The 2016 election was peak dichotomy in America. Rural areas and “flyover country” overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. Urban areas, on the contrary, overwhelmingly voted for Clinton. Even as the country and the world becomes more interconnected, there is still a vast disconnect. The solution to bridging the divide is simple: travel.
Of course, that means the elites must forgo their next all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, or their “self-discovery” trip to Paris. It means actually getting out and discovering your own country. And no, I’m not talking about the endless interstate interchanges shuttling cars through the heartland, but rather the actual people and places that make up the swath of red in the 2016 county voting map.
Challenge yourself to really see the country. You’ll learn a whole lot — just by observing and interacting.
In 2015, I did just that. Before moving to Greenville, S.C. for Conservative Review, I took a two month trip across the country. I drove about 13,000 miles in total, and all but about 2,000 of those miles were on back roads. But not just state highways. In some cases, I traveled on real back roads. County routes, dirt roads, hugging-the-side-of-mountain-with-white-knuckles sorts of places.
Along the way, I got a new appreciation of America.
Here’s a map of where I’ve been.
Here's my current map of counties visited. Excited to knock off about 40-60 new ones this week. pic.twitter.com/x9HcRIzsTu
— Rob Eno (@Robeno) November 15, 2016
I took this trip to learn more about the people and places I discuss in my writings and research. For instance, I’ve been reading about and following the news about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest over the internet. But I’ve actually been to Cannon Ball on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. I’ve visited the surrounding area, and was given a tour of the North Dakota fracking industry by Rob Port, a columnist, radio host, and blogger in North Dakota. Now I understand that the fracking industry isn’t something abstract. I met the real people employed by the fracking industry, and seen first-hand the vibrant economy it is fueling.
It’s not just oil or natural gas. Most Northeast urbanites, standing at line at Starbucks and watching the latest blockbuster movie via iTunes on the newest and greatest Apple device, can’t fathom that people actually visit video stores to rent that same movie. But in vast swaths of the country, untouched by broadband, many Americans do. In fact, Family Video, which still runs 775 video stores, is a part of daily life for vast parts of the nation. Yes, functioning video rental stores do exist!
Take some time to get off the highway and tour the country on back roads. You’ll see the small towns that aren’t booming because the Dow just reached a new high, or because all your friends just got their annual bonus. You’ll see and meet people struggling to survive, not because they can’t figure out how to split their $3200 a month Williamsburg two bedroom, but because they can’t piece together $75 for this week’s rent. The culprit? Last year’s factory closure and the lack of handyman day work.
When you get off the highway and on to back roads, you’ll meet the folks that the global economy has left behind. The stories of black, white, and other Americans will help you understand why, when the news tells them the economy is booming, they look at the CNN anchor like he has three heads.
You’ll also learn that contrary to what the New York elites say, these aren’t people that are proud to be on government assistance. The Northeast Megalopolis can’t figure out why these people “vote against their own interests,” but you’ll see a population whose own interest is work. These people want another chance, not to continually suck at the teat of government.
So get out of your comfort zone. Take a trip, for a week, or even a weekend, to one of those red counties you see on that map. You won’t even have to travel far. Just go to rural Pennsylvania. Visit a coal mining town that has fallen on hard times because of the green policies you support. Sit down and listen to your fellow Americans. When you do, you might just begin to understand what happened on that first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of 2016.
In Braden, Illinois, a small unincorporated community in Hamilton County, stands an unintentional monument to our current political situation. I saw it for myself in June of 2015. On a transformer box, at the intersection of County Road 490 E and County Road 590 N is spray-painted, “f*&k city folk.”
[Source: Rob Eno | Conservative Review]
Trump won Hamilton County with over 75 percent of the vote.
For the reason behind Trump’s victory, look no further than Hamilton County, Illinois. Go to the Farris Family Restaurant on the main drag in Macleansboro, and sit down for breakfast and a chat with the locals. Better yet, don’t talk, listen. Find out what makes them tick, what their concerns are, and how they differ from yours. You may just find some common ground, and you’ll learn that not all Trump voters are racist, misogynistic pigs. They are just voting for what they believe are their best interests, not yours.
And maybe, just maybe, you can understand that such a vote is perfectly OK.