As the president staged a rally attended largely by out-of-towners, Democratic-leaning denizens of Tennessees Brooklyn pondered an urban-rural rift
Men in stetsons, check shirts and jeans swing their partners around to the thrum of drums, fiddle, keyboard and steel guitar of Mike Oldham & The Tone Rangers. The walls at Roberts Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, are coated with beer logos spelled out in neon or on lampshades or mirrors, old concert posters, photos of country music greats and three rows of cowboy boots for sale. The tiled floor is barely visible under the heaving crowd.
At this and other honky tonk bars on Broadway, Nashvilles main tourist drag, the music is old country: songs about drink, divorce, hardscrabble heartbreak, the miserable struggle to make ends meet. It is a playlist that has taken on new resonance in the era of Donald Trump, like a requiem for white working class voters in small towns who, feeling left behind with nothing to lose, propelled him to the White House.
But Nashville is a booming city where southern civility, religion and conservatism collide with a young, creative and liberal population. Paradoxically, the heart of country music is increasingly at odds in class, culture and politics with the heartland that surrounds it. In this it mirrors the dislocation of other burgeoning American cities that are islands of Democratic blue in deep red Republican states.
There is a vast gulf in ideology and approach to the world, said Bruce Dobie, a Nashville-based media entrepreneur. Its just crazy right now. My street and city are overwhelmingly Democratic. Were astonished by everything we see at the moment.
Dobie estimated that when the US president rolled into Nashville on Wednesday for a campaign-style rally, around 80% of the crowd was from out of town. Trumps warm-up acts were country singers the Gatlin Brothers and Lee Greenwood, whose rendition of God bless the USA earned a cheer with the words to the hills of Tennessee. Trump joined him on stage, grinned, shook his hand and raised two thumbs up as the crowd chanted USA! USA!, some with fists raised, in a near-religious frenzy.
So Im thrilled to be here in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music, southern hospitality and the great president Andrew Jackson, Trump said, referring to the 19th-century populist described by the state museum as champion of the common man and notorious for forcing Native Americans off their land.
The crowd waved signs including Promises made, promises kept, Lefty media lies and Women for Trump. Carma Williams, 63, a retired office manager who had travelled from 70 miles away, said: I love him because hes honest. Hes doing everything he said he would do during the campaign. I think hes the first president whos done that.