The 'Rich Men North of Richmond' debate

Harry Welty

After the Fox presidential debate my wife texted her brother-in-law: Last night I was watching Breaking Bad on the second floor; Harry was watching the debate on the first floor; and the boys were watching Bodies, Bodies, Bodies in the basement. We aren't sure which of us had the scariest viewing."

 As a beleaguered fan of democracy, I warily watched Fox’s Presidential debate. It began with the unbalanced assertions of GOP Wisconsinites who unanimously explained that despite the lowest unemployment levels since my infancy seventy years ago Biden was ruining America’s economy. To frame the debate Fox, which is desperately sucking up to Trumpers, proceeded to play a little of the Oliver Anthony music video that is taking Red America by storm, “Rich Men North of Richmond.”  

It may not have occurred to Fox that the candidate who was boycotting their debate, the elephant who wasn’t in the room, is a rich man north of Richmond who visited the “minors” on Jeffrey Epstein’s tropical island. If I was a Trump fan, that song would make me queasy. And to add insult to ignorance, Oliver’s anthem trashes 300-pound welfare people. All that diabetes-killing weight comes from eating corn syrup grown in Trump subsidized Republican farm country.  

I saw a lot more sucking up to Trump in Milwaukee than I saw in 2016 when Republicans couldn’t believe how Trump was plowing them under. I also noticed some Trump fatigue when candidates suggesting the party could do better than Trump got some respectable cheers.

But the audience kept the candidates on a short leash. Chris Christie was showered with boos when he accused Trump of running on a revenge platform but he pressed on to say that Trump’s actions were unbecoming of a president of the United States. Thirty-eight-year-old entrepreneur Vivek Rammaswami sprang to 45’s defense, winning cheers as he accused Christie of his own revenge campaign against Trump.  

The most awkward appearance was former Vice President Pence still haunted by the specter of a hangman’s noose. He pointedly asked the other candidates if they agreed he was right to defend the Constitution over Donald Trump. The others all reluctantly agreed that he had done the right thing but the young Trump impersonator, Ramaswammi, quickly added that if elected he would pardon Trump.  

When the debate hosts asked the eight to raise their hands if they planned to support Trump if he got the nomination, only Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s hand remained at his side. Their timidity follows Trump’s takeover of a party after 50 years of repeated purges of independent-minded Republicans.   Goldwaterites chased out Rockefeller liberals. Nixonites froze out anti-war Republicans. Reaganites hounded anyone who didn’t go along with what George HW Bush called “voodoo economics.”

Bush saved himself by becoming pro-life, thereby abandoning a lot of people like my parents who were pro-choice. Those who thought some regulation of big business was prudent were sidelined by the deep pockets of the Republican party’s Deep State. Worship of promiscuous gun ownership; neutering the audits of the rich by the Internal Revenue Service and shelving Civil Rights only added to the refugees.  

By 2016 so much purification had taken place that the canny, one-time New York liberal, Donald Trump, did a 180 and took up the banner of geriatric skirt chasing Bible thumpers and blue collar workers whose unions had been dismembered by the “right to work” Republican Party. Trump himself had been quick to churn out cheep ties in China.  

And that brings me back to the lyrics of Debate night’s theme song.   It describes how the Donald Trumps of America left the poor behind. Those rich include Donald Trump’s son in law Jared who, six months after Trump’s fingers were pried of the door jambs of the White House, made a cool $2 billion from the same Saudis who butchered a Washington Post Reporter and put his body parts in their carry-on luggage. Or the billionaires who have saved a jaw dropping $2 trillion each year in tax cuts from the Republican's 2017 tax cuts.  

Democrats should steal Oliver Anthony’s battle cry the way Bill Clinton stole NAFTA from the Republicans to prepare for the looming battle of our soon-to-be octogenarians. As I said before, unemployment under Joe is the lowest it's been since I was in diapers.  

I leave you some of Oliver Anthony’s pertinent lyrics. Decide for yourself which party they are more suited to: 

It's a damn shame what the world's gotten to

For people like me and people like you

Wish I could just wake up and it not be true

But it is, oh, it is livin' in the new world

With an old soul

These rich men north of Richmond

Lord knows they all just wanna have total control

Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do

And they don't think you know, but I know that you do

'cause your dollar ain't shit and it's taxed to no end

'cause of rich men north of Richmond  

Harry Welty will try to keep the Reader’s editor happy by meeting his deadlines until he can’t.