The *Pittsburgh Post-Gazette* endorses Trump

Say it ain’t so!

Here is a taste:

Let’s look at the Trump record:

Under Donald Trump the economy, pre-COVID, boomed, like no time since the 1950s. Look at your 401(k) over the past three years.

Unemployment for Black Americans is lower than it has ever been, under any president of either party.

Under Mr. Trump, our trade relationships have vastly improved and our trade deals have been rewritten. Thanks to him, middle America is on the map again and the Appalachian and hourly worker has some hope.

Has Mr. Trump done enough for these struggling fellow citizens? No. But he recognized them. Maybe he was not articulate, but he recognized their pain.

No one ever asked the American people, or the people in “flyover,” country, if they wanted to send their jobs abroad — until Mr. Trump. He has moved the debate, in both parties, from free trade, totally unfettered, to managed, or fair, trade. He has put America first, just as he said he would.

He also kept his promise to appoint originalists to the Supreme Court of the United States. His third appointment, Amy Coney Barrett, is the best of all — a jurist whose mind and character and scholarship ARE first class. We hope she stands against both judicial and executive excess.

Finally, let’s talk about one of the most important concerns in this region — energy. Under Mr. Trump the United States achieved energy independence for the first time in the lifetimes of most of us. Where would Western Pennsylvania be without the Shell Petrochemical Complex (the “cracker plant”)?

Donald Trump is not Churchill, to be sure, but he gets things done.

He is not a unifier. He often acts like the president of his base, not the whole country. He has done nothing to lessen our divisions and has, in fact, often deepened them. The convictions and intellect of all Americans should be respected by ALL Americans, especially the president.

Has Mr. Trump handled the pandemic perfectly? No. But no one masters a pandemic. And the president was and is right that we must not cower before the disease and we have to keep America open and working.

He has not listened well to people who could have helped him. He has not learned government, or shown interest in doing so.

But the Biden-Harris ticket offers us higher taxes and a nanny state that will bow to the bullies and the woke who would tear down history rather than learning from history and building up the country.

It offers an end to fracking and other Cuckoo California dreams that will cost the economy and the people who most need work right now. “Good-paying green jobs” are probably not jobs for Pittsburgh, or Cleveland, or Toledo, or Youngstown.

It offers softness on China, which Mr. Trump understands is our enemy.

Mr. Biden is too old for the job, and fragile. There is a very real chance he will not make it through the term. Mr. Trump is also too old but seemingly robust. But in Mike Pence, Mr. Trump has a vice president ready to take over, if need be. He is a safe pair of hands. Sen. Kamala Harris gives no evidence of being ready to be president.

This newspaper has not supported a Republican for president since 1972. But we believe Mr. Trump, for all his faults, is the better choice this year. We respect and understand those who feel otherwise.

Read the entire editorial here. I would have preferred it if the Post-Gazette just reprinted this opinion piece as it’s editorial. 🙂

Trump doubles down on the racism, nativism, and unhealthy nostalgia in Pittsburgh

Watch Trump on September 22, 2020 in the Pittsburgh area:

Trump is talking about Ilhan Omar, a Black Muslim congresswoman who represents Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. She won nearly 78% of the vote in her district in 2018.

Trump is playing both a racist and nativist card here. “She’s telling us how to run our country,” Trump says. Who is “us?” What does Trump mean by “our country?” He then makes a remark about “where she came from.” For the record, Omar is was born in Somalia and has lived in the United States twenty-five years. She has been a United States citizen for twenty years. Who is the divisive one here?

But Trump doesn’t stop there. After saying that Omar is destroying our country, he then illustrates perfectly the close connection between “Make America Great Again” and racism. Trump says: “From ten years ago it’s like a different world and we want to keep our world the way it was.” It is as if the racial unrest plaguing American cities this summer never happened. In the context of his previous comments on Omar, this is blatant racism.

And then there are the Trump followers cheering all of this.

The kind of nostalgia Trump is peddling here can be a powerful political tool. A politician who claims to have the power to take people back to a time when America as “great” stands a good chance of winning the votes of fearful men and women.

The practice of nostalgia is inherently selfish because it usually focuses on one own’s experience of the past and not the experience of others. For example, people nostalgic for the world of Leave it to Beaver may fail to recognize that other people, perhaps even some of the people living in the Cleaver’s suburban “paradise” of the 1950s, were not experiencing the world in a way that they would describe as “great.” This kind of nostalgia gives us tunnel vision. Its selective use of the past fails to recognize the complexity and breadth of the human experience–the good and bad of American history.

The *Believe Me* Book Tour is Coming to Pittsburgh!

Post Gazette

I hope to see some of you tomorrow night, Tuesday July 10, when the Believe Me book tour comes to Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, PA.  I am grateful to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette religion reporter Peter Smith for his story on the book.  (And we made the front page!).

Here is a taste:

Author John Fea recognizes those moments when a statistic contains the power of language. So he dedicated his new book “To the 19 percent.”

Mr. Fea, professor of history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg (and a prolific blogger), is writing about one of the most-discussed statistics of late.

An estimated 81 percent of self-identified white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to exit polls.

In his new book, “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” Mr. Fea attempts to explain why many white evangelicals would coalesce behind someone that others — including his fellow 19 percenters — see as a racist, mendacious and sexually predatory.

