Part 3—The way we liberals roll: It ought to be said that Scott Seitz was perhaps overstating a tad.
The Seitz family was interviewed by Van Jones at the start of last week's "town hall" special on CNN. Scott Seitz was identified as a two-time Obama voter who voted for Trump this fall.
Seitz hails from Ohio's Trumbull County, which includes part of Youngstown. Last Monday, as he previewed his program, Jones described the situation in Trumbull County to a fascinated Anderson Cooper.
"Over the last 40 years—well actually it's the last four years, especially Obama's second term—industry has been hit hard" in Trumbull County, Jones said. "Many steel mills, manufacturing plants have been closed, and thousands of jobs have been lost."
That didn't sound good. In this morning's New York Times, Eduardo Porter describes the disproportionate amount of job loss which has afflicted the white working class in such locations. (In the 2010 census, Trumbull County was 89.2% white.)
Seitz, a lifelong Democrat, has seen this up close and personal. Still, he was perhaps overstating a tad when he made the highlighted remarks, part of a bitter complaint about Candidate Clinton:
JONES (12/6/16): So how does a billionaire—I mean, you guys are seriously like the working class backbone of America and the industrial heartland. How does a billionaire break through to the blue-collar worker? And what's it about him? I mean, it just drives me crazy. I don't understand. I'm confused."We built the tanks and bombs that won this country's wars?" Whatever one thinks of Seitz's overall complaint, it might be said that he was perhaps over- or understating.
SEITZ: She wasn't even close. She never even mentioned us.
JONES: That's the—
SEITZ: Is she—she heard us. We put Democrats in office and she turned around and forgot completely about us.
We are what makes this world go round. We built the tanks and bombs that won this country's wars and for you to come through here and completely neglect us, we would have rather vote for anybody instead of her.
Many people from many groups "built the tanks and bombs that won this country's wars." It certainly wasn't just the people from Trumbull County.
Based on Seitz's interactions with Jones, we have no doubt that he would have quickly acknowledged this fact. Also in fairness, nothing Seitz said to Jones carried anything like an explicit racial context. Did we mention the fact that he supported Obama both times?
This time around, Seitz seemed to bear a serious grievance against Candidate Clinton. Let's try to puzzle that out.
Who exactly did Candidate Clinton fail to mention in this campaign? Who did she "completely forget?" In the material which CNN aired, Seitz was never asked and never explicitly said.
But in the weeks since November's election, many observers have criticized Clinton for allegedly failing to speak to the plight of the white working class. She spoke about everyone else, these observers have said. But she pretty much skipped past them.
Is that a fair assessment of Clinton's campaign? We don't really know. We do know this—when Jim Garland wrote a famous labor song in the 1930s, "We worked to build this country, Mister" tended to play differently in progressive and liberal ears.
Back then, liberals and progressives were inclined to see a nobility in the complaints of the white working class. "We worked to build this country, Mister" tended to sound like a justified, noble complaint.
In films like The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and It's A Wonderful Life (1946), the white working class was favorably, and accurately, portrayed as victims of an avaricious ruling class. We liberals no longer rush to see things that way. Consider what happened when Kevin Drum linked to Sarah Kliff's new report.
Like Jones, Kliff had ventured into the interior in search of Trump voters. Reporting from the wilds of Whitley County, she sought explanations from such people as to why they'd voted for Trump.
Kliff didn't fail to signal us concerning their comical culture; more on that whistle tomorrow. But when these degraded yahoos explained their reasons for supporting Trump, degraded yahoos who read Drum's post responded in typical fashion.
What happened wasn't Drum's fault! He had merely posted excerpts from Kliff's report. More specifically, he'd posted excerpts in which Trump voters explained why they voted for Trump even though it meant they might lose the health insurance they obtained through Obamacare.
In our view, these Trump voters made unwise assessments this fall. That said, their lack of wisdom was matched and topped by Drum's readers in comments.
