Movie Notes: Harlan County, USA

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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56 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Wow. Great piece Rufus, just righteous. This is full of so much solid Win i could note a lot to things. I wish people had gone Galt ,let us suffer without all their genius. My feelings is all we would have lost is some financial wizards-cum-ego maniac crooks.

    Yeah the R’s are great at standing up for culture issues that resonate with a lot of people. Yup they will name check Christianity, guns and evil soshulizm, but they also apologize for hurting BP’s feelings, fight any thing that might protect the lives of working people or get them health insurance.. In fact there has been a lot of historical revisionism about the New Deal among R wingers. One prime douche, Amity Shales, even said the people employed be the WPA, doing tons of hard construction work like your dad and mine, didn’t actually have jobs because they were government jobs.. Eh i’m ranting now.Report

    • Scott in reply to greginak says:


      When the fed gov money dried up so did those WPA jobs, just like the current census jobs that the Obama admin was so proud to talk about even though all those jobs have now ended and those folks are back on unemployment. It is sort of like telling everyone that the stimulus inflated GDP is “real” even though when you remove the stimulus GDP the “real” GDP is much lower.Report

      • gregiank in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, you do know that the WPA built a metric fuckton of useful infrastructure that we still use to this day. And some of those jobs lasted for a long time, they were just like real jobs, they paid real money and kept people from starving and from begging.Report

  2. Katherine says:

    Wonderful post.

    This, I suspect, is why I’ve felt alienated from that wing of supposed “libertarians” who mouth a Randian inversion of Communist ideology: laborers as parasites with the capitalists who “produce wealth” as their natural superiors and engine of progress.

    You’ve managed to encapsulate my view of Rand in one sentence, far better than I ever could. Somehow it seems like the people who talk most about “going Galt” are the ones society could most afford to lose.

    The left lost the hardhats decades ago without ever realizing their role in that alienation.

    I’d be interested in your views on how/why the left did lose these guys. They’re what the left ought to, in all rights, be about. I’ve heard it attributed to social liberalism, women’s lib, etc., but that doesn’t feel likely to me.Report

    • trizzlor in reply to Katherine says:

      @Katherine, If you buy into the What’s the Matter with Kansas theory, then it’s the culture wars and the gradual acceptance of the idea the welfare/union/unemployment benefits are just milked by corrupt anti-American queens/bosses/moochers. Of course, this just happens to absolve the left of any responsibility besides bad messaging.Report

      • Rufus in reply to trizzlor says:

        @trizzlor, Hey, I tried to suggest that I don’t buy into that theory. You watch old news footage of SDS members running through the streets smashing car windows and it’s impossible to think the New Left lost the hardhats without bearing any responsibility for it.

        Something I’ve thought about and had a hard time articulating is that, if you’re living on that rung right above poverty (where I grew up), you tend to value order and stability in a much more direct way than some college kid who grew up in a much higher income bracket. I’ve noticed this dichotomy between me and my wife, and I think it’s something the New Left utterly failed to take into account.Report

        • Koz in reply to Rufus says:

          This is an excellent point.

          Moreover, it’s also worth noting that Thomas Frank’s theory fails on its own terms. Kansans do not view themselves as destitute or life’s economic losers (maybe because, along the lines you suggest, the social fabric has been stable enough for long enough that people are able to feel happier with less material wealth).

          Fwiw, there’s a song by John Denver called “Matthew” that I always think of when this comes up.

          If Thomas Frank had written a book called _What’s The Matter With Harlan Country_, it would still be wrong most likely, but at least a great deal more plausible.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus says:

          @Rufus, “order and stability”, at least in the 70’s and 80’s, manifested itself a lot in religion.

          To make a sweeping generalization, if there is a side of the aisle that can be thought to see religious faith as a negative trait (or has significant leadership voices within that do so), it’s the left.Report

          • gregiank in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, If you mean Dem’s then you’ve overdosed on Repub Kool-aid. There have always been strong religious element to the Dem coalition ( most notably , Jews, Catholics and Af-Am’s). If you mean the nebulous “left” that to some degree overlaps with the D party then you have half a point at best.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to gregiank says:

              @gregiank, if I had meant “Dems”, I would have said “Dems”.

