I know that our weekend blogger, David Atkins, wrote about Kevin Williamson on Sunday, but at the risk of saying more about him than is warranted, I want to add my two cents. The first time I took any notice of Mr. Williamson was about three and a half years ago. The National Review has just published a piece by him entitled “Like a Boss.” It was an astonishing piece, and it’s even more noteworthy in retrospect.
What caught my attention was Williamson’s strange belief that alpha animals (“from red deer to mink to Homo sap.”) have more male offspring and that this somehow proved that Mitt Romney is more of a natural leader than Barack Obama.
The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons — the children of the general population are 51 percent male and 49 percent female, but the children of the Forbes billionaire list are 60 percent male. Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.
Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.
This was all a prelude to some campaign advice he wanted to impart to Romney. Because Romney is so wealthy, Williamson thought that “From an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote. All of it. He should get Michelle Obama’s vote.” The reason Romney wasn’t cashing in on his obvious advantage was because he refused to flaunt his wealth.
…Romney should quit pretending that he’s an ordinary schmo with ordinary schmo problems and start living a little larger. He should not be ashamed of being loaded; instead, he should have some fun with it. He will discover something that the Obama campaign has not quite figured out yet: Americans do not hate rich people. Americans love rich people. Americans will sit on their couches and watch billionaire Donald Trump fire people on television — for fun.
Given Romney’s failure and Trump’s (so far) success, maybe Mr. Williamson’s advice wasn’t so bad. Maybe Romney should have acted less defensively about his fortune. Maybe he should have worn a big gold R-MONEY chain around his neck and behaved a lot more like a failed casino magnate than a humble, yet mind-bogglingly successful, vulture capitalist.
So, on a personal level, I was not surprised to see him attack the Republican base with contempt.
“If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy—which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog—you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.”
“The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. The white American under-class is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul. If you want to live, get out of Garbutt [a blue-collar town in New York].”
It’s interesting that this echoes what outspoken racists like to say about the people living in our more drug-infested inner city neighborhoods. Williamson doesn’t differentiate between black scum and white scum. If they’re broke and their family structure isn’t exactly Ward Cleaver and they’re weighed down with substance abuse, then “they deserve to die.”
Or, maybe they can get a U-Haul and move somewhere more affluent and less enamored with opioids. (Good luck on finding the latter, but that’s another story.)
So, Williamson doesn’t excel at empathy, that’s clear. But there’s also an opportunity for some schadenfreude here, because the irony is so rich.
After all, the column that is currently arousing such controversy is an anti-Trump jerimiad entitled The Father-Führer. In the last election cycle, Williamson held up Trump as an example that Romney should follow. By emphasizing his success in business, Romney would project himself as an alpha male and this would more than compensate for his other faults as a candidate. It would attract people to him, including all the ladies, who wouldn’t notice or care that they didn’t agree with him on policy.
Well, who better to try this theory out than Trump himself?
And now that Trump has had so much success with this strategy that he’s on the verge of winning the Republican nomination, Williamson is upset. He calls Trump “the Führer” and denigrates his white working class supporters for falling for his act.
I don’t think Williamson really speaks for all that many conservatives. He seems like an extremist.
But you probably can’t understand the appeal of Trump to white working class voters without understanding that there’s a widespread suspicion that Republican elites think like Williamson. They want their votes, but they don’t want their problems. They’ll campaign in their communities and make promises, but in their hearts they think these communities are filled with white trash junkies who should die quicker so they cost less to maintain.
In any case, Republican politicians haven’t done anything for these communities lately, and their ideology argues against doing anything for them. As I said this weekend:
When the Republicans cannot even identify an AIDS-size epidemic in their communities and give up on the political process as a way to help their people, their people turn to an anti-political movement. You cannot expect people to remain dedicated to democratic institutions when their representatives are unwilling to use those institutions to better their lives.
What you get, then, is support for fascism. You get people semi-rationally calling for a strong man who will smash the weak legislature and stick a boot on the necks of their elites who have abandoned them.
Williamson wishes these Trump supporters would just drop dead and that their communities would be replaced by tumbleweeds, but they’re still alive. And they’re well on their way to making Trump the head of Williamson’s party.
It turns out, Williamson was right. “Americans do not hate rich people. Americans love rich people. Americans will sit on their couches and watch billionaire Donald Trump fire people on television — for fun.”
Now those same Americans are sending Trump to fire the people who run the Republican Party.