Many years ago, in another lifetime, I worked for a public TV/Radio station in Toledo. It was a great job and my co-workers were terrific. But shortly after the first television fund raiser, I realized that the people running the place were under the mistaken impression that their taste and opinions were more important than the people whose contributions were paying our way.
I watched as, fundraiser after fundraiser, we would run “The Grand Ole Opry,” the best source for country music at that time, and our phones would light up with pledges. Seriously. That night was our biggest money-maker of the entire fund drive. Sooooo according to what everyone said during the drive, their contributions should tell us what kind of programming they would see in the coming months, right? Well…no.
We had the symphony, the Metropolitan opera and Masterpiece Theater. Nature programs and Nova. Sesame Street. Now these programs did well on our pledge drives, but nothing like the Opry. I was just a peon at the time, but I asked the programming people, “Why aren’t we running any country music shows for all of those people who keep donating every time we play the Opry during the fundraisers?” Their answer was that there just weren’t any available. I had to accept that since I didn’t have access to their information and didn’t know any better.
At least I didn’t until I moved to Phoenix and discovered “Austin City Limits” and other PBS programs devoted to Country music. I had been lied to, along with everyone in Toledo. The programs were there. But the people in charge didn’t like them and so decided against them.
Now here’s my puzzle. Why did these country music lovers keep donating to a station that never rewarded them? Why did they vote for a station that literally despised their taste in music and thought it beneath them? Why didn’t they see through the bullshit and move on to the people who really paid attention to who they were and what they wanted? I never did understand it, and when I left that station in Toledo and moved here, they were still throwing money at a PBS station that really didn’t care about them.
Then I watched this Trump election. And I saw a billionaire who lives in a Penthouse apartment set so high in Manhattan that all he has ever had to breathe is rarefied air. His third wife is a model-thin overly-made-up woman who is clearly more comfortable in designer clothes than jeans. But he threw on a baseball cap, probably for the first time in his life, and talked to workers like he was one of them.
Now these are the same kind of workers that he regularly cheated out of paying by going bankrupt. He pretended to be the friend of the same kind of small businesses that went bust thanks to his unethical business practices. He convinced men that he was a good ol’ boy while speaking of women in a way that none of them would think of talking about in any locker room, ever. And they believed him. They accepted him as one of their own. And once again, I had to ask why?
These are people who depend on the healthcare created by the democrats they voted against. Some of them benefited from the extended unemployment benefits Obama provided during the lean years after the last republican administration. Many also got jobs thanks to the 4.6% unemployment rate we are currently enjoying.
Anyone who pays any attention at all knows that the coal industry is dying, as it should be. Not because of liberal climate change legislation, but because it is too costly to maintain with other less expensive options available. And the fossil fuel industry is also shrinking as countries around the world figure out that renewable energy involves a one-time investment rather than a constant purchase and dependence on unstable international markets for a fuel that also compromises the future of the planet. But he promised those industries would come back, knowing they won’t, and they believed him.
Because, you see, the rest of the world doesn’t live in Toledo, Ohio. They don’t listen when someone says there are no country music programs available, or that climate change isn’t real. They aren’t limited in their thinking to what right-leaning politicians and news sources tell them. They look into it for themselves. And they understand something the republicans don’t want to acknowledge. You can’t legislate scientific reality. It happens no matter what laws you pass.
But in the meantime, those people in Toledo, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Florida still send money when the Opry plays even though they don’t get anything back from it. Nothing at all. And those republicans have taken their votes and at the same time are rubbing their little hands together, with a plan to eliminate the healthcare that is keeping them safe, compromise the social security they’ve been paying into all their lives and destroy the Medicare that allows them and their parents and grandparents to not worry about their doctor and hospital bills. Because the republicans’ agenda is for their own benefit, not for the people who voted for them.
They voted for a billionaire because he wore a baseball cap and they think that means that he understands them. Well, he does. Enough to sucker them into voting for him. He understands them alright. But here’s the biggest mistake they all made. Understanding isn’t the same as caring. He doesn’t give a shit. And the rest of the republicans with him. They’ll play their symphony’s and operas and Masterpiece Theater for their crowd, and use your money to do it. And feel justified. And the tools they used to win this time – working with Russia, using the head of the FBI to compromise the election, make Nixon and Watergate look like a dance party in comparison. And they fooled just enough people, under 100,000, to win.
But if you voted for them you’d better understand. They don’t dance with the ones that brung them. Never have, never will.