The Blue-Collar Boomer That Won’t Bow

Written by Terrell Clemmons

Sebastian Gorka Explains the Electoral Phenomenon of Donald J. Trump

J.D. Vance was born in 1984 in Middletown, Ohio, where his grandparents had moved two generations prior and found gainful employment with the American Rolling Mill Company, commonly called Armco Steel. Decent wages enabled them work their way toward a comfortable life, one very different, materially, from the dirt-poor subsistence they’d left in the hills of Jackson, Kentucky. In Middletown, people could make ends meet, raise a family, and still have a little extra to spend come Christmas time.

By the time J.D. was in school, though, the formerly thriving community was starting to languish. His father wasn’t around, and his mother was addicted to drugs. Still, he managed to graduate from college and Yale Law School after serving in the marines, and in 2016, he published Hillbilly Elegy.

Part memoir and part cultural critique, Hillbilly Elegy opens with Vance describing a return trip to his ancestral home, where he found “decrepit shacks rotting away, stray dogs begging for food, and old furniture strewn on the lawns.” His clan’s Appalachian existence had been spartan, but for generations, they had lived by a code that expected hard work, looking out for one another, and living for things larger than oneself, be that family, nation, or God. Yet, by the early 2010s, some one third of the local population was languishing below the poverty line. What had supplanted their code?

At the same time, his own hometown of Middletown lay in a similar state of desolation. How was it that people of ethical, rugged stock had descended to such largescale indolence? That question prompted Hillbilly Elegy.

As Hillbilly Elegy neared its arrival in bookstores, Hungarian immigrant Sebastian Gorka received an unexpected phone call. Would Dr. Gorka be willing to help the reality TV star from Queens prepare on national security for the Republican debate? Gorka had his reservations. Born in London to Hungarian refugees, he had studied Shakespeare, philosophy, theology, and the history of the British Empire. Yes, he had worked in counterterrorism, both in post-Communist Hungary and post-September 11th America, but his British sensibilities were wholly unaccustomed to the off-putting style and manner of Donald J. Trump.

Reservations notwithstanding, though, he accepted the invitation, and not only to his surprise connected with the Donald, but went on to write a full-throated endorsement of him and make an unapologetic case for his reelection. In The War for America’s Soul, he explains how Donald Trump’s vision for America addressed the causes lying behind the malaise Vance articulated:

Not only did I connect with the brash billionaire businessman, but once I came to work for him in the White House, I would get to see first hand the preternatural way he connects with people of all backgrounds – especially people who were life-long, working-class Democrat voters, such as the salt of the earth “forgotten men” and women of Pennsylvania or Michigan or Wisconsin.

When Donald Trump said he wanted to “Make America Great Again,” he was talking about (among other things) reviving the culture of manufacturing and production that leftist globalists had stripped from middle America. Donald Trump’s first election, Gorka wrote, was “a reaction against the Left’s all-out assault on all that is good and true in America [including] the patriotic, working-class Americans which the Left regards as both deplorable and dispensable.” No elitist, Republican or Democrat, could have done this, Gorka says, and today’s record employment numbers confirm that we are experiencing a true, blue-collar boom.

As a naturalized citizen, American by choice, Gorka also brings another perspective to the current electoral conflict. It traces back to when he was a boy of about eight and nonchalantly asked his father a simple question:

“What are those lines on your wrists?”

Without emotion, without skipping a beat, he looked at me and said, “Son, that’s where the Secret Police bound my wrists together with wire behind my back so they could hang me from the ceiling of the torture chamber.”

That’s when my life changed.

From that moment onward, Good and Evil weren’t theoretical, abstract concepts. … Good and Evil existed in the hearts of men, men like the Communist officers who had tortured my father in the basement of their headquarters.

When Donald Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again,” he also means reinvigorating the Constitutional principles America was founded on – inalienable rights conferred on individuals by the Creator (not government), with government bound by strict limits because men and women are fallen creatures, not naturally inclined to serve the public’s interests above their own. These principles aren’t niceties, but rather are necessary, because Good and Evil do exist, and enemies come in both foreign and domestic attire.

People may charge the president with all manner of character flaws, but in his foreign and domestic policies, he is guarding American sovereignty, liberty, and prosperity. Without these, my friends and fellow citizens, we do not have an America. Love him or hate him, in President Trump, we have a brawling political outsider – one who stubbornly refuses to be domesticated by elitists at home or enemies abroad. I’ll take this brawling outsider over the elitist or foreign enemy any day.


IFI is hosting our annual Worldview Conference on March 7th at the Village Church of Barrington. This year’s conference is titled “Thinking Biblically About Our Corrosive Culture” and features Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Rob Gagnon. For more information, please click HERE for a flyer or click the button below to register for the conference.