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Democrats are hooked on Hillbilly Horror Liberal elites see America's poorest as monsters

'True evil was a demented hillbilly.' Spencer Platt/Getty Images

'True evil was a demented hillbilly.' Spencer Platt/Getty Images


July 3, 2024   6 mins

When Hillary Clinton finally shuffles off this mortal coil, what words will she be remembered by? My money would be on her “basket of deplorables” comment delivered at a donor event in 2016. That was when she declared that half of Trump’s supporters were essentially beyond redemption: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it”. 

You would struggle to find a pithier encapsulation of elite disdain for the working class. But perhaps it is unfair that the comment should so define her; by the standards of her tribe, it is fairly mild. This is especially true when it comes to the white rural poor, who are widely regarded in refined circles as a benighted pox upon the country, a deluded and potentially violent mob fortunately doomed by demographic trends to extinction, though, alas, not soon enough. Indeed, I have lost count of the number of articles lamenting that the American electoral system gives rural populations too much say over how the country is run.  

The freewheeling contempt shown by those with much towards those with little is especially galling when you consider the harshness of life in America’s impoverished rural communities. The most famous example is Appalachia, which is home to the first people to be labelled and characterised with the infamous stereotype, “hillbillies”: it has lagged behind its neighbours economically since at least 1850. “Diseases of despair” are endemic among the region’s 26.4 million residents: according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, “overdose-related mortality rates for people ages 25–54” were “72% higher in the region than the rest of the country”. Yet when opioids were flooding the region, executives at one pharmaceutical company derided those addicted to their products as “pillbillies”.  Indeed, there is no end to the epithets: hillbilly, hick, yokel, white trash, redneck. But don’t worry, none of them will get you cancelled. 

Meanwhile, as the election approaches, the media continues to warn us that the threat level from Hillbillystan is “red”. “White rural Trump supporters are a threat to democracy,” declares The Daily Beast.White rural rage is arguably the single greatest threat facing American democracy, I have no good ideas about how to fight it,” says Paul Krugman. These particular warnings owe much to White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy, which was published earlier this year. Its authors, Tom Schaller, a professor at the University of Maryland, and Paul Waldman, a former columnist at The Washington Post, marshalled the data to demonstrate that when it comes to the awfulness of rural whites, the science is settled. In an interview on MSNBC, Schaller described them as “the most racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-gay geo-demographic group in the country”. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they are also “anti-democratic” “white Christian nationalists” prone to conspiracy theories who are also “the most likely to excuse or justify violence”.

See? I told you Hillary Clinton was being nice.  

Admittedly, White Rural Rage was a bit much even for The Guardian and The Atlantic, and the book was criticised by the very researchers whose work was cited in its pages. But none of that stopped it from hitting The New York Times bestseller list

Although contemporary in form, White Rural Rage is only the most recent expression of a contempt that dates back to before the American Revolution, when Appalachia and the Ozarks were settled by a population Americans refer to as the “Scotch-Irish” — i.e. lowland Scots who had traded border raiding against the English for colonising Ulster in the days of James I, before undertaking a much greater voyage across the Atlantic. In 1765, Charles Woodmason, a visitor to the North Carolina colony wrote of its Scotch-Irish inhabitants: “The Manners of the North Carolinians in General, are Vile and Corrupt — The whole Country is a Stage of Debauchery, Dissoluteness and Corruption.” 

The reputation of the “Scotch-Irish” for clannish behaviour, violence, drinking and general deplorableness grew over the next century. In the 1860s, the Hatfields and McCoys began their famous feud, which was still raging in the early 20th century. It was around this time that the people of Appalachia were christened “hillbillies”, a word said to derive from Scottish “hill folk” and “billy” (alternately a Scots term of endearment or reference to William of Orange). However, given that the term didn’t appear until 300 years after the “Scotch-Irish” had left Scotland, this seems debatable, at the very least. 

Following on from these murky origins, “hillbilly” eventually spread from Appalachia and today is used as a catch-all insult for any member of the rural white poor. But there is an ambiguity to it: America has a rich lore of outlaws and renegades, and the hillbilly — stubbornly self-reliant, wilful and loyal to his family — also fits this archetype. This ambiguity is reflected in popular culture: Hank Williams Sr, widely regarded as the greatest songwriter in the history of country music, was known as “The Hillbilly Shakespeare” not because he feuded with his neighbours but for the primal eloquence of his pain songs. The Beverly Hillbillies made fun of its family of yokels turned millionaires, but the characters were good-natured and moral and much more likeable than their scheming banker neighbour. The Andy Griffith Show was full of homespun wisdom, and featured a hillbilly band called The Dillards which introduced many Americans to Bluegrass music. This is also where Ron Howard got his start as a child actor, little realising that 60 years later he would tell a very different version of rural life in his film adaptation of J. D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy

In the Seventies, shows such as The Dukes of Hazzard still portrayed hillbillies in a favourable light, but this is also when horror movie tropes about depraved, inbred yokels sexually assaulting, torturing, killing and eating urbanites who had wandered off course became entrenched in the culture. In 1972’s Deliverance, Ned Beatty’s character was instructed to “squeal like a pig” by his hillbilly rapist. In 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a group of college students stumble upon a house where Leatherface murders and carves up his victims while wearing a mask made of human skin. In 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes (purportedly inspired by the legend of the Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean) a family headed out on vacation are attacked by a clan of mutants with a taste for human flesh. The old monsters — mummies and ghouls and werewolves and the like — had lost their ability to scare. True evil was a demented hillbilly. 

“The old monsters — mummies and ghouls and werewolves and the like — had lost their ability to scare. True evil was a demented hillbilly.”

