Williams, pleading with Krugman: Professor Williams offered good sound advice in yesterday's New York Times. Her piece appeared beneath am eye-grabbing headline in the Sunday Review:
"The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension"
Our liberal elites are engaged in dumb politics! That's what her headline said!
Given the long-standing rules of the game, are ranking professors like Williams allowed to say such things? Is she allowed to say such sensible things as this?
WILLIAMS (5/28/17): Two changes are required for Democrats to diminish the 39-point margin by which whites without college degrees voted for Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton."Democrats should stop insulting people?" Is Williams allowed to say that? Is she allowed to say that class condescension helps explains how liberals and Democrats lose?
This first concerns social honor. Too often in otherwise polite society, elites (progressives emphatically included) unselfconsciously belittle working-class whites. We hear talk of “trailer trash” in “flyover states” afflicted by “plumber’s butt”—open class insults that pass for wit. This condescension affects political campaigns, as in Hillary Clinton’s comment about “deplorables” and Barack Obama’s about people who “cling to guns or religion.”
“My biggest boneheaded move,” Mr. Obama mused. He was right. Democrats should stop insulting people. The high cost of doing so is dramatized by “I’m deplorable” T-shirts and Inaugural DeploraBalls.
There’s no need to accept racism, sexism or homophobia from working-class whites or anyone else. Just live up to our progressive ideals by acknowledging social disadvantage more consistently. If class-based insults were as politically incorrect as racial or homophobic slurs, Rush Limbaugh’s rants against P.C. elites might hold less appeal. Mr. Limbaugh, like Mr. Trump, feeds off class resentment. Let’s stop making their jobs easier.
Just so you'll know, Professor Williams graduated from Yale; got a master's degree from MIT; then graduated from Harvard Law School. Today, she's a Distinguished Professor at Hastings College, the University of California's law school.
"Democrats should stop insulting people?" Progressive elites should stop "belittling working-class whites?" Given her pedigree, is Williams permitted to say that?
Apparently, she is! With compliments to the New York Times for putting her sound advice in print, we'll suggest that Professor Williams should wing her way east to speak with Professor Krugman.
On Friday, Krugman did it again, for perhaps the ten millionth time. For perhaps the twenty millionth time, he wrote a column accusing [white] West Virginians of being a gang of racists.
Krugman won't stop writing this column. Let's place this situation in context:
For several decades, Krugman has been the liberal world's most valuable player in the realm of policy discussion. In the realm of politics, he increasingly displays a tin ear and a "cold, cold heart."
(We're quoting a different Williams.)
Krugman can't seem to stop writing the column he wrote again on Friday. Remarkably, the column was flat unintelligent. In a different cultural realm, people might even drop a B-bomb or two on our MVP's head.
There he (and we) went again! For perhaps the thirty millionth time, Krugman explained why (white) West Virginians cast so many votes for Candidate Trump last year.
In this lengthy chunk of Krugman's column, you see the kind of generalization which we were taught, as freshmen in high school, that journalists should avoid:
KRUGMAN (5/26/17): [L]et’s talk about West Virginia, which went Trump by more than 40 percentage points, topped only by Wyoming. What did West Virginians think they were voting for?We think that's very unwise. We also think it's the kind of thing Williams is talking about when she says, at the end of her column, that "Democrats need to...stop sleepwalking our way to the next electoral defeat."
They are, after all, residents of a poor state that benefits immensely from federal programs: 29 percent of the population is on Medicaid, almost 19 percent on food stamps. The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare is the main reason the percentage of West Virginians without health insurance has halved since 2013.
Beyond that, more than 4 percent of the population, the highest share in the nation, receives Social Security disability payments, partly because of the legacy of unhealthy working conditions, partly because a high fraction of the population consists of people who suffer from chronic diseases, like diabetics—whom Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, thinks we shouldn’t take care of because it’s their own fault for eating poorly.
And just to be clear, we’re talking about white people here: At 93 percent white, West Virginia is one of the most minority- and immigrant-free states in America.
