Konstantin Chernenko Lives Here

As the Soviet Union muddled through the challenges posed by Ronald Reagan and his arms buildup, a dynamic Polish pope who wielded enormous soft power behind the Iron Curtain, and an Iron Lady who made sure no one of import ever went “wobbly,” Soviet leaders acted as if nothing had changed.

The apogee of denial was reached when the Communist Party General Secretary, the ancient and terminally ill Konstantin Chernenko, struggled through emphysema to deliver a funeral oration atop Lenin’s tomb for his predecessor, Yuri Andropov. He then quickly caught pnuemonia and was kept out of sight during his brief reign. I wasn’t convinced Chernenko ever truly held the reins of power. Dying societies tend to be ruled by dying men, and as an ardent anti-Communist at the time, I found the whole thing quite amusing.

I find it somewhat less funny now. Two men who are too old to be president are running in 2024—one in office and the other holding a commanding lead in the polls. Their campaigns will focus on who really won last time, with sidetracks only to discuss the crimes committed by each candidate and his family members.

Meanwhile, the many very real problems facing America will be ignored and our decline as a nation will continue apace, with regular speed bumps and even some roadblocks under Trump, or on the expressway, as under Biden.

That decline is now apparent to almost everyone, but it is clearest to the group that has borne its brunt, even while being told, ad nauseam, that they are “privileged,” that they have no grounds to complain, and no right to think of themselves as a group. I refer, of course, to working-class white males, whose decline as a share of the general population is presented as a matter for uninhibited celebration and whose decline in life expectancy is presented—when it is presented at all—as a matter of indifference. 

One such is a musician who goes by the stage name of Oliver Anthony. A victim of the purposeful deindustrialization of America, Anthony became an alcoholic after losing his job in a Carolina paper mill. After he regained his footing, he worked hard in a variety of industrial jobs until he made history in August 2023 when a song he wrote and performed, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” became the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 without being on any prior list.

In comments on Facebook made after his song became an unexpected hit, Anthony said he wrote the song after he spent “many nights feeling hopeless, that the greatest country on Earth is quickly fading away.” Anthony also recalled the many instances of  “suicide, addiction, unemployment, anxiety and depression, [and] hopelessness” he encountered among others who chose to do hard work for low pay rather than live off welfare

The attraction was not Anthony’s voice, his performance, or even the music he wrote, which is average or even forgettable. But the lyrics, they are electric:

I wish politicians would look out for miners

And not just minors on an island somewhere.

Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat

And the obese milkin’ welfare.

God, if you’re five foot three and you’re 300 pounds

Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.

Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground

’Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down…

These rich men north of Richmond,

Lord knows they all just wanna have total control—

Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do

And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do,

’Cause your dollar ain’t sh– and it’s taxed to no end

’Cause of rich men north of Richmond.

Anthony sings about the world he has known since entering the workforce in 2010. It’s the world Sam Francis warned was coming and that Pat Buchanan tried to stop. But that world is here, and it will not go away until “the rich men North of Richmond” are replaced by Americans who actually care about the people who live here, and who also understand what must be done to undo the destruction deliberately unleashed on the land.

Such men are rare. Turning around a declining nation, if possible at all, is a Herculean task. Any candidate not up to it, because of age or any other reason, does America no favor in running, nominated or not. The last thing we need in the White House is an American Chernenko.          ◆

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