Moral self-assurance watch: The public says it isn't Trump's fault!


We think of Sierra Thomas:
At Vox, someone commissioned a survey about the violence at Trump events.

Vox's report about its survey was done by a scribe in her first year out of college. Presumably, that's good for Ezra's bottom line. But her report about Vox's survey is very poorly reasoned.

For that reason, we'll start with Kevin Drum's account, which brings the eternal note of sadness in. Who does the public blame for the violence at Trump's events?

According to the survey by Vox, the public doesn't blame Trump:
DRUM (3/24/16): A few days ago I suggested that a key question about the protests at Trump rallies was who the public blamed for the violence. Well, Vox conducted a survey recently asking exactly that, and it turns out that Trump is winning that contest too. Overall, respondents thought that protesters were responsible for the violence in Chicago by a margin of 54-28 percent.

That's a pretty big margin.


Bottom line: Only committed partisans and (barely) young voters are taking the protesters' side on this. Seems like maybe they need a new strategy.
So you'll know, here's the question to which respondents responded, along with the possible answers from which respondents chose:
The survey question from Vox:
As you may know, Donald Trump recently cancelled a campaign event in Chicago, Illinois, after hundreds of protesters showed up at the event. After the event was cancelled, several fights broke out between protesters and Trump supporters. Which of the following comes closest to your opinion, even if neither is exactly right?

Protestors were responsible for the violence. If they wanted to protest peacefully, they should have done so outside rather than provoking Trump supporters.

Protestors were NOT responsible for the violence. They should not be punished for exercising their right to protest.

Don’t Know / No Opinion
Respondents favored "protesters were responsible," 54-28. Drum offers a chart which breaks it down demographically. For what it's worth, 37 percent of Democrats favored that naughty response.

Why did people respond that way? We can't answer that.

The question asserts that protesters "provoked Trump supporters" in some way. As with the hapless report by the youthful Vox scribe, it doesn't seem like the world's most skillfully crafted question.

Still and all, this brings us back to a basic political problem. Increasingly, we the liberals are turning our political movements over to very young, highly inexperienced people.

Such people will often have poor political judgment. This doesn't mean that they're bad people. It means that they're young and inexperienced. It also means this:

Most people have no particular skill as political strategists!

The civil rights movement lay in the hands of people who were morally and intellectually brilliant. Some of these people became world famous. Most of these people remain unknown.

There is zero reason to think that leaders of today's youth movements will show comparable brilliance in their political judgments. This brings us back to Sierra Thomas, the 21-year-old college student who wrote this piece in the Washington Post's Outlook section last Sunday.

This country is full of terrific young people. It sounds to us like Thomas is one of those people.

That doesn't mean she has good political judgment, or access to wise leadership. This is what she says she did after she decided she had to respond to Trump:
THOMAS (3/20/16): I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit and watch someone who is trying to be our president incite violence. I could not let the progress people have made in learning to love and accept one another go to waste. Trump is playing on the emotions and fears of this country to serve himself. His defenders say his campaign has nothing to do with racism, but what I saw and heard in Fayetteville—and what’s happened at other events—prove they’re wrong.


I grew increasingly upset, frustrated and appalled. I decided at that very moment that I would protest at the nearest and soonest rally. I went to Trump’s website and saw that there would be one in Fayetteville the following week. I ordered a ticket.

I looked all over Facebook for protest groups that would be attending the rally and came across a post by a man named Jonathan Talley, who wrote about needing more protesters. He already had more than 100, though, and since this was my first time protesting, I felt safer knowing I’d have people there backing me up. I was a little nervous, because my parents didn’t want me to go. They made sure I was well aware of the danger and the consequences I might face. But I was determined not to let fear stop change, and knowing that I’d have people supporting me throughout the whole thing gave me courage.
Sierra Thomas turned to a leader you've never heard of. There may be a very good reason for that. He seems to have zero track record, at least as far as can be learned from a search of the web.

Talley may be a great person too. Once again, that doesn't mean he has sound political judgment.

The "protesters" at Trump's events have been getting a major break from the press. The fact that they keep interrupting/disrupting his speeches has been widely obscured and disappeared by many major orgs.

Still, the word does get around–and on the whole, people don't like the idea of people disrupting speeches. People who are 21 may or may not know this.

Sierra Thomas went to the rally. Here's part of what she described:
THOMAS: The organizers’ plan was for demonstrators to go into the event separately and sit by ourselves, so we wouldn’t attract attention and could pop up at different times to interrupt Trump. I walked inside and made small talk with the people sitting next to me, even though almost every second sitting there waiting was a challenge. They were very friendly, up until the moment I started protesting. Throughout the afternoon, I was texting with Talley, and he helped me calm down and stay strong, saying, “Don’t let them shake you, and don’t be scared.”
Everyone was very friendly! Then she stood up, interrupted their event, and began to yell at them.

