While visiting home, I’ve been listening to some good ole country music. One of the artists has been James McMurtry. One of the songs that came up is this one:

This song was written in 2005, as a protest with an eye on the re-election of George W Bush. There were many of its kind, though this one was particularly good. It focused a bit on blood overseas but mostly depression at home. The title, “We Can’t Make It Here” relates to manufacturing and a nation basically feeling underwater. As far as economics go, the song isn’t great as it decries both the low minimum wage and the fact that those jobs are being sent overseas. To Singapore, of all places, which to my knowledge is not exactly known for low wages (though, importantly, does rhyme in the appropriate place).

mcmurtryWhat’s noteworthy about the song is that if you listen to it in 2016, it’s orbits around being something of a Trump anthem. Not just a matter of manufacturing and the like, but the haunting apocalyptic feel of it. The jobs are being shipped overseas and the factories are closing, oh and drug abuse and crime while people try to cope, “high on Jesus or hooked up dope.” He was talking about much of the same America that Trump was. McMurtry mightbe horrified by the comparison, and perhaps rightly as their prescriptions for what ails us do not perfectly overlap. But that gets into the specifics, and neither Trump nor McMurtry are models of internal consistency and deliberate policy.

McMurtry himself was at least somewhat aware of the potential for his lyrics to come across the wrong way, as he throws in what Clancy and I call a “Not Racist!” verse, in reference to Singapore:

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ?em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away

The view from Asia may be entirely different. Which is to say, you don’t hate them for taking the jobs, but hating that they have the jobs might still not go over super well. That’s not something Donald Trump has expressed particular concern about. And McMurtry sings about “Will I work for food, will I die for oil, Will kill for power and to us the spoils“… Trump has talked about the spoils of war, but without the air of disapproval. Though the slogan “America First” has a loaded history and a lot of baggage, I don’t consider the sentiment behind it – to an extent – beyond the pale. But it does run contrary to the one-worldism of the contemporary left, and explains the distance between McMurtrian discontent and the Democratic Party.


Category: Theater

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

7 Responses to The Visions of James McMurtry and Donald Trump

  1. Murali says:

    A lot of blue collar work has much lower pay in Singapore than in the States. Given that the workers are of comparable skill, property rights are stable and if arranged well, the taxes are lower, moving production to Singapore makes a lot of sense. The only downsides in Singapore are going to be that land rent is expensive and transportation if you are re-importing to the states. But the transportation costs are reduced greatly if you are manufacturing for export in the asia pacific region. So, a lot of high end production may end up moving here, especially if the key barriers to moving overseas are the uncertainties normally associated with shifting skilled production overseas: less skilled workers, insecure property rights, communication difficulties etc. i.e. reasons why shifting to china often fails for a certain type of manufacturing activity.

    • Gabriel Conroy says:

      What are the social welfare services like in Singapore? If it’s a lot more robust than in the US, then I could see that partially balancing out (from the blue collar workers’ perspective) the lower wages.

  2. trumwill says:

    For what it’s worth, in this case it’s textiles.

  3. ScarletNumber says:

    I am watching the CFP semi and I am reminded of better times when we caused the Chick-fil-A Bowl to change its name.

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    Testing to see if a simple comment goes through.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      Huh. That worked, but when I try to paste my full comment, I get a connection reset error (Chrome is reporting it as ERR_CONNECT_RESET).

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