Nothing seems to warm white America quite like the idea that things were better back when. Nixon knew it was a lie but could use it for his benefit. How Nixonian. Reagan ran on it. And worse, he believed it. “It’s morning in America…”
Trump is the culmination of this dangerous banality, the sick souled nostalgia that thinly veils (or not at all) the “back when” white America had everything under control, particularly people of color and anyone else deemed other. This is Olde Order that never seems to get old to those who can’t imagine any other future.
The “good” Olde Days are very much still with us despite the protestations to claim victimhood. “Persecuted Christians” means white people losing power or at least fearing as much. The underlying threats of violence directed at those who would defy the Olde Order manifest every day but go largely unreported, denied, or justified. Keeping things the way they used to be is the way Republicans like it. While those who seek change and advance notions of progress have risen to positions of power and authority in certain cities—like the mayors of Minneapolis, New York, and Atlanta—the disparities between their vision and the forces of the Olde Order could not be clearer than they are right now.
Police Departments too might have progressive leaders and cops, chiefs and some in the rank and file who see the issues with seriousness and sympathy, but what of the Olde Order rank and file? They seem very much in charge. And let’s be honest, that rank and file is pretty much white cops. Even I’m scared of them and I’m a white male. I’m just a liberal, how pathetic. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a person of color. That strikes me as simply life-threatening, all the time.
It doesn’t take a statistics class to understand the rank and file white male voter and their overwhelming commitment to the Olde Order. You need 538 for that?That steady 42.3% that comes up pure Trumpian never moves much from its marks. What we have seen with our own eyes is that we can expect their signs and symbols to be followed with actions. Threatening and deadly actions. I live in a Trump district where the Olde Order has the perceived threat to itself projected into its living rooms in the bright, reliable florescence of red, white, and blue Fox News. They can also turn to the Fox Blonde who currently plays the role of WH Press Secretary. She looks like that morning host, what’s her name?
In the meantime there is the “other” who is stealing, cheating, and taking their way of life, none of whom actually live here or really anywhere near by. You have to go some 40 miles north into “the city.” But my neighbors will tell you that they “never go there” and “never want to go there.” In this rural neigbhorhood there are plenty of displays of solidarity for the Olde Order, particularly lawn signs and flags. Most common are American flags, which were never apolitical emblems of patriotism but now part of an Olde Order collage. Repeal The Safe Act, once merely a lawn sign, is now boxed in wood and a permanent fixture. (The Safe Act is about guns and “Cuomo is not my governor” in NY State.)
The odd-Democrat out here clearly understands that Old Glory means the Olde Glory because their American flag never stands apart from its meanings. You see, Olde Order collections put Old Glory on top but just underneath the Trump banner or that blue-line in the middle of black and white version of the Stars and Stripes. The lawn signs are more about gun rights and, naturally, about police solidarity. Police solidarity means keeping those people in their place. You don’t need to know the meaning of the word “semiotics” to get the message.
The Olde Order wants you to know that they are armed and ready to enforce the present as the past in order to insure its future. And according to a Pew poll, 78 percent of voters who supported Trump in 2016 felt crime had gotten worse since 2008. That is, of course, patently false. The real crime was the black man in the White House. But the truth won’t matter.
It’s not about crime but about how people, that is, white people feel about crime. And it’s not about that either. It’s about how white people feel about themselves and their projections, resentments, and inadequacies. They are not without hope but it’s the hope for the Olde Order. Make coal great again. So it is about how white people feel not only about themselves but as much about those they see as criminal, unworthy of rights, those “takers” who aren’t makers and don’t know their place. What makes me so sure?
We are rarely threatened by things we cannot anticipate or for which there are no precedents. Not pandemics. Not racism. Not inequalities in the work place or the absence of resources and opportunities. We have histories and every reason to believe that ignoring the real issues will be the most reliable response.
Who wants to address in advance the problems that appear for the present not to present themselves? When the issues erupt into criticality, we shocked, shocked, deny the negligence, and wait, wait for it pass over, as if it were just another thunderstorm. Trump’s law and order framework is his reliable way of talking about the Olde Order. It both riles up his white base and soothes them by blaming others.
He doesn’t need to a strategy or a plan or even an idea of what he is doing because his racism and Olde Order views fit the “tell it like it is” and “speak like I do” Fox Nation memes.
I know we can intellectualize it to feel better understanding how it turns on its own sickening nostalgia for a certain mid century America. Back then you see these white people lived in an America that made things, that had robust domestic manufacturing, and a clearly-defined racist, social order. Just the way they liked it. The reasons their lives have changed for the worse—and they have—is because of “them” and nothing is better in Olde Order worlds than the simplest explanation.
None of it has to be true, just simple because complex is a liberal thing. Trump has no ability to comprehend much less contemplate these movements and I have no more left to say about Goldwater’s John Birch Society worlds, Nixon’s southern strategy, Saint Ronnie’s States’s rights, or Trump’s “good people.” But what we know Trump and my neighbors and the suburb voters aka white people, will talk about are those “good old days.”
Making America Great Again has always been Keeping America Great. “Great” is easy enough to understand and that should trouble us greatly. How they want those good Olde days back is evidenced by the violence they are willing to use to insure the Olde Order. Everything else aka change, including a non-white majoritarian America, is failure and must be stopped at any cost.
Ask Mitch because there are plenty of new Eric Cantors waiting in the wings. One is running and likely to win the seat vacated by Trump’s first endorser, my former Congressman, convicted felon Chris Collins. What the Olde Order are invoking is more than their tribal or corporate status quo. Theirs is a deeper call to anger, fear, and violence to stop the those others and their liberal supporters before the Olde Days are finally ended.
Or maybe the dystopia can’t happen soon enough? After all, Jesus is coming? Will we make it to November, I ask? We will soon find out if America has a future or if the Olde Days are still all we want.