American author and newspaper editor Horace Greeley said ‘Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go west, young man, go west and grow up with the country.’
As a native of DC, growing restless to experience the new frontier, that’s what I did in 2009. I settled in Santa Barbara, California, with my eventual wife, getting married at the famous Franciscan Mission here in 2012. However, as a Washingtonian, the “deplorable” nature of which Greeley spoke is inherent, and as such, I am casting my vote for Donald Trump.
As a supposed Philistine easily led by a demagogue, I nonetheless enjoy the arts and getting together with my alt-country band, The Blank Labels. At rehearsal I become newly embattled. ‘They want it to be a regression to the 50s,’ my band-mate grouses as he tunes his guitar.
Our bass player grunts in assent, ‘Yeah, Trump is emboldening the dark underbelly of our country.’ I stay mum, hoping to drum along to the opening chords of our first song. Here in California, offering a contrarian perspective is an exercise in futility. This is again the case at a performance by comedian and renowned podcaster Marc Maron that I attend at the University of California-Santa Barbara, in which he calls any member of the audience voting for Trump a ‘moron’. In my displeasure, I consider leaving the performance but realise it will only incite catcalls. I don’t want to play into his hands as a comic foil. I realises he’s merely a court jester pandering to his assemblage of Lefties.
Still, Trump, despite his being unrelentingly pilloried by the media has started what he calls ‘a movement’. Who are these unseen proponents of the iconoclastic billionaire? I only meet token adherents in my neighbourhood — my wife’s parents and a defiant mother who dons a ‘Make America Great Again’ T-shirt at the playground where I bring my daughter. Obviously, many hide their allegiance to avoid pariah status, acquiescing for now and registering their dissent on Election Day. The Trump supporters shown to me through various comedy shows such as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver are a caricature. They are cast as provincial village idiots, missing teeth and braying incoherently, unable to grasp nuance in each candidates’ platform. It is another calculated attempt at depicting those who go against the coastal intelligentsia as rabble unworthy of the vote.
One never ventures an off-colour joke or tries to be wickedly droll in a state known for doe-eyed optimism and physical vibrancy. The dyspeptic cynicism of world-weary conservatives is not welcome in a place where the sun shines brightly almost every day. Upon visiting from Washington DC, a friend likened it to a bright oasis of sinister soullessness whereupon he had the feeling of being trapped in a twilight zone much like Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank in The Truman Show. It is perhaps a metaphor for any American conservative who feels trapped in a liberal utopia.