The visceral loathing that today’s US elites have for the rural poor shares a psychic undercurrent with this realm of fantasy. I once knew a Russian psychoanalyst who argued that to feel hatred was inevitable, and that if you denied yourself an outlet for so powerful an emotion you would become ill. The important thing was to be careful who or what you chose to hate, how much, and for how long. This can help us understand much of the vitriol that is aimed at the rural white poor today. Most of the groups it was formerly acceptable for American elites to despise are now off limits, and there are severe social and legal consequences for attacking them. But the Hillbilly Trump voter exists in a state of exception. Compassion is not forbidden — you will recall that Hillary Clinton argued that some form of “deprogramming” might be possible for deplorables. But it is not compulsory: you are free to deride, abuse, even to cheer along their ultimate extinction if you feel like it. The hate is liberating.

Needless to say, we can expect to see a lot more of this style of liberation as the election approaches, even more if Trump wins, and still more if he selects J.D. Vance as his vice president. The Hillbilly Elegy author turned senator is an especially potent hate symbol as, although he is of Appalachian stock and experienced serious familial trauma in his youth, he subsequently studied law at Yale before becoming a successful venture capitalist: the insults write themselves. However, this makes Vance a more interesting figure. He could have left his roots behind and adopted the mores and shibboleths of the elite society to which he had gained access, but instead he chose to stay loyal to his original tribe. He is the hillbilly at the gates, albeit in a well-tailored suit.

Sometimes, when contemplating the possibility of a Trump victory in November, I wonder how the media and elites will respond. The first time around, there was a brief moment of self-reflection when they considered that perhaps they had misread the country, and that they ought to stop condemning the evildoer and go out there and try to understand him. But as Dostoevsky pointed out, that is difficult, and so these efforts at empathy lasted about five minutes before they went back to condemning.

So, I am sceptical that it will be any different this time around. But then I ask: are they really going to just repeat the same tropes over and over again for four years? How can they bear it? And then I remember that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is now up to nine films, and that there are many, many, many variations on the hillbilly horror theme out there. So of course they are. Like the producers of low-budget slasher fare, they don’t want new ideas — the ones they already have work just fine. 


Daniel Kalder is an author based in Texas. Previously, he spent ten years living in the former Soviet bloc. His latest book, Dictator Literature, is published by Oneworld. He also writes on Substack: Thus Spake Daniel Kalder.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
7 days ago

It’s like the magic cup game, where con men rob people by getting them to guess which of three cups is hiding the ball. They mix them up, shuffle them around and get you to choose which cup is hiding the racists. With all the powers of deception, they convince you to choose rural America. Meanwhile, 300,000 antisemites are marching in the streets of New York chanting racist slogans. Like the con men on the street, someone is carving out a career preying on useful idiots using bullshit!t and deception.

Michael Drucker
Michael Drucker
7 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I thought the article was superb. Well written, insightful and “unheard”. Jim, your little bit is the icing on the cake. You are a scholar and a gentleman. Thank you.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 days ago

Shouldn’t have mentioned Dostoevsky. You just know they will blame the Russians.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
7 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Larry Elder, who is still around, once treated me like a poor dirty house painter who could not afford to buy him a beer on the second round.
Republicans treat hillbillies the same way liberals do.
Don’t BS yourself that you are any better than democrats.
As every one says there is actually only one party in the US
:: The Rich Snobs Party !!!

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
7 days ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

No – that doesn’t hold water. The conservative doctrine is that the free market allows everyone to acquire the American Dream if they work hard and live right. So conservatives applaud the working class as belonging to their ideals. By contrast, the only use for the poor to Democrats is to be recipients of public aid so that they will continue to vote Democrat. A poor person who improves themselves and becomes middle class is a winner to Republicans and a traitor to Democrats.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 days ago

You’re not a proper redneck until you’ve had your Thanksgiving dinner interrupted by an impromptu coyote hunt.
How that b*****d got the nerve to stroll through our orchard in broad daylight, I’ll never know.

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
7 days ago

The rifle was close at hand no doubt. Probably a pistol involved as well.

T Bone
T Bone
8 days ago

The reason the Avante-Garde class despises rural folks is that despite their lack of resources, they stubbornly refuse to submit to a government-controlled state of being. If Democrats could get a sufficient percentage of white rural folk to sign off on benefits for votes, you would see an end to identity politics.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

A high percentage of rural whites are recipients of government benefits, including farmers. (I have farming in my family, though on the Canadian side, and I’m not against this in principle). Much of rural or small-town America’s infrastructure, like public schools and roads, is also paid for with money from higher-tax-burden blue states. Like most who over-identify with progressivism or a dogmatic version of Social Justice, the claims of many MAGA voters are not matched by reality.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 days ago

Yep, that’s about the size of it. Take away race, religion, culture, language, and nationalism and this is what you get. Tribalism cannot be abolished so it finds new outlets. Elite urbanites hate the rednecks and the rednecks hate them back. Living in a rural area, I will testify that the hate going back the other direction is just as real, just as vicious, and just as entrenched. It is the source of much of Trump’s immovable 40 percent support. Neither side can ever defeat the other and “win” in any meaningful sense. Both would be better off compromising but the urbanites seem wedded to the notion that their education, expertise, and wealth grants them a right to rule once reserved for the superior blood of the nobility of Europe. The people will never accept that. They’ll raise all sorts of hell before they do and it will destroy the country. From where I sit, it sure looks like one side is willing to live and let live and the other is determined to force the other side to accept terms. If a civil war were to start over this sort of attitude, it would quickly rank among the dumbest and most pointless wars ever fought.

