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Meryl Streep and Willie Nelson: A Contrast in Political Style

Both have expressed liberal viewpoints, but there’s a key difference in delivery.

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Meryl Streep called out President-elect Donald Trump during her speech at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

This past weekend my wife and I were on our way from Austin to Waco to sell a load of pecans when I noticed the Bell County Exposition Center advertising an upcoming monster truck show, a rodeo, and a sold out Willie Nelson and Family concert. I thought about the increasing rhetoric about a country divided by strident and opposing viewpoints. But here was Willie—a long-haired, liberal who said he once smoked pot on the White House roof, a singer who professes love for Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and President Obama—selling out a show in a county that gave just 39 percent of its vote to Hillary Clinton.

The next day, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep gave an impassioned speech at the Golden Globes calling out President-elect Donald Trump. Her ridicule of Trump for mocking a physically disabled New York Times reporter was right on the mark. She invited a backlash, though, when she praised foreign-born Hollywood stars and asked rhetorically where America would be if they all were deported. “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

Conservative commentator Meghan McCain, the daughter of the U.S. senator from Arizona and a Trump critic, was one of the first I saw to complain about the Streep speech. “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won,” McCain said on Twitter. “And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how – you will help him get re-elected.” Daily Show host Trevor Noah also jumped in, praising the speech while also calling it “tone deaf” because a lot of people love football. “I thought it was a little weird last night that Hollywood celebrated itself for being progressive but ignored how much they reinforce negative stereotypes … Think about it: In Hollywood, Middle Easterners are almost always terrorists. Black people are gangsters and slaves. It’s not like there aren’t other diverse stories to tell. Just look at ‘Hidden Fences,’ you know?”

The Twitterer In Chief, @RealDonaldTrump, blasted Streep at 3:47 a.m Monday: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes.” It was a silly comeback to an actress who has been nominated for thirty Golden Globe awards and nineteen Academy Awards.

Even Dallas radio talk show host Mark Davis disagreed with Trump on that point in a commentary for the Dallas Morning News.  “In view of what follows, I should say that I disagree with Donald Trump about Meryl Streep being ‘overrated.’ From the “Holocaust” TV miniseries in 1978, through her 19 Oscar nominations and three wins, she has become, on film, a national treasure. At Sunday night’s Golden Globes microphone, not so much.” Davis noted that professional football and mixed martial arts are followed by millions of Americans.

This ham-handed outburst, a textbook example of why Hollywood is so widely reviled, showed how low the pop-culture left will go to demonize Americans who oppose their views.

Democrats and progressives will dismiss these kinds of views as being just another conservative attack on Hollywood and as a diversion from the potential harm of a Trump presidency. There was an undeniable tone, though, that anyone who voted for Trump was a football-watching MMA rube.

But Willie invites almost universal love from hippies and rednecks, liberals and conservatives—everyone except the professional pot-stirrers. And by that, I mean the political provocateurs, not the people in Colorado using Willie’s Reserve.

During the primary, Nelson threw support behind both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. He also joked, however, that the race was too negative. “It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Nelson told San Antonio’s KSAT-TV. “I’ve seen the circus a few times, but this beats any circus I’ve ever seen.” He added: “Seems like they’re just tearing each other down. They can’t wait to say something negative about somebody and then they still want us to vote for them.”

Probably no one under the age of sixty can understand the level of anger that existed in this country during the sixties, prompted by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Young people protested outside the White House, chanting, “Hey, Hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” Police cut loose fire hoses and dogs on civil rights protestors. Police in Chicago released tear gas and billy clubs on anti-war protestors. The conservative creed was “My Country, Right or Wrong.” And probably nothing spoke more about the mood of the time than Merle Haggard’s 1969 song Okie from Muskogee, “a place where even squares can have a ball.” Over the years, before Haggard’s death in 2016, Nelson showed him how to live a more mellow life.

Nelson is the founder of Farm Aid, and it is not like he has avoided controversial statements in the past. During the Bush Administration, Nelson expressed disappointment in both the Republican and Democratic parties and said we should “throw the bastards out.” He also told Time Magazine in 2006 the Dixie Chicks “got a raw deal” when people burned their records after telling a foreign audience that they were “ashamed” that President Bush was from Texas. “I said ‘He’s not from Texas and he ain’t a cowboy, so let’s stop trashin’ Texans and cowboys.’ It got a little chuckle, but I didn’t get run out of the country.”

