The world is still in shock with Donald Trump’s astonishing victory in last week’s US presidential election race, a win that will see the real estate magnate and TV personality – with zero experience of political office, soon become the new tenant in the White House.
Time will tell what this severe change will do on a global scale as the man who promises to rid the world of ISIS and build a wall to keep out Mexicans prepares to take the reigns as the most powerful man on the planet, the 45th US president.
And although losing out on the popular vote to Hilary Clinton, with 59.6m votes in his favour compared to 59.8m for Hilary, Trump won the key battlegrounds to ensure that he sailed past the required 270 electoral college votes to become president-elect.
So how did this man, so ridiculed for his outbursts, past misdemeanours and lack of political experience win? What is behind Trump’s appeal away from the major metropolitan areas, in the rural heartlands of the Mid West and places like Missouri?
As The Roanoake Times – a small Virginia newspaper – put it…Anyone wondering why white, working-class voters feel so estranged from the rest of the country that they’d vote for billionaire Donald Trump simply hasn’t been listening to enough country music.
Country music, when taking on a political narrative, exudes frustration at the economic status quo, the decline of small towns and the traditional, rural way of life, with the Roanoake Times detailing that “the alienation of white, working-class Americans from the popular culture has been a constant theme of country music ever since Merle Haggard stirred controversy with “Okie from Muskogee” in 1969′ – song which mocks the hippie counter-culture.
This is especially true in places hardest hit from recent economic policies, with political commentator Dustin Howard noting that “Trump did not plant the seeds of populism, but he is enjoying the harvest.”
Country music star Dierks Bentley thinks that Trump was able to draw in the disillusioned with his policy rhetoric aimed at job creation, “The biggest thing I pick up on is the lack of manufacturing jobs,” he said, “– the lack of just jobs.”
Perhaps a perfect symbol of Trump’s ties with the country music loving public can be seen with the bizarre stunt carried out on Phoenix radio station KNIX-FM’s ‘The Ben and Matt Show’ back in March this year.
In return for having Trump’s face tattooed on his lower back, a listener won a pair of ‘country mega tickets’ – free tickets to every country music concert at a specific Phoenix venue for the next year.
And on the flip-side, we have indie-rock. In a theory put forward by Canadian multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry, who plays with both Arcade Fire and The National, the areas of ‘blue’, which voted for the democrat candidate Clinton, mark points on the map regularly toured by indie artists.
These indicators are present regardless of whether the surrounding state itself voted for Trump or for Clinton, and the list is as long as the Mississippi River. Cities such as Cleveland, San Diego, Atlanta, Nashville, Portland, Minneapolis, Birmingham, Austin, NYC, LA, Sacramento, Buffalo, Richmond, Salt Lake City and Miami, all voted for Hilary. Cities that regularly feature as ports of call for national and international indie rock acts.
Perhaps its stating the obvious, but its interesting nonetheless to note how these, more ‘liberal’ cities function as places more open to indie-rock national or international music as opposed to more conservative strongholds – and thus required stops on any tour of the USA for bands.
Scottish indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit are not long off a US tour in support of their recent ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’ album, visiting cities such as Indianapolis, Austin, Cleveland and Cincinatti.
Simon Liddell, guitarist/keyboard player with the band, when asked about the pattern, seemed aware of such a relationship with the tour stops and the general public’s political views in each city.
“Indie bands are more popular amongst more liberal areas and music fans so it makes sense for those areas to feature more on any touring circuit,” he said.
“It would be different if you looked at country artists.”
Indeed, a look at the dates of country music’s golden couple, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s 2017 ‘Soul2Soul’ tour shows you just how connected the live country music scene is with the Trump supporting areas.
Their mammoth 65 date, seven month tour of North America stops off at no less than 13 cities within counties that voted in favour of Trump; cities such as Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids (Michigan), Sioux Falls (South Dakota), Tupelo (Mississippi), Boise (Idaho) and Fargo (North Dakota).
And its these states that, for bands such a Frightened Rabbit, represent places where rest days are common to cope with the long drives and frequent shows across the country.
Most notably, places in the American Mid West; comprising of states such as those traditionally seen as more conservative; Oklahoma, Kansas, North and South Dakota and Nebraska.
As Simon confirmed, “There are certain stretches across the Midwest where there’s literally nowhere worth playing a show within a 2 or 3 day travel period. Usually days off are scheduled within those drives.”
A look at the US election results map for these states in particular backs up the original theory with respect to cities with a more liberal outlook – those who voted for Clinton – being regarded as necessary tour stops.
Of the 5 Mid-West states mentioned above, a total 11 counties voted in favour of Hilary Clinton in the US presidential election. That’s 11 out of 394 counties. Oklahoma, with 77 counties, voted entirely in favour of Trump, with not one single county returning a vote for Clinton – who won just 28% of the total state vote compared to 65% for Trump.
So what does this all mean?
Well, in the case of the US presidential election race, it was country music that ‘trumped’ indie rock to guide The Donald to victory. One where rural America, antagonised by the lack of jobs and fearful of her traditions, placed their faith in the person they felt best suited to listen to their frustrations.
And now, unlike ever before, has something so seemingly trivial as going to see an indie-rock band or country music singer in concert taken on such of a significance as we come to terms with the Trump era.