In her own words, she did this because "I could not let the progress people have made in learning to love and accept one another go to waste." People, we're just saying!

We're so old that we can recall when another generation of self-assured youth helped put Nixon and Reagan in place. Dr. King and Mrs. Parks and them were morally and intellectually brilliant. They routinely displayed brilliant judgment.

Most of us lack their astonishing brilliance. It's helpful when we lesser beings understand such facts.


  1. Do these people ever look in the mirror? Sierra Thomas, in effect, wrote, "I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit and watch someone who is trying to be our president incite violence...So, I went and incited violence. That's praiseworthy, because I was inciting good violence, by opposing Trump supporters' bad violence."

    1. In this instance, "these people" is one person.

      Drum asked the question of who the public blames for the violence at Trump rallies and then made the same mistake you did by conflating results of the poll specifically relating to the Chicago violence resulting in the cancellation of a Trump rally to the violence at Trump rallies to imply that the public blames the protesters in general - just like you conflating Sierra Thomas's stupid comment to all Trump protesters when you refer to "these people."

      As a self-proclaimed actuarial expert, I would expect you to be able to draw the distinction. As a bleeding-from-the-throat partisan, it's not surprising at all that you don't.

  2. Interrupting a speaker with whom one disagrees is counterproductive. It makes HIM look like the good guy.

    1. Some demonstrations are productive. Others are counterproductive. It takes wisdom to engage in productive demonstrations.

    2. "It take wisdom to engage in productive demonstrations."

      Good thing you're around to tell us the difference.

    3. Anon 8:09. impcaesaravg is correct. Do you really think the anti-Trump protester described above is being wise in her protests just because sometimes other possibly justifiable protests have been disruptive? These anti-Trump protesters are helping Trump.

    4. "These anti-Trump protestors are helping Trump."

      Not when he eggs his supporters on. From Vox:

      Our poll asked respondents to assess several statements Trump has made regarding protesters and record whether those statements helped his image, hurt it, or had no effect. Without fail, every statement we polled had an overwhelmingly negative impact.
      Take the following statement Trump made in Iowa on the day of the caucuses: "If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees."
      Just 16 percent of voters viewed Trump more favorably after reading that statement. But a whopping 61 percent said it made them view him less favorably, including 45 percent of Republicans.
      That pattern held across a range of similar statements, including: "See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen, because they used to treat them very rough. We’ve become very weak [and]""It was really amazing to watch," in reference to seeing his supporters "taking out" a protester.
      So while most people don't initially blame Trump for inciting the violence at his rallies, it's clear they feel differently when they see him saying things that suggest he's encouraging it.

    5. Does anyone remember what happened in Chicago? At least one third of the people who showed up at that campus venue were student-protesters and Trump tucked his tail between his legs and ran.

      Yep, Rich, Trump can sure talk mean and tough -- until he is confronted. Then I got to agree with Ted Cruz for the first time in my life. Trump is indeed a "sniveling coward."

      And far from "helping" him, his negatives keep climbing to unheard of levels for the presumptive nominee of a major political party.

  3. The only protest that matters is voting.

    1. I guess that explains why we're still in Viet Nam.

  4. I was at the first half of the Chicago Trump rally and TDH is probably right, there was a lot of antagonism toward the people standing in line to see him. One young man pointed to them and said "they're the racists" then got up and yelled "F you and F your mother." Notably, young men also make up most of Trump's supporters.

    That said, imagine if Trump came and nobody showed up. The media narrative would be that the disgusting populist rabble secretly pines for an authoritarian and we have to keep them in line. I disagree that this is entirely about young people being stupid. If anything, it's mainly about young men being stupid, but even that is too simplistic. It's also is about how we discuss racism.

    Racism in American culture seems to be understood as a personal vice, rather than something deep in the American culture. So the response is to shame racists, rather than weaken the types of power and control that are rather arbitrarily put in place through crime, finance, cultural representations etc. What this means is the answer is wrong. Rather than saying let's work on educating people, we simply shame them while pretending we're doing good. Students are trying to make "I don't feel safe around Trump and his supporters" the entire story of racism, which it isn't.

    I also think Trump isn't just fueled and supported by racism, but the media, which don't do a good job explaining racism.

    1. Prime example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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  6. Oh, everybody was so much smarter in the old days.

    Seeing as Bob is making a federal case out of the Thomas Column, how did it go over in the letters section? Is it really representative of how liberals see things?

  7. "Most people have no particular skill as political strategists!"

    Bob Somerby not realizing he describes himself.
    He could also use the nouns "analysts" and "historians."

    1. @9:44 Apparently some people need the reminder.

  8. Of course Bob skips to Drum so he can fundmentally ignore much of what the poll really found and what the young reporter from Vox wrote about.

    What a Maddowsketeer Bob has become. Time to raise some serious questions about this clownish behavior.

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