Mr. Fea delves into academic and political explanations — and yes, the current Supreme Court vacancy is a key factor, one that many evangelicals say vindicates their vote.

But what’s more personal are Mr. Fea’s encounters with readers on his book tour, which brings him to the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

At his recent book launch in Harrisburg, “I had at least two people come up to me who said they were very much isolated in their evangelical church,” he said. “One person talked about his faith being challenged by seeing fellow Christians casting their lot with a president who clearly does not represent the best of evangelical values.”

He’s heard from ministers who are “counseling more people on political-related issues because they’re so angry.”

So how to explain the vote?

Read the entire piece here.

What is More Important: Quality Consumer Goods or Social Equality?

CarnegieThe obvious answer is quality consumer goods. How could we live without them?

At least this is how Pennsylvania steel magnate Andrew Carnegie would have answered the question posed in the title of my post.

Yesterday  in my Pennsylvania History class I taught Carnegie’s famous 1889 North American Review essay titled “Wealth.”

Here is part of what he said:

Formerly articles were manufactured at the domestic hearth in small shops which formed part of the household. The master and his apprentices worked side by side, the latter living with the master and therefore subject to the same conditions.  When these apprentices rose to be master, there was little or no change in their mode of life, and they, in turn, educated in the same routine succeeding apprentices.  There was, substantially, social equality….

But the inevitable result of such a mode of manufacture was crude articles at high prices.  To-day the world obtains commodities of excellent quality at prices which even the general preceding this would have deemed incredible. In the commercial world similar causes have produced similar results, and the race is benefited thereby. The poor enjoy what the rich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessaries of life. The laborer has now more comforts than the landlord had a few generations ago. The farmer has more luxuries than the landlord had, and is more richly clad and better housed. The landlord has books and pictures rarer, and appointments more artistic, than the King could then obtain.

The price we pay for this salutary change is, no doubt, great. We assemble thousands of operatives in the factory, in the mine, and in the counting-house, of whom the employer can know little or nothing, and to whom the employer is little better than a myth. All intercourse between them is at an end. Rigid Castes are formed, and, as usual, mutual ignorance breeds mutual distrust. Each Caste is without sympathy for the other, and ready to credit anything disparaging in regard to it. Under the law of competition, the employer of thousands is forced into the strictest economies, among which the rates paid to labor figure prominently, and often there is friction between the employer and the employed, between capital and labor, between rich and poor. Human society loses homogeneity.

The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great;but the advantage of this law are also greater still, for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train.

After walking my students through this text, I ended class and let them ponder it over the weekend.  We will see what they think on Monday.

Rise Up: Springsteen in Pittsburgh

It was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and Bruce Springsteen was playing a show in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center.  I wanted to see Bruce one more time on his current River tour and the Pittsburgh show was the only one I could make work with my schedule. I took my daughter Caroline to the show.  I think it may have been her third or fourth Bruce show.  Not bad for a fifteen-year-old.

Apparently Bruce’s next album will not feature the E Street Band so this may be the last time we see Little Stevie, Mighty Max, Charlie, Suzy, the Professor, Nils, and Gary W. for awhile.  (It was announced today that the band is heading to Australia in January).

Bruce did not speak about 9-11.  He let the music do the talking.  Though he has been leading off this leg of his U.S. tour with “New York Serenade,” the final track from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, it was particularly relevant on this night.

He followed “Serenade” with four songs from his 9-11-themed album The Rising: “Into the Fire,” “Lonesome Day,” “You’re Missing,” and “Mary’s Place.” Later in the show he played two more songs from The Rising: “My City of Ruins” and “The Rising.”  I was disappointed when most people in my section sat down for “My City of Ruins” despite the powerful refrain to “rise up.”

After his early musical tribute to the fallen heroes of September 11, 2001, Springsteen took us back to his first two albums–Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle.   The next eight songs came from one these early 1970s albums.  During this stretch, which included “Growing Up” (the first time I have ever heard it played in concert), Springsteen regaled the audience with stories from his high school days and his first record deal.  It was obvious that Springsteen was giving the Pittsburgh audience a foreshadowing of his forthcoming memoir Born to Run. Caroline was not entirely familiar with these early songs so I am glad I played both of these albums in the car on the drive to the concert.  This kind of pre-concert prep has become a stable in the Fea household.

From our seats behind the stage (Section 118) I was able to get a very interesting perspective on the political dimensions of the concert.  For example, when Springsteen played “41 Shots,” a song commemorating the 1999 New York shooting of Amadou Diallo, it seemed like more people than usual decided that it was a good time to get out of their seats and grab another beer or take a bathroom break.  As Marc Dolan recently told us in Episode 9 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast, not all Springsteen fans appreciate this song.

In another revealing moment a fan in the front row threw a copy of the United States Constitution onto the stage.  Bruce picked it up and showed the crowd that it had the words “F… Trump” written on it.  The crowd cheered and the woman next to me lifted her hands in agreement, but a significant number of people in my section began yelling similar derogatory things about Hillary Clinton.  Despite Springsteen’s outspoken progressive politics, his fans remain a politically eclectic bunch.

And of course what would a Springsteen concert be without this:

It was a great night!