Earlier generations of elites and wealthy magnate also disdained rural America, but they had the sense and the ability to keep it to themselves. Hillary and others are falling victim to the transparent society where everyone has a camera on their phones. She uttered her famous phrase at an exclusive rally for wealthy donors. I have little doubt the people attending such events have been expressing their disdain for the poor unwashed masses since the days of the founding fathers. These days though, they can’t keep their disdain secret because it’s impossible to keep such secrets in the Internet age.

The problem they have is there aren’t enough of them. The poor always outnumber the wealthy, and the middle class they can appeal to against the hillbillies is rapidly shrinking. The warnings of history are flashing red. The last time elite conceit was this obvious and clear, it led to their partial extinction. The nobility who once believed their superior blood and noble heritage granted them a divine right to rule were ultimately overthrown by the serfs and peasants who sustained them. Those that took a moderate stance, granted concessions to the people, and accepted the twilight of their rule, such as the nobility in the UK, by and large survived. Those who tried to assert their superiority and put the people in their place are largely destroyed, their traditional lands and medieval castles long since seized by popular revolutions of one flavor or another and torn down or turned into museums and tourist destinations.

History offers a warning. Will it be heeded? The present signals are decidedly mixed, but we seem to be leaning away from the Clintonian attitude. Biden’s elite backed candidacy was a recognition they couldn’t win a direct confrontation and had to find a candidate who wouldn’t trigger the direct anger of the people. He was the best choice and the correct choice in 2020. Unfortunately for them, Biden has been ravaged by time and the genetic lottery. He is no longer competent, and there are few alternatives that will command such broad support while avoiding the people’s wrath. Biden was the last scion of the fading era, an era where patriotism was expected and conflicts were more often between nations than within them. The younger Democrats like Newsom and Harris are steeped in the conceits the author mentioned, and it will doom them as presidential candidates now and in the foreseeable future. They have to do better and find some populist non-elite candidate they can accept. someone in the mold of RFK Jr. Bernie Sanders, or even going back as far as FDR. The alternative doesn’t end well for them

T Bone
T Bone
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Always enjoy your posts, Steve. I’m curious how the Left feels about FDR and his 4 terms. The irony is that in a Republic you can write the rules of “Democracy” according to the will of the people. The people wanted FDR to keep running at the time. The 22nd amendment came after.

Considering how cool Anti-Trump (mostly Dems) were with removing Trump from the ballot, one would have to assume the Left is actually more “Republican” than Democratic.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

I’m not radically or uniformly “on the Left” but I’ll chime in:
Much of what was then a radical socialist turn under FDR has become an accepted norm among conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike–at least in its broader strokes. Even many fiscal conservatives want some form of social security for the elderly and severely disabled, as well as temporary welfare for the “deserving poor”.
The severity of his economic measures–including the Works Progress Administration, which created 8.5 million jobs–was a defensible response to hardships of the Great Depression. I’ve not heard many people say his predecessor Herbert Hoover was handling it well.
FDR’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court was a laughable mistake and the fact that he sent Japanese Americans to internment–but not Germans or Italians–was inexcusable, a bad chapter of our national history. Generally speaking, he wasn’t great for racial relations or equal justice for all either, though the historical context or views of most American whites (at that time) should be taken into account on that.
On the whole, he conducted himself honorably during WWII, both as a statesman and strategist. Europe, facing a major threat to freedom and order from within, could have had a far worse ally than FDR.
Though he was no saint or wizard, he ranks among the most effective and net-positive presidents in our history. I’d say Lincoln is the very best, but many then and now found fault with him too, sometimes for legitimate reasons. As you know, in the South he is still hated by many.
In the United States, we’re in no real imminent danger of a society or economy that leans more into socialism than capitalism. But many of FDR’s radical changes have stuck because they work better than what we had before: almost zero safety net, no minimum wage at all. And we should try to bring back a version of the WPA, giving tough but decent paying, infrastructure-building jobs to those who can and will do them, including some among the homeless and addicted.
Given your thoughtfulness and considerable political knowledge, I’d like to know what you think of FDR.

B. Hallawa
B. Hallawa
7 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“FDR’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court was a laughable mistake and the fact that he sent Japanese Americans to internment–but not Germans or Italians–was inexcusable, a bad chapter of our national history.”
Germans and Italians were interred, and had their properties confiscated like the Japanese in many cases. It’s just not “sexy” to talk about those things in pop culture, Hollywood, academia, etc. because Germans and Italians are white, and thus not useful to a “white bad, nonwhite good” narrative. 

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 days ago
Reply to  B. Hallawa

No they weren’t. Not in the way the Japanese were. Not en masse. This is not some woke revisionist campaign. You ought to know and choose your battles better when advancing your white-man-innocent-victim narrative.
And inter is a different word than intern.

Àñthony Ďowney
Àñthony Ďowney
6 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor had a swastika on them rather than the rising sun Germans would have been interned too.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Timing is a factor. FDR and Lincoln get bonuses for responding to crises. Circumstances laid aside, I prefer Teddy Roosevelt. He was among the few American Presidents since Lincoln who have truly believed in America’s promise and its people. He was willing to stand with the people against elite interests and they hated him for it. FDR was similarly called a traitor to his class. I regard the Roosevelts one and two as the best post civil war Presidents. I probably would go with Teddy because of the Japanese internment camps, which are a pretty serious black eye on FDR’s legacy.

