right when he said he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and get away with it. Could Trump have announced that he was divorcing his wife and getting married to Corey Lewandowski? What if he’d called Jesus a “loser” for allowing himself to be crucified? It’s obvious that part of his appeal was to people who were tired of being told that they were “insensitive,” and who relished the spectacle of a man who went out of his way to be as politically incorrect as possible. How many times did we hear “I like Trump because he says what he thinks.”

  • Lee Thomson  On November 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    I am so grateful for your post this week. I appreciate your empathy, and will work to hold onto it while facing the future.

  • B Schleppenbach  On November 15, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    So the colonizers are country club GOP and the slave laborers are deluded Trump followers. When will the working class figure out who is really picking their pockets?

  • Paulo Guilherme Hostin Sämy  On November 16, 2016 at 5:18 am

    You are going Republican now, as Democratic 8 years before, and Republican 16 years before, and Democratic 24 years before, and Republican 28 years before… So, this is democracy. All must learn to leave it with. Live changes. As your History teaches, nobody is right all long the years. Learn to give the opponent, some reason. On the contrary, it will be the war…!!!

  • Yup yup  On November 18, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I am from near Quincy, I have a college education, and work in the family business. I know for a fact that a lot of these “high school educated only” people who “stayed” back and got a technical job of some kind, are being payed way better than most college educated people. The pendulum swings and college educations are out and technical jobs are in. So please stay in you liberal, overeducated world, and leave it to us, “uneducated” “backwoods people” to make this country go in the right direction. I.E. Lincoln, Regan

  • Larry Benjamin  On November 18, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    I hear many people saying how the Democrats have to recapture the disgruntled Trump supporters by addressing their concerns and finding a way to appeal to them. But if the reason they went for Trump is because he did, in fact, give voice to their core values, are these really the kind of people we can even communicate with? If the Democratic Party has to embrace mysogyny, racism, xenophobia, and belligerent nationalism in order to win these voters back, that doesn’t sound like a viable option.

    • 1mime  On November 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      Those who embrace the hateful beliefs you list are not wanted. I do believe there are other people who made their decision to support Trump for other reasons. I don’t know what percentage of his voter base these people constitute, but we should make an effort to hear their concerns and see if we have common ground in other areas. Maybe I’m naive but I cannot believe there are 60 million plus Americans who have these horrible beliefs. In time, we’ll know more from the professionals who will pour over the election results and can decide then. We also need to look specifically at those areas in the country where we lost votes we shouldn’t have. Lots of work to do here. Like you, those who espouse or act out in support of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, belligerent nationalism, or (my addition) religious extremism, can stay away.

    • weeklysift  On November 21, 2016 at 7:09 am

      I believe in something George Lakoff says: that most of us have multiple frames in our heads somewhere, and we’re capable of viewing the world in diverse and contradictory ways, depending on which frames get activated. So, many of the same people who voted out of a dualistic it’s-them-or-us frame are also capable of responding to a we’re-all-in-this-together frame, if we just knew how to activate it.

      • Larry Benjamin  On November 21, 2016 at 8:25 am

        That “coming together” process, unfortunately, usually requires a common enemy.

  • Alex  On November 20, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    “Quincy requires trained professionals — the town’s biggest employer is the local hospital — which it mostly imports.”

    And while companies import professionals from Asia or India, we’re cutting funding for education — making a professional education more and more difficult for working-class or middle-class kids to obtain.

    I think that we should greatly increase the cost of the visas for professionals (such as the H1B), and use the proceeds to subsidize education for Americans who want to study those fields.

    I also think that this is partly a campaign finance problem. Candidates listen to whoever is funding their campaigns – and that isn’t the voters.

