WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE: And who are We?

MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2017

Part 1—The road to a recent disaster:
A funny thing happened to liberal greatness on the way to November's election.

Sixty-three million American citizens decided to vote for Donald F. Trump. As a result, the hopeful pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House.

Embarrassing! Four nights before Election Day, Professor Wang had told Lawrence O'Donnell that it couldn't possibly happen. Only a "giant weather event" could send Donald J. Trump to the White House, the hapless Princeton professor said.

No such weather event took place, but Trump end up in the White House. Ever since Election Day, liberal and mainstream elites have pretended to examine why Those People, the 63 million, decided to vote for Trump.

Except to people as clueless as Us, November's outcome really shouldn't have been all that startling. Because we're almost completely clueless, We were shocked by Trump's win, basically out of our socks.

Ever since that startling day, we've been trying to explain the behavior of those Trump voters. Being perhaps a bit tribally scripted, we've tended to explain their behavior in the way the editorial board of the Washington Post has now done.

On the whole, yesterday's editorial was informative and sensible; the piece is well worth reading. That said, the editors apparently felt obliged to start their effort like this:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (3/25/17): It is a political cliche that President Trump owes his electoral victory to the extraordinary support he received from white voters without a college degree, two-thirds of whom voted for the Republican. Much less settled is the question of why these largely low-income voters, once reliable Democrats, cast their lot with a brash billionaire from New York.

The precise source of the discontent that produced this outburst of reactionary populism is hotly debated; some of Mr. Trump’s support reflects motives, such as xenophobia or racism, that can be neither comprehended nor respected...
We invite you to note two basic points. Let's start with this:

Last November, Candidate Trump received support from tens of millions of "white voters without a college degree." Despite this fact, the editors seem to be seeking "the precise source of the discontent" that produced these tens of millions of votes.

The precise source—singular. That seems to suggest that there is some single explanation for those tens of millions of votes.

Expressed in a less flattering way, that seems to suggest that the editors think what tribal elites have always thought. That almost seems to suggest that the editors think Those People are all alike.

Presumably, that isn't what the editors would say they think. For whatever reason, it is what the editors said.

Second point:

After setting out in search of the source of all those votes, the editors end up discussing various possible sources of those votes. (Various sources—plural). But uh-oh:

As the editors start their search, they feel obliged to say this:

"Some of Mr. Trump’s support reflects motives, such as xenophobia or racism, that can be neither comprehended nor respected."

Among the various high-minded groups who constitute Us, the group Over Here, it's almost required by Hard Tribal Law. If you plan to discuss Trump voters, you're required to start with a murky statement about their bigotry, xenophobia, racism and all-around horrible motives.

People as fine as Us, the group Over Here, can't even comprehend such motives, we may feel inclined to say.

Please note: the editors make no attempt to say how many of those millions of voters are racists. In a similar way, Candidate Trump made no attempt, in his formal announcement speech, to say how many unauthorized Mexican immigrants are actually rapists.

A certain type of personality tends to slime large groups of people in such slithery ways. Donald J. Trump is one such person. Yesterday, so were the editors.

People as fine as Us can't even comprehend Trump voters' horrible motives! From that point on, the Post's editorial is informative and intelligent, indeed quite sympathetic.

That said: when you see Us, the good people Over Here, explaining those 63 million votes, you'll persistently see the two script points we've described.

You'll likely see a peculiar tic in which we evoke the peculiar idea that there is some single explanation for those millions of votes. Soon after, you'll see a punishing throw-away line about the racism, bigotry and xenophobia on display among Those People, the lesser breed Over There.

When you read that throw-away line, you're seeing tens of millions of people getting slimed by their betters. You're seeing them slimed in a suggestive rhetorical manner, a play straight outta Trump's remark about those Mexican rapists.

We make these observations for a particular reason. They lead us toward a brutal irony from last year's campaign:

From the liberal perspective, Donald J. Trump was the most god-awful candidate ever nominated for president. In a wide array of ways, his performance as a candidate was in fact utterly clownish.

In the realm of health care alone, the statements of Candidate Trump were the statements of a clown. (He was going to give us "something terrific.") Over Here in our liberal tribe, we had a wide array of well-informed people who knew how to explain that.

And yet, destructive and sad! Over here in our liberal tribe, We can no longer get Those People to listen to anything much We say! Candidate Trump was a world-class clown, but the people Over There refused to listen to Us.