So what did the state’s residents think they were voting for? Partly, presumably, they supported Trump because he promised—falsely, of course—that he could bring back the well-paying coal-mining jobs of yore.
But they also believed that he was a different kind of Republican. Maybe he would take benefits away from Those People, but he would protect the programs white working-class voters, in West Virginia and elsewhere, depend on.
What they got instead was the mother of all sucker punches.
For the record, hundreds of thousands of West Virginians voted for Candidate Trump last year—489,371 to be exact. As Professor Krugman is eager to note, the vast majority of those people were "white."
Professor Krugman can think of two reasons why all those people voted for Trump. He uses the world's most dangerous four-letter word, "they," as he generalizes about Them.
Partly, Krugman says that "they" got fooled by Trump's promises about coal. And certainly, some undetermined percentage of those voters were responding to Candidate Trump's improbable claims in that area.
Krugman also says that Those People are racists—and yes, that's basically what he's saying in the passage posted above Why did "they" vote for Trump in such numbers? These are the only two reasons he's able to imagine!
Over the course of the past few months, Krugman has rarely stopped offering some form of this "analysis." Not only does he offer sweeping claims about why these ofays voted the way they did. In several columns, he has complained about the way journalists have been asking voters like these to explain their votes for Trump.
As Professor Williams suggests, Democrats should be searching hard for the answer(s) to that question. Incredibly, Professor Krugman keeps complaining when the question get asked!
Professor Krugman's incessant conduct takes him remarkably close to the traditional lair of the bigot. He hasn't gone to West Virginia to ask people why they voted for Trump. Instead, he sits on his tuffet in "elite" "progressive" society and drops his bombs on the white working class, much as Williams describes.
Why did West Virginians vote for Trump? We can think of many possible reasons—and no, we don't think that Those People are all alike, as Krugman rather plainly does.
Why did ("white") West Virginians vote for Candidate Trump? We can think of such reasons as these:
Coal: Krugman has heard about this.
Guns: On the presidential level, West Virginia moved from blue to red in the 2000 election. That flip was widely attributed to guns. On the presidential level, West Virginia has gotten redder and redder from there.
Health care: We're going to guess that West Virginia voters had heard all kinds of things about Obamacare. Beyond that, we're going to guess that they'd had all kinds of experiences. (They'd also heard all kinds of stupid claims by Candidate Trump.)
Last December, Sarah Kliff actually went to Kentucky coal country to ask Obamacare recipients why they voted for Trump. On the ground, speaking to people, Kliff heard about, then described, some very sad states of affairs. In his seat on the Acela, Krugman speeds past such thoughts.
The relentlessly demonized Clinton: Hillary Clinton has been demonized, on a national basis, since 1992. Many people who voted for Trump were actually voting against the demon Clinton.
As of last November, West Virginia voters had heard 24 years of crazy claims about Clinton. Starting in 1992, people at Krugman's own newspaper played a persistent role in this demonization; liberal elites politely sat by and watched. Last July, the Maddow Show cheered James B. Comey on when he jumped into the fray, guest host Kornacki presiding. (Upon her return from vacation, Maddow didn't even mention Comey until the last week in October.)
Krugman rarely discusses this demonization when he's bashing the white working-class. Instead, he kicks down, lobbing his "elite liberal" bombs in much the way Williams describes.
Above, we noted the headline atop Professor Williams' column:
"The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension"
Professor Krugman's column carried a striking headline too:
"It’s All About Trump’s Contempt"
Krugman's headline refers to the contempt Trump has shown for his own working-class supporters. Ironically, Krugman keeps displaying contempt for those "white" voters too. Contempt—and condescension!
Could someone fly Williams to the east coast so she can stage an intervention? From his seat on the Acela, our long-standing most valuable player may be teaching us how to kick future elections away.
Let them come to Berlin: Last fall, while the campaign was still on, The New Yorker's Larissa McFarquhar got off her aspic and journeyed to deepest West Virginia.
She spoke to (some) Trump voters in great detail. For what it's worth, click here.