A Visit To Trump Country

As a kind of time capsule regarding democracy in America, I wrote a bunch of posts (6) following the 2016 election. You can revisit them, starting with the first one here

In advance of next week’s election, I wanted to write about a recent ugly Saturday morning encounter. It fills me with dread for the election, and for whatever comes after.

Last month my family and I drove to a small rural Hill Country Texas for socially-distanced State Park family time.1 

Garner_state_park
Frio River in Garner State Park

During the drive 1.5 hours directly west of San Antonio, of course we saw our fair share of Trump2020 and Trump/Pence signs. That was to be expected. 

We live in a downtown San Antonio bubble which, like all of Texas’ cities, bleeds blue. But I know, overall, I live in a one-party state. 2 

Saturday morning, 9am, Central Breakfast Taco Time. Hill Country, Texas.

We drove from our AirBnB to the nearest drive-through breakfast place. There were only three places that seemed to be serving breakfast in town, and the first two didn’t appear to have outdoor seating. 3

Getting into the drive-through line required a second pass through, left onto a side road, before circling back and getting line. 

The first strange impression on this side road was the line-up of fifty or sixty cars, all parked but with people in them. This was in a very small town, where fifty cars represented a major part of the town’s population. 4

So many people lined up in cars, patiently waiting presented a puzzle at first. But I guessed (correctly, it turned out): Food Bank.

Parked in line for the drive-through tacos window we faced the Food Bank line, half a block away. But that wasn’t the big shock. The big shock happened after the middle aged, white lady in the drive-in window looked up expectantly, to take our order. 

Coffee, water, tacos. Normal stuff. 

mmm breakfast tacos

We could see two other wait staff – another middle-aged woman and a younger man – inside bustling around, serving the people seated inside the restaurant.

The blue t-shirts of the two waitresses matched. Maybe a uniform? But no, actually they wore a “TRUMP 2020” t-shirt, printed with large white lettering on dark blue.

That was surprising, as both waitresses wore the same political shirt at a taco place. 

But below, under three white stars to offset the TRUMP 2020, was the message, “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS.”

I turned back to my wife in the shotgun position. Had she seen this? Oh yes, she’d seen it. My two daughters in the back seat hadn’t read the shirt yet. 

Well. Despite her exhortation to self fornicate, I can say I had a whole bunch of feelings. 

Wearing a political t-shirt while serving breakfast is certainly a choice. A rare choice, but one that could only be taken with the knowledge of what the restaurant owner would want. And relatedly, what customers would want. But this was not an ordinary political t-shirt. This was an attack on any customer who didn’t share their sentiment. I don’t share their sentiment. 

“Fuck Your Feelings.”

Not: Vote Trump if you enjoy business de-regulation. 

Not: Vote Trump if you want lower taxes. 

Not: Vote Trump because you believe he’s a useful tool for placing judges who will rule in line with the current Christian-Political-Right.

Rather: Vote Trump, and also, if you have any disagreement with me – or any empathy for people who are different from yourself – go fuck yourself. 

That, I felt, told me a lot about what management of this restaurant believed. About customers of the restaurant. About this town. About America in 2020. And, I couldn’t help but think, about their feelings for the fifty or so cars lined up half a block away. Lined up for food.

fuck_your_feelings
The cruelty is the point

Something clicked into place for me. More concretely than it has in the past 5 years of the Trump nightmare. His supporters hate the people he hates. His contempt, his attacks, his denigration of others.

His denigration of “The Other.”

As Adam Serwer said long before me: The cruelty is the point.

They don’t care for his policies. (He has no policies.)

They care that he hates the right people. 

I couldn’t help but feel that the waitress’ t-shirt was a direct attack on the people lined up a half a block away, trying to get enough food for the week for their families. The people in line for food from the food bank aren’t thriving in Trump’s America. For that matter, the woman serving breakfast tacos to me through a drive in window isn’t thriving in Trump’s America either. 

fuck_your_feelings

But she seethes with hate. How else to explain “Fuck Your Feelings” as, practically a business slogan? She may have very little power, but she has power over the people in line for the food bank. She derives power from his attacks.

After we paid and she handed us out tacos through the window, she said goodbye with “Have a Blessed Day.” Because of course she did.

