Editorial: Trump is the the ‘opioid of the masses’
The Washington Post’s Daily 202, an online blog, recently posted a compelling tease: “Want to know why Trump’s winning Ohio,” it asked. “Drink a beer with ‘the deplorables’ in Boehner’s old district.”
It got me, and it was worth the read.
Middletown, Ohio is a depressed industrial town in southwestern Ohio, and reports James Hohmann, Hillary supporters are thinner than hen’s teeth. He has a beer with a couple machinists in their 40s and shares their perspective:
“I cannot tell you one person I know of who has said to me that they support Hillary. Not one,” said Chris Polleys, who cleans benzene pots at the AK Steel plant here. “I don’t understand how she’s doing anything in the polls. I see Hillary for prison, but there’s no Hillary for president signs anywhere. It’s just impossible for me to believe that they’re neck and neck.”
The GOP nominee’s strength can be explained, in part, Hohmann reports, “by his extraordinary popularity with white men who did not go to college. Polleys, 40, was smoking Marlboros and drinking $1 Bud Lights with his brother, Dale Baxter, at a bar along the railroad tracks on the edge of town. Baxter, a machinist, explained how Middletown was an All-American City when they were growing up. But the economy declined. Jobs moved overseas. The mall is about dead now. The once grand home that belonged to the owner of a defunct paper mill has become low-income housing. Almost all the storefronts downtown are boarded up, including the movie theater. The pawnshops are the only thriving businesses.
“Baxter, 50, joined the Army after high school. After 20 years, he came back a decade ago. ‘Everything went in reverse,’ he said. ‘Something is keeping us locked in a time warp here.’”
Perhaps it’s a lack of education, or the rampant drug abuse. More people died of drug overdoses in the county in 2015 than of natural causes. Hohmann then introduces the reader to J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance, Hohmann reports, “grew up in Middletown as the son of an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother and an absent father… He joined the Marines after high school and wound up matriculating at Yale Law School. Now, at 31, he lives in San Francisco and works at an investment fund controlled by Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal founder.”
The blog continues with interesting tidbits, but the poignant part comes with Vance drawing “parallels between Trump’s appeal and the drug epidemic pummeling Middletown. Calling the GOP nominee an ‘opioid for the masses,’ he explains: ‘What Trump offers is an easy escape from the pain. … (His) promises are the needle in America’s collective vein. … Trump is cultural heroin. He makes some feel better for a bit. But he cannot fix what ails them, and one day they’ll realize it.’”
That about says it all.
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