              I was not making a partisan assertion.

              But what is your take on the divide? The stupid hillbillies don’t understand that you Democrats want what is best for the poor little backwards dears while Republicans keep exploiting them and they’re too stupid to figure it out despite your attempts to make sure that their kids grow up learning evolution and that Heather Has Two Mommies?Report

    • Robert Cheeks in reply to Katherine says:

      @Katherine, Katherine, I worked in foundries and factories over forty years so I may qualifiy as one of “those” guys. The Commie-Dems lost about 40% of us because of abortion, homosexual ‘rights’, Vietnam, goof balls (Bubba, Jimmy Carter, Hillary, Barney, etc., etc.), transfer of wealth to deadbeats, n’er-do-wells, social parasites.
      Now most ‘workers’ wouldn’t vote GOP but they see the Republicans as Big Bidness dudes, theives, and corrupt which they interpret as preferable to baby-killin’, war mongering, perverts.
      I had an old Commie-Dem friend, Virgil, bitchin’ one day at a coffee shop that that SOB, George Bush killed over 3000 boys in the Middle East. I asked him how many boys did LBJ kill in Vietnam? And, Harry Truman in Korea? Sometimes the fodder get’s its head outta its ass.
      The GOP is a bunch of stupid, theivin’, gutless clowns but that’s no reason to vote commie-dem.Report

      • North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        @Robert Cheeks, It seems a constant that every new generation is looked upon with consternation and astonishment by its predecessor as astonishingly degenerate and impious. Then the older generation shuffles off into the arms of the beyond, the younger generation forgets and begets an even younger generation and is astonished and shocked (shocked!!) at the degeneracy of the new young’ens.Report

        • Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

          @North, Your observations are spot on. The question, of course, is the interpretation of the contemporary condition. It is not all a ‘decline’ or deformation of the truth of stuff, for sure.
          But, speaking only for myself, I am fearful for the current crop of youngsters what with the divorce rate, which indicates a weakening in the method and manner in which we raise children, in which we teach them to become adult, to think maturely.
          If we’re progressing, North, where is that at?Report

          • Rufus in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

            @Robert Cheeks, I can only speak for myself, Bob, but I feel I’m considerably more committed to my marriage than my parents were. Although certainly we’re more flexible about marriage in some ways, I also feel like I’m in it for the long haul in a way they weren’t and that part of that is due to watching them split up.Report

          • Rufus in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

            @Robert Cheeks, Maybe another way of saying it is that I share your worry for the youngsters, who seem increasingly to be raised by glowing plastic screens instead of parents. But- and this is the big but- if things really are that bad now, we can pretty much expect that the next generation will recognize those problems and rebel against them. This is what all generations do. So, if people lack moral seriousness now, we can almost expect their kids to seek moral seriousness, if only to distinguish themselves from Mom and Dad.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus says:

              @Rufus, I do appreciate your thinking, and I tip my hat to you and your wife in wanting to work with the marriage until the end of your days. My question is if marriages, in far too many instances, are collapsing, who has the time, the will, the incentive to teach the children ethics, morality, right from wrong? I think you assume much when you say the children will rebel against the profligate ‘hook up’ culture or whatever’s in vogue in their time…they have no ground. There will, however, be a remnant.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Rufus says:

              @Rufus, of course, sometimes the wrong lessons can be learned, IMO. It’s no surprise that most of the people I know that believe that marriage is “just a piece of paper” or take such a hypercautious approach to marriage that they end up shacking up here and there and never marrying or committing.Report

          • North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

            @Robert Cheeks, Well, Bob, obviously from many women’s point of view, a minority’s point of view or the view of people like me (the “degenerate perverts”) we’re progressing pretty well as a society. Now I can’t say if the freedom to make choices for oneself live without the permission and command of men; or live without the permission of the moral majority counts for much for people outside those immediately effected but it counts for us strongly.

