On the morning after Trump won the 2016 election, I posted a comment here, to say that I was ashamed of the American people for making such a choice, and that the most lasting damage would take place in foreign relations. I suppose voters chose Trump for various reasons, not least because of the “Archie Bunker for President” phenomenon: He thinks like me. They had not looked closely enough at their incongruous identification with narcissistic rich boy Trump to be troubled by it. At least Archie had some likable qualities that made him seem forgivably inconsequential. What would such voters know or care about the international scene?
In 2000, they elected George W. Bush. One of his closest campaign advisers was the former Wyoming Rep. Dick Cheney, whom Bush selected as his running mate. Wyoming is probably the deepest “red” of all states; this week voters there chose Trump over Biden by a ratio greater than 2.6 to 1. I’ve visited Wyoming many times over the past 30 years to go hiking and backpacking in one or another of that state’s mountain ranges, and I’ve had many interesting and enjoyable contacts with the people there. I have avoided bringing up political matters.
In 2012 I had a long conversation with the executive of a large automobile dealership in Casper. He was clearly interested in my perspectives, although he also carefully avoided the political. In 2005 I spent most of a day in the company of a rancher. We were both veterans; when I mentioned not serving in Vietnam he snorted, “Vietnam! If it was up to me, I’d have A-bombed the whole place, paved it and painted white stripes on it.” To change the subject, I asked about the origins of the large geological feature looming before us. He said, “When I was in college my roommates were geologists. They’re nothing but atheists! It was formed 6,000 years ago in the great flood.” I decided to keep silent for a while.
In September 2001 I came down from a hike in the Big Horns and decided to spend a day relaxing in the pleasant town of Buffalo before driving back home. I washed some clothes, bought a copy of the leading state newspaper, and watched some television news. Except for sports, the only national, much less international, news that reached print that day in the Casper Star Tribune was confined to one slender column. Similarly, little or nothing appeared on the popular TV news programs except for state and local items plus sports.
I returned to Minneapolis, and a few days later airliners crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers in New York. I wondered, what perspective would average Wyoming citizens have on such an event? We know that soon the former congressman mistakenly advised the president to invade Iraq, but Cheney was not average. Our well-liked Republican former Gov. Elmer Andersen termed him “an evil man.”
The trouble is that when citizens dwell in ignorance, they may support such ill-informed actions. And they may make a very bad choice at the polls, like voting for Trump.
David Markle is a Minneapolis writer and acoustical designer.
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