“Fuck Your Feelings!” Just like Jesus would say.

Did she notice the rainbow Beto sticker, leftover from his 2018 Senate campaign, on the back of our car?

Sunday morning, 10am Tubing Central Time. Hill Country Texas

The next day on our trip we rented inflatable tubes to go down the Frio River from an outfit that flew a “TRUMP 2020: No More Bullshit” flag. This wasn’t as aggressive as the taco place t-shirt uniform but was further confirmation that:

No_More_Bullshit

a) Only expletives properly express Trump supporter views, and

b) Trump, the greatest con artist in history, somehow always manages to make his supporters project Trump’s flaws on to the rest of the world. 

I mean, “End The Bullshit?” 

The guy is the biggest and most successfully bullshitting bullshit artist who has ever lived. And he has his supporters (I understand, between 40 and 45 percent of my fellow citizens) believing that Trump will “end the bullshit?”

I just. I mean. This is amazing. 

Anyway, here’s hoping our Democracy doesn’t end next week. 

american_flag

But if it does, well, Fuck Your Feelings. And do have a blessed day.

Trump Part I – Fever Dreams

Trump Part II – Review of Recent Elected Authoritarians

Trump Part III – The Use of Security Crises

Trump Part IV – The Economic and Financial Crisis

Trump Part V – The Constitutional Crisis

Trump Part VI – Principled Republican Leadership

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  1. Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Park. Both beautiful!
  2. There are no statewide elected Democrats as of October 2020. Maybe that will change on election day November 3 2020, but it still feels probably 4 years too early for a statewide Democratic win.
  3. Drive-through or outdoor seating is our key criteria for eating out, during COVID times
  4. The official population of Leakey, TX is 468 people. Fifty cars all lined up at the same time is…a lot

Legal Realism – Or – What I am Most Worried About Today

Matt_levine_legal_realismMy favorite financial blogger is Matt Levine on Bloomberg. My favorite course in college was called Legal Realism.

The mashup of these two personal favorites this morning – to explain my deepest fears about the election results – are worth reading.

Take it away, Matt:

Hmm.

The summer before I started law school, 15 years ago, I read a little book by Karl Llewellyn called “The Bramble Bush.” It’s basically a “Law School for Dummies” type thing from 1930, full of somewhat outdated advice on how to ace your classes and impress your professors. But Llewellyn was a leading thinker of the school of thought known as “legal realism,” and “The Bramble Bush” is also a major statement of that philosophy. In a famous passage, Llewellyn wrote:

“This doing of something about disputes, this doing of it reasonably, is the business of the law. And the people who have the doing of it in charge, whether they be judges or sheriffs or clerks or jailers or lawyers, are officials of the law. What these officials do about disputes is, to my mind, the law itself.”

He went on:

“And rules, in all of this, are important to you so far as they help you see or predict what judges will do or so far as they help you to get judges to do something. That is their importance. That is all their importance, except as pretty playthings.”

And then I went to law school. And I took the first-year course in Constitutional Law, and I learned about the fundamental principles that rule the United States. And I learned — or at least was given the general impression — that, while the country has not always lived up to those principles, in the long run, the Constitution has served as a wise guide and constraint on the power of our rulers, and the foundation of our system of government.

But in the back of my mind I thought about Llewellyn. I thought about the fact that those principles can’t automatically enact themselves, that they only work if the human actors in the system choose to follow them and to demand that others follow them. They persist because the people constrained by them believe themselves to be constrained by them. The Constitution, separation of powersreligious liberty, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, equality of all citizens: There is a complacent sense in America that these things are independent self-operative checks on power. But they aren’t. They are checks on power only as far as they command the collective loyalty of those in power; they require a governing class that cares about law and government and American tradition, rather than personal power and revenge. Their magic is fragile, and can disappear if people who don’t believe in it gain power.

Anyway this is a financial newsletter, so I’ll tell you that S&P 500 futures were limit down at minus 5 percent overnight, before paring losses. The Fed probably won’t hike in December now. Foreign markets have had a wild ride. Treasury yields plunged, I guess an indication that default is not too imminent. Bitcoin rallied. The Mexican peso is … best not to look. Maybe everything will be fine!

 

Things are not ok.

 

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