Charles Blow On Political Folk Heroes

Donald Trump and Edwin Edwards in 1993. Photo via the Advocate.  

The Op-Ed page of the Failing New York Times gets a lot of abuse. While some of it is deserved, everyone should remember that Paul Krugman, Michelle Goldberg, Jamelle Bouie, and Charles Blow dispense wit and wisdom in their NYT columns. My focus today is on the man with the swell name, Charles Blow. The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…

Mr. Blow is from the Gret Stet of Louisiana. He was born and raised in Gibsland in Bienville Parish and graduated from Grambling State University. He occasionally writes about his mother who still resides in Louisiana. He done it again in one of his most original and insightful columns thus far: Trumpism Extols Its Folk Hero.

Mr. Blow posits that, among the suckers who have fallen hardest for the con, Donald Trump has morphed from mere mortal to a legendary figure, a folk hero. For those of us who are immune to his snake oily charm, he’s an anti-hero.

Mr. Blow uses his mother’s affection for, and support of, 4 term Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards as an example of how a political folk hero can mesmerize their fans:

My mother is a devout Democrat, but also one of the most socially conservative people I know. This is typical of our home state of Louisiana among black citizens — they can be as conservative as any Republican, but are also completely convinced, by dint of history and experience, that the Republican Party not only abides racists, it courts them, and therefore they would die rather than vote red.

My mother is so austere that she never drank or partied in any way, except for the one time she told me that she went to a nightclub and tried a drink. She didn’t much like the dingy space or the bitter beverage, so she swore them both off.

She abhorred the showy, deeming it vulgar, so every single article of clothing in her closet was white, black, brown or navy blue. Red? Yellow? Green? God forbid.

And she was unshakable in her sense of moral rectitude, viewing sins like lying, gambling and philandering as absolute corruptions of character.

And yet, through my time growing up there and going to college there, she took a devilish pride in enthusiastically supporting and voting for the four-term Democratic governor, Edwin Edwards, a cocksure, gambling womanizer who would end up in federal prison in 2002 for bribery and extortion.

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that my mother, who thought herself a moralist, would find a champion in a flaunting immoralist, but she did as did many other Louisiana voters. And I believe this was possible because Edwards achieved something that few politicians achieve: He transcended the political, and on some level even the rules of the workaday world, and entered the astral league of folk heroes.

The rules don’t apply to the folk hero. People don’t measure them by the same tape. Behavior that people would never condone in their personal lives, they relish in the folk hero.

Sorry for that epic quote but it’s too well-constructed to cut. Charles’ writing does not blow. And unlike the president* he’s not a blowhard.

Mr. Blow goes on to apply the rules of folk heroism to the Insult Comedian. I agree with his analysis as it explains the irrational, cult-like devotion to Trump among his shrinking base. I disagree, however, with his conclusion:

Anti-Trump forces must stop operating as if they are doing battle with a liar; they are doing battle with what his supporters have fashioned into a legend. How does one fight a fiction, a fantasy? That’s the question. Its answer is the path to America’s salvation.

What we have to do is to ignore hardcore Trumpers who are no more than 25-30% of likely voters. Trying to convert them is a waste of time: they’re fantasists who believe what they want to believe, which is that the Kaiser of Chaos is making America great again. They’re low information voters, trying to convert one’s crazy uncle who watches Fox News is futile. Shorter Adrastos: Fuck them.

A reminder that the GOP lost the midterms by 9 points nationally. Democrats need to keep our base as well as disaffected suburban voters mobilized and ready for action in 2020. If we do that, Trump will lose. Repeat after me: Trump’s only path to victory is to destroy his opponent. Believe me.

Pondering Charles Blow’s name has given me an earworm. The last word goes to McKinley Morganfield:

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