The big difference between Nelson and Streep is that his comments are directed at the powers that be, while she also took what appeared to be a dig at her fellow Americans. Essentially, in politics, argue all you want and complain about the leaders, but the discussion ends when people start insulting one another.

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  • OldBlindBob

    That last sentence is the fairest observation about Meryl and Willie. Liberal elitists made a huge miscalculation by trashing Trump supporters rather than just focusing on Trump himself. Texas is one of the first places where hippies and rednecks learned to celebrate their commonality — the music — and not to sweat the small stuff, like who insults who. We should continue to follow suit.

    • Gunslinger

      Two real questions:
      1. Other than Willie, what makes you think Texas celebrates commonality?
      2. Why is it off-limits to disparage Trump supporters? They gave everyone Trump despite knowing exactly who he is and what he does. If his supporters aren’t to blame, who is?

      • OldBlindBob

        Well, Slinger, I live here and I see it everyday. Nobody’s supporters are off limits, but if you you attack them relentlessly, you’re gonna face a backlash. Simple human nature. The left f’d up by painting themselves as the haters.

        • José

          As opposed to those kind and gentle Trump supporters?

          • OldBlindBob

            Since November 8, it’s apparent who the angry and violent group is — the butthurt left.

          • St. Anger

            i don’t think any leftist would deny being angry. mostly at dumbs**ts like you.

            but as for violence, we aren’t the ones running around with guns hanging out every which way, calling for beatdowns and second amendment solutions. get real, orwell.

          • jimrussell

            Trump is a troubled manically insecure manchild. He fortunately lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, has a 30’s % approval rating, lowest by double of any incumbent President in history, and is losing ground and support by the week. So he has no mandate, only the minority support of the ignorant, delusional, and hapless gullible, The adults in the Republican Party are going to, with Democratic help, run the country so the mental patient doesn’t run the country into the ditch. The Democrat’s have too much responsible Republican congressional support to let the nation get too far off the tracks.

          • SpiritofPearl

            You use “butthurt” frequently. Are you speaking from personal experience?

        • jimrussell

          The perceived smarter the person the more of a threat Republican’s consider them.

          • OldBlindBob

            In your case, there is no threat at all.

          • SpiritofPearl

            So, Bob, where do you get your information?

        • Gunslinger

          So I guess someone who uses words and phrases like “Squawking Moron Squadron”, “a tarted up HRC”, “The Media’s Greatest Douchebag”, “Ungrateful, unpatriotic, unctuous witch”, “imbecilic and infantile gang of crybabies”, “nitwit Dems” , “Gillibrand is a walking, babbling self-parody” isn’t a hater? It wasn’t hard at all finding all the names that you call people on The Federalist, Brietbart and TownHall. And I found that only in the last three weeks or so of your history. So don’t come on this website disparaging “haters” and how it’s a mistake to “attack them relentlessly”. Some people might call you a raging hypocrite. Not me, though. That’s not my style.

          • OldBlindBob

            If you look at who they are directed at, they are all compliments.

      • John Johnson

        We rejected Hillary because we know who she is; not because we don’t know who Trump is. Try chewing on that.

        • Gunslinger

          Not much to chew on really. Your problem is that you believed every single thing about Hillary that you heard on AM radio, The Blaze and Brietbart. “She hates America! She let soldiers die! She hates business!” Honestly, have you ever NOT believed something derogatory you heard about Hillary? I bet you believed it all, didn’t you? ‘Rush said it, so it must be true.’ So you really don’t know who she is. (And I suspect you never really wanted to.) Whereas I and the rest of the world heard exactly who Trump is via his own words.

          • John Johnson

            I have not heard Limbaugh’s voice in years. I do not believe much anyone anymore. I do believe my eyes and ears, and in my reasoning power. I watched her lie to my face through unedited clips. I have watched Trump lie, too…but it was not about anything that had to do with a life being lost, or the desks she and her husband are making to enrich themselves at the country’s expense.

