Salvo 04.04.2023 8 minutes

Middle Americans

Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Town View

What might it actually look like to represent the real interests and values of most voters?

“Daddy was a vet’ran, a Southern Democrat, they ought to get a rich man to vote like that…”— Song of the South, Alabama

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right; Here I am stuck in the middle with you”—Stuck in the Middle with You, Steelers Wheel

One reason I rarely venture into the realm of American politics is because I am not in the habit of going places I do not belong, much less where I am not wanted. And I am as out of place among both Republicans and Democrats as a country ham at a synagogue.

I see no value in hitching my wagon to an elephant with neither sense of direction nor recollection of where he came from. Neither do I welcome the prospect of hooking myself to an ass that can’t plow in a straight line and tries to bite me at every turn.

I’d wager that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In fact, if there exist out there any politicians with the pie-eyed hope of unifying the country behind a saner program than what’s currently on offer, they might do well to think about how people like me see the world.

I can’t remember the last time I trusted a politician of any stripe. Most are so crooked that when they die, the undertaker will have to screw them into the ground with a torque wrench. Ninety-nine point nine percent of them, blue and red, should be handed a pink slip and told to get further and smell better.

One party prides itself on being “conservative,” while having nothing to conserve but the madness of five minutes ago. The other gloats about being “progressive,” which seems to mean careening off the edge of a cliff like a gaggle of over-eager lemmings. Neither sounds very appealing to me.

I was born into a family of traditionalist Southern Democrats—a breed of political animal that has gone the way of the Dodo Bird in my lifetime. I live in a red state that was once a blue state. But this is because the Democratic Party sold its soul to the Devil and now worships at the blackened altar of Molech. It certainly isn’t because the folks in Toad Suck, Arkansas finally got around to reading Hayek or started subscribing to National Review. I know this isn’t true everywhere, but in some ways my state still feels like it is peopled by that extinct species of Democrat. But then again, I don’t live in America: I live in Arkansas.

When I was growing up, folks in our family went to church on Sundays, to work on Mondays, and to union meetings on Thursdays. They believed in the sacred nature of the traditional family, the supremacy of the Christian religion and its outworking in society, the inviolability of the First Amendment, and the necessity of the Second Amendment to protect all of that.

We were taught that honorable folks worked hard to earn a living and that the government should only help if and when they couldn’t. Republicans were encouraging everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but we understood that it’s mighty hard to do that when the straps rotted off months ago during a long hard winter. Even so, the business of government was to give those people a leg up—never a hand out.

In the Delta region of the South where I was raised, FDR was still venerated as a modern-day saint as late as the 1990s. If you asked folks in my part of the world how they survived the Depression, most would’ve told you, “By the grace of God and Franklin Roosevelt.” Because it’s hard to hate a man who made sure your children didn’t starve after the cotton mills went bust, your husband got a brain tumor, and there was almost no work to be had for a woman with six kids.

In much of the South, the New Deal was viewed as a late answer to the Reconstruction question. At the time, half-measures laden with problems seemed better than none. Folks too poor to make it could at least get by on surplus commodities. Those too proud to stand in line at the courthouse or the national guard armory for peanut butter and cheese could slip over and get it from a relative with a little less shame.

While this describes many in general, it describes my great-grandmother in particular. “We weren’t really all that political,” she said, “but we were hungry, and Roosevelt was sending the bread.” “That’s not ‘conservative,’” some will say. Perhaps not. But if it hadn’t been for such measures, my family wouldn’t have been “conserved” at all.

Does this make me “fiscally liberal”? Not necessarily. I seem to be for less ludicrous spending than either major party. For instance, I am not in favor of bailing out banksters, funding sexual re-education seminars with public money at either the state or local level, or footing the bill for foreign wars. In other words: I don’t belong.

Red Neck, Blue Collar, Clear Conscience

I reckon I am a traditionalist, conservative, reactionary, blue-dog democratic-republican. Sadly, we have few candidates on the ballot. So while it is true that I tend to vote with the Republicans most of the time, I am usually loath to do it, because I know it only encourages the bastards.

So for politicians or interest groups hoping to earn the allegiance of anyone like me: don’t ask me to do anything “for my party.” Tell me to do it for my family. Am I “patriotic”? Who knows. I figure my patriotism is like bursitis: it flares up a couple times a year, usually in hot weather. I love my home and try to love my neighbor, but if you’re asking if I think we need to spread the gospel of Exxon Mobil to the four corners of the world, then no. If that’s what patriotism really is then I’m the erstwhile Queen of the Hottentots.

For all that, I am not hovering over the socio-political landscape like some both-sides Buddha, pretending to float above it all. This is not some airy-fairy Third-Wayism as much as it is a lament that things have changed so much and have gotten so bad so quickly.

I haven’t watched the news (except for the local weather) since 2020. If you put a gun to my head and said, “Name six popular political pundits or I’m pulling the trigger,” there’s a good chance I’d be conversing with St. Peter in a matter of minutes. Somehow I suspect that being under-informed after that fashion is preferable to being ill-informed by partisan hacks.

But there’s one thing about which I am certain—whatever it is that Washington is doing now isn’t working. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to know beans from apple butter about how to run a country, but both seem adept at being able to run one into the ground.

It isn’t altogether clear whether Republicans lack the courage of their convictions or simply lack any real convictions at all. Let us remember that the GOP pitted a TV snake-oil salesman against a candidate who was barely ambulatory—and lost. Lost, I say, because a candidate without the power of speech was deemed more attractive than an empty suit with no clear attachment to any principle higher than his own sacred self.

Meanwhile the Democrats, who once prided themselves on attending so astutely to the “voice of the people,” have stuffed their ears so full of special interest cotton balls that they have become deaf to the cries of a nation. Democrats don’t seem to hear a peep from Christians, whites, small business owners, middle Americans, Southerners, heterosexuals, biological males, or babies in their mother’s wombs—who are not so much yearning to breathe free as they are simply yearning to breathe at all.

What few proposals I have to offer seem both simple and impossible. Republicans should concern themselves with protecting our republic and the laws and lives which constitute it, rather than faceless corporations, technocracies, or some divinized notion of The Market. Democrats should heed once again the voices of all the people, eschewing exotic ideological experiments in order to embrace the totality of Americans from sea to shining sea.

Though I am not altogether sanguine about the future of party politics (at least the major parties as they exist at present), I haven’t yet stocked the basement with dry beans and powdered milk against an impending Armageddon. I still have faith in ordinary Americans. I am hoping against hope that common, workaday men and women will assert their right to live in reality and insist on a politics to match. For one thing, there are so many of us. For another thing, God loves us.

There is enough discontent and hunger at the local level to make me feel that a constituency exists to support a program of patriotism and virtue against the venal manias of our elite uniparty. Any national leader who can give that constituency the drive and direction they need will have my vote. If such a leader should prove himself, we have a fighting chance.

As it stands, I belong to neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. I belong to God, my family, and to the Arkansas dirt forever mingled with my own blood. But without any trace of irony, I think it is precisely that kind of sentiment that can make a person a decent American. By the grace of God, there might still be quite a lot of us out there.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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