Interlude—The Ghost of Losses Past: Early this morning, we were visited by The Ghost of Progressive Losses Past, possibly in a dream.
As the chain-clanking spirit appeared in our chamber, we activated the taping device built into the mirrored ceiling above our quilt-festooned bed.
For that reason, we're able to quote the specter directly. Here's the first thing she or he said:
"You liberals! You just managed to lose an election to the craziest candidate in history!
"And yet you still insist that the problem can't possibly lie with you! By definition, you insist that the problem lies with Them!"
We couldn't imagine what our visitor meant. Then this:
"Read Catherine Rampell's new column," the thoughtful intruder suggested.
We're guessing that the sepulchral figure was citing the column in today's Washington Post. Two paragraphs into Rampell's piece, we began to sense what the spirit may have meant.
Here's the way the column begins. Headline included:
RAMPELL (12/23/16): Why the white working class votes against itselfDid the white working class "vote against itself" when it voted for Trump? That's what the headline seems to say, though Rampell may not have written it.
Why did all those Economically Anxious (TM) Trump voters reject policies that would have helped relieve their economic anxiety?
Maybe they believed any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people—that is, people unlike themselves.
Meanwhile, a careless reader might get the impression that everyone in the white working class voted for Candidate Trump.
Rampell doesn't explicitly say that, of course. But so far, she has made no attempt to qualify an impression which may be lurking in her presentation—the impression that all Those Consummate Working-Class Dopes voted for Candidate Trump.
A third problem lurks in those opening paragraphs. Rampell explains why all those voters may have done what "they" did:
They may have voted for Candidate Trump because they believed that any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people. Or so Rampell says.
Everyone alive on the planet knows what that ugly line says. Rampell is painting a portrait which has prevailed within our tribe through decades of Progressive Losses (TM). She's painting a careless, sweeping portrait in which All Those (Dumb-Assed) People cast their self-defeating votes on the basis of race.
In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman writes a much more informative version of this same column. Krugman drops his first R-bomb in paragraph 2 after having suggested, in paragraph 1, that Trump voters voted for Trump thanks to "an animus against ethnic minorities."
These associations, which are never explicit, continue all through Krugman's column. We liberals have been writing such columns for a great many years. This may be why The Ghost of Progressive Losses Past was clanking her chains this morning.
Let's return to Rampell's column, the work of a Princeton grad.
Just for the record, Candidate Trump received only 66 percent of the white working class vote. (That is, of whites without college degrees.) No such information, explicit or implied, intrudes on Rampell's column.
Still and all, what can we say about the 66 percent with whom we're left? Were they (dumbly) voting against their own interests when they voted for Trump? In an uglier vein, were they spiting themselves in this way because they don't like black people, as Rampell plainly implies all through her column?
Instantly, Rampell starts churning anecdotes to teach us to think that. Like a wide range of Ivy League typists before her, she immediately turns to Sarah Kliff's trip to Corbin, Kentucky, which Kliff reported for Vox.
Briefly, Rampell lists some Democratic policies which went down the drain with Candidate Clinton's loss. She then flies to the Kentucky of her apparent dreams:
RAMPELL: Here’s the problem. These Democratic policies probably would help the white working class. But the white working class doesn’t seem to buy that they’re the ones who’d really benefit.Everyone alive on the planet knows what our Princeton grad is saying. (Before that, she prepped at Andover.) She's saying Those People—people like the woman who spoke with Kliff—voted against their own interests because they didn't want Those People, the blacks, getting that government cheese.
Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.
In Kentucky, consumers receiving federal subsidies through the Obamacare exchanges complain that neighbors who are less responsible are receiving nearly free insurance through Medicaid.
“They can go to the emergency room for a headache,” one woman told Vox’s Sarah Kliff.
This is ugly conduct—on our team's part, that is.
In fairness, Rampell correctly records what that Kentucky woman is said to have said to Kliff. That said, Kliff has a much bigger heart. She reported the misery that 59-year-old woman has been experiencing with her Obamacare coverage. She pays a premium every month, but can't afford to go to the doctor because of her $6000 deductible.