The farther back one goes in history, the harder it is to make comparisons, and for the founding fathers, it’s tough to parse out what they did as President from their other accomplishments. I tend to regard Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison in their own category. My feelings on Lincoln are mixed. He was on the right side of the slavery issue but so were many others. He suspended the rights of habeas corpus, which prevents government from holding people indefinitely without criminal charges. As a libertarian, that makes me very uncomfortable and it’s an issue that is still relevant today. Some of the “insurrectionists” are still being held without charges. Lincoln at least had some excuse given it was during wartime. He had the right idea on how to handle the south postwar, taking a more conciliatory attitude, but was shot before he could implement that strategy. As for conducting the actual war, I have mixed feelings. He had a bad habit of getting too involved with military decisions, firing one general for losing a battle and then appointing someone else, a revolving door that continued for the first three years of the war. I think Lincoln’s legacy would look better had he served a full second term and been able to handle the post war transition and rein in the more ambitious radicals in his party.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Intriguing thoughts. I like Teddy Roosevelt on the whole, what with his trust-busting and national parks effort.
Perhaps Lincoln’s legacy would have been enhanced if he’d survived, but he is already the most revered president ever, for a majority who know and care*. I tend to think his reputation, like Kennedy’s, was only enhanced by his assassination. Kind of like a writer or musician that dies very young.
He took away some liberties during an actual civil war, but granted basic freedom to millions. Abolition was growing in popularity and Lincoln’s own views changed from 1850 onward. But he is the one who made it happen, at great personal and national cost. He didn’t fire the first shots.
*a plurality at least
**I get your point about circumstances thrusting a president into greatness, real or perceived. Adams, Jefferson, and Adams were in my non-expert estimation all towering intellects, but of course they could not have been Founders in a different era. Only Jefferson seems to me to have been great (or “pretty great”) as a president. And Washington, certainly no dummy, is usually regarded as greater than his brainier successors: he was first, and a war hero besides.

joe hardy
joe hardy
6 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The United States is very much in imminent danger of leaning into socialism. Have you not been paying attention?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 days ago
Reply to  joe hardy

Yeah, I have. We’re not even close to the social democracies of Europe. Get back to me when ordinary individuals and have-nots can get away with the same things that wealthy people and corporations do.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

The 22nd amendment was pretty much the elite response to FDR. At the time I believe it was mostly a Republican effort but this was before Nixon’s southern strategy started the process of flipping the Republicans from an affluent urban party to a rural, traditional, working class party, a process that played out over several decades. That isn’t what Nixon nor anyone else intended and for most of the time since then the Republicans’ appeal to rural voters and social conservatives has been mostly empty rhetoric, and most elite Republicans liked it that way, but when you dance with the devil you’re bound to get burned. The voters got tired of say one thing and do the other, and started the tea party and elected candidates who reflected their own views. Then when the Republican party leaders allowed Trump into the primary as an attempt to embarrass the so called radical right, the voters made them regret their folly, and they’re still regretting it today.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

He was the best choice and the correct choice in 2020. 
And look how that’s worked out. By virtually every empirical measure, the country is worse off than before, to the extent that one must seriously consider whether the results are not intentional.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

You think were worse off than we were in January of 2021? That sounds like willful blindness.
Maybe by certain measures but overall? Are Biden or any of his minions the prime movers of recent wars, global inflation, or rampant rightist-populism?
I’d genuinely like to hear your evidence or reasoned case for deliberate anti-American malice at the highest levels (or whatever you’re insinuating). Unless from people like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who continue to fascinate DJT and have written much of his doom rhetoric.
I don’t long for the heyday of 1/6/2021, when the sitting president sat and watched along with us while an obstructionist mob that he was signaling and rooting for ran rampant.
No one “must” fall victim to ludicrous conspiracy talk. There’s ample documentation and common sense obviousness to the collusion I’ve outlined. Evidence please.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
7 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

By what matrices were we better off during the Trump administration? That is easily answered; lower inflation with lower energy prices, lower interest rates, higher percentage of employed, a much more controlled border, fewer regulations and a much more business friendly administrative environment, and foreign bad-actors mostly restrained to their respective boxes. Were you living under a rock during the Trump administration?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Trump left office with a 6.7% unemployment rate, now it’s 4%. (Yes, Pandemic, but Trump handled it badly except for fast-tracking the vaccines–a major accomplishment that I give him credit for).
Biden actually got us out of Afghanistan, however ugly that exit was.
Biden didn’t start the war in Ukraine or cause Hamas to attack Israel. Your belief that Trump would have scared those developments away is nothing more than a speculative belief, perhaps born of an emotional fondness for Trump.
Netanyahu is about as right-wing as they come, and Biden is much more pro-Israel than Trump. So if Hamas was timing their massacre they sure miscalculated.
Under Biden, Putin encountered much more resistance to his move into Ukraine than he expected; Trump has openly said he would cede Putin just about what he wants.
Some validity to your economic points, but most of the benefit went to corporations, the ultra-wealthy, and business owners. The little guy or “poorly educated” Trump professes to care so much about? Not so much.
The biggest reasons Trump is worse for the country are his selfishness, pettiness, and divisiveness, which he has continued to fuel while out of office. Biden has at least attempted some bipartisan solutions, and achieved a major victory on infrastructure.
Is Biden fit to serve a second term? Hell no! But neither is Trump.
Viable third party now!

