Campaign watch: "We know what all those Trump voters are like!"


In our view, a strange thing to say:
Why are people voting for Trump?

In one very basic way, it's a strange type of question.

At this point, we're talking about well over ten million people. (We base that on the percentage of Republican primary voters voting for Trump.) By normal standards, it's odd to look for one single answer to a question of that type, about that many people.

That said, these aren't normal times. These are highly partisan times; the times are highly tribal. At times like these, we the humans will tend to offer extremely simplistic descriptions of Those People, the people otherwise known as The Others, the subhuman group Over There.

Ideally, these simplistic descriptions of The Others will be highly negative. They will be the most negative account of The Others we can pluck from our tribal dreams.

We liberals used to criticize that unattractive, unintelligent practice. Now we seem to love it.

Why are people voting for Trump? In our view, one way to answer a question like that would be to ask Trump voters. That would be time-consuming, of course, and people won't always tell you the truth. But in the best of all possible worlds, that would be an obvious place to start.

In these highly tribal times, our tribe is tilting toward the simpler way of answering that sweeping question.

Why are people voting for Trump? Over at Vox, Amanda Traub has offered one sweeping answer: support for Trump is being fueled by "an unnoticed but surprisingly large electoral group—authoritarians."

Apparently by asking four simple questions, Taub says she has learned that 44 percent of white Americans are "high authoritarians" or even "very high authoritarians." This excludes an undisclosed number of people who are also "authoritarians" without qualifying for those elevated designations.

At any rate, why are people voting for Trump? Because they're authoritarians, Professor Taub has now said.

In her piece at Vox, Taub produced a sweeping explanation for the behavior of The Others. Today, Kevin Drum has offered a different sweeping explanation—an explanation even less flattering than the one Taub has devised.

"I guess now we know what all those Trump voters are pissed off about." So Drum says at the end of his post. He explicitly includes the word "all," seeming to fashion an open burlesque of normal intellectual process.

Why are Trump voters voting that way? Taub said it's because they're authoritarians, generally high authoritarians. Drum came up with a better explanation:

The Others are voting for Trump because they're all Googling N-word jokes! Or something like that. As is common at times like these, Drum felt little real need to explain.

We plan to return to Taub's remarkable piece tomorrow. We're congenitally unable to write about Taub and about Charles Blow all in one calendar day.

That said, we're disappointed and disturbed by Drum's sweeping pseudo-explanation. We know why The Others are "all" doing that, Drum has amazingly said.

At tribal times, we the humans are strongly inclined to "reason" in that primitive way. We're inclined to reason like prehumans, like the primitive people Back There.


  1. In three passes at the issue of authoritarianism and the American electorate, why has Bob Somerby not provided any context for the research in this field? Why has he singled out Amanda Taub and refused to name the others who have been involved in this social science research? Why has he refused to ask any of the people involved about the validity of their work? Why has Somerby repeatedly stated the researcher says people are voting for Trump because they are authoritarian instead of correctly noting, as Taub does, that scores on a measure of authoritarian tendencies correlate better with support for Trump than any other variable tested?

    Is is because Bob is dishonest? Is it because he likes to demonize Professors? Or is it sadly that this older man who confessed he had trouble in his own major as a college undergraduate cannot understand basic social science research?

    We know he is no Einstein. But an honest confession of confusion would go a long way toward dispelling the other two possibilites which are much less attractive.

    1. "44 percent of white Americans are "high authoritarians" or even "very high authoritarians." This excludes an undisclosed number of people who are also "authoritarians" without qualifying for those elevated designations."

      Until you explain why that isn't an accurate characterization of Taub's work -- or why, even though it is an entirely accurate characterization, it isn't just a bunch of bullshit -- until then, your appeals to "the others who have been involved in this social science research" and to correlations better "than any other variable tested" are laughably useless.

    2. As useless as pointing out to you that Somerby isn't the sharpest tool in the shed? And that really, all he ever spouts is populist, anti-intellectual bullshit aimed at dumb rubes like you?

    3. Nona Nym your quotation is of Somerby, not Taub. It has been repeatedly demonstrated by commenters that Somerby misrepresents the work of others. Even when he quotes others directly he frequently leaves out passages which change the meaning he tries to assign to their work.

      In this case Taub explains the work done by political scientists into the study of "authoritarian" voters, and how the rise of Trump prompted one research to study a theory about authoritarian voters and support for Donald Trump. By not explaining any context, leaving the impression the work is primarily that of Taub, which it is not, and not accurately describing what the research found, he creates a false impression of the work or, among those who read Taub's piece, the clear impression he. Somerby, is up to his distortions again.

      I'm sorry if you did not like the questions, but if you object to them you had best note they are exactly the same kind of questions he directed at Charles Blow and Josh Marshall.