  • Mac  On November 21, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Blue-collar democrat from Massachusetts here. Everything you observed in your town I have watched happen here. Starting with the disappearance of our farms, the rise and fall of our industry, going from a living wage to a poverty wage and being blamed for it, being forced to surrender our homes and towns to the rich technos and the rich foreigners. It seems to me it started in the 60’s and just kept going. I saw how they turned us against each other. It’s easy to want to look back and see some malevolent conspiracy at work (and there very well could be one for all I’ll ever know). I don’t think so though. It’s just been humans being humans and following the almighty dollar wherever it leads, no matter who gets hurt. I received a liberal arts education thanks to the state college system as did many I graduated from high school with, but most of them that I still have any contact with voted for Trump. It absolutely never occurred to me for a second to do so. So what’s the difference between us? The recent past and current behavior of many republicans has been the most visceral experience of all I was taught is evil that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Why don’t they see it? We had such similar experiences. I”ll never understand it. I know there are people at my UU congregation who look askance at me and my desire to have more people of my background in the church and I guess after the election I can see why.
    Not feeling too hopeful for myself, my family, or my country I’m afraid.

  • Paul Haas  On November 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for your artfully-worded Weekly Sift. My wife and I live in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County) where the overall vote was at least two to one for Hillary. Virginia has come a long, long way since the segregationist Virginia I grew up in back in the 1950s and 60s. Hard to believe that Clinto could carry VA by more than five points while Trump won such Democratic strongholds as PA, MI, and WI.

  • frank1here  On November 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    First things first: I enjoy your blog, but I feel the need to make a correction–Quincy’s population in the 1840’s was only about 2,300 and didn’t hit the 40,000 mark until the 1940 census.

    As a Quincy native born, raised, and educated in the town, I’m someone you’d likely describe as one of the “much larger group that got a college education, moved away, and are mostly also doing quite well”. Not surprisingly, this article hit very close to home, especially since much of my family still lives in Quincy and I enjoy visiting them.

    Your take on Trump and “colonization” is an interesting observation and interpretation, but if you look at the voting history of Adams County, saying that it has “become” Trumpland is exaggerating because it’s always been a largely Republican area. (Romney received 2/3 of county’s votes in 2012, and it hasn’t voted Democrat in a presidential election since 1964.) 2016 marked a continuing evolution, not revolution, in voting patterns. The county’s demographics–rural with an older, more religious, and much whiter population than the nation as a whole–are in Trump’s wheelhouse.

    In addition to more economic opportunities elsewhere, it’s the mindset of so many people who live there–a woman’s place is under a glass ceiling or the home, a gay/lesbian/trans person’s place is in the closet, and anything beyond a token number of non-white residents is too many–that drives people like myself from the town. I’m reminded of a line from the Marion, Indiana newspaper (featured in the excellent book “In Search of America” by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster) in which the editorial board said that people are born here, die here, but live their lives somewhere else. Despite the many multi-generation families in Quincy, that statement largely applies to Quincy as well and likely will for many years to come.

    • weeklysift  On November 23, 2016 at 7:12 am

      Thanks for the corrections. I looked it up, and you are right about the population. It was up to 24,000 by 1870, though, so Quincy has been close to its current size for a very long time.

      You’re also right about 2012. Between 2012 and 2016, about 2,000 votes moved from Obama to Trump. Another 2,000 or so moved from Obama to Romney between 2008 and 2012. So it is an evolution, but seems fairly rapid too.

      As for mindset, I remember how striking it was to go from Quincy to Michigan State, a university whose enrollment was about the same size as the town. In Quincy, many people had encouraged me to get an education, but if they knew what “an education” really was, they didn’t manage to communicate that idea to me. By now, I have found Quincy’s intellectual niche, which I didn’t know existed when I lived there.


  • By Interesting Times | The Weekly Sift on November 21, 2016 at 11:32 am

    […] Last week there was no weekly summary and I hadn’t expected to post at all, but “How did my hometown become Trumpland?” just leaped out. In the meantime, I was giving a talk at the Unitarian Church of Quincy, […]

  • […] One my many failures of foresight this year was that I did not at all foresee Trump winning. The week after the election, I was in the Midwestern town where I grew up, asking “How did my home town become Trumpland?” […]

  • By Office go go pattaya on January 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Office go go pattaya

    How did my home town become Trumpland? | The Weekly Sift

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