Rampell, who's roughly 31, can't seem to care about this. The professors didn't teach her to care about people with problems like this.
Kliff also explained what that woman meant about the luckier duckies who get help for their headaches. Because they qualify for Medicaid under Obamacare, it sounds like they get a substantially better deal than that woman does.
According to Kliff, those lower-income Medicaid recipients receive "arguably better coverage than she receives and [it's] almost free." According to Kliff, this is why the 59-year-old Kentucky woman "doesn’t think the system is fair."
It's hard to say that this woman is wrong in that judgment. It's obvious why such a person might think that there must be a way to improve this.
One additional point. In the 2010 census, Corbin, Kentucky was 96.69 percent white, 0.26 percent black. When that woman referred to lower-income neighbors, there is a tiny, minuscule chance that the neighbors in question are white.
In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance describes his working-class disgust with the white freeloaders he says he saw all around him. Our Princeton grad seemed more eager to paint a familiar old portrait, a portrait we liberals adore.
The woman Rampell brushes aside is in a bad situation. For her, Obamacare ain't been no crystal stair. Rather than acknowledge this fact, Rampell plays an easy old card. She continues playing that card right to the end of her column.
Mom and Dad both went to Princeton; Rampell went there too. Reflexively, she expresses scorn for those who are stationed below her. That said, we liberals have endlessly played the game this way. This may be why The Ghost of Progressive Losses Past appeared in our chamber today, possibly in a dream.
Throughout her column, Rampell scorns the numbnuts who voted for Trump, endangering their own magnificent coverage. Although she presumably read Kliff's piece, she didn't seem able to process the part which explained the way the program actually works for the 59-year-old, lower-class woman she chose to cuff to the curb.
Nor does Rampell explain the other reasons Corbin people cited for their votes, some of which involve coal. When we liberals tell this story, only one reason survives.
Regarding Obamacare, Rampell plays a game many others have played of late. She scorns the manifest dumbness of those who doubted that Trump would repeal Obamacare, as he kept saying he would.
Like others before her, she doesn't say what everyone knows. Trump said he would repeal and replace Obamacare! Does that tiny disappeared fact possibly alter this tale?
In his own column, Krugman explains, for the millionth time, that Trump won't be able to replace Obamacare with something as good or better. We assume his assessment is right. But is there anything worse than an Ivy League grad who scorns the lower breed because their grasp of policy may not be fully refined? But oh, what kind of education is this, which goes from bad to worse?
We liberals have written these columns forever; they're part of our DNA. This may explain the last few words The Ghost emitted last night.
"It's why they won't listen listen listen...," the apparition seemed to say as she exited through our walls. Indeed, why would anyone listen to Us, considering the way We behave?
There's nothing we liberals like as much as trashing Those People as racists. When we read these persistent pieces, we often find ourselves asking a thoughtful question.
How insecure must we liberals be concerning our racial good faith, we ask, if we're so eager to insist that the racists are all Over There?
It all comes flooding back: As we read Rampell's piece, details of this morning's visit kept flooding back. When we read the following passage, we recalled something else The Ghost of Past Losses said:
RAMPELL: We’ve known for a long time, through the work of Martin Gilens, Suzanne Mettler and other social scientists, that Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs.Those Americans! They're "really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs," our haughty know-it-all says.
Hence those oblivious demands to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and the tea partyers who get farm subsidies, and the widespread opposition to expanded transfer payments in word if not in deed.
"Look who's talking," the specter had muttered at one point. "These liberals are really bad at recognizing how they manage to lose to crackpots like Trump!"
Meanwhile, Rampell even returned to that shallowest well. She even quoted the cracker who made that comical statement, years ago, about keeping the government's hands off her Medicare!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ohourgod! So stupid!
Why would anyone listen to us? We love to say how dumb They are! We also love to showcase the ways We scornfully manage to lose.
Still coming: Conclusion to our award-winning Year(s) in Review report!