The first use of the term “hayseed” I found was to depict farmers — yes, this class hatred was originally directed at farmers. It was in the 1890s when farmers were organizing against bankers and big business in the original Populist movement . . . a movement that was at times also interracial. It was anti-capitalist, and it scared the shit out of the ruling class of the day. The complaint by the upper class press was that these activists showed up in Washington DC with the hay seeds still in their hair.
Likewise, the term “redneck” was first used as a reference to striking West Virginia miners during the coal wars of the 1930s. The wore red bandanas around their necks as a kind of uniform. Many were openly socialist. Attacks on them by the press denounced them for being uneducated and uncouth, just as they had with the Populists.
The same class hatred is still directed at rural people, and at people who haven’t had the privilege of acquiring degrees. By liberals.
That’s one big reason why so many rural white people voted Trump as a cosmic fuck-you to the urban, educated, professional-managerial class.
Members of this professional-managerial class — as can be confirmed by looking at your social media — look down their noses at people who they see as “self-evidently” less evolved than they are. And because these same PMC folks seldom bother to find out what life is like for farmers and the non-urban working class, instead opting to demonize them as “backward” and (gasp) “uneducated.” Many farmers, by the way, have degrees . . . but why would the PMC pass an opportunity to pump itself up at the expense of those lesser beings? I particularly like how PMCers make fun of working class and rural people’s faith. That always goes down well.
Something I noted even in the Bernie Sanders campaign and among comrades with the DSA is that scant attention is given to rural white folks (or rural black folks, for that matter). No comprehensive farming reform policy was constructed in the detailed kind of way that, say, Medicare for All was.
I’m a member of DSA and out nearest chapter is less than an hour away in Ann Arbor, but in the last four years, we have had exactly three hit-and-run visits, none to actually study what things are like here. Several of us went to a meeting in Ann Arbor once, but we didn’t really “fit in” with a roomful of academics. We were too old, too out of fashion, too behind on our dental work, too lacking in graduate degrees, too un-woke in our day-to-day language. We were the hayseeds. Many of the people I’ve observed there, on several visits, would have been incapable of having a conversation with most people in our little farm town, because they’d have been too busy cancel-scolding them at every turn for not specifying pronouns or something.
That’s what people resent. Scolding. And scolding is a constant among authoritarian liberals and authoritarian leftists alike. They don’t really want to learn about us or help us; they want to tell us what to do. About every goddam thing. They want to remake the world in their own image. The message they present says, “Become like me,” and the effect it has, coming from liberal scolds who insult us over our educations, our accents, our clothes, our habits, etc etc etc . . . the effect it has is to trigger us to say, “Go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. You talk a good game about the ‘working class,’ but you don’t really like people who are part of it . . . unless it fills out some identity portfolio.”
I was recently scolded because I fish.
Fifty percent of white voters will cast a vote for Trump again, and while racism surely plays a role, there was a substantial fraction of Trump voters who’d voted for Obama, many twice. They don’t have degrees, and they don’t have theory, and most politics is opaque to them — as it is to most people, or the two major parties wouldn’t have such control over us. They keyed in on the word “change.” They may not have “political sophistication,” but they know that their lives have become increasingly harried and precarious. Whatever there is, it ain’t working.
How do authoritarian liberals respond to this situation? By telling them they are stupid and uneducated, and treating them like The Enemy. Talking about their IQ’s (there’s some eugenic, ruling class bullshit right there). Lumping them in with the looniest, right-wing, gun-nutter fringe . . . which, I gotta tell ya, is the best way to eventually drive them right into the arms of that fringe. Oh yeah, and most of Trump’s cult are suburbanites, not farmers and other rural folk. But why let facts fuck with a good narrative?
As a working class old white guy, living in a farm town, with a whole passel of redneck relatives, I’ll say this. If you want to win back some of these people, try finding out about their lives without filtering every moment through your preconceptions and theories . . . and come up with a decent, brand-able farm reform policy that responds to where they are right now. And finally, go after Trump and his ilk, not the “rednecks.”
Or you can continue to attack them and secure the fuck-you vote for Trump again in 2020. You decide.