            On basic raw numbers we’re doing pretty well too compared to our earlier eras, literacy, starvation, death, that sort of thing. Really if you step back and look at it we’re progressing tolerably well by many of the measures that are material and objective. Most of the backsliding and woeful descents from past glories and virtues are being signaled on the gauges with various religious symbols and immaterial measurements pasted on them. By the objective measures things aren’t doing too terribly badly (especially considering that we’re in a recession, compare and contrast with the big recession at the beginning of the last century). By the measures that are based on appeals to the great beyond of course it’s all hell-in-a-hand-basket times round here.

            So Bob, I think a lot of progress has been made. And if we’re wrong, well as the true believers have plenty of books, organizations and communities that cleave to the old ways of doing business so it’s not like people can’t choose to turn back to those values.

            The difference is that they get to choose. Not have it chosen for them. Now I’m no philosophy major Bob but isn’t virtue only virtuous when it’s freely chosen? So maybe even on the immaterial indicators things are looking up. Who knows?

            All my best to the wife as always.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

              @North, Well, I do enjoy it when you’re very serious, it’s a “North at his best,” moment.
              Actually, I wasn’t thinking homosexual anything when typing the word perverse, rather I was referring to the ideological not sexual, “perversions” that dominate modernity but I do see how you could stereotype me as a anti-leftist homophobe..I don’t mind being stereotyped btw and if anyone has to do it, I’d rather it was you.
              And, Ms. Martha says to tell you that you are loved and in her prayers as, I suspect, you will be until we leave the planet.Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              @North, I’d hate to stereotype you unjustly Bob. Apologies. Here’s to hoping that you and the Ms. are about to send up charitable prayers for as long as possible.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

              @North, Gotcha NOrthie, bad…a refrigerator moment! You don’t stereotype even we ____phobes (fill in preferred phobia). I’m broading my intellectual horizons, rubbing elbows with the ‘other,’ when it turns out the ‘other’ is my friend.
              Eventually, all we end up with is love or nothing. I’ll take the love, dude!Report

          • JosephFM in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

            @Robert Cheeks, Bob,

            The divorce rate has been declining since the 1980s. Not to make light of it – but it’s not us you need to worry about. You’re wrong that we have no ground. We have the ground we build for ourselves damn it.

            And while I’m busy defending my generation, let me just say that I’ve known quite a few people with very deep moral commitments.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to JosephFM says:

              @JosephFM, Anecdotally it seems everyone I know is divorced or getting one.
              Re: your clamant declaration that; “We have the ground we build for ourselves damn it,” I would argue that the phrase reflects the psycopathology related to the Hegelian system where man achieves, through the exegesis of the dialectical course, the absolute consciousness of Self. The Self ain’t a really good ground.
              You might also consider Henri Bergson’s argument against closing the existence of being to the divine ground.
              Inevitably the librul mind closes existence toward the divine ground and replaces it with some concept of what Voegelin referred to as the “ecumenic organization of mankind under the idea of history” (Marxism, Islam, the State, and so forth).
              You are choosing to embrace the Magician rather than God. Let me know how that works out for you.Report

      • JosephFM in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        @Robert Cheeks, Barney, like the purple dinosaur? I mean, I know he was on PBS, but I don’t usually think of him as a Dem…Report

      • Katherine in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        Your suggestion that the working class turned away from the Democrats because they blamed them for Vietnam is interesting, but considering how poorly the Democrats did in 1972 when they had a staunchly anti-war candidate it doesn’t seem likely to me.

        Secondly, why do you consider Mr. Carter a “goof ball”? I regard him as the most serious and sincere president America has had in a long while. He was more fiscally responsible than any Republican president following him, sought peace rather than empire, and was (and is) in all things guided by strong Christian principles. He seems like the sort of person conservatives ought to respect; and he was unloved by liberals in his day, as Ted Kennedy’s primary campaign shows.Report

        • Robert Cheeks in reply to Katherine says:

