If there is a place truly emblematic of the white working class towns and small Rust Belt cities that put Donald Trump in the White House, it has to be Bedrock. The town was once so bustling it inspired chart-topping hits, but sadly Bedrock is no longer “a swinging town” as the twitching rockabilly icon Rock Roll so famously sang. The five o’clock bird whistle no longer blows at long abandoned Slate Rock and Gravel. You see more foot powered cars on the streets of Silver Lake, where hipsters have embraced them as a zero emissions alternative to Uber, than in Bedrock. Stray dog-dinosaurs (or is it dinosaur-dogs?) now roam the back alleys of Bedrock, fighting over scraps of food. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that this once proud Democratic stronghold went overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election.
Curious to see if these voters were sticking with Trump despite his recent travails and scandals, I returned to Bedrock for the first time since that fateful Nov. 8, 2016. Shortly after arriving, I caught up with a gruff but gregarious former quarry worker named Frederick (Fred) Flintstone. We sat in his small but tidy living room, beneath neatly framed but faded autographed photos of the movie stars Stony Curtis and Cary Granite, while Fred’s elderly dinosaur-dog (or is it dog-dinosaur?) Dino slept peacefully at his feet.
The quarry has been closed for over three years now but Flintstone has been unemployed much longer than that. Mr. Slate actually tried to make a go of it with automation after laying off most of his work force, but despite no longer having to pay large men or feed larger dinosaurs, he was ultimately unable to compete with the sort of cheap foreign steel used to build Trump hotels. Despite such apparent hypocrisy, Trump’s anti-trade arguments and all-purpose fury still resonate with Flintstone. In a caveman community, the idea of bombing North Korea back to the Stone Age has a nostalgic appeal. So while Flintstone’s Water Buffalo Lodge brother Joe Rockhead sheepishly now wishes that he voted for Hillary, Flintstone, like most Bedrockians, stands by his man. Fred relates to Trump even if he has no illusions about the president bringing quarry jobs back to Bedrock. Maybe he does own a mansion and a yacht but at least you could sit down to a Bronto Burger with Trump. Sorry Obama but Bedrock doesn’t do arugula.
Flintstone’s ultra-amiable best friend and neighbor Barney Rubble also sees the virtues in Trump’s rough edges. Trump reminds Rubble of Perry Masonry, the ruthless celebrity lawyer who almost cost Barney and his wife Betty custody of their adopted son Bamm-Bamm in a bitter custody battle against a wealthy family. “Masonry literally made me look like a monkey,” Rubble recalled, “so it’s nice to have someone like that on our side for once.”
If Barney voted with Fred on Trump, Flintstone’s wife Wilma was not on the builder’s bandwagon. I wasn’t grabbing anything of hers for weeks, Flintstone told me glumly, recalling nights spent sleeping on the couch after Wilma discovered he was supporting the star of the infamous Access Hollywood video.
Fred lives on disability now. He has emphysema from years of breathing in quarry dust; his feet carry the scars from years of driving those foot-powered cars and he walks with a cane. Still if you suggest to Fred that Trump wants to take away his health insurance by repealing Obamacare, he isn’t buying; that just sounds like “fake rock news” to him.
The Flintstones and the Rubbles are luckier than most. Unlike many Bedrock families, they have money coming in from, of all places, liberal Hollywood. The Flintstones’ daughter Pebbles is married to Bamm-Bamm and years ago they actually had a minor pop hit with “Let the Sunshine In.” The Flintstones also receive occasional residuals from Wilma’s short-lived cooking show “The Happy Housewife,” which has found an unexpected second life first on TV Land and then on Hulu. Still, small if steady checks from a series that predates both cable and streaming may not be enough to keep Fred and Wilma in the home they’ve lived in for decades. So if Trump can’t or won’t save Bedrock, who will? Maybe the Great Gazoo, Fred said, gamely invoking the name of an extraterrestrial friend. Wilma threw shade on that immediately. “Gazoo? As if Trump would let him into the country,” she snorted. So at least one thing hasn’t changed in Bedrock, Fred admitted. Wilma always gets the last word.
As I departed, I felt even less hope for Bedrock than I did when I arrived, as it was now clear the town’s salvation wasn’t coming from either Washington D.C. or Outer Space. Could Silicon Valley have the answer? I had recently read about a company on the cutting edge of technology, developing jetpacks, flying cars, and even robot maids. Could these inventions somehow bring jobs back to Bedrock? I flew west and soon a cheerful assistant was ushering me into the inner sanctum of the digital index operator at Spacely’s Space Sprockets. It was time to meet George Jetson.
Robert Potter is a Los Angeles-based writer who won PianoFight’s ShortLived 3.0, the nation’s largest audience judged playwriting contest, for his short play Anton Chekhov’s The Three Minutes. This earned him a commission for a full-length play, Slumpbuster, staged at Asylum Lab. Robert is currently a reader at HBO and Adjunct Professor in the MFA Screenwriting program at National University.