Who Gatsby and Atticus Finch would have voted for

Maureen Corrigan, 2paragraphs on who Jay Gatsby would have voted for in last years election:

The easy answer is Trump, isn’t it? After all, Jay Gatsby and Donald Trump share so much: a brazen flair for con artistry, a nouveau riche taste in home décor (Trump Tower is West Egg made manifest in glass), and even a skewed vision of a lost golden age. “Make America Great Again” is but a blunter iteration of Gatsby’s signal line: “Can’t repeat the past, why of course you can!” But, Gatsby would never do it; he would never vote for Trump. That’s because despite their surface similarities, Gatsby loathes everything Trump stands for. We know this because Gatsby loathes Tom Buchanan, Donald Trump’s fictional doppelganger.

Upon reading an early draft of The Great Gatsby, Maxwell Perkins expressed a visceral disgust toward Tom Buchanan: “I should know him if I met him on the street and I should avoid him.” Swollen with arrogance, proud of his unearned authority, Tom strides around spouting half-chewed climate change theories (“It seems that pretty soon the earth’s going to fall into the sun—or wait a minute—it’s just the opposite—the sun’s getting colder every year”) and racist ideologies (“[I]f we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”) Tom, like Trump, can’t keep his hands off women; in fact his meaty paws do more than grope. Recall Daisy’s broken pinky finger; Myrtle’s broken nose. Contrast those images with Gatsby’s hands stretching out in aspiration toward that green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. Because Jay Gatsby is above all else a dreamer he could never endorse an ignorant brute like Tom Buchanan/Donald Trump. Despite the fact that Hillary, like Daisy, “isn’t commensurate to his capacity for wonder,” Gatsby would have voted for Hillary Clinton.

Unsurprisingly. Gatsby is one of my own personal heroes in literature (For a reason I should probably write about soon, except school whipped any fun of writing about Gatsby out of me) and this rings true to exactly what he would’ve done. And our lovable Atticus Finch, who he suprisingly/un-surpsingly would’ve voted for:

Meet Atticus Finch, Alabama attorney and famously gentle single dad, until recently revered as a literary saint. Mr. Finch would have voted for Donald Trump—and this is true for both the heroic defender of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird and the bigoted segregationist of Go Set a WatchmanWatchman takes place in the 1950s, when Southern politics were defined by furious resistance to the Brown v. Board of Education decision and to Northern “liberals and do-gooders” striving to end segregation. Atticus rejects the progressive forces of the early Civil Rights movement and joins the White Citizens Councils, whose incendiary pamphlets are described by Scout as “stuff that makes Dr. Goebbels look like a naïve little country boy.” A former Klan member, Atticus views blacks as a backward people “unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship.” He confronts his freethinking daughter with reactionary questions: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools, churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” She responds by comparing him to Hitler. Atticus says the Supreme Court is trying to “wreck” the South; he has a constitutional mistrust of government in large doses. “I’d like for my state to be left alone to keep house without advice from the NAACP,” he says. Atticus voted for Eisenhower in ’56 but describes himself as a Jeffersonian Democrat because “Jefferson believed that full citizenship was a privilege to be earned” and that “a man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man.” This pretext for ignoring the Fifteenth Amendment might soon be embraced by Trump’s attorney general pick, Alabaman Jeff Sessions. Certainly this Atticus would have voted for Trump.

What about To Kill a Mockingbird? In this book Atticus guards the courthouse to prevent a lynching and risks his children and career to seek equal justice across the color line. How could Trump’s bigotry appeal to him? Let’s remember that the daughter who worships Atticus in Mockingbird is eight years old. In her twenties Scout understands that for Atticus, the Robinson case “had nothing to do with” the black defendant, that her father was simply trying “to work order out of disorder.” In Mockingbird as in Watchman, Atticus denounces liberal overreach and identifies with the Southern status quo. In making his final plea for Robinson, he can’t resist taking a swipe at the Roosevelt Administration and the North:

Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency    [. . .]  for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions.

In effect Atticus claims that it’s “ridiculous” to take the Declaration of Independence literally. His reference to the “distaff side of the Executive” insults Eleanor Roosevelt for having the audacity to sit with blacks at the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in Birmingham. His coded rhetoric means, “Let’s acquit this man because he’s innocent, but blacks do not deserve social equality and any Northerner who says they do is my enemy and yours.” Pleading for Robinson, he nods also to white supremacy. People change, but if this character were conveyed intact from either of Lee’s novels to the present day, he’d find his political home in the alt-right movement without which Trump could not have been elected. Trump carried Alabama by 29 points and almost 600,000 votes.

Which is in a way, surprising and unsurprising to me. When you read To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a hero. A shining paragon of everything a man should be. Kind to his children, fair and just to everyone regardless of race or gender. I bought the book in 20151 and did not get what the hell it was about2 until I got to the end. It was about humanising Atticus. It was about removing his cloak of holy light to show the man that was underneath. When you take this into account, it’s almost no surprise he voted for Trump. It seems obvious.

  1. And then loaned it to… someone. Honestly the book’s not interesting enough to bother. I’ll just let whoever has it now keep it. 
  2. Other than Scout coming home in her 20’s and just being angry at everything. 

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