DANIEL VAUGHAN: In Praise Of Normalcy In Middle America

 March 20, 2024

There was a viral piece on X/Twitter this week written by a self-avowed white nationalist. It was viral because this man moved to the Midwest from the coasts, looking for something he believed would be a utopia for his beliefs. He failed. He couldn't find anyone who shared his views, even a little bit. This "miserable experience" so disabused him that he hated being around white people and gave up white nationalism on an "emotional level."

He went to the Midwest with the same preconceived notions of red-state America as a coastal liberal and was disappointed not to find it. He found, instead, crushing normalcy. People were living, raising families, cheering on college football, going to church, and living their lives, not caring about the anxieties of the big cities. He called these Americans hobbits, whereas I'd call them the soul of America.

We all got to watch another version of this play out in the NFL this year: the relationship between Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce and music megastar Taylor Swift.

The very online right hated this relationship, too. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories out there trying to explain why the two of them are together. Ross Douthat nailed this entirely in a column:

[T]he cultural valence of the Swift-Kelce romance isn't just normal and wholesome and mainstream in a way that conservatism shouldn't want to be defined against. It's normal and wholesome and mainstream in an explicitly conservative-coded way, offering up the kind of romantic iconography that much of the online right supposedly wants to encourage and support.

He goes on to argue, "A story where the famous pop star abandons her country roots and spends years dating unsuccessfully in a pool of Hollywood creeps and angsty musicians, only to find true love in the arms of a bearded heartland football star who runs a goofy podcast with his equally bearded, happily married, easily inebriated older brother… I mean, this is a Hallmark Christmas movie! This is an allegory of conservative Americana! This is itself a right-wing meme!"

Even if the relationship itself is fake, as so many celebrity connections seem to be, it represents something that so-called conservatives claim to want. It suggests that true love and living can only be found by returning to the heartland.

It's borderline Biblical. Abraham wants his son to get a wife from the land he's from, not the heathen part of the world he was living in at the time. Finding that connection requires going back. Yet the extremely online right bizarrely rejects this, choosing "red pill" claims in memes rather than truth-based in reality.

Conservatives understand this, but people who spend their entire lives online do not. Taking all your cues and morals from the online crowd disconnects you from average people, and you start to overlay your online viewpoint on everyone. 

However, regional differences still exist in America. A conservative in the coastal cities will have a different viewpoint than one in the country. The Midwest and South are different despite having many similarities when it comes to rural living.

If you're an average person, this makes sense. However, a growing group of people whose entire existence is online view the real world like the narrator in a nature biography. You almost expect them to start talking like David Attenborough describing mysterious red-state Americans living their lives by marrying, having families, going to church, and moving along without politics being their main driving force.

This nonsense used to be a thing reserved for the left. Jonah Goldberg famously called this the "conservatives in the mist" trope.

This is where the liberal reporter "manage[s] to saunter into the leafy thickets of conservatism, and are welcomed into a band of gorillas. They hold out the equivalent of a banana or maybe a fistful of grubs for long enough and eventually we come sniffing around. We're intrigued by the creature lavishing attention on us. And the reporter eventually begins to feel as though he has been accepted into the band. Eventually, we conservatives grow comfortable enough around them to return to our old patterns. We scratch and fight and do our gorilla things and the chronicler dutifully takes notes. The notes eventually make their way into an article for the New York Times or The New Yorker or Vanity Fair."

But this is now where people from the coasts look into the heartland of America and have the same view. Maybe they've read so many of the liberal reports from red states that they believe the caricatures. Maybe their online obsessions have warped their sense of reality.

Whatever the case, when the online comes into contact with the real, it's supremely disappointed and disabused of their assumptions about the world.

I'm glad the guy in that piece was forced to come to grips with his delusions. What he believes is untrue, unfounded in reality, and morally repugnant. I also feel sorry for the poor Midwesters who likely had to hear him drone on in verbal paragraph form about his fanciful notions from the coast.

We need more people like those Midwesterners. Frankly, America's future depends on them because I'd trust them more than anyone else in Washington D.C. Then, while we're at it, we need rehabilitation programs for people screwing up their lives with these crazy notions. I'm glad some see the light, but we need more to face reality.

Middle America is the core of this country. We need as many of those people as possible. 

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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