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

Book Review: The Making Of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston covered Trump as a journalist for thirty years, in the course of reporting on the Atlantic City beat. He presents in The Making of Donald Trump a greatest hits of the President’s business life. And by greatest hits, I actually mean the lowlights of his behavior with women, with business partners, with lawsuits, with his employees, and with the press.

To point out that President Donald Trump is primarily a con man with easily observed personality disorders is relatively straightforward, given what we’ve witnessed of him as a Presidential candidate, and now as President. I think the time for outrage at each new Tweet or each new attempt to subvert the best traditions of the Republic is past. We know what he is. We know he will try his best to break this country’s constitutional traditions.

But to play armchair psychiatrist for a moment, Trump is not, primarily, evil. He is a deeply insecure person unencumbered by the moral boundaries which limit the rest of us. When faced with his unrelenting narcissism, a yawning chasm of need, he chooses the fastest route to a short-term fix for that sickness. Johnston’s book is a history of this sickness, in easily digested, well-researched, chapters.

Sometimes his sickness means doing business with noted mob associates. Occasionally it means cutting family members out of their inheritance. Often it means threatening lawsuits against journalists, newspapers, and other perceived enemies who jangle the nerves of his insecurity. Often it involves an unrelenting thirst for vengeance. Sometimes it means screwing over your bondholders. Historically it has involved inventing hotel prizes, and then hiring people to award them to you, as a 4-year old child would do, if given the chance. It includes cutting corners on building costs by hiring illegal labor, working under dangerous conditions. It means running a scam University making false claims and preying on financially vulnerable people.

Sometimes it means calling up gossip columnists, pretending to be a PR man, and bragging about how Madonna or Carla Bruni or some other hottie of the day is lusting after Donald Trump. Sometimes it means not actually trying to legitimately attract a woman’s attention, and just The_making_of_donald_trumpgrabbing them by the pussy.

Johnston published this book in August 2016, after Trump’s nomination by the Republican Party but before the November election. He tried to do his patriotic duty of warning the country about a con man he’d observed closely for decades.

Anyway, life is going great here in the United States since the election, OTT.1

 

Please see related posts:

Why I Can’t Sleep At Night (post Trump election)

Trump Part III – The Authoritarian Use of Security Crises

Trump Part IV – The Authoritarian Use of Economic Crises

Trump Part V – The Constitutional Crisis

Trump Part VI – The Need For Principled Republican Leadership Right Now

The Fall of The Roman Republic by Plutarch

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  1. “Other Than Trump”

Trump Wins. Markets Panic. Why?

trump_victoryStock markets worldwide will drop significantly tomorrow, and throughout the rest of the week, as US and global investors recalibrate their expectations of the United States due to the little-anticipated Donald Trump victory in today’s Presidential election.

Stock Market

From an individual investor perspective, I suddenly have deep regrets about two pieces of 100% rock-solid advice I’ve given out about personal investing in the stock market. The first is that there’s no particular advantage to owning ETFs over mutual funds, since nobody should really need to trade their personal stock holdings in the middle of the day. ETFs allow you to trade at any time when markets are open, whereas mutual fund investors can only trade based on the day’s closing price. But I’ve never believed any individual investor should be in a such a hurry to sell that a mid-day trade is better than an end-of-day trade.

With the victory of Donald Trump, I’m really sad that I have to wait until the end of tomorrow to sell stocks, rather than mid-day.

Implicit in this comment is my second deep regret. My advice has always been the Winston Churchillian rock-solid “Never, never, never never sell.

But of course now I want to. It will take all my will-power to do nothing, as I watch stock market values plunge tomorrow.

******

tracy_chapman

In a seemingly unrelated vein, (but is it?) my favorite Tracy Chapman song “Why” goes like this:

“Why do the babies starve when there’s enough food to feed the world?

Why are the missiles called Peacekeepers, when they’re aimed to kill?

Why is a woman still not safe, when she’s in her home?

Love is Hate. War is Peace. No is Yes. We’re all free.”

No Gridlock

It’s both a cliche and a truism that Wall Street prefers gridlock in Washington. Gridlock is predictable. Gridlock is  stable. It prevents wild swings in policy. A divided Executive and Legislative branch tempers drastic or rapid change in regulations.

With a newly elected and strongly Republican House and Senate, and Donald Trump appearing to have a “mandate” for his bat-shit crazy ideas, whims, and personal vendettas, who is going to be the check and balance on the worst ideas from that side of the aisle? Like Trump’s fiscal spending plan, for example, estimated by a bipartisan budget group to add $5 Trillion to the federal deficit? Like Trump’s continual threats to unilaterally alter trade agreements or punish our most important trading partners like Mexico and China?

******

Tracy Chapman continues singing in my head:

“But somebody’s gonna have to answer

The time is coming soon

When the blind remove their blinders

And the speechless speak the truth.”

******

US Treasurys 

US Treasury bonds typically live in what the kids on the show Stranger Things would call The Upside Down. Meaning, if stocks go down, bonds go up. When stocks go up, bonds can go either sideways or down. And that’s what’s happening with a Trump victory tonight. A huge bond rally is happening right now, overnight, as I type this at midnight on Election night.

upside_down

But also, this rally in US Treasury is a totally bonkers reaction to a Trump victory, since Trump actually threatened to renegotiate US sovereign debts, if need be. No responsible financial or political US leader has ever made that threat. We’ve never defaulted, or threatened to default. Alexander Hamilton’s lasting contribution1 to our country’s strength is our rock solid credit, ever since 1789. Threatening US Treasury default is the kind of Third-World bush-league bullshit disruption that bond people don’t appreciate, and which I wrote last summer would have unknowable but possibly catastrophic consequences for our country, which actually is heavily indebted but treated like a safe bet in world markets. Until now.

Back to you, Tracy:

“But somebody’s gonna have to answer

The time is coming soon

Amidst all these questions and contradictions

There’re some who seek the truth.

Love is Hate

War is Peace

No is Yes

We’re all Free.”

Why?

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  1. Outside of inspiring Ron Chernow and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book and show, respectively