Say their name, Lilla prescribes: We liberals!
We love to loathe the white working class. In the wake of last month's election, a person might even call this a bit of a fatal flaw.
"Sounding like a frustrated Cassandra," Vice President Biden lamented this tribal proclivity yesterday on CNN. The description comes from today's New York Times, which quotes part of what Biden said.
“I mean these are good people, man!” Biden is said to have exclaimed. “These aren’t racists. These aren’t sexists.”
Or so Biden said. We liberals tend to know different. For a recent example of what we mean, consider what Markos said. First, though, consider Sarah Kliff's detailed report for Vox.
Kliff spoke to several Trump voters who had managed to get health insurance through Obamacare. She reported from Corbin, Kentucky, part of Whitley County.
For many people, life in Corbin ain't no crystal stair. According to the American Community Survey, 22.8% of the population are living below the federal poverty level.
In Whitley County, the figure stands at 26.0%. That compares to the national figure of 15.5%.
Why would lower-income rustics cast those votes for Trump? Kliff spoke with Kathy Oller, who has spent the past three years "signing up fellow Kentuckians for Obamacare."
Oller did this as her full-time job, a job whose provenance Kliff never explained.
Why would someone insured through Obamacare vote for Candidate Trump? At one point, Oller described one woman's situation, which may have been fairly typical. Highly-evolved progressives like Markos don't seem to care about this:
KLIFF (12/13/16): Oller has traveled around Corbin enrolling residents in health care plans since the coverage expansion started in 2014. And lately, she says, she’s watched the plans get more and more expensive.If we might borrow again from Dylan: But oh, what kind of health care is this which goes from bad to worse?
Oller renewed a 59-year-old woman’s coverage (who asked her personal information be left out of this story) just after lunchtime on a Tuesday. She and her husband received a monthly tax credit that would cover most of their premium. But they would still need to contribute $244 each month—and face a $6,000 deductible.
The woman said she had insurance before the Affordable Care Act that was significantly more affordable, with $5 copays and no deductible at all. She said she paid only $200 or $300 each month without a subsidy.
The deductible left her exasperated. “I am totally afraid to be sick,” she says. “I don’t have [that money] to pay upfront if I go to the hospital tomorrow.”
Her plan did offer free preventive care, an Obamacare mandate. But she skips mammograms and colonoscopies because she doesn’t think she’d have the money to pay for any follow-up care if the doctors did detect something.
The woman said she only buys insurance as financial protection—“to keep from losing my house if something major happened,” she says. “But I’m not using it to go to the doctor. I’ve not used anything.”
The woman was mad because her costs felt overwhelmingly expensive. These are some of the most common frustrations with the Affordable Care Act. Surveys show that high deductibles are the top complaint; 47 percent of enrollees told the Kaiser Family Foundation they were dissatisfied with their deductible.
A study from the Commonwealth Fund earlier this year found that four in 10 adults on Affordable Care Act plans didn’t think they could afford to go to the doctor if they got sick. Fewer than half said it was easy to find an affordable plan.
Oller was describing people who are paying for insurance each month but can't afford to see a doctor. We're relying here on Kliff's reporting and expertise. We don't have independent knowledge of the way the ACA works.
That said, this is the third time, in the past few weeks, that we've encountered working-class people offering such complaints. We heard the Colombian immigrant on Brian Lehrer's NPR program describing a similar problem faced by her sister. And when Van Jones went to Trumbull County, Ohio, lifelong Democrat Scott Seitz told him this:
"I think that [Obama] is a good man and he did all he could and we supported him for two elections. And then when those changes really didn't come about and Obamacare actually affected me personally with my own mother, I think we needed a change once again."
Obamacare affected him personally with his own mother? Seitz wasn't asked to explain. But when Kliff spoke to Oller, she was told about economically struggling people who have coverage under Obamacare but can't afford actual health care.
Because we loathe these people so much, this produces little sympathy from our most highly-evolved liberal stars. We liberals! We roll our eyes and wonder why these "idiots" voted for Trump.
In this piece for Salon, Gary Legum criticized those Corbin voters for their "selective hearing." In the process, he produced a world-class example of selective hearing himself.
(Note how quickly Legum skips past the problem we've just described.)
At one point, Legum linked to Markos, who had offered some uplifting thoughts about a related situation in Pennsylvania coal country. Why should We give a fig about Them? Thoughtful headline included:
MOULITSAS (12/12/16): Be happy for coal miners losing their health insurance. They're getting exactly what they voted for"This is what they wanted!" Increasingly, snark is Us.
Hillary Clinton won the election, but a system designed to let a powerful minority override the will of the majority selected some asshole. For now, we have to deal with that bullshit reality, and lots of good people will suffer serious consequences. But don’t feel sorry for the ones who enabled this nightmare by voting for the incoming Trump-Putin administration. For example, why should we weep for the retired coal miners who will now lose their health insurance thanks to the GOP majority—despite the best efforts of coal-state Democrats to change the outcome?
