Monday, June 18, 2018


Salena Zito has made a nice life for herself purporting to be the person who can explain Trump voters to so-called out-of-touch elitists. We learn from a New York Post column she published over the weekend that she's guilt-tripped Harvard into letting her run a program along these lines:
We were only a few days into a new course I had developed with Harvard’s Institute of Politics, called the Main Street Project, where students are immersed in small-town America. Even though these kids had almost all been raised in the United States, our journey sometimes felt like an anthropology course, as though they were seeing the rest of the country for the first time.
The first stop on this "journey" for Zito and her kids was Chicopee, Massachusetts, where she played tour guide:
On a blustery afternoon in April, I filed into a van along with 10 students from Harvard. We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass., where we had chatted with the police chief and his force, the mayor and his staff, small-business owners, waitresses and firemen about their struggles living in small-town America.

The undergrads were buzzing with their impressions. Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.

As they settled in, I looked at them.

“So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”

None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person whom they’d voted for.

So I let a minute pass and told them.

“Nearly every one of them voted for Trump.”

My students at first looked stunned. But then recognition crossed their faces.
Do you know how Chicopee actually voted in 2016? Here are the numbers:
Hillary Clinton 12,332 (52.1%)
Donald Trump 9,837 (41.5%)
Gary Johnson 1,046 (4.4%)
Jill Stein 472 (2%)
Clinton beat Trump by double digits in Chicopee, and 58.5% of its voters voted against Trump. So either Zito is lying about the people she introduced to her students or she chose an unrepresentative sample of Chicopee's population. (The latter is probably correct. Cops? Firefighters? Small business owners? The Republican mayor? That's not a real cross-section of the town -- it's a cross-section of the town's authority figures, but not of the town as a whole.)

Zito lives by some peculiar rules:
I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels.

And definitely no chain restaurants.

The reason is simple: Planes fly over and interstates swiftly pass by what’s really happening in the suburbs, towns and exurbs of this nation. Staying in a hotel doesn’t give me the same connection I can get staying in a bed and breakfast where the first person I meet is a small-businessperson who runs the place and knows all the neighborhood secrets. The same is true of going to locally owned restaurants versus chains.
I get the rule about planes and interstates -- but no hotels? I can understand wanting to avoid luxury lodgings, but what's Zito afraid she'll miss if she stays in a small hotel or motel?

Is she afraid she'll talk to people who aren't native-born whites? After all...
Indian immigrants and their children make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, but they own roughly half of the motels in the country.
These immigrants are part of "flyover country," too, but they don't fit Zito's narrative, even though they're Americans now, just like whichever ancestors of Zito's first landed here. Their grandkids and great-grandkids will be the equivalent of Zito (and of me) -- fully American, yet only a few generations removed from the Old Country.

And Tom Scocca is right: Does Zito not know that most fast food franchisees are local small business owners, too? Does she not want to talk to these people because they're the wrong kind of small business owners, or because we might ask why she's not talking to their mostly young, minimum-wage employees?

Motel chains and fast food franchises are much more representative of modern American capitalism than B&Bs and small-town restaurants. Zito, I think, would rather report on Trump voters' ideal America than on America as it actually is.

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