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
6 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If you think that 6th Jan.2021 constituted an insurrection you should read up on the French Revolution (The Terror), the Russian Revolution (“Russia” by Antony Beevor would be a good starting point), or any of the numerous histories of Communist China, to get an understanding of a real revolution. Even looking at the death toll of people executed by Castro when he led his insurrectionists to victory in Havana would give you the idea of what happens in a real revolution. What happened in Washington was in fact less dramatic than the average anti-conscription “demo” of the Vietnam War period in the early Sixties. And nobody died – oh wait, two of the protesters had heart attacks and died of natural causes, and relatives of a policeman who committed suicide months later have blamed his death upon the emotional strain of his having been at the Capitol on police duties on the day of the protest. The so-called January 6 insurrection was a nothing-burger!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 days ago
Reply to  TERRY JESSOP

I called the rioters an obstructionist mob, not an insurrection. It was unruly and many were violent. Some among them were looking to kill Pelosi, Pence, and others who barely escaped.
Aside from all their mayhem and menace–even if it was “mostly peaceful” in the bullshit way the Floyd protests were– they attempted to overturn a democratic election. That’s not a “nothing-burger”, they just didn’t succeed. If they had, even for a day, that would deserve the i-word. But it was bad and it wanted to be worse.
No Vietnam-era protest ever roared into a federal building like that or attempted to thwart election results, If it had, you would have heard about it. And you’d be against it.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Presidents are not gods. They are not all powerful. Inflation would have happened regardless of who was President. Putin would probably still have invaded Ukraine and Hamas would still have committed their acts of brutality and terror. China would still be saber rattling over Taiwan and the globalist era would still be sputtering towards its conclusion. The world would still be in the beginnings of a new process of dividing into opposing economic blocs and it would still have similar consequences.

I cannot prove any of that, but that’s my take on the matter. The CHIPS act and inflation reduction act were at least a step in the right direction where economic policy is concerned. It isn’t nearly enough, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. If I thought Biden were really in charge, I would say he has been less terrible than Bush or Obama at least. The reason for the mixed record seems plain enough. Biden isn’t all there so the appointees have free rein to do what they want. Some are competent. Some are not. Some are idealistic zealots appointed to appease political constituencies who are actively undermining their own administration with their extremism.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

But I guess you’d admit it’s not a mutually exclusive choice between abolition–which I agree is neither possible or altogether desirable–and total embrace of tribalism. At the family or community level, it can unify and energize in a wholesome, nonviolent way.
[What follows is a shortened version of a post that wouldn’t post below Matthew Crawford’s recent article about a-holes here in San Jose…]
Humanity can be better or worse according to the season, society, and individual actor. There is voluminous evidence for this in the historical record.
For example: I see that the historical and cultural record–amply documented by that time in literal tons of surviving letters and photos–shows that the United States in 1850 was more bigoted along racial and ethnic lines than it is today. Even abolitionist liberals circa 1840 usually had very patronizing if not de-humanizing views of black people, e n s la v e d or not. (You may or may not be familiar with key relevant quotes by people like William Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Abraham Lincoln–I suspect you are). My Irish-American ancestors were not all the way in the “white tent” about 1900, and neither were Italians, Polish, or Jews.
In some measure I think both the identitiarian left and populist/ethno-nationalist right (or pick your terms, you know what I’m referring too) have made American into a nation that is more tribalized along both ideological or demographic lines. It was better for a bit, in my view, right after Obama got elected, before Hope and Change reverted to pretty much More of the Same, and Barack proved a better speaker and less heroic man than many of us hoped, what with our sentimental aspirations.
Your characterization of my perspective as “some sentimental wish for a perfect global society” is pretty insulting and I expect a bit more from you, Steve. I’m not looking for a global monoculture but the U.S.–even in your own framing–was never a single insular culture, not even when the English and Dutch lived uneasily near each other, flanked by increasingly, quite understandably hostile Native tribes around 1660. That’s leaving aside for the moment the multitude of mostly white indentured servants and mostly black slaves. So some cosmopolitanism–or unavoidable mixing–is both called for and part of our tradition.
Some tribalism is inevitable, as I allowed. Extended and even nuclear families bear witness to that. I tend to answer calls from family first when things are urgent, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I like and love both America and Western Culture on the whole, faults and all. But I do try to avoid unmodified ethnocentrism, and to remember that everything I may think about Mexico or the East or the Arab World (etc.) is not therefore true. And not to pretend that Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, or Ethiopia–and other ancient peoples perhaps no one can name– made no contribution to what we may be tempted to jealously claim for the West alone.
Of course the bigotry that is interwoven with some forms of tribalism can’t be banished from the world altogether, any more than murder, rape, theft, drunkenness, arrogance, or self-pity can. But they can all be reduced, or allowed to run more rampant. (Differing results across time periods and cultures provide ample evidence of this “wiggle room”).
And this is a decision that each of us, in some real measure, makes each day. Of course we can’t transcend all our human limitations, nor ever eliminate all the sadists and villains among us–even the little or big ones within us. Still, how we treat our brethren and neighbors (and who qualifies as such), or receive (or don’t receive) the stranger and outcast matters. Citing our selfish or tribal human inheritance is valid–but that can be used as a false alibi too. Am I my brother’s keeper? Is my neighbor equal before God?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think you’re missing part of my point. I agree that America has indeed always been multicultural but it has also been violent, clannish, and more often than not American politics has been almost as dysfunctional as today or even more so. I’m putting those two things together as I believe multiculturalist societies go against the tribal instincts of people and the problems we have in America are partially a result, and now we’re exporting those problems.

America’s success has been despite its multicultural nature, not because of it. America had a half a continent of untapped resources, more arable land than any European nation save Russia. It also had and still has a brilliant system of government to balance political power within the nation between states, regions, factions, and tribes which makes it difficult for any plurality or simple majority to impose their will. These are the critical factors of American power and dominance. Multiculturalism is mostly propaganda from globalists but it started as a way to rally nationalist sentiment in a country that, as you point out, never has had a dominant culture. Sure there are ways for laws, governments, and leaders to improve the situation.

