All through the recent electoral cycle, I grew wearily used to reading breathless exposes from reporters sent out from the coasts (where most of the major media outlets are headquartered) to The Heartland with the instruction “find out why all of those people are angry and why they like Donald Trump”.
The reporters would seemingly pick towns off a map, go visit them, talk to a cross-section of townspeople, dutifully record their thoughts, opinions and rants, and write the required article, usually beginning with a lede like “In Upper Squitville, they’re mad as hell…and they love Donald Trump” or similar.
This sort of formulaic cookie-cutter reporting is easy to satirise. So somebody did, to hilarious effect.
To get any sort of real insight, you need to dig a lot deeper. For example, go read JD Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy”, the story of his upbringing in Appalachia and Ohio, in a dysfunctional family struggling to survive in an economic environment decidedly unfriendly to lesser-educated people and families in depressed areas.
Vance has also been doing the rounds of the radio and media interview circuit, partly to promote the book, but also partly to explain the reasons why Donald Trump is so popular with rural voters, although he is at pains to point out that Trump is not the answer to their prayers.
Patrick Thornton pointed out that there is a mutual obligation on both sides to understand each other. Like Vance, he escaped from a rural start to his life to move into IT in New York. Also like Vance, he became exasperated with the idea that it is entirely up to the coastal folks to understand and indulge the heartland folks, and that the heartland people are somehow helpless. So he wrote about it.
Now Patrick is back on Twitter, pointing out that heartland people have agency, and that the idea that everybody else needs to accomodate them is not realistic:
One of the things missing from almost all of these pieces trying to explain Trump voters is a distinct lack of personal responsibility.
— Patrick Thornton (@pwthornton) January 6, 2017
The tweet storm that he wrote basically expands on JD Vance’s point that people in these areas do have agency and choices. One of the choices is to fight to improve. Another choice is to wait for some savior (in the case of many people, they imagine that Donald Trump is their savior).
UPDATE – Rude Pundit has a take similar to Patrick Thornton’s, but rather more obnoxiously expressed. Although it is still a lot milder in tone than the babblings of the self-identified Deplorables on Twitter.