          • SpiritofPearl

            JJ has ADHD. That leads him down the primrose path to talk radio instead of print media.

        • fotohombre1

          Agreed. She was damaged goods and should be wearing an orange jumpsuit. ANYTHING, including Trump, will be better – even though I did not vote for either in November.

        • St. Anger

          you’re awful smug about your reasons for electing a fascist.

          (there is no greater enemy to democracy than someone who configures their email incorrectly.)

      • BosqueNorse

        Exactly. I don’t like the tone and premises of the author of this Texas Monthly article. I like Streep much better than I do Willie Nelson. She has a lot more grace and dignity, than he ever thought about having.

  • Scott Adams

    Seems funny to me when,as Meryl accurately points out that it is Journalists – (not that Texas Monthly is one,) Hollywood – California – New York are common targets of the Alt Right. Those that enjoy the arts (real arts) are always considered Liberal Elitists. The problem with Texas Monthly is they never mention the digs taken at the arts.

    • St. Anger

      this. this entire phenomenon is a bunch of lifelong bullies whining that the other guy is being mean.

      show me a trump voter, and i’ll show you somebody who shoved kids around in the halls and at the beach in high school. or made fun of liberal elites and minorities the past 8 years, usually much less politely than i just did. but they don’t like being called names now, so it’s our fault they went and voted trump. the sad thing is, this narrative even has some on the left convinced (my mom gave me the WSJ line after the election that clinton lost because she was too mean).

      they’ve been kicking sand in our faces for decades, and our mistake this time was not being nice enough??!!

      • OldBlindBob

        In other words, you’re butthurt.

        • St. Anger

          i’m not the one complaining about how “liberal elitists” treat me, snowflake.

          i just say what’s in my mind, not PC, you know?

          now tell you me you don’t watch football or MMA. you did already sneak in a homophobic taunt, so you’re performing as expected, hypocrite (or do you intend to stop focusing on insults right after you get done responding to my insult with more insults?).

        • SpiritofPearl

          There’s your favorite word again. You love it!

  • St. Anger

    all this concern about tone seems to (deliberately?) miss the point:

    “There was an undeniable tone, though, that anyone who voted for Trump was a football-watching MMA rube.”

    do you know any who aren’t? if they don’t like being called out for what they are, that’s a personal problem, not a liberal failing.

  • roadgeek

    Willie Nelson isn’t patronizing and condescending towards those with different viewpoints; he actually models diversity and inclusion, rather than simply mouthing platitudes.

    • RAYMOND GONZALEZ

      Don’t mean to belabor your narrative, but to suggest that the award winning actress Meryl Streep’s exercise of her 1st Amendment Right as “platitudes” is a bit of a stretch! Then why, pray-dear is a self-absorbed boorish presidential-elect degrading a somewhat encumber reporter who for the most part is professionally restrained from retribution against duffest New York schmucks. Sorry my Amigo, but I don’t see the equivalence or the platitudes. Jus’ sayin’ but frankly a bridge too far… Un dicho

  • SpiritofPearl

    Let’s get real. Texans love Texans. Meryl’s not a Texan. Willy is.

    • Artguy

      Texans also know how to spell Willie’s name. At least the smart ones.

      • SpiritofPearl

        I’m not s Texan.

        • Dan on the River

          Obviously.

          • SpiritofPearl

            I’m not a gun nut either.

          • Dan on the River

            Gun ownership is higher in Texas than most states but is not a requirement for Texan status. Perhaps being named after Pearl beer may qualify you!!

          • SpiritofPearl

            Texas is a fine place, but I’ll never be a Texan. I’m a cornpone from the midwest, just like early Anglos were who migrated to Texas.

  • Great stuff. Glad you’re back for session.