One can always tinker at the margins for small advances and improvements, but all else held equal, the most peaceful, harmonious, supportive, and contented societies, though not necessarily the most powerful or wealthy, are also the most insular and homogeneousin terms of culture. I am confident enough in that assertion to posit it as the next of kin to a natural law, not so cut and dried as the laws of physics, but equivalent to the principles of psychology or economics. I’ll stand by that because that’s what the evidence of history tells me.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

“America’s success has been despite its multicultural nature, not because of it”
 “All else held equal, the most peaceful, harmonious, supportive, and contented societies, though not necessarily the most powerful or wealthy, are also the most insular and homogeneous in terms of culture”
These are both very venturesome assertions that are not well-supported by the historical evidence I’ve seen. I suppose I’m curious about how you define “multicultural”. American music is the most varied and popular in the world, and includes the (largely) homegrown genres of country, blues, gospel, jazz, and rock and roll. There are African and European influences, for starters. The innovation in pure science and practical invention also draws upon the best minds from around the world. We learned a few things from the once-so-called Indians that were already here too, largely about respect and care for the land–lessons we’ve not learned well enough, but not completely ignored either.
Can you provide examples of very insular and homogeneous cultures that were/are also “peaceful, harmonious, supportive, and contented”?
For the first pair of adjectives, insular and homogenous: North Korea, Cuba, and ancient Sparta come to mind. Also, ancient Israel: were they a peaceful and contented people?
For multicultural societies: ancient Rome, Renaissance Venice, early-modern Amsterdam and Rotterdam, London since the 18th century and many American many cities, such as New York and New Orleans. They are almost always near the open seas, or able to attract and more-or-less accept people from many lands. Incidentally, the dozens of countries that comprise Europe are not anywhere near homogeneous to my ear and eye. This doesn’t mean that people have to live in ethnocultural enclaves–we do have too much of that here in the States. But there is also intermingling and cross-pollination that can bear good fruit. It’s a balance, not a formula.
I certainly don’t see a clear predominance of harmony, peacefulness, contentedness, or supportiveness in one cluster of places or the other. And the insular places buy the cohesion they have at a very steep price. Look at China. Or early-Puritan New England.
To me, the overarching claim you’ve been advancing here of late is born more of your personal preference than anything approaching general accuracy, let alone natural law or truth. Most people prefer to be around people that look and sound a lot like they do. That doesn’t make this the best or only good pathway for cultures or communities.

AC Harper
AC Harper
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The problem with a gerontocracy is that the Elderly Elite die off but resist the Younger Elite coming through. And now we find that there is no obvious replacement for Biden (now or later).

Àñthony Ďowney
Àñthony Ďowney
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Yes Biden was the best option for Democrat candidate and his Irish American Democrat tradition has been the most important element in the unholy alliances that comprise the Democrats. But as to the numbers game the open Southern border that has seen close on10 million illegals flood across it was the precise plan to neutralise that MAGA voting cohort. And when governors de Sanctis and Abbott started sending the illegals to the North East states it only prompted them to start admitting even more Venezuelans on direct flights to the NYC area. The sheer numbers arriving meant that they even started pushing abused women and their children out of the safe space accommodation that previously had been theirs by right. Then payment cards were handed out too and criminality such as robbing Macys and shooting police officers even caused Charles Barkley to say wtf is going on here? Even in the current climate “a brother”would be foolish to even try that and couldn’t expect such lenient treatment from law enforcement. This IMO displays how serious they are about their strategy. I have a theory that the admission of 2 million Muslim males into Germany back in 2015 by Angela Merkel after forcing austerity on the citizens of the EU for 7 years and not receiving any negative political consequences has been analysed by many western countries to see how they can apply similar levels of mass immigration for desired socio economic and political effects.

stephen k
stephen k
7 days ago

To the elites the hillbilly is an embarrassment. Even the bluegrass music, dancing and culture get a kicking. Why? It’s not sexualised, it does not glamorize drug use or violence. Americans and British should both check yourself for prejudices. If I was a billybilly there is no way on earth I’d vote for Biden or his over the top cheerleader of a wife Jill.

NIck Brown
NIck Brown
7 days ago

“Well, you people may not like it
But there ain’t nothin’ you can do
For there’s a whole lot more of us common folk
Than there ever will be of you”
Charlie Daniels – What This World Needs Is A Few More Rednecks

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
7 days ago
Reply to  NIck Brown

There’s a lotta doctors that tell me
You better start slowin’ it down
But there’s more old drunks than there are old doctors
So I guess we better have another round.
Willie Nelson – I Gotta Get Drunk and I Sure Do Regret It

Richard 0
Richard 0
7 days ago

Love your articles, Mr Kalder. More please.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
7 days ago

The plight of rural Americans is shocking. They’ve been completely forgotten.

If you’re interested watch the documentaries by Peter Santenello on YouTube for more on this.

https://youtu.be/p3O6bKdPLbw?si=gIL8glecQlQ2JWdm

J B
J B
7 days ago

Spot on. Peter takes his audience places no other observers go. A fascinating insight into the US – he meets some wonderful people (and a few “odd balls”).
A real YouTube gem of a channel.

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
7 days ago

The American Left’s greatest vulnerability is believing they’re the smartest folks in the room. This narcissism is the weak foundation upon which their machinations eventually crumble.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
7 days ago

The ancestors of white liberals are New England Puritans. Theirs is a pitiless, self-regarding faith shorn of Jesus but with all the bigotry and hate intact, albeit flexibly directed. The Civil War was arguably a continuation of the war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers and continues to this day.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
7 days ago
Reply to  Michael Walsh

…and they’re still conducting witch-hunts.

