Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches From America’s Class War

By Joe Bageant. <i>Crown</i>.<br /> <i>Deer Hunting With Jesus</i> takes Thomas Frank’s dazzlingly smart 2004 book, <i>What’s the Matter With Kansas?</i>, to the next level.

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Deer Hunting With Jesus takes Thomas Frank’s dazzlingly smart 2004 book, What’s the Matter With Kansas?, to the next level. Like Frank, Joe Bageant writes about his home state (Virginia) and his native tribe (“Scots-Irish mutt people”) and shows how working folks (“our cheap, ass-busting, anti-union redneck labor force”) got bamboozled into voting Republican. But Bageant writes with the ghosts of Hunter S. Thompson, Will Rogers, and Frank Zappa kibitzing over his shoulder.

One of a snake-handling, fundamentalist, backwoods clan rooted to the same ground in northern Virginia for 250 years, Bageant was born again—thanks to sex, drugs, and rock and roll—as a writer, freethinker, and pinko Democrat. He roamed for years, but came home to write this guided tour of the world he grew up in. From the church where his brother preaches in tongues to the Rubbermaid plant that employs half his hometown, Bageant uncovers harsh lessons about how liberals failed the people who do society’s grunt work, as well as fight our wars, and wind up with nothing to show for it but a broken-down trailer in foreclosure. They’re bitter as hell, but they “vote Republican because no liberal voice…that speaks the rock-bottom, undeniable truth, ever enters their lives.”

Bageant’s dead serious and damned funny, a prince of trenchant irreverence. In chapters with titles such as “The Deep-Fried Double-Wide Lifestyle,” he despairs over his benighted brethren but loves them fiercely and wants justice for them. Enough fine Southern-style storytelling for 10 volumes is distilled into this fantastically readable ex-planation of why working-class America has given up on liberalism. Winning it back, Bageant writes, means liberals “are going to have to pick up this piece of roadkill with our bare hands.”

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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