          @Katherine, By ’72 the Vietnam war was winding down and “they” were already considering memorials in which to honor the cannon fodder…and while the unwashed may be nearly as stupid as Eastern elite college grads, they don’t forget. The commie-Dems were tagged with Vietnam when LBJ memorably ordered up troops following the coincidental assassination of JFK.
          Jimmy Carter: 15% unemployment, 21% inflation, 9% interest rate (or something like that). The boy was the definition of the malingering, manipulating apparatchik, who constantly and everywhere was sticking his junk in the soup..he was a “hands on” president, and usually screwed it up. He was considered a hypocrite by keen observers, particularly when he mentioned he had “impure” thoughts when reading “Playboy”, when, in fact, we knew he choked his chicken at every opportunity. And, oh yes, Jimmy pulled a real classic when he blamed his ecomic failures on the American people being ill with “malaise.”
          I’d have voted for his alcoholic brother before I voted for him.Report

    • Rufus in reply to Katherine says:

      @Katherine, Thanks for the kind words. My sense of that loss is that probably part of it was cultural issues- but really just the narcissism of those issues. The Left, in my experience, cares less about the working class than they profess to and, as a result, lets them down repeatedly. I don’t think that means the Right has helped them greatly in any way, but at some point people who have never seen political promises materialize in their lives have a right to eschew them for cultural issues.

      I’ll give an example (maybe a bit unfair): I remember a strike at a restaurant in downtown DC in the 90s. The women working there were not allowed to take bathroom breaks during their eight-hour shifts and they wanted bathroom breaks and to stop being sexually harassed by the boss. Very concrete issues. The newscast, with unplanned brilliance, segwayed to their next story with something like, “The protesters said they contacted the National Organization for Women to take part in their protest, but the group was unable to lend support because they were busy protesting the new film ‘Basic Instinct’. Now we go live to that protest…” To me, that sort of captured it. The problem isn’t that working class people like Basic Instinct or hate abortion- it’s that too much of the left has lost the taste for the tedious meat and potatoes work involved in organizing labor. Barbara Kopple was this New York college kid who spend months on those picket lines from before-dawn to dusk. I don’t know that many liberals have that sort of commitment to the struggles of the working class now.

      But that’s just my take on it.Report

      • gregiank in reply to Rufus says:

        @Rufus, Plenty of liberals have that same dedication and experience. For better or worse the Dem’s are a big tent, so many groups have a voice. Very pro-business and clueless rich people are to a degree now part of the big D tent. Your anecdote about NOW is spot on. In fact you don’t have to go to far in the left-o-sphere to find people pointing out that kind of thing.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to gregiank says:

          @gregiank, I think it’s an echo of what happened with many fiscal conservatives under Bush.

          Let’s say that you get little more than lip service for your number one and maybe your number two most important issue for a number of years… and you know that the other party is equally bad (if not worse) on the issue.

          Eventually, you’re going to shrug and start either voting third party *OR* you’re going to move down to #3 on your most important list and start voting according to that.

          The establishment left seems to care more about public labor unions than private labor unions.

          Indeed, look at the “buy American” movement. I don’t tend to associate that with “the left”. I associate that with the blue collar conservative crowd. The “left” (and I understand that I’m painting with a broad brush here) is more likely to buy a foreign car than a Ford. And, of course, are just as likely to buy the cheap blouse rather than to look for the union label.

          When it comes to discussions of vouchers or education reform, the questions come of why do teabaggers hate teachers unions and why do they hate labor unions in the first place and on and on (I’m sure you’ve seen the discussions)… but that’s a public sector teacher’s union. Not a private one and certainly not a blue collar one.Report

          • gregiank in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, I don’t see D’s favoring public unions over private unions. Private sector unions came out big for Obama. The major loss of union power and jobs has long been lamented on the left while the right has loudly announced it as a great victory. If there is a struggle among D’s about it, that is because of that big tent thing. The D’s have won over a significant number of business people. Clintion’s centrist/DLC type of Dem party was all about being business friendly which meant being very free trade which unions tend not to be as thrilled about.

            It’s actually real easy to buy a “foreign” car made here in the US and a “domestic” car made oversees. That distinction went by-by along time ago.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to gregiank says:

              @gregiank, I suspect that there is a disconnect between the union suits and the union rank-and-file as well… because, of course, the union suits are white collar no matter how they may see themselves while the rank-and-file are blue collar.

