The United States was on fire.
Riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King revealed an angry darkness. Mobs smashed windows. Thieves looted inventory. Arsonists burned cities. US military units patrolled our urban neighborhoods with unsheathed bayonets exposed and ready for action. Eventually, the US Army and Reserves occupied parts of Washington, DC to restore peace and order. For America, waking up to a murdered King and a burning country, this was a living nightmare. The land of freedom and opportunity choked on racial divides and conflicted futures. These were difficult days for the United States.
Dimitri’s father told him he was going to paradise. 17 days earlier they crammed all their possessions and family members onto an ocean liner and headed for New York City. They left behind the family olive farm, leasing it to strangers for the first time in four generations. The time had come to leave the small village they called home. 23 kilometers south of Sparta, this was deep rural Greece. Their farm had sustained them for decades, but their future was in America. Fantasies of money trees in the backyard warmed them as they crossed the ocean. Upon arrival in New York, their new life would begin.
Dimitri hated his father for it. Instead of paradise, they found a country tearing itself apart. Burning cities. Murdered leaders. Hate and mobs. Instead of money trees, they found dishwashing and cleaning. Dimitri even got a new name he didn’t want. In the immigration lines of New York, the agent decided he was now James, and so it was. Dimitri left his home, his country, and even his identity. It would take many years for the American Dream to come.
Are you white? Check yes or no.
When Dimitri’s family filled out their paperwork, it asked them about race. There were two options: white or black. He and his family never considered themselves to be white before. They were Mediterranean; they were Greek. But now they were white. They merely checked a box on paper. He didn’t know this meant taking sides in a deep struggle. The King assassination was his introduction, but it was the daily events at school that told the main story.
“Everyday I was picked on. I was bullied. I was getting thrown out every day. I got jumped every day by blacks. Because that was the thing, it was black vs. white. The Spanish community wasn’t here yet. I never thought of myself as white before I came. When they asked you your race back then it was white or black. I didn’t even know what to call myself, so I check white. I’m Greek, not white.”
Eventually, they moved to Baltimore. His mother was a seamstress. His father cleaned churches and offices. Dimitri washed glasses at a restaurant for $5 a day. Sunny days on the farm in Greece seemed far away as he traded working the family land for working in someone else’s kitchen. But his father kept reminding him, just work hard, make your way and things will get better.
At age 19, Dimitri opened his first restaurant. It was a pizza joint in suburban Maryland. Slinging slices and sodas, his success there fueled his drive. Eventually, he sold the pizza place and flipped it into an import business. In time, Dimitri took over the family farm after his father’s death and now he uses it to produce high-quality olive oil. He imports not just from his estate but the entire region in Greece. With multiple retail locations in the US and a thriving wholesale business, there’s a chance you’ve tasted his olive oil if you live in the DC/Baltimore area. Evolving from migrant to dishwasher, and then to international businessman, Dimitri realized his version of the American Dream.
Always a Democrat
Dimitri voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. His family are all Democrats. He was raised a Democrat. His Dad was a Democrat, his wife, even his kids are Democrats today. “My sons can’t believe I voted for Trump. They know my history they can’t believe it.” Until 2016, there was never thought to vote Republican. But Trump came along and changed all of that for Dimitri, just as he did for nine million other Democrat to Deplorable voters.
I had met Dimitri two months prior at a farmer’s market in central Pennsylvania. I was out scouting for potential subjects and he was selling delicious olive oil. We talked there, and then I followed up with him later.
“I voted with my feelings and my visions,” he explained over lunch in DC. “You let your instinct work; you have to. We’re not going to any psychiatrist for help; you just let your instinct and feelings decide.”
“I look at their face. I feel my feelings. What else can you get from a politician? They go in broke and come out rich. It’s not like they’re telling you the truth.”
Trust evaporated over the American landscape in 2016. I don’t know if there was once a time where we believed politicians or the media, but a significant deficit had developed, and Trump was there to exploit it. Wikileaks revealed collusion between the Democratic National Committee and the major media outlets. Obama’s promises to end the wars, close Guantanamo, and inflate the national psyche fell flat. Hillary Clinton’s tainted money trail, missing emails, and general duplicity shrouded her campaign. Simply put, trust was gone.