    4. The article cites vague notions like order and fear as causes for specific reactions to Trump. Almost everyone experiences fear and the desire for order. There is no blood test for authoritarianism, risibly the "scientists" use the results of the four questions to identify authoritarianism (a word so loaded as to be almost meaningless) as well as to correlate to it! They are just chasing their own tail. As Bob says, there are a myriad of reasons for support of Trump. In fact, the article says the "scientists" conclude that "Much of the polarization" is "fueled" by "gerrymandering" "money in politics" and "other oft-cited variables". The "scientists" have to add a whole side theory of triggering and deal with a competing correlation of terrorism to make it all work. These "scientists" are just your average overly ambitious people trying to make a buck.

      In my own field of research I have discovered overeating also correlates well with support for Trump, often triggered by ads for pizza.

    5. Anonymous @ 8:36 seems to articulate the view that "social science" is oxymoronic, perhaps in the same way as others see the term "military intelligence."

      He/she also seems bitten by the same bug infesting the Somerby bed, that "others" are
      only out for profit. I hope he/she is not as disatrously inept in such endeavors as the blogger.

    6. So, yes, you do not dispute Taub finds 44% of US whites are authoritarians to a high or very high degree. And that even more are therefore merely authoritarian, but not to a high or very high degree.


    7. No, Nona Nym I do dispute that. Read the work. Don't regurgitate Bob Somerby.

    8. You keep claiming that Somerby is inaccurate. When I do go back and read the original source I find that Somerby has not distorted the content. You seem to think it is funny running people around this way and you think your accusations about Somerby's so-called honesty will stand without anyone checking. You are just another worthless troll wasting everyone's time.

    9. Calling Somerby inaccurate would not do the man or his work justice. He is, by the standards of his fans, who throw a term around as a "bomb" like the rest of the liberals Somerby loathes, a troll.

    10. Taub: "Our results found that 44 percent of white respondents nationwide scored as "high" or "very high" authoritarians"

      Internet troll: "That's just Somerby's misrepresentation. Taub doesn't say that."

      Taub: "Yes, yes I do say that, idiotic as it may seem"

    11. Ah, but Nona Nym, you, like Donald Trump and Bob Somerby, often forget things you have said. Your third, and latest, comment was a bit different from your first and second.

      Your first:

      "44 percent of white Americans are "high authoritarians" or even "very high authoritarians." This excludes an undisclosed number of people who are also "authoritarians" without qualifying for those elevated designations."

      Your second:

      So, yes, you do not dispute Taub finds 44% of US whites are authoritarians to a high or very high degree. And that even more are therefore merely authoritarian, but not to a high or very high degree.

      We know followers of the saddest of the sad trolls, Bob Somerby, like to throw around a type of very perjorative bomb he decries.

      They are good self loathing projectionists just like him.

      But I am sorry to point out Nona Nym, Taub did not have another gaggle of lesser "authoritarians" she failed to disclose as you and the blogging Baltimore troll falsely assert.

      She did say in the poll she is reporting on
      that 44% of white respondents answered in such a way that they rated high or very high on a scale used to measure authoritarian values.

  2. There's something in-between "high authoritarian" and "high apathetic indifferent narcissist" (one who snarkily dismisses serious concerns such as immigration from Islamic states as worries about widows and orphans, concerns about other unmanaged illegal immigration as racism, and invents a false narratives about police racism). The latter form of stupid will make authoritarianism appealing as the a lesser evil, especially after 8 years of governance by snarky and stupid teenagers who seek a safe space any time an adult attempts to infringe on their tantrums.

    1. Do you live in a place ruled by teens or, like David in Cal, do you get reports of what it is like from friends, relatives, or in-laws?

  3. Plenty of people *have* asked Trump voters why they're voting for him. And the most common answers are nonsensical.

    "He tells it like it is," although he obviously doesn't. He lies right in his supporters faces. He changes his positions like most people change their socks. He imagines things that clearly never happened. "He's a great businessman," but obviously, he isn't. He has a string of bankruptcies, lawsuits, and outright frauds littering his business career. "He wants to make America great again," which is as empty a promise as any aspirant to the White House has ever made.

    Why do Taub and Drum go plumbing the depths of the Trump voter psyche? Because those voters show no sign of being able to explain their own behavior. Why do we naughty, naughty liberals insist on disparaging the intelligence of these voters? Because they repeatedly profess to believe things that any person of modest ability can tell you are strange and demonstrably false.

    1. Lemur with a banana.

    2. That's not funny.

    3. Anon @ 9:21 repeats audience reaction leading to B. Somerby blogging career.

    4. Dave the Guitar PlayerMarch 10, 2016 at 3:49 PM

      I stumbled upon this explanation of Donald Drumpf voters that I thought was enlightening.


    "She and I agree" Elizabeth Warren said about Clinton's recent NY Times op-ed article describing how she would rein in Wall Street.

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