Elkhart, Indiana sounds like a town that needs to stop watching 24-hour news.
This Jackie Calmes story in the New York Times reports that the town once on its back, having lost many jobs and about to lose thousands more should Chrysler have gone under in 2009, has rebounded from the depths of the Great Recession and now is near full employment (3.8% unemployment down from 23%).
This has a lot to do with Barack Obama’s auto bailout and stimulus package passed to resuscitate the ravaged economy he inherited upon taking office.
Obama visited this town as a candidate and as president and did not forget it, but instead helped save it. Yet support for him is weak in Elkhart, Indiana. Yet somehow they find something to support in Donald Trump, and can only fault the president.
The problem here goes pretty deep, I think. If nothing – not even solid political performance – is good enough for us any more, who are we then? Has the great American ideal of accountability been taken to such absurd extremes? Will only perfection suffice?
It used to be common for people to have mixed allegiances, because their politics were born of their towns and the solutions people saw locally, which stretched quite naturally across party lines. Today we’ve grown into bubbles, even locally, obeying the stark divides in Washington and in the broadcast media. We view politics as some sports contest and we’re fans of one team or another. I’ll admit it: nothing the Dallas Cowboys do is going to make me their fan. But that’s not how politics, governing should be.
We excoriate government, but government is our way of coming together, in community, to solve problems.
Why imitate our national political leaders who live captive to politics as sport? And what about some courtesy? How about saying thank you?
I’ve written a lot about my belief that our heroin and pain pill-addiction problem stems from years of destroying community in this country, leaving us without the social immune system to combat a drug as isolating as opiates. Elkhart is one place where that happened. Now it appears that this town is forming community again, becoming a place where people are working and putting their lives back together. I assume it’s not perfect and that much remains to be done.
But this attitude expressed by people in Elkhart now that things are better, to me, feels childish, feels unserious. Above all, it feels as if they’ve downed too much of the dope of alarm, frenzy and anger dealt by 24-hour cable news and talk radio, which traffic in all that and never heard of a solution to a problem, nor reported on one.
We luxuriate in complaining about politicians, yet won’t support those who follow through and who help create community out of destruction?
Seems to me that if we believe the alarmism of 24-hour cable news despite the evidence looking us in the face, then we’ve become infantile, hardly deserving of our world-power status, and we deserve the loonies we get.