In 1835, the French writer and political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville embarked on an epic journey across a young American country. For him, travelling in a foreign country was a learning experience and an opportunity to gather information. His route began in the northeast and took him through the south and early beginnings of the Midwest — and area of the nation that is as foreign to most coastal Americans today as it was to Tocqueville nearly 200 years ago.
After a year of enduring Trumpism, we were worn out with the daily grind of writing about the constant idiocy emanating from the White House and Orange Julius Caesar. We called Trump the modern Hitler almost a year ago, and have been condemning his bigotry, racism, sexism, and ill-conceived nationalistic politics ever since. It takes a toll.
Therefore, last month, in the tradition of exploration, enlightenment, and our mental health, The Idea Dogs embarked on a road trip of Tocquevillian expectations…mixed with a hint of Travels with Charley. We spun an arrow and drove through the heart of Trump country — a foreign land called Middle America bisected by Route 66 — where the only Constitutional Amendment that exists is the Second and where Trump returns regularly to bask in the glory of the disenchanted and poorly illuminated masses of red.
It was a harrowing adventure at times, seeing Texas Highway Patrol units descend en masse to detain and search every traffic violator. Others were more pleasant, as when a young Oklahoma State University student reminded us that the future is yet to be molded by educated and progressive minds that resist the hammer and chisel of their bigoted upbringing. None-the-less, Middle America is a scary country for coastal dwellers.
It is a stagnant place where last decade’s trip to Disney World counts as cultured travel, but where we spotted surprisingly few Trump banners and stickers. It is a land where they erect great symbols of Christianity, but forget the ideals represented by those symbols. It is a nation where people are unhappy, struggling, and desperate — which could be why they voted for a buffoon whose sole purpose is to exploit them and leave them less happy, with more struggles, and even more desperate than before. It is a land of broken promises.
Over the next few weeks, check back as we write about our experiences, observations, and thoughts of our visit to Middle America…in the same manner that Tocqueville shared his with the world. While we are by no means Tocqueville’s peers, we did feel like strangers in a strange land as we crossed borders from Pennsylvania to Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, and beyond. At times, we wondered when we would be asked to present our papers or when we would be detained for our “Yankee” license plate.
Understanding the rise of Trumpism in America is akin to understanding the rise of Nazism in Germany in 1933. Knowing how we, as a nation, arrived at a point in 2018 where the division could easily produce a wall, but not along the border with Mexico, is paramount even to the daily criticism and condemnation of Donald Trump and his destructiveness.
America used to be a nation where families travelled to see the sights, the wonders, the wilderness, and to experience the diversity between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Now, it is a nation where diversity has been driven to the oceans’ edges and there is no joy in the quintessential Route 66 experience. As children, we enjoyed the game of license plate bingo — calling out tags from as many states as possible between Connecticut and Washington, or North Dakota and Florida.
It says a lot about a nation where you can drive 5,000 miles in a month and see only one other plate from your home state. Like foreign travelers who have visited America for two centuries, each of us is a stranger in a strange land — foreigners scowled at instead of welcomed; threats instead of guests — and it took more than a washed up millionaire real estate developer to make us this way.
Follow us on Twitter @IdeaDogsMedia in February as we visit and discuss locations across Middle America.