James A
James A
7 days ago

This is a global phenomenon.
In Australia, one of the more interesting developments of the past two or three decades is the shift of those with the lion’s share of social, financial and human capital to this place known as ‘the progressive left’. This is the locus from which the most fortunate people ever to have existed fight for ‘social justice’, but selectively – only for groups deemed morally worthy.
Meanwhile, many living in a world of entrenched poverty, undereducation, violence, and substance abuse are reassigned to the opposite pole. They’re angry, but from the progressive perspective they have no right to be.
They’re the despised ‘right wing’, only without any of the money or power traditionally associated with the right.
What would Marx make of it all?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
7 days ago

The freewheeling contempt shown by those with much towards those with little is especially galling when you consider the harshness of life in America’s impoverished rural communities. 
Meanwhile, contrast this to how the left views the urban poor, whose condition is often exacerbated by leftist policies. Life is no less harsh in inner cities than in rural areas. It is almost certainly more violent, at least as dysfunctional, but with none of the elitist disdain aimed at poor white folks.
Also:  “I have no good ideas about how to fight it,” says Paul Krugman. That seems a bit more fitting for the former Enron advisor who also told us that the Internet was a passing fad.

David Swift
David Swift
7 days ago

Re JD Vance: “He could have left his roots behind and adopted the mores and shibboleths of the elite society to which he had gained access, but instead he chose to stay loyal to his original tribe.”
It should not be forgotten that he was posed to do exactly this, but then changed tack when he saw which way the wind was blowing in 2016. Just like Ron deSantis, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, etc. They all prepped for a role in the party of Reagan, Bush, McCain and Romney. It was only when everything changed post-2016 that they then started to shun their ivy league backgrounds and suddenly found an interest in the ‘working class’.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  David Swift

Yes, and discovered newfound, suspicious admiration for DJT.

Campbell P
Campbell P
7 days ago

The US elite – those who pull the strings of the Administration – treat US poor, black and white, as they do the citizens of countries in South America and the Middle East; that is as canon fodder for their personal wealth and power trips, enrolling Western leaders, Tony Blair for example, in their top table club to run the world. Yes, the US is the greatest terrorist in the world both to its own and other people’s.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
7 days ago
Reply to  Campbell P

“Canon fodder.” Must remember this phrase.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
7 days ago

3 books to consider:

“The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck, about the Oakie migration to California in the Depression.

“The Rise of the Meritocracy” by Young. He got it mostly right (in a British setting) in the 1950s, except he missed how the meritocratic elite would be largely by inheritance, directly or by enhanced opportunities, which means much of the establishment are not the intellectual elite they see themselves as.

“Albion’s Seed” by Fischer, especially the parts about the Scotch-Irish and the New England Puritans who hate them. The Scotch-Irish are an integral part of America and those who would read them out of society would destroy that society by so doing. Which some of us think is their intent.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 days ago

Before the city elites took over the Democratic party, nearly all poor country folk voted Democrat. The primary goal of the recent literature, all authored by the same elites, is simply to obfuscate this fact.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
7 days ago

I recently found myself in the company of a group of college-educated coastal Boomer elites who had gathered in the remote hills of Arkansas, where none had ever visited before, for a reunion organized around the viewing of the total solar ellipse. As the days passed and we encountered local rural folks in cafes, shops, etc, the “elites” uniformly remarked upon how incredibly warm and polite these native Arkansans were to strangers, and how different that feature was from the hostile wariness, rudeness, and lack of consideration baked into coastal culture. But weirdly, when these same elites were only among themselves they delighted in disparaging deplorables as MAGA Trumpers and made lots of ungenerous jokes at the expense of rural people less educated and less fortunate than themselves. It never seemed to dawn on any of them that there existed a discrepancy between their crude stereotype and the very favorable reality they were meeting in the flesh.

That experience left me disappointed in and ashamed of my companions. It brought to mind a line of a poem by Carl Sandburg:

I have had my chance to live with the people who have too much and the people who have too little and I chose one of the two and I have told no man why. 

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
7 days ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

I have encountered this too: Yankees who actually meet Southerners (as opposed, say, to watching Easy Rider) often have the same reaction. Another version comes out when Americans visit France: the American coastal habit of walking into a shop and not schmoozing a bit first becomes incredibly off-putting to a lot of French people, whereas anyone who has spent time in the American South (and also picked up yes ma’am, no sir) will naturally be a bit more comfortable.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

I believe all of that but:
Don’t you think a least one or two were changed, even if they weren’t brave enough to show it, at least not immediately?
Don’t many Southerners or rural folks indulge in crude stereotypes about “coastal elites” and “libtard snowflakes” too?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
7 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“Don’t many Southerners or rural folks indulge in crude stereotypes about “coastal elites” and “libtard snowflakes” too?”
I suppose there are some, but not that many; what you see are mostly political tropes. They mostly just want to be left alone, something that the crusading intellectual descendants of the New England Puritans who dominate the coastal elite culture cannot abide. But, when pushed, they will push back.
Read “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer, or Walter Russell Mead on the Jacksonian influence on US foreign policy in “Special Providence.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