              And there has been *MUCH* tension between the two (at least if my relatives in Michigan are any indication).Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Rufus says:

        I don’t think that means the Right has helped them greatly in any way, but at some point people who have never seen political promises materialize in their lives have a right to eschew them for cultural issues.

        I think it goes a step further than this. Not just jettisoning economic issues for cultural ones, but rather that cultural issues tend to bring out liberal disdain of working class whites. It’s hard to trust someone on economic issues when they think that you’re probably a racist for opposing affirmative action, you’re un-American for thinking a mosque near ground zero is a bad idea, you’re a homophobe if you don’t think that gays should be allowed to marry, and so on. When it seems that these people don’t like you, it’s hard to put a whole lot of trust that they’re looking out for your welfare.

        I’m not saying that this sort of disdain is something that liberals have and conservatives don’t. Far, far from it. But when looking at poor and working class whites in particular, it’s an issue. Unfortunately, it’s hard for liberals to wage this battle on two fronts, on one hand arguing against socially conservative white vociferously on social issues and then convincing the working class whites that they really are being looked out for with their policies.

        Republicans run into the same problem when it comes to religiously/family conservative minorities. It’s not just a matter of economic interest (see the Asian-American vote, as an example), but also a matter of these minorities getting the sense that the Republicans simply don’t like them.Report

      • Katherine in reply to Rufus says:

        Thanks for the reply. I’ve often felt that the left has some issues with its priorities.

        The suggestion that the relationship between liberals and the working class parallels that of Republicans with minorities is an illuminating one, but I have problems with it. Particularly because it always seems like liberals speaking out against Republican hostility to and stereotyping of minorities is a large part of what the right uses to rally working-class whites against the left. If that makes sense. And standing up against bigotry and calling it out for what it is when it clearly exists is not something I’m willing to give up for any gain in votes, even if much of the working-class now believes such action can never be for any reason other than race-baiting.Report

        • Katherine in reply to Katherine says:

          Whoops, this was a reply to Trumwill.Report

        • Trumwill in reply to Katherine says:

          @Katherine, Particularly because it always seems like liberals speaking out against Republican hostility to and stereotyping of minorities is a large part of what the right uses to rally working-class whites against the left. If that makes sense.

          Makes perfect sense, though I see it primarily as a matter of perspective. Conservatives feel as though liberals are trying to box them in so that any political stance they take can be considered racist as a smear. Liberals feel as though without constant vigilance racism and race-baiting will go unchallenged. Which side is worse? Which side started it? Which side is being cynical while the which earnest? How do you measure such things? The only measurable one is the second and that’s not particularly useful in light of the other three.

          And standing up against bigotry and calling it out for what it is when it clearly exists is not something I’m willing to give up for any gain in votes, even if much of the working-class now believes such action can never be for any reason other than race-baiting.

          That’s a perfectly understandable position. There are conservatives that want the Hispanic vote but not enough to budge on border security. That’s understandable, too (even as I shake my head at some of the policies they come up with). From a practical standpoint, if you don’t need their vote, then don’t pander and don’t give in (otherwise, you’re abandoning grievances you consider to be legitimate). But remember the decisions made when it comes to wondering why people that you (collective second person) think ought to be voting your way aren’t.

          I don’t mean to come across as a caricature of moral relativism in politics as I probably do. Maybe one side or the other really is worse. At times, I’ve believed it to be so. I just find it too convenient that I have always believed it to be the “other” side, both when I was leaned significantly to the left and when I leaned significantly to the right. These days, I make a pretty lousy ideological advocate.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Katherine says:

      @Katherine, my people come from this part of the country (my great-grandfather died when he was run over by a coal cart) and they moved up North as part of the great migration after the tobacco crops failed two years in a row.

      There was a great deal of sneering down on the poor, uneducated hillbillies by the relative “elites” in Michigan (of all places).

      A great deal of damage can be done with something as simple as a well-timed “you people”.

