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Right Wing Pastoral. Who’s “real” and who isn’t?

October 18, 2016


Trump’s chief cheerleader, the increasingly contemptible Rudy Giuliani, has suggested that voter fraud is rife in big cities – places where the dead vote – where unreal people subvert the will of real people.

“I can’t sit here and tell you that they don’t cheat. And I know that because they control the polling places in these areas. There are no Republicans, and it’s very hard to get people there who will challenge votes. So what they do is, they leave dead people on the rolls and then they pay people to vote as dead people, four, five, six, seven”
“I’ve found very few situations where Republicans cheat. They don’t control the inner cities the way Democrats do. Maybe if Republicans controlled the inner cities, they’d do as much cheating as Democrats do.”

There are various things going on here.  Quite apart from this being a cynical attempt to discredit an election they are losing, Trump and Giuliani (New Yorkers both), are re-activating a version of reactionary pastoralism – a pastoralism that is not only (though obviously) racist, but which is tied to a deep suspicion of cities and what goes on there.  As New Yorkers, Trump and Giuliani are either to be regarded as transparent and brazen hypocrites or else fired up with the zeal of belated converts to the cause of anti-urban “real” Americanism.

The USA has always worried about cities.  The Senate itself is constitutional body purposely designed to offset urban majoritarianism.  In the Senate, Wyoming has two representatives  – the same as California –  despite having only a fraction of California’s population. The influence of cities has always been something that somehow needs to be checked and restrained.  It is wrong, apparently for the votes of city folk to have undue influence over the lives of small town folk.  It is fine, however, for the votes of small town folk to have undue influence over the lives of city folk.

Here is one of the best works of Trumpology I’ve read in recent weeks… from Vox…

The American press is overwhelmingly made up of left-of-center white people who live in large cities and have internalized very strong anti-racist norms. As a result, it tends to be composed of people who think of racism as a very, very serious character defect, and who are riddled with anxiety about being perceived as out of touch with “real America.” “Real America” being, per decades of racially charged tropes in our culture, white, non-urban America.

Coincidentally (no, come to think of it, not coincidentally at all) Theresa May in the UK has made it clear that the half of the population that voted for Brexit is far more “real” than the half  who didn’t.   The point being made here is that liberal urbanites, pretty much by definition, do not regard themselves as the only “real” people in the world.  They (we) are anxious all the time about how out of touch they (we) are.   In contrast, small town conservative white people (who are by no means especially likely to be economically disadvantaged) experience no such concerns.  They do not toss and turn at night worrying that they are out of touch with the “real” experience of New York Puerto Ricans.  This is because small town conservatives assert a right to always be more “real” than those urban populations.

Right wing middle aged men from small towns claim to be oppressed and marginalised, but what they really object to is the prospect of having to share “reality” with others.  In  a sense it’s not just the statistically negligible phenomenon of voter fraud in big cities that worries them – it’s the prospect of the sort of people who live in big cities claiming to be as “real” as they are that enrages them.   All city folk are “dead” in the sense of being less “real” than small town folk.  And these unreal people not only include people who have dark skin and/or unfamiliar food preferences and/or the ability to speak more than one language.  Unreal city folk includes those monolingual white people who live cheerfully cheek by jowl with such “unreal” Americans, compromising their own reality in the process.

The votes of city folk ought not to count the same as the votes of “real” Americans, in other words.

The more obviously terrifying  thing that is going on is that Giuliani helping Trump in his successful effort to persuade tens of thousands of angry well-armed people that a Clinton victory can only be the result of fraud.  There is insurrectionary rhetoric in the air.  It may peter out, given that the angriest people are late middle aged and often overweight, but it would be naive and irresponsible to suggest that nobody will get hurt.  There is craziness.   There are guns, lots of guns.  Giuliani used to be famous not only for being Mayor of New York but as a symbol of resistance to terrorism.  He’s now busying himself vilifying cities like New York and fanning the flames of terrorism.



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