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Conservatives rally the troops by butching it up
You may have heard about the gathering of truckers who came to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to demand an end to the COVID-related national emergency and related mandates. Days earlier, “Freedom Convoy USA 2022” organizer and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kyle Sefcik told Breitbart News he expected “a 38,000 trucker convoy” to join him; later he addressed President Biden via YouTube video, delivering a nice-administration-you-got-here-shame-if-something-were-to-happen-to-it ultimatum: “We are leaving the choice to you… this whole convoy, this whole assembly on the Mall, it doesn’t even have to happen if you just end things now and we can get on with our lives...”
Around the same time there was talk among the MAGA-American community about coming to Washington to shut the place down, the way the Canadian Freedom Convoy had shut down part of Ottawa the month before. The unfortunately named Bob Bolus —“owner of Bolus Truck Parts and Towing Service in Throop, [Pennsylvania]” per a hometown “local businessman leading convoy” report — got national coverage by telling reporters that he and his trucker buddies were going to blockade the city:
“We intend to circle Washington, D.C., and basically, I’ll give you an analogy of that of a giant boa constrictor,” Bolus said in an interview with Fox 5 DC’s Lindsay Watts. “That basically squeezes you, chokes you, and then swallows you. And that’s what we’re going to do to D.C.”
“First sign of truck convoy headed to DC passes through Maryland,” reported WBAL-TV in Baltimore on Feb. 23. “The first group of trucks that will comprise part of a convoy making its way to Washington, D.C., passed through the Baltimore area Wednesday afternoon.” But WBAL’s video coverage showed only one big rig — covered in Trump signage — and a pick-up truck flying Trump flags. Reporter Kate Amara did admit that this was only “one of the smallest” of what they portrayed as a series of convoys streaming to DC, and showed B-roll footage of trucks on highways in support of this concept. Amara also mentioned the “strong social media presence” of other convoy leaders, including Sefcik, whom she said “was expecting up to 3,000 people on the same day as the State of the Union Address.”
Comes Der Tag, and it turns out Sefcik’s posse was considerably smaller than reported: “Despite the initial hefty estimate that upwards of 3,000 attendees would show,” Yahoo’s Zachary Petrizzo reported, “only 12 rally-goers had actually assembled for the gathering just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening.” And Bob Bolus wound up not only unaccompanied but lost on his route to glory.
I am no clairvoyant, but prior to the event I was pretty certain that, a little more than a year after the January 6 insurrection attempt and weeks after the Ottawa bullshit, neither the U.S. Government nor the City of Washington was going to let truckers demand terms or shut down the city during the President’s State of the Union Address. I don’t think they’ll do it later, either.
Yet in recent days reporters have continued to act as if convoy is a live and powerful threat. “People’s Convoy reaches Illinois as it makes its way to Washington DC for trucker anti-mandate protest,” banners the Daily Mail. “The People’s Convoy, protesting vaccine mandates, rolled through Springfield en route to Washington DC,” announces the Springfield, Ill. News-Leader, and links to the “People’s Convoy” website, where you can listen to one of the brethren say things like “we do have people who are in power in this country who do not care about ‘We The People,’ they care about their own self and their own monetary value, that are getting rich off this [air quotes] pandemic that could have been solved three weeks in…” and make cash donations to the cause.
“Trucker ‘Freedom Convoy’ rolls through [New York’s] Southern Tier,” reports WETM in Owego, adding that “trucks drove by the overpass just before 2:30 p.m., according to reporters on the scene,” without giving an estimate of how many trucks said reporters observed. But a dispatch from WSFB in Hartford, Connecticut claims “the convoy had hundreds of trucks and went on for probably seven miles” at some point in its journey, though they supplied no footage nor photos nor testimony by named witnesses to back up this extraordinary claim; “there have been several convoys across the country that have formed,” they added.
Assuming anything like this gets to Washington, it will certainly be dealt with, and not by the surrender of the U.S. government to a cadre of anti-mandate soreheads (whose demands have been largely obviated by the repeal of mandates across the country anyway). That didn’t happen in Ottawa, either, even though the convoy leaders acted as if they were representatives of a sovereign nation demanding an audience, and the Canadian government politely allowed them to set up their Mad Max KOA in their capital for several days.
But though they didn’t force the government to do their bidding, the Canadian truckers did manage to erode the popularity of Trudeau and his Liberal Party among Canadian citizens — despite the fact that those citizens also got mighty sick of the trucker-squatters — and their stateside equivalent may rouse some resentment against Biden and the Democrats, too. Which, I believe, was the point all along.
It’s not that these shenanigans change people’s minds about the issues. Americans have always been more pro-mandate than the truckers (though that may be changing as such mandates as exist actually fade away). But there’s always a part of the population that will get excited about a rebel movement if it’s of a certain kind — that is, dead butch.
Conservatives hate your basic run-of-the-mill American protestors not only because of their politics, but also and maybe even mostly because of what they look like — in their imaginations, like dirty hippies from the Dragnet era, or like the sissy “Pajama Boy” from an old Obama ad, or, like, black. The BLM protests of 2020 really freaked them out because so many of the faces were African-American — and were accompanied by a not-inconsiderable number of white faces including those of their neighbors and friends and (gasp) children. (It got them so nervous they fantasized the entire BLM movement as a nationwide festival of urban violence; to this day you’ll hear them talk about all the major American cities that were burned to the ground.)
But give ‘em rebels who are costumed and coiffed like manly men they learned to respect when they were little kids, and they go apeshit. Like the Tea Party — overwhelmingly white, with many members cosplaying Revolutionary War heroes and Founding Fathers straight out of their childhood history books — or the Bundy Family of moochers off government land and insurrectionists, who were done up like Marlboro Men. We can go all the way back to the Hard Hat Riot in New York in 1970. It’s like the Village People avant le lettre!
So it is with the truckers. It doesn’t matter that they sit on their ass all day like damn paper-pushers and their primary skills are taking wide turns and backing up — they’re celebrated in songs like “Convoy” and TV shows like “BJ and the Bear,” they’re anti-social, and after a shift they smell, which makes them more of a signifier of the working class than the at-least-equally hard-working members of the Service Employees International Union — sorry, guys, cleaning hallways and bedpans just doesn’t stir the blood of your average white American like a guy going “breaker breaker” and gobbling little white pills. And by clustering in rebellious tableaux and blowing air horns, the truckers can mesmerize some independents into rolling with them.
So even if all the other convoys turn out to be a bust, they’ve still scored some points thanks to the absurdly respectful media amplifying their rugged he-man don’t-take-no-guff extended-Village-People-universe image to the nation. And since image is the whole game, it may be even better for them if they don’t show up and reveal how powerless they really are. Blocking traffic, they’re just a public nuisance; threatening to do so and then ghosting, they can be legends. No wonder Sefcik didn’t act like a failure even after his humiliation: “Just because the amount of people don’t show up, it’s not about that,” he told Petrizzo; “we are going to stick to what we are doing.”