Below, you see some typical reactions to those Kentucky Trump voters. We're quoting comments from our own tribe's reliable gang of unintelligent yahoos, who offered these typically thoughtful reactions in comments to Drum's post:
COMMENTER 1 (12/13/16): I've read a lot about how we liberals aren't supposed to "condescend" to Trump supporters, nor are we supposed to call them idiots. But . . .This is very typical stuff from our own legion of yahoos. Quickly, let's review:
One Trump supporter who knew he was promising to repeal Obamacare, and voted for him anyway? And another who didn't understand that the President and Congress are empowered to change the law? If "idiots" isn't an accurate term for these people, what is?
COMMENTER 2: These are people who thought kicking out the brown people was of more vital importance to them than their healthcare. So many accurate terms for them, yet so little will to use any of them.
COMMENTER 3: Lyndon Johnson said it best: If you let the lowest white man think he is better than any colored man, he won't notice that you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him someone to look down on, he'll empty his pockets for you.
COMMENTER 4: Nose. Face. Some spiteful disassembly required.
COMMENTER 5: The whole thing is deplorable. They handed the keys to the White House to a pussy grabbing reality TV show star because their feelings were hurt?
Commenter 1 wanted to know how he could refer to These People except by calling them idiots. Commenter 2 quickly explained that they voted for Trump for the obvious reason:
They voted for Trump because they're racists! Our yahoos have memorized that!
In comments, the savants continued to muse. Is it possible that these Kentucky voters were the victims of avaricious elites? Our yahoos rarely take that path. Our yahoos seem to enjoy kicking down. We like to talk about "them:"
COMMENTER 1: Ms. Mills clearly deserves to be labeled an idiot for not understanding that the President and Congress can change the law. How the hell does she think Obamacare became law in the first place? From the revealed Word of God, I suppose, which is why Trump and the Republicans supposedly can't change it now. She needs to go back and watch Schoolhouse Rock.You have to love Commenter 7. Meanwhile, darn those "average voters!" They aren't just racist, they're religious too! There they had gone again!
I expect you're right that the bulk of those who like Obamacare and still voted for Trump simply believed he was bullshitting. I'm not sure that really makes them much better.
COMMENTER 6: Was it Churchill who observed that the most effective argument against democracy was a five-minute conversation with the average voter?
COMMENTER 7: These are the same people who complain that the elitist liberals look down on them.
Needless to say, these are very familiar comments. In such comments, our highly useful "liberal" idiots agree to work overtime, without pay, creating supporters for Trump.
In the modern context, these are very familiar reactions. We pseudo-liberals have been thinking and talking this way at least since the 1960s, when an age of turmoil opened divisions between progressives and the white working class.
These comments aren't a reflection on Drum. They do reflect the tenor of the times. Almost surely, they help explain the tone of grievance in Seitz's remarks, which largely went unexplored on Jones' rushed, hour-long program. Note the wonderful use of the term "deplorable" one of our savants threw in! Darlings, it's simply delish!
Four days earlier, Drum had offered a post in which he discussed the way we liberals sneer at The Others. He was responding to Paul Krugman's latest claim that The Others are simply imagining things when they perceive such slights.
Drum said Krugman was just a bit nuts about this. Rather plainly, Drum was right, but Krugman is hardly alone.
In comments that day, Drum's readers seemed almost completely clueless concerning the ways we liberals sneer at The Others. Truth to tell, Drum seemed to serving some soft soap too, as had Matt Yglesias in the post to which Krugman responded.
Do we liberals sneer at Those People concerning their love of fast food? That was the question our savants discussed. Could we be more clueless?
Do we the liberals have any idea about the way we seem to The Others? Scott Seitz voted for Obama twice, was somehow offended by Clinton.
When this reaction occurred on a wider scale, it produced an appalling electoral outcome. But even now, we liberals seem unwilling to come to terms with these disastrous dynamics.
"Idiots" was the term in comments. Might it apply to Us?
Tomorrow: Moving beyond fast food