Who was the better candidate, Candidate Clinton or Candidate Trump? In the end, needless to say, that's always a matter of judgment.

That said, to most observers in our tents, Candidate Trump was the most god-awful candidate ever let loose on the land. This should possibly maybe perhaps leave us asking this question:

Why was it so hard for Us to convince The Others of that?

Why couldn't We, the liberal giants, convince a few more of the folk Over There? What produced the horrible breakdown which led to Trump's narrow win?

Intellectual giants that we are, why couldn't We persuade The Others? We'll explore that puzzle all week. This puzzle leads us to ask two questions:

Who are Those People, the ones Over There? At the same time, Who are We?

What are we like, Over Here?

Tomorrow: A sad fact about Them and Us

27 comments:

  1. You quoted the article that said "some" of Trumps supporters were motivated by racism, etc. The rest of your post assumes the article says "all" when it does not

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  2. I'm hesitant to disagree with Bob because he gets so many things right, but despite that I want to understand his point I really disagree. I don't think that you can even try to understand many Trump voters without getting into racism and xenophobia, and it's not the same as saying that "some" Mexicans are rapists. (by the way, he said that "some" were "good people," suggesting that the majority were rapists and criminals, but whatever.)

    Trump ran a campaign that wasn't just clownish, as Bob says. It was contradictory, incoherent, and designed to appeal to the voters' basest emotions, like fear, resentment, and tribalism. Whatever you can say about Trump voters, it's clear that they were okay with what Trump showed them on the campaign trail.

    That doesn't make them bad people. I have close friends and relatives who continue to support Trump, and they are wonderful, caring individuals. But, to me at least, they appear to be unable to acknowledge simple facts about the world, and can't explain in a rational manner why they support Trump.

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    1. There is no rational explanation.

      Trump's campaign was one long hatefest attacking Hillary Clinton for the very things he was actually guilty of, including setting up a fraudulent foundation to be used as a slush fund.

      "Lock her up" was his convention theme while his entire campaign was committing treason.

      He suggested Clinton should be assassinated on multiple occasions, was entirely incoherent in all three debates, lied his flimflam ass off on a continuing basis, mocked a disabled reporter, bragged about the size of his dick during a nationally televised presidential debate, was exposed as a sexual predator pervert from his own mouth, refused to release his tax returns while lying about the reason, did not even show the minimal respect to the citizens of this country by releasing his medical report, was fined by the IRS for illegally using his foundation slush fund to bribe the FL AG, was literally in the middle of a fraud/racketeering suit for his fraudulent university scam. That's just off the top of my head.

      Anyone, ANYONE who would still choose to vote for this vulgar hideous narcissistic carnival barker is not GOOD, in any way shape of form. Period. The end.

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    2. One simple fact is that many of them are yellow dog Republicans. They would vote for a yellow dog if that was the candidate running against the Demoncrats.

      Partisan voting is far more entrenched now than it was when Johnson went all the way, beating Goldwater in Kansas. These days the Democrats could nominate the Lord Jesus Christ and the Republicans nominate Mephistophiles and Republicans would still win Kansas, especially since the dark lord would have billions of dollars to throw dirt at his opponent.

      Fortunately for Trump, he was running against a Clinton, who have been hated for decades by large swaths of both the right and the left. Also, the long primary season did not help, except to create lots of resentment among Bern victims.

      Even now unhappy Bern victims dream of starting a 3rd party and fantasize that this would not enable Republicans to win even more than they do now.

      I actually sympathize with them. My own preference in 2007 was ABC. Anybody But Clinton, and personally I was not at all happy with Obama. There did not seem to be a dime's worth of difference between him and Bill Clinton.

      There were enough people who just did not want to vote for Hillary, no matter what.

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    3. Bill Clinton, the man who gave us 8 years of peace and prosperity and ended his two terms with a budget surplus. What a bad guy!

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    4. There were enough people who just did not want to vote for Hillary, no matter what.

      She was too competent and hard working. A lot of people thought it would be fun just to blow things up. Anarchy!!!! Yippee!!!

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  3. It should be noted:

    https://medium.com/@MattBruenig/women-and-people-of-color-make-up-the-majority-of-the-trump-coalition-e9bb20f65709#.6rgpxin3p

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    1. Bruenig argues that 54% of Trump's voters were women and people of color. That is misleading.

