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Love him or hate him, Trae Crowder has something to say.
And he wants to say it to rural America.
Known as the “Liberal Redneck”, Crowder’s YouTube videos have gotten millions of views. Taking on not only the notion that all rural residents are gun-toting Republicans, Crowder often speaks directly to those people to let them know just how wrong he thinks they are.
In a recent video, he tackled the rumors of Antifa heading to rural towns across the country.
“Rural America, Antifa’s not real, not really. It’s just another in a long line of fictional boogeymen, you’ns create whole cloth out of thin air to help yourselves maintain the vital balance of fear and anger upon which you thrive! They’re just like the transgender toilet monsters and the big government rifle snatchers of years past -they’re not really a thing,” he said. “But let’s just say when you say Antifa, you’re talking about big city, coastal liberals…. And you think they’re coming to your town to fuck with y’all. Let me tell you something rural America… coastal liberals wouldn’t come to where you live if the ghost of Karl Marx offered to pay them in aborted fetuses, okay? They’re not coming there, for nothing, ever….EVER. What are they going to do? Come there to do loot? What are they going to loot? The co-op? The blizzard machine at the Dairy Queen? Those aren’t vegan friendly, what would they want with them?”
Crowder will be one of several speakers at the Indivisible Virtual Rural Voices Summit, held on June 27 online from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The summit will virtually bring together rural Indivisible groups and rural organizers from across the country for a day of rural power building, said Aftyn Behn, the senior regional organizer for Tennessee and Kentucky. Featuring organizations like RuralOrganizing.org, the American Federation of Teachers, Family Farm Action and People’s Action, the day will focus on rural coalition building, organizing on Facebook and the presentation of the “Rurries” – a celebration of some of the amazing things rural Indivisible groups have been able to do in the last few months, despite a raging pandemic and civil unrest.
And then there’s Crowder.
A graduate of Tennessee Tech University, Crowder spent years working at the Department of Energy before leaving it all behind to do stand-up. It was something he’d wanted to do since he was a kid.
“I was raised by my dad mostly – My parents were divorced when I was young – and my dad owned a video store in Celina, Tennessee,” Crowder said. “All I ever really wanted to do was like something related to movies… Then when I was 12, I saw Chris Rock’s “Bigger and Blacker” came out and I saw that and it kind of crystallized as comedy for me.”
But, as a smart kid in a small town, his family drilled into him he’d go to college and be the first one in his family to graduate from college. He even went on to get his MBA from Tennessee Tech.
But in 2010, when he moved to Knoxville at age 24, he started doing stand-up.
Since then, he’s been on the WellRED Comedy Tour; co-written a book “The liberal redneck manifesto: draggin’ Dixie outta the dark” with fellow comedians Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester; done a stint as the “Hillbilly in Chief” for the New York Daily News; and appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher to explain his “redneck” take on the 2016 presidential election.
His character isn’t far from his real beliefs though. His political convictions aren’t from some grand epiphany like some Southerners, he said, they were always there. Growing up with a single dad and dad’s gay brother, Uncle Tim, changed his outlook on things, he said.
“The first political opinion I had, although I didn’t consider it a political opinion, was that gay people should be treated like people,” he said. “But as I got older, I found that pretty much in every single political subject or debate, I just tended to fall on the left side of it.”
Growing up in Celina, which he calls fairly progressive for rural Tennessee, Crowder said he wasn’t ostracized for his views. After all, he was funny, he made good grades and he had a lot to say.
Now it’s those views and humor that make him a hot commodity for organizations like Indivisible, Behn said.
“He’s been a staple in Tennessee politics for a long time,” she said. “Right now, at this moment in time where people like Trae have always been political, it’s good to connect them with the national rural organizations and their programs.”
On the other hand, in this political climate, Crowder has said he’s gotten more attention from both sides – he’s gaining more fans, but he’s also gaining more haters.
Not that those in Celina would know, he notes.
“It was literally front page news in our local newspaper when we got a Subway sandwich store – like above the fold with a picture front page news,” he said. “And I’m seriously fine with this, but I find it funny… I’ve been on HBO multiple times and stuff and they’ve literally never said a word about me in the paper or even acknowledge my existence. My Uncle Tim is pissed.”