When we can’t use trust to make our decisions, what do people turn to? Author and cartoonist Scott Adams believes persuasion is what made Trump’s campaign successful. Based on Adam’s past training as a hypnotist, he asserts Trump is a master persuader, someone who has a once in a generation ability to use words, imagery, and framing to evoke the desired emotional response. Trump wanted you to feel like he was with you, or that he was a man who understood you, the real you. From the Make America Great Again slogan, to catchphrases like “the Wall” and “lock her up,” Trump used rhetoric to cut through the cacophony and reach people on an instinctual level. Trump energized people with his words. It resonated with people like Dimitri. Here is an immigrant, a one time foreigner, the white not-white minority without a college education but an international business instead. What did Trump make him feel?
“I love reality. I love real issues. I felt nothing for Hillary. She could never feel me. Trump said what he said, and everyone tried to nitpick, you can’t nitpick. He did say stupid stuff, but to me it was funny. Who cares?”
Dimitri mentioned to me three or four times that Trump spoke to his gut, that he felt Trump on a deeper level beyond the policies or personalities. What Trump did reached Dimitri in a meaningful way. When people say something spoke to their gut, what they mean is you’re speaking to their instincts. Our limbic system analyzes data and communicates with our body through visceral feelings emanating from the stomach, or chest. This decision-making process developed long before our neocortex provided critical thinking and conscious thought. People often “go with their gut” because it feels right. And this feeling is our body delivering its final analysis of a complex set of data. In election 2016 Trump pushed past the brain and went right for our hearts.
Why would a group of people be open to such persuasion? What was it about them or their situations which made emotional appeals to core instincts resonate forcefully enough to change lifelong political affiliations? These are complex issues. I believe Americans today are increasingly disconnected from the real world and many only sense it on a gut level. Leftist narratives divorce us from reality. And in fact, a fundamental assumption in post-modern philosophy, which dominates the left, is an outright rejection of objective reality. The left discards science and common sense.
Some of this is apparent when you consider the contradictions they put forth. Gender is a social construct yet transexuals can be born the wrong gender. Diversity is the highest ideal, but a diversity of outcomes is unacceptable. Equality for men and women is essential, but not when it comes to dangerous jobs, suicide rates, or in family law matters. These among many other examples work together to alienate people from reality. A disconnection to science and the natural world is unsettling. To be outside of nature is to be in the underworld. Leftist dogma and policy drove us into the wilderness, where Trump was waiting with this gut-rattling persuasion.
Political correctness also disconnects humans from reality. Language controls the mind as much as the mind controls language and to police our words is to pull levers in our brain. PC culture is a mind control tool of the left and people are weary. With Trump we had a candidate who threw off the handcuffs of political correctness and in doing so evolved into the leader voters craved. By saying the wrong words, by being crass, by being angry and uncontrolled, Trump gave ordinary people in America hope, hope we could return to reality, back to a time when science and common sense ruled. In short, Trump offered a path upon which we could begin the slow dig back to enlightenment ideals rather than tumble towards the blackness of post-modern and progressive anti-reality.
“Fighting back against political correctness motivated me to vote in 2016.” – 89% of Democrat to Deplorable voters agree or strongly agree.
Only 5% disagreed. Few other issues matter more to these voters than the struggle to regain control over language as a way back to reality. Here is a sample of responses:
“Political correctness is evil incarnate, and a desire to see it put down was highly motivating to me.” – A white male baby boomer from Nevada City, CA.
“This was huge. I live in the SF area so everything is so offensive to everyone and I’m tired of it. It gets to the point where you are afraid to even express an opinion because it will be called hate speech or insensitive.” – A white female boomer from Contra Costa, CA.
“Humans evolved to discriminate – to gather data and to use it to make the next judgment call. Somehow, after thousands and thousands of years, this has been deemed hateful. I do not understand.” – A white female millennial from Charleston, SC.
“I see a fixation with political correctness and speech policing as symptoms of a people in denial. Electing Trump would move the boundaries of the conversation to force us to face the real-life imperatives we’ve been protected from by PC culture, and so save a lot of our lives. Going “un-PC” certainly saved mine.” – A black male millennial from Richmond, RI.
Across the board, Democrat to Deplorable voters, and perhaps most Trump voters in general, elected Donald Trump as a way to combat PC culture which encroaches on the First Amendment and manipulates our speech.
To live in a world where speech and thoughts are controlled is to live in a world divorced from the enlightenment reality. That world is chaotic. As humans, we fear the disordered; it is the wilderness, it is the darkness. Order and reason are the lights, and Trump led his voters back from the precipice of the underworld and returned them to reality. Though most voters lack the tools or education to describe this sensation, to me, it is self-evident from the data and the stories I’ve heard over the last year.
