I spent the summer of 1973 watching the Watergate hearings on TV so I know a skunk when I see one. Knowledge in hand, I have been perplexed why, after such a train wreck of a presidency, Donald Trump has received 67 million votes as of this writing. What are these people thinking?
Then it occurred to me. Trump voters are like my father and Fords.
Sometime in my very early life, my father started buying Ford station wagons. We’re talking about the late 1950s here. My father’s car buying philosophy was simple: keep the car until the warranty expires then trade it in. This was important for two reasons.
First, we lived in the snow belt. If you ditched the car after a couple of years, the inevitable rust was someone else’s problem. Second, American cars of that era were, to use a technical term, crap. Let me give you an example. Around the early to mid 1970s, my father had a Country Squire station wagon. Andy Rooney once ridiculed buyers of this car as idiots because they paid extra, big bucks for the optional wood grain finish. This was actually a big piece of contact paper surrounded by $5 worth of plastic trim. Another feature of the car was that it got something like 8 miles to the gallon in the city and 13 on the highway. I am not making this up. It had an enormous engine that took forever to warm up on cold days. It accelerated like a manatee on land. The kicker was the dashboard.
I grew up in Albany NY (coincidentally, Andy Rooney’s hometown. He also went to my high school, but I digress.) The record low in Albany is -28F in January 1971, my sophomore year in high school. It is not unusual to have a few weeks of sub-zero temperatures every winter. Been there. Done that. One morning my father went out to warm up the car. As the interior heated up, a jagged crack formed right down the middle of the dashboard. Quality is job one.
We had to have a big car because we had seven kids and my father was a gardener. When the “wayback” was not filled with blocks of peat moss and shovels and such, it had huge cushions and a kid or three. (Seatbelts? You must be joking. My mom used to let us stand on the front seat of the car when we were little. I am not making this up.)
Another feature of this piece of automotive dung was the fact that it was so bulky that it was nearly impossible to parallel park. Guess which car I took my driving test in? The night before my test, my father set garbage cans up on the street and I practiced parallel parking between them. Clang! Clang! During the test, I put the car in reverse, looked over my shoulder and prayed. Perfect! I couldn’t do it again in 100 tries.
Day after day for my entire childhood my father would bitch about his crappy Ford station wagon. Yet every two or three years when the warranty expired, he’d trade his car in for another Ford station wagon that was, incredibly, even crappier than the one he had. (In the mid-1960s he bought a two-door Mustang instead. He kept it for a few months. We kids loved it but you couldn’t get a block of peat moss in it to save yourself. So he traded it in on another wagon.)
So why did he keep buying these shitboxes? My theory is that he bought Fords one after the other because lord knows Chevrolets and Plymouths could actually be worse. Sometime after I left home, he threw caution to the wind and bought a Chevy wagon. It was a vast improvement.
Now he may have been onto something. My younger brother once bought a VW Golf. Its transmission died the day after the warranty expired. I am not making this up either. (To its credit, the dealer honored the warrantee anyway.)
If you are under 30, I promise you that you have no idea how lucky you are Even the worst shit box on the road today is infinitely better than Fords on the 1960s and 1970s.
Which brings me back to the Donald. Why would people vote for him even after nearly four years of demonstrating that he is indisputably the worst president in U. S. history? I mean, I bet his hair cracks in half at -10F. People vote for him because they are afraid that any alternative is likely to be worse. I mean a new president could have hair that cracks at +10F. We can’t have that, now can we? It’s a variation on what Milton Friedman called the tyranny of the status quo.
Aren’t you glad the election is almost behind us.
For the record, I am a Honda man.