      It can result in such things as folks thinking of themselves as a separate people… until even the grandchildren think such things as “my people”.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Katherine says:


      It has always amused me how much overlap there is between people who think they belong in Galt’s Gulch and people who actually belong on the B Ark.Report

  3. Koz says:

    “This, I suspect, is why I’ve felt alienated from that wing of supposed “libertarians” who mouth a Randian inversion of Communist ideology: laborers as parasites with the capitalists who “produce wealth” as their natural superiors and engine of progress. “

    This is actually a substantial part of my motivation for the things we talked about in the “Libertarian Q&A” a few days back.

    It’s the blue collar males who have best internalized, then and now, the obligation to earn one’s living. But, we don’t have control of what people will find valuable in the future, or to a substantial extent even in the present. Therefore, the struggles of accepting that obligation are different. Then, the jobs tended to be consistent but tedious. Now, they are haphazard and transitory. Nonetheless the blue collar males have accepted that burden.Report

    • greginak in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, Why don’t you ask…oh i don’t know…..a few dozen working class women, make sure they are single mothers, about their work ethic. Make sure to tell them that it is men who really know about working hard. then let me know where to send your flowers.Report

    • Rufus in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, I’d agree with Greginak about the females- I’ve known some woman bus drivers, cashiers, etc. who take on huge responsibilities at work and home.

      But, like you’ve been saying, I’ve never understood the condescension towards blue collar workers. Libertarians, especially, should spend time working those jobs because they’d find that the people who do work them tend to deeply value things like freedom and independence. For my father, the real advantage of working those jobs was just that- you don’t have someone looking over your shoulder all day. So I think there’s definitely a lot of kinship there. And, indeed, they have really felt the brunt of the huge changes in employment that have taken place over the last few decades.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Rufus says:

        @Rufus, a lot of the libertarians I know (in real life, anyway) did this work for a time… then they got promoted, got a job elsewhere in a softer industry, got promoted, and got promoted again.

        They tend to take the attitude that such work builds character and, if you try hard enough, you can bootstrap yourself out of it… after all, *THEY* did.Report

      • Koz in reply to Rufus says:

        “I’d agree with Greginak about the females- I’ve known some woman bus drivers, cashiers, etc. who take on huge responsibilities at work and home.”

        “And, indeed, they have really felt the brunt of the huge changes in employment that have taken place over the last few decades.”

        I’m not trying to stake a claim about which sex works harder than the other.

        And while it’s true that blue-collar males have been hurt by the macroeconomic changes over the last 50 years or so, but wrt the difference the difference between men and women and blue collar/white collar I’m making a slightly different point.

        No matter what happened to their wage rates blue collar men have adapted to the changes in blue-collar private sector work. Work used to be tedious and sometimes dangerous. Now it’s transitory. Sometimes wages are high and other times low. But no matter which it is, a man has to earn his living. Whatever risks or discomforts are involved simply have to be borne.

        Women and white collar workers or both sexes tend to look for a place to hide, economically speaking.

        This is especially topical now, imo, where in our current economic travails we’d be better off if more of us had that attitude.Report

  4. Sam M says:

    “laborers as parasites with the capitalists who “produce wealth” as their natural superiors and engine of progress.”

    I have my own problems with Rand. But this isn’t one fo them at all. The workers and laboerers are notseen as the parasites. In fact, Rand seems to find great dignity in physical labor. Roark not only works in the quarry, he’s the best worker in the quarry. All the folks who move to the Gulch take up professions like burger flippers. They just happen to make the BEST burgers, because of their super-duperness.