Yes, this will be a terrible outcome for a group of people who have really drawn a shitty lot in life. But how sorry should we be for this crowd? Coal country swung hard for Donald Trump, winning 70 to 80 percent of the vote in some of these counties.
Don’t weep for these coal miners, now abandoned by their GOP patrons. They are getting exactly the government that they voted for. Democrats can no longer offer unrequited love and cover for them. And isn’t this what democracy is all about? They won the election! This is what they wanted!
People like Markos love to loathe "this crowd." As everyone seems to know except Us, this loathing has long been part of our liberal identity.
At the New Republic, Sarah Jones filed her report under this headline: "Liberals should try not having so much contempt for the poor."
After quoting part of what Markos had said, she cited Paul Krugman, who had responded to Kliff by saying, for the third time, that working-class people only "imagine" that we liberals look down on their kind. In a tweet which seemed to be about Kliff's report, Krugman had snarked a bit:
"People voted Trump to spite liberals who (they imagined) thought them ignorant, are now shocked that they may lose health care. Just saying."
Krugman was just saying! He should have less contempt for "the Joe Sixpacks," Jones was willing to say.
All this week, we've been asking a basic question. Is it possible that last month's election result reflects some possible shortcoming in Us? Is there some way we could improve our game?
During a kitschy CNN town hall program, Van Jones answered in the affirmative. Responding to one of Krugman's tweets, Kevin Drum acknowledged that of course we liberals do tend to sneer at the white working class.
Krugman doesn't seem to understand this; that's a remarkable fact about an invaluable policy maven. That said, Drum himself seemed to skip past the major way we liberals now sneer at the white working class. In comments, Drum's readers seemed to have no idea about the way this syndrome currently works.
How do we liberals sneer at Those People? Let's return to Van Jones.
When Van Jones went to Ohio, Seitz seemed to express a great deal of hostility toward Hillary Clinton. "She hurt us," Seitz said. He seemed to say that Clinton had completely ignored Ohio's white working class.
If only! We recalled what Clinton had said on that one self-defeating occasion:
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it!...Now some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."
Oof! Clinton went on to say that the other half of Trump's supporters aren't deplorables. But this was an amazingly impolitic thing to say.
Let's be fair. During a long campaign, every candidate says something dumb or unwise. The problem here isn't the fact that Candidate Clinton unwisely said this. The larger problem here is the fact that she may actually think this.
She may think that she's somehow able to make such sweeping assessments. But clearly, that's what multitudes think within our self-impressed tribe.
One again, let's be fair. In damning only half of Trump's voters, Clinton was being the softy. Again and again, we liberals seem to say that all Trump voters are in that first basket. We're filled with contempt for these people, much as Sarah Jones said.
Krugman keeps saying that The Others are just imagining this. Rolling his eyes at this foolishness, Drum said we sneer at The Others in a wide array of ways. But he didn't mention the sweeping way we bomb them as racists and bigots.
In comments, Drum's readers discussed these ideas. Almost no one seemed aware of the main way We trash Those People.
We trash them as racists and bigots—and, as commenters quickly showed, we also trash them as "idiots." Our loathing erodes our hearts and our minds. When we read about low-income women who can't afford to go to the doctor, we aren't able to understand the words we've just read.
Why should we care about people like Them? On the tuffet he has built, Markos wants to know this.
Shortly after Election Day, Professor Lilla wrote a lengthy piece for the New York Times' Sunday Review. We'll skip his wider-ranging thoughts to focus on one suggestion.
Lilla thinks the liberal world is sunk in "identity politics." You can assess those claims for yourself. We'll only recommend the one highlighted point:
LILLA (11/18/16): One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don't, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.If you mention one group, you need to mention them all! When Jones went to Ohio to speak with Seitz, Seitz complained that Candidate Clinton hadn't said his group's name.
Clinton had mentioned every group. Every group but his.
In this morning's New York Times, Tom Vilsack joins Biden in suggesting more outreach to the white working class. He says Democrats should advocate for blacks and for Hispanics. But he says we should also advocate for Them—for women in Colonel Sanders' home town who can't afford to go to the doctor.
Most of us don't know how to contemplate that. Stretching back perhaps fifty years, loathing for the white working class has been a key part of our game. This leaves us mocking those who were failed by our glorious, pissant health plan—the health plan in which we lazily failed to tackle the interests which have made American health care clownishly expensive as compared to that in the rest of the world.
We're too lazy and too dumb to kick up at The Interests. Instead, we kick down at low-income women who can't afford to go to the doctor. Given the fact that they voted for Trump, why should we care about them?
We agree with Vilsack, and with that one prescription by Lilla. Liberals should learn to say their name—also, to show less contempt.
Granted, our loathing makes us feel good. But how did it work out this time?