Ok. I’ll accept that to some extent. Coastal elites–whom I’m adjacent to but not really part of–tend to be condescending and sneering in a way that middle-American and Southerners aren’t.
Still, there is a lot of viciousness and hatred in the other direction too. Right?
Read Trump’s speeches or The Case Against Trump by Kevin Williamson, a decidedly right-of-center writer who now writes for The Dispatch–as you likely know. Or perhaps you only assign readings?*
*I’ll take your recommendations seriously, since they aren’t ideological or partisan in nature. I hold Steinbeck’s works in high regard, especially The Grapes of Wrath (which you mentioned below).
I won’t have the time and attention needed to read Fischer’s lengthy book in the near future, but I’ll keep it in mind. I’m still hoping to make it through Nancy Isenberg’s citation-heavy book White Trash.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
7 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Of course; but there is an asymmetry here that tips a greater burden of fault onto “coastal elites”. Every one of the coastal elites I referenced was college-educated, financially-secure, and well-travelled (except to places like Arkansas). The rural poor are undereducated and, as such, can perhaps be a bit forgiven for their restricted enlightenment, lack of experience beyond their small familiar world, and the unsophistication that derives from it. The coastal elites, however, are very well-educated, more cosmopolitan, and purport to live by a code of tolerance and preference for diversity that is not borne out by their ungenerous stereotyping of the rural poor. My observation was that the experience in Arkansas of this cohort of privileged coastal elites did not alter their fixed stereotype of rural poor. None were altered by the experience. That is the ironic point. Additionally, it is supremely hypocritical that coastal elites bend over backwards not to criticize or stereotype the sacred urban poor who wreak massive violent depredation on American cities. Yet they are free and comfortable with characterizations of the rural poor as “deplorables” even though their own rich personal experience of the urban poor is highly negative and their only experience of rural poor was overwhelmingly positive.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
7 days ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

I just don’t think you should conclusively assume none were altered. How do you know? Changes often take time. And they are hard to admit for most of us.
Do you take a charitable view of your political opponents yourself?

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
7 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I should, and do, and will conclude that none of those people were altered by their direct contact with hard-working, polite, and welcoming Arkansans. My vantage of proximity and social connection to the individuals cited in my example qualifies me to make that assessment more than you who have never met them. The public discourse and obviously shabby media treatment of rural white poor further supports my point. I also am not dissuaded from my more general view that poor rural whites are considered by coastal elites in America as fair game for contempt and ridicule in ways that other groups are not. The very fact that the commonly-used epithet “redneck” elicits no indignation among the elite, while any other epithet directed toward any other group does, shows how pervasively the left has succeeded in scapegoating and stigmatizing this group. Has a it never occurred to you that the reason poor rural deplorables support Trump is because he is the only candidate that isn’t ashamed to be associated with them?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 days ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

Fine man. Maybe they deserve your round dismissal. But that does not enable you to correctly extend your judgment to millions of others you’ve never met, according to the limited sample size of your own experience.
I agree that poor and rural white people are ridiculed, with a prejudice and freedom of meanness that doesn’t apply to other groups. They are ridiculed and looked down upon by their own wealthier and higher status neighbors too, and always have been, wrongly so. Did “coastal elites” coin the term redneck?
Trump isn’t ashamed of anything, even when he ought to be. Except losing a popularity or notoriety contest. He does not respect poor people and denounces anyone who doesn’t vote for him, rich or poor. Not a good person to be in charge of anything but a cheap reality show.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
6 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
7 days ago

I’ve sometimes wondered if the Democrats focus predominantly on the black urban poor to the exclusion of other poverty stricken people. That stance enables them to direct money to the Democratic Party’s urban political machines. They can claim righteousness while keeping the pork from their political opponents.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 days ago

Copied from Quora:
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW IF YOU MOVE TO THE APPALACHIANS.
1. A possum is a flat animal that sleeps in the middle of the road.
2. There are 5,000 types of snakes and 4,998 of them live in the South.
3. There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 of them live in the South, plus a couple no one’s seen before.
4. If it grows, it’ll stick ya. If it crawls, it’ll bite cha.
5. Onced and Twiced are words.
6. It is not a shopping cart, it is a buggy!
7. Jawl-P? means: Did you all go to the bathroom?
8. People actually grow, eat, and like okra.
9. Fixinto is one word. It means I’m going to do something.
10. There is no such thing as lunch. There is only dinner and then there’s supper.
11. Iced tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you’re two. We do like a little tea with our sugar. It is referred to as the Wine of the South.
12. Backwards and forwards means I know everything about you.
13. The word jeet is actually a question meaning, ‘Did you eat?’
14. You don’t have to wear a watch, because it doesn’t matter what time it is, you work until you’re done or it’s too dark to see.
15. You don’t PUSH buttons, you MASH em.
16. Y’all is singular. All Y’all is plural.
17. All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect, or animal.
18. You carry jumper cables in your car for your OWN car.
19. You only own five spices: salt, pepper, mustard, Tabasco, and ketchup.
20. The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but require 6 pages for local high school sports, motorsports, and gossip.
21. Everyone you meet is a Honey, Sugar, Miss (first name), or Mr (first name)
22. You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.
23. You know what a hissy fit is..
24. Fried catfish is the other white meat.
25. We don’t need no dang Driver’s Ed. If our mama says we can drive, we can drive!!!
26. You understand these jokes and forward them to your Appalachian friends and those who just wish they were from the Appalachians.
27. Why did the chicken cross the road? To show that stupid possum that it CAN be done.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 days ago

Laughed at and upvoted. Number 10 applies to Alberta, Canada too, where many have roots in the Midwest. Number 18 applies to me.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
6 days ago

We could also have mentioned Dolly Parton, a very intelligent and spectacularly talented singer songwriter.
If the success stories mentioned above demonstrate anything is that being a ‘hillbilly’ does not stop anybody from having aspirations.
I went to a couple of US Bluegrass festivals years ago. The chinless boy in the hideous Deliverance movie was merely miming whereas every single band showed such a high degree of musicianship, and the stage patter was every bit as witty as any other.
The caricature of toothless men in vests is unpleasantly lazy.

Luke Lea
Luke Lea
6 days ago

Fortunately, Batya Ungar-Sargon is now on the scene: https://twitter.com/noam_dworman/status/1806710358280917394

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 hours ago

next up, a sympathetic portrait of FGM and those who defend its practice