    Maybe my reading was completely wrong, but I never saw Rand as anti-worker. Yes, she elevated the Capitalist class. But she reserved her hatred for bureaucrats. Not miners.Report

    • Rufus in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, Ah, okay, you’re probably right about that- I haven’t read the Fountainhead in over a decade. I was thinking less of the books and more of the people I’ve discussed these things with who profess a kinship with Rand. But, indeed, it’s quite possible that some of her devotees have misread her, which is common with most thinkers. I think it was Marx who said he would never call himself a Marxist. Certainly, some of the Randroids I’ve met seem not to have read her books too closely.Report

  5. johanna says:

    My dad tended bar in the 70s in Baltimore at what we’d call, affectionately, a “hillbilly” establishment, where the customers were primarily Appalachian transplants who’d migrated to the city for factory work. I was a kid at the time, but I remember that militant laborers and people like Koppel and Hazel Dickens were not exactly held in high esteem in this blue collar community. Actually, I think they said “filthy communists”. I don’t have a lot of insight here, but these childhood memories leave me with the impression that there could have been a split within the working class all along with the “conservative” side being the only part that survived Reagan. It’s hard to think of the Left as having “lost” them at all. I do wonder what happened to the rest, though. I haven’t seen this movie but from what I’ve read, I can understand how the ordeal could have radicalized people to the point of dropping out of “legitimate” politics altogether.Report

  6. greginak says:

    @jaybird- The “stupid hillbillies” just don’t get it is two things: the long standing cultural differences and acrimony between rural and city folk. That has been around as long as the country itself. The other part is the right wing media carefully nurturing cultural resentments. i guess depending on the issue it may be more one then the other but to often stoking cultural resentment is a good way of getting support and demonizing the other. Why the hell is a liberal ( or libertarian) for that matter saying gays should be allowed to marry looking down on the hillybillies. Why is Lib’s saying maybe we should have some sort of HCR looking down on the losers. If you frame it as those evil libs from the coast are telling you what to do then you don’t have to discuss the issue, you just have to surf the wave of resentment. It is fair to enough to be for or against gay marriage or HCR, that isdemocracy, but where people are from or what their accents are is a diversion and manipulation of the debate.

    FWIW I dislike the “coastal elites” looking down on rural folk and that certainly has happened. However i have heard far to many good ol rural folk snear at people from cities or cali or from the incorrect parts of America. If you feel its wrong to look down on others but choose to look down on others i think you have missed the point.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      @greginak, huh.

      You’d think that they’d be falling over themselves to align with the left, then.Report

    • Trumwill in reply to greginak says:


      Why the hell is a liberal ( or libertarian) for that matter saying gays should be allowed to marry looking down on the hillybillies.

      It’s not so much that wanting the gays to marry is looking down on the hillbillies. Rather, it’s presenting the alternative viewpoint as utterly unsophisticated, backwards, reactionary, or a simpleton’s devotion to the Man In The Sky that’s problematic. The best example that comes to mind is the treatment of Mormons during the Prop 8 vote. Do you think that is more likely or less likely to make poor Mormons believe that liberals are sympathetic to their welfare? And though they actually believe the Mormons to be heathens, I think that Christian fundamentalists got the message (if they need it) that it applies to them, too.

      I recognize a distinction between the generally more respectful Democratic politicians and the genuinely hostile liberals, but everyone knows whose team who is on.

      I’m not arguing that the liberals should lay down their arms on cultural issues. As a proponent of gay marriage, I don’t want them to! But you have to recognize that it has its costs. The same applies the other way, too, as I pointed out above with Republicans and minorities. And, for that matter, Republicans and educated whites in non-conservative parts of the country.

      I’m not so much arguing that rural whites are on a higher moral plain or anything. As you point out, they do their fair share of the same thing (“Real America”, anti-intellectualism, etc). But it is what it is and as long as the two sides genuinely don’t like one another, self-interest be-damned (though they don’t necessarily see it that way).Report

      • greginak in reply to Trumwill says:

        @Trumwill, I don’t disagree. We have a variety of interest groups in this country many of which are mutually antagonistic. I agree about slandering Mormon’s in the Prop 8 discussion but it is also pretty obvious how often gay marriage is portrayed as destroying “real America.” I think many sides of our discourse do the same damn thing: slandering, not trying to understand the others point of view, sanctimonious assumption of the moral high ground. Identity group politics are a harsh mistress.Report

  7. greginak says:

    Very topical- Here is a link to a discussion and interview regarding a book about the split between the New Left and the labor movement in the 60’s. This talks about a bunch stuff Rufus raised and that has been batted around in the discussion.