      Trump did get a larger share of white women than Clinton but he got far fewer people of color. By lumping the people of color together with the women and showing that they were over 50% the headline of the piece is technically true but misleading. Without the large number of white women voting for Trump, the much smaller % of people of color would be insignificant. Trump received far fewer votes among people of color. Putting them in the headline at all is a kind of deliberate untruth.

      Why did Trump attract so many white female voters? Women are no less willing to vote against their interests than men are. Perhaps all those women who said they didn't vote with their vaginas were telling the truth. They didn't mind voting for a pussy-grabber. (Many women say they believe this is just the way men are, and they just ignore male misbehavior in order to get along in life.)

      This is certainly a rejection of Hillary. But the numbers do not support the idea that people of color rejected her too. They did not, when you look at the chart at the link you provided.

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    2. Did Trump get "far fewer" non-white people to vote for him than previous Republican presidential candidates as compared to previous elections? I haven't seen any evidence that suggests that is the case. Bruening's point is that the white, male working class is a minority of his support, and by saying that we should hate Trump supporters and wish them ill, we are ignoring the fact that most of them aren't white, working class men. As an addendum: wouldn't it be interesting to talk to these non-white Trump voters and ask them why they voted for Trump? What is going on in their minds when they decided to vote for him, given his politics positions and past statements? Why weren't they willing to vote for a candidate whose policy positions would be much more likely to help them out in their daily lives?

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    3. I don't see the point in saying that most of them aren't white working class men when the remainder are largely white working class women.

      Trump got about the same % of minorities as Romney. Those %s are too small to say that Trump's base of support is diverse. It isn't.

      The female Trump supporters were willing to overlook his bad behavior with women because, as I said, they believe all men do that stuff. They accept traditional gender roles in which men protect women from other men and women who are attacked deserve it in some way. Aside from that, most Trump voters say that Hillary was worse and that they discounted Trump's obvious lies and ridiculousness. They say "look at his heart" or "he doesn't mean that" or "that's all in fun" or "look at him shake things up". You've heard this kind of excuse, haven't you?

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  4. That's nothing. There are actually news people trying to spread the lie that Trump isn't really a Republican. Keep in mind, these are the same assclowns who tried to make believe the Tea Party wasn't Republicans either.

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    1. There are now editorials calling for Democrats to abandon support for abortion rights. That's because an assault on Planned Parenthood will be the crux of the upcoming budget battle, which is central to reducing tax rates. Democrats need to ignore those urging them to compromise with Republicans by selling women's issues down the river.

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    2. "compromise with Republicans" = "give Republicans everything they want in return for nothing" to the corporate media.

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  5. Somerby says Trump pulled an inside straight, as if Trump won by chance. He didn't. He pulled an ace from his sleeve. He cheated.

    How did he cheat? He had ongoing help from the Russians and from Comey. The Russians funded a campaign to split the Democratic party, providing money and support to Stein and Sanders (Bernie said "who cares?" when it was pointed out to him that contributions were coming from Russia). The Russians flooded social media with anti-Clinton lies. The Russians hacked Podesta and the DNC, then leaked emails to WikiLeaks (as coordinated by Roger Stone, a Trump ally), to widen the split between Bernie voters and Clinton and to make it appear that Clinton was a huge liar, bigger than Trump. Bernie stooges dutifully repeated the anti-Clinton filth. And then Comey came along and gave his official stamp to the anti-Clinton lies. All this was furthered by Trump's unceasing clamor to "lock her up". And none of this happened by chance.

    But Somerby doesn't think any of this was important to the campaign. To hear him tell it, it is all because of how we think about them, the Trump voters. Clinton was defeated because of Democratic hubris.

    Somerby says it is a matter of judgment whether Trump was a better candidate than Clinton. Even now, he won't say Trump sucked. Why? Who holds Somerby's markers?

    In light of recent events, this has to be one of the most ridiculous columns I've ever read about the recent election.

    What would Somerby say about all those good Russians who think the protesters need to give that nice Mr. Putin a chance to show what he can do?

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    1. As noted above, I don't agree with Bob's analysis, but I question whether you're being fair in your criticism. Bob writes explicitly that Trump "was utterly clownish" as a candidate, and that "from a liberal perspective" he was "the most god-awful candidate ever nominated for president."

      He's not focusing on the Russians because this is a blog about media criticism, and he apparently thinks that the way the media covered the campaign had an impact on the election that he wants to discuss.