Trump wasn’t the “chaos candidate,” but rather Clinton, as the candidate aligned with the progressive post-modern left, was herself the instrument of disorder. Though daily politics and current events often appear to swim in their own streams, the tide which carries them is their underlying philosophies. And post-modern progressivism shamelessly rejects objective reality. Whatever nonsense flows from that originating position can only lead to further reality dislocations. People may not “know” this stuff, but they certainly feel it.
Does Dimitri even exist?
The rush to label all Trump voters as white working class erases people like Dimitri. While it is true his academic education ended with high school, it’s also true he runs an international business. His work grows from a pristine Greek farm just outside of Sparta, all the way to retail outlets and farmer’s markets in the Mid-Atlantic United States. He employs people on two continents and moves products and capital across oceans. Is this the portrait of an ignorant rural bumpkin? Is Dimitri uneducated and worldly at the same time? If you believe the media, all Trump voters are mouth-breathers who can barely sign their name. Dismissing the existence of people like Dimitri is part of the propaganda war waged by the left.
“I’m Mediterranean. I’m not white. I have no connection to anyone living in England, but now, we’re all white.”
And Dimitri isn’t white either. Not to himself at any rate. He wears his Greek heritage with pride. In his own eyes, he is Mediterranean. He never once thought of himself as “white” until forced by US paperwork to chose between that or black. In all reasonable estimations, Dimitri is probably brown if anything, his dark eyes and tan skin provided a stark contrast to my Irish freckles, blue eyes, and red beard. “I never thought of myself as white before I came [to the US]. When they asked you your race back then it was white or black. Then they added Hispanic. I didn’t even know what to call myself, so I checked white. I’m Greek; I’m Mediterranean. I’m not white. I have no connection to anyone living in England, but now, we’re all white.”
The lack of space for someone like Dimitri in the analysis of Trump supporters reveals the media’s bias and provides the beginning of a “surprises loss” in 2020. Challenging Trump is easier when all of his supporters can be waived off by calling them “white working class.” It’s nothing more than the unrestrained snobbery of the pundit class.
According to my survey, 87% of Democrat to Deplorable voters finished at least some college, with 65% having undergraduate or graduate degrees.
These are not what you’d call uneducated people. We know Democrat to Deplorable voters changed their minds after careful consideration, such consideration made by educated people must mean something. And because it does, the media and Trump’s haters must diminish it. There can’t be thoughtful Trump supporters because that crashes the narrative. Between forgetting about worldly educated “non-college” “whites” and ignoring the credentialed Democrat to Deplorable voter, Democrats seem to be more interested in putting their head in the sand rather than admitting reality: not all Trump voters are rubes taken by a conman.
And let’s not forget, Dimitri is also an immigrant. How is it that he could support Donald Trump and his allegedly xenophobic policies? My lunch with a brown-skinned immigrant having no college degree, still speaking with an accent, explaining to me how Trump was going to protect him from illegals must make most Democrat’s heads explode. This sort of thing just isn’t possible. To the left, Trump was an unfettered xenophobe who’d unleash Hitler’s hell on the country the day after inauguration. But to Dimitri, he was looking out for him.
“My whole family came here legally. We did the whole process. It took time, it cost a lot of money, but we did it the right way. Why can’t everyone do it the right way?” I’ve talked with many immigrants who came to the US through the system who feel the same. Somehow they’re able to hear the distinction between illegal and legal immigrant when Trump speaks. For them, their first American act was to respect and honor our immigration policies. Those who flaunt our laws and enter illegally are tainted with an original sin.
To Dimitri, protecting the borders and ending illegal immigration was a celebration of his history, an acknowledgment that doing something the right way still had merit, that hard work, patience, and a little luck still formed the core of an American identity. To have stolen your place in our society was to poke Uncle Sam in the eye with a stick as you ran past him to grab his goodies. That the Democrats and the left defend those who openly flaunt our laws, that they conspire to protect illegal aliens through sanctuary cities and amnesty, that they devalue the time, toil, and devotion it takes to become a citizen the right way, tells Dimitri and people like him: we just don’t care about you.
People don’t vote for politicians who openly disrespect them.
“I’ll vote for Trump again, of course, there is no reason not to. If the ocean is smooth, I’ll vote for him. There is nothing the Democrats could ever do to get me back. I know too much now. They don’t look big enough; they don’t see far enough. That’s how I feel.”
“I’m no longer a Democrat. If I cheat on my wife, that’s it. I’m done. And I cheated on them. I’m done with being a Democrat.”