  • José

    While we have this nice little discussion about whether Americans really need to tiptoe around lest they hurt the feelings of the thinskinned Trump and his rabble, let’s remember one thing. Whether or not her comments were impolite or unwise, Ms. Streep was merely speaking the truth about a chain of lies. #1 – Donald Trump said that he SAW thousands of Muslims in America celebrating the attacks of 9/11. There is no such record that it happened or was televised. #2 – Donald Trump the said that a reporter wrote an account of this fictitious incident. He did not. #3 – Donald Trump claimed that he didn’t mock the reporter’s physical disabilities. It’s clear from the video that he did, especially when comparing Trump’s grotesque gestures to the reporter’s actual movements. If Donald Trump cannot tell the truth, and is incapable of acknowledging and apologizing for his many misdeeds, then he deserves no sympathy whatsoever. This isn’t about Streep, it’s about Trump.

    • John Johnson

      You’ve obviously never viewed Obama’s and Hillary’s string of “lies” on social media. Hillary’s was 13 minutes long.

  • Roy_Munson

    This is nonsense – She DIDN’T knock her fellow Americans. She talked specifically about Trump (without saying his name)
    It’s pretty ironic that one of the main points of her speech was people with power should not bully …and she’s gotten bullied ever since.
    Oh well. Can’t say I’m surprised.

    • John Johnson

      You have a selective memory about what she said. Her comments suggested that all Trumpies know nothing about smart, art or sophistication. We’re just a group of rubes.

      • donuthin2

        Unfortunately which is pretty much true of the Trumpies that I have met. They justify his comments and actions based of some distorted view of reality.

      • Roy_Munson

        You’re making things up. Tell me when she did that..

        • John Johnson

          Sorry, Roy…if you don’t understand what her “football/martial arts” comment meant, I can’t explain it to you.

          • Roy_Munson

            Oh, stop – There are PLENTY of liberals who love football and/or MMA. She was merely stating a fact that sports aren’t the arts, which they aren’t.

            You know, for a bunch of people who like to derisively call us “snowflakes” and tell us to go to our “safe space” a lot of you are WAY too sensitive.

  • Roy_Munson
    • Roy_Munson

      THIS was one of her main points. Pathetic and sad that people feel compelled to disagree

  • Roy_Munson

    Also, it’s hilarious that people demanding celebrities keep their politics to themselves just elected the a reality TV game show host to be our president!

  • Linda Banks

    It’s important that every citizen, celebrity or not, speaks out against Trump’s lies and moral turpitude.

  • donuthin2

    The R’s are well on their way to repealing the ACA. I obviously has many faults but would it not be better to address those rather than repeal? Based on the ability of congress to agree on anything, I doubt that they can come up with a replacement anytime soon. What happens to those who are now insured for the first time and will again be without health care insurance. Will it be upon the hospitals to absorb the cost as many will merely turn up at the emergency room. Problem for hospitals will be finding a way to pass the cost on to those on private insurance. Those with some assets but without insurance are going to get screwed if they go for medical care.

  • John Bernard Books
  • John Bernard Books

    While Prez Obama was busy awarding hissownself and VP Biden medals
    “Sen. Ted Cruz teamed up Thursday with — of all people — Sen. Lindsey Graham to introduce a resolution to defund the United Nations unless it reverses a recently passed measure condemning Israeli settlement activity.”
    http://conservativetribune.com/bill-to-defund-the-united-nations/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=teaparty&utm_content=2017-01-13&utm_campaign=can

    MeNTed were defunding the UN……

  • BarksintheCountry

    Liberals generally attack people, not policies. It avoids the unpleasantness of most of their ideas.

    • BCinBCS

      Blatant projection.

      • SpiritofPearl

        Barking mad . . .

  • St. Anger

    i have been explaining myself to you for over a decade. literally. i am done “offering” you anything. why others here insist on defending your intellect is beyond me.

    you are completely clueless and emblematic of the failings of modern corporate democracy. you think you are a champion of the people while you support the power elites right down the line every time. you’ve got your oligarchic despot, now enjoy the ruination of the american dream that you enabled (“hide and watch” as you say – they won’t come for your family first).

    • John Johnson

      Hahaha. Your positions, seemingly always based on anger, and nothing to support your positions other than anger towards the opposing viewpoints, fits your new moniker well. That’s all I have to say.

  • John Johnson
  • Roy_Munson

    I get it just fine. For someone who claims not care what famous actors think, you actually care so much and read into her remarks (which were about Trump, not you) way too much

    • John Johnson

      Yeah…whatever.