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    2. And the Russians didn't use the media to do their dirty work?

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    3. As I recall, the mainstream liberal media, including CNN, MSNBC, the extremely liberal NY Times and WAPo ran negative email stories against Hillary Clinton for 600 consecutive days. They dropped a ton of bricks on her from the minute she announced and wouldn't let up, wouldn't let her up for air, every time her campaign started getting a little momentum, they would drop another bullshit attack against her to suck up all the oxygen again, like the AP story that smeared her for meeting with Nobel Prize winners in her official capacity as SoS. Then Comey, with his Giuliani friends in the local FBI dropped the final ton of bricks on her 10 days before the election.

      There is no mystery here, I was hoping enough of my fellow Americans would be able to smell the stench coming from the GOP, but there are just too many hateful ignorant bastards.

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    4. How stupid are you mm? I will kick your ass moron.

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  6. Somerby asks: "Why couldn't We, the liberal giants, convince a few more of the folk Over There? What produced the horrible breakdown which led to Trump's narrow win?"

    Why wasn't a 3 million vote lead in the popular vote enough to win the election?

    Why was Trump able to pull off a victory with 14 thousand people in Wisconsin and 70 thousand in PA and 30 thousand in MI -- and a 3 million vote deficit across the rest of the nation?

    Maybe Somerby should be telling the Democrats to spend more time with the Cheeseheads (or those spoiled Bernie-loving children in Madison) who lost us all the election and put our country into its current dire straits?

    The problem is with US, but not in the way Somerby thinks. It is with all the purists who just couldn't bother finding out whether Clinton was lying or being lied about -- with the Bernie people who stayed home and the ones who poisoned their friends and families minds with conservative memes. It was with the DEMOCRATS who thought Hillary was worse than Trump, and why did they think that? It wasn't because Democrats weren't prejudiced against good, kind Southern hill folk. It was because of a concerted campaign to take down Hillary, aided and abetted by the stupid idiots who voted for Bernie and Stein.

    Time to come clean Somerby, time for your mea culpa, asshole.

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    1. Considering the results, probably more of them voted for Johnson than Stein.

      WaPo lacks a grasp of the facts. First, to blame the Trump victory on Whites with no college degree. They were only 50% of all Trump voters. What about the other half?

      7% of all Trump voters were non-whites with no college degrees, and another 7% were non whites with college degrees.

      Second, to conflate the lack of a college degree with low income. 50% of voters had no college degree, but only 17% of voters make less than $30,000 a year. Meaning at least 2/3 of voters with no college degree make more than $30,000 a year. Within that group 42% of them make more than $50,000 a year.

      At least, since there are some people who have college degrees and are still in the under $30,000 group. (some of them because they are retired).

      Third to be all shocked because Hillary lost that demographic - just like Obama, Kerry and Gore did before her. The 2004 CNN polls do not break it down by race, but Bush won the non-college educated by 53 to 47%. Trump won by 51-44%. That is supposed to be some kind of sign of the impending race war? or based on a pandemic of xenophobia which erupted in 2015?

      But since when are scripts based on facts?

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  7. WaPo implicitly assumes that the default is voting Democratic. That is, there must be a special reason why people voted for Trump. But, there's no need to search for a special reason why people voted Clinton. WaPo's attitude is: She's a Democrat, so any normal person would vote for her.

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    1. I don't think that's correct or fair. I doubt anyone tried to determine why someone would vote for Romney, for example.

      In any event, your statement is unfair in 2 ways. First, I think that the Post isn't trying to determine why "any normal person" would vote for Trump over Clinton, but rather why voters who had previously voted Democratic had flipped and voted for Trump instead of Clinton.

      Second, Trump regularly contradicts himself, insults others in a manner that is more appropriate for pro wrestling and then walks-back those insults without explanation, and exhibits little to no interest in the particulars of any policy. He's a joke, and I think that it's perfectly fair to ask why anyone voted for him.

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  8. There's an old saw about success having many fathers while failure is an orphan. In the case of HRC's loss, her failure had lots of fathers.

    Russian meddling and Comey the God were only distant cousins. One maybe stepfather was Amy Chozich, she of the clouds, shadows and penumbras at the Times. Where is she, on the metro desk in Poughkeepsie?

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  9. A lot of folks saw Trump as a competent decision maker because of his TV show, never realizing the show was scripted by others. For disinterested voters, that gave him a big boost.

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