“God bless real Michigan. God bless real America. God bless the greatest president in our lifetime, Donald Trump,” Ted Nugent recently declared at a Michigan rally.
It’s ironic that Trump, the first president born and raised in New York City (or any major city) since Teddy Roosevelt, has hitched his presidency to the idea that “real America” is not to be found in urban areas.
Real America—a term beloved by Richard Nixon—tops the long list of conservative catchphrases capturing the sense of grievance dominating so much of the right these days. Real America is “flyover country,” a term used more by those who resent it than by those who actually use it as a term of derision. In today’s Republican mythology, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and other major cities are home to the elites—or, if you include the shores of Lake Michigan, the even more hated “coastal elites.”
It’s a funny definition of real America that excludes not just the bulk of the population but also the centers that define so much of our culture and history. After all, the American Revolution is a story set largely in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. When foreigners visit America, they don’t spend a lot of time checking out the grain silos of North Dakota.