Christopher Ingraham has an excellent retort to John Kelly’s newest batch of racist garbage over at The Washington Post, as he defended “rural people” from Kelly’s charge that undocumented immigrants are “overwhelmingly rural people” who would not “easily assimilate into the United States. Into our modern society.” It’s an excellent post that everyone should read, but I want to touch on a detail he unearthed in his defense, namely some data from the 2010 Census.
So if General John Kelly truly believes his implication that “rural people” are incompatible with “modern society,” then one out of every five Americans are lost causes according to Donald Trump's Chief of Staff. Given where “rural people” are located in America, it's likely most of them voted for Trump.
Kelly is a racist buffoon who would never be taken seriously if he didn't have highest privilege that can be bestowed upon an American: a badge and a gun. This line that he let slip out on NPR's Morning Edition sounds similar to Hillary Clinton's “deplorables” comment, except far more hateful and specifically targeted at a certain type of person. Granted, Kelly was thinking about darker-skinned people when he made his ignorant remark, but a reading of his words reveals that the common denominator of his scorn is not race, but region—and it cuts to the very heart of the problems with the American project. Our national leaders all live in elite areas of major cities, and inherently believe their lifestyle to be superior. That informs our politics to a far larger degree than we'd like to admit. Look at how flippant Politico was today in dismissing the normalcy of outright corruption in everything our government does. As the popular saying this week goes: this is America.
The Senate and House were created to be a happy medium between federal and local governance in Washington D.C., but in our modern era of hyper-partisanship and gerrymandering, that happy medium no longer exists (if it ever did). Everyone in Washington is there to support some national cause, as AT&T's admission that they paid President Trump's lawyer for definitely not access to the president demonstrates, and there are no more politicians in our nation's capital representing anything but major capital. Paul Ryan flew across the country to step out of the room, so Sheldon Adelson could give the GOP $30 million in return for them delivering $670 million to his doorstep this past quarter in the form of tax cuts.
Part of the problem is America's urban-rural divide. Conservatives are fond of sharing images of the blood-red 2016 election when broken down by district, to demonstrate a supposed monopoly on political thought. It's a pretty convincing image.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
But it gives you an idea how distorted the distribution of our population is that Donald Trump lost by 2.8 million votes, despite seemingly conquering the entire political landmass. Here's what the 2016 election looked like in America's metro areas, where the other 80% of us live.
Compare those two images of the election again. The former is how things are set up, and the latter is how things are. Even if you are a die-hard Republican, you have to admit that there is a big difference between how we think we should be governed and how we actually are governed (and your attitude on this topic would surely be different had the Democrats held the House in 2010 and been able to draw their preferred congressional map).
The Democrats are favored by roughly 8% on the generic ballot in the upcoming midterm elections (per CNN’s Harry Enten on the latest Pod Save America, the range is in between D+2% to D+14%)—however, it’s a tossup as to whether they would retake the House at that huge margin that nearly everyone considers a “wave election.” We let our politicians pick their voters through gerrymandering, and whomever is in control of Congress every 10 years gets to reshape America’s voting districts to their liking (which is why 2020 is so huge). This is not how most houses of congress or parliament work across the developed world. In this regard, America is very much a tinpot dictatorship, except ours potentially rotates every ten years. It’s insane.
We need to rethink government in America. The constitution was the most enlightened and democratically advanced document of its kind…in 1776. Today, its contradictions are unavoidable (like declaring all men to be free and slavery to be legal). History tells us that empires last for roughly 250 years, and if Trump wins a second term, he will leave office (hopefully) 248 years after our inception. If we are to have any hope of getting out of the same self-inflicted hubris and corruption-filled quicksand experienced by Rome, London, Shengjing/Peking, etc…we must upgrade our founding document to the modern era and completely reshape our political system—particularly at the federal level (and also stop lionizing racist jerks like John Kelly just because they served in the military). And if that sounds radical to you, the status quo drove us to President Donald J. Trump. It’s difficult to imagine anything more radical than that.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.