On Tuesday night, with a video filmed in a Detroit parking garage, the rapper Eminem took aim at another white man with a penchant for saying the outrageous—one who does so without Em’s verbal dexterity or spitfire precision, and who does it from the Oval Office.
“We better give Obama props, because what we got in [office] now is a kamikaze that will probably cause a nuclear holocaust,” Eminem freestyled in the clip. “He’s going to lower our taxes. Then who’s going to pay for his extravagant trips back and forth with his family to his golf resorts and his mansions? Same shit that he tormented Hillary for and he slandered then does it more.”
Then, turning his attentions to his listeners, Em issued an ultimatum: “Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against. And if you can’t decide who you like more and you split on who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: Fuck you,” he said, middle finger raised. “The rest of America, stand up: We love our military and we love our country, but we fucking hate Trump.”
Eminem’s left-leaning politics aren’t exactly a revelation (he released an anti-Bush song, “Mosh,” two weeks before the 2004 election), but his willing entry into the political fray is. His expletive-laden attack on Trump drew immediate parallels to Kid Rock, another foul-mouthed musician, whose support for the president and hints at a Senate run in Michigan have become an object of national fascination. In the celebrity-powered endless spectacle that is American politics in 2017, hip-hop fans called for a throwdown between the two aging white rappers—or, less seriously, for Eminem to enter the Senate race against Kid Rock.
But maybe none of this should have been too surprising. Eminem is, after all, a product of Michigan’s Macomb County, among the most politically charged places in America—a place studied and obsessed over by generations of pundits, pollsters and political scientists. And if fellow Macomb native Kid Rock can flirt with a political career, then Eminem can at the very least return volley in the war for the soul of angry white men, standing athwart history, middle finger in the air.
For more than 30 years, suburban Macomb County has been something of a de facto national capital of white middle America, a near-mythical political wonderland just north of Detroit that gave birth to the “Reagan Democrat” movement. In 1960, Macomb was the most heavily Democratic suburban county in the United States; by 1980, it had become the most heavily Republican. What happened in between was a mix of white flight away from Detroit, fears of cross-district bussing, and angst over a sense of a declining quality of life as the auto industry imploded. Many of those voters had traditionally supported Democrats, but as time marched on, they saw their personal cultural conservatism unwelcome in a party they increasingly saw as the natural home of liberals and minorities, both of whom threatened their status. They found common cause in the campaign of Ronald Reagan and, before him, pro-segregation demagogue George Wallace (who, in 1972, won Macomb’s Democratic presidential primary with more votes than McGovern mustered in the general election).
Last year, Macomb County went for Trump overwhelmingly, delivering more votes for him than for any other presidential candidate in the history of the county. His margin of victory in Macomb was 48,348; statewide, he won Michigan by only 10,704 votes. In Macomb, Hillary Clinton received 31,699 fewer votes than Barack Obama had in 2012; if her drop-off had been only two-thirds that size, she would have won Michigan.
Predictably, those statistics meant that as soon as the election was called, the national media began its quadrennial migration north of 8 Mile, the road marking Detroit’s city limits, to see what the hell had happened. “How did [Trump] flip those states?,” asked MSNBC host Steve Kornacki on November 9. “I think you can tell the entire story [of this election] in one county—one county in Michigan,” he said, zeroing in on Macomb. The Cook Political Report noted that just three counties—Macomb in Michigan, York in Pennsylvania, and Waukesha in Wisconsin—were responsible for Trump’s Electoral College win: “If those three counties had cast zero votes, Trump would have lost all three states and the election.” On November 19, NBC’s Chuck Todd visited this “epicenter of the Obama-to-Trump phenomenon,” setting up shop at a popular brewery in Warren, the county’s largest city, to host a Meet the Press panel with a small clutch of voters. The next week, Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the superviral “Humans of New York” Facebook page, came and devoted an entire week to poignant portraits of the “Humans of Macomb County.” A few weeks after that, the Guardian reported that Trump voters in Macomb were “actively choosing to ignore the news they don’t want to hear.” Come January, CNN’s Jessica Schneider visited, proclaiming that “Macomb County really represent[s] the epicenter of the type of place that Democrats need to regain their footing.” The New York Times sent Susan Chira to find women who voted for Trump. ABC News’ Terry Moran came too, visiting a bowling alley, where he interviewed a local magician and glided onto a roller-skating rink—Macomb as a cultural time capsule.
Before he was a legend in his field, pollster Stanley Greenberg made his name examining the voters here in 1985, when local Democrats brought in the Yale professor to study what was happening and why they were losing. “Winning Macomb represents a kind of mastery of our history,” Greenberg later wrote in his 1995 book, Middle Class Dreams. “These middle-class suburbanites are conscious of being caught in the middle, doubly betrayed by those who would govern from the bottom up and by those who would govern from the top down. … What they really want is a new political contract—and the freedom to dream the American dream again.” …read more
Read more here: The Bellwether County That Explains Eminem and Kid Rock