Part 4—And it belongs to Us: The person who wrote today's letter is only one person, of course.
As with all persons, her judgment is imperfect and her wisdom is limited. "Not people die but worlds die in them/Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures..."
That said, the person in question wrote a letter which appears in today's New York Times. Should the Times have published her letter? We're not sure how to answer that.
That said, the letter may be instructive for those who want to understand us liberals better. Should the Times have published the letter? Here's what the letter says:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (11/23/16): My nearly 99-year-old father has voted for a Republican president every election since he could vote. Despite our differing politics, I have always loved and admired my father. With this election, however, I feel he has crossed a personal line that I’m unsure I can forgive.Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures.
I believe that by voting for Donald Trump, he has rejected my core family values of inclusiveness and civic responsibilities. At last year’s Thanksgiving table, we talked about the plight of the Syrian refugees; this year I fear that it will be reduced to the weather—without the part about climate change.
Based upon our extensive research, the writer seems to be a legal recruiter, a position she had held for over 25 years. She says she "has lived in Greenwich Village for over half of my life–a neighborhood that reflects my interests in culture, politics and diversity."
Based upon her date of graduation from college, she seems to be a bit less than 60 years old.
Her father is 98 years old—apparently, 98 and a half! This time, though, he's gone too far. She's not sure she can forgive her father for this thing he has done.
Should the Times have published that letter? We don't know how to answer that. Does the letter say anything about Us? We wonder if maybe it might.
How did we liberals manage to lose this year's presidential election? How did we manage to lose to a man who is visibly disordered in an array of ways?
This election was lost by narrow margins in three decisive states. When elections are lost by narrow margins, you can explain the defeat a million different ways.
In this recent post, Kevin Drum stressed three major reasons for Clinton's defeat. According to Drum, we lost the election because Bernie Sanders turned millenials against Clinton. We lost the election because Comey the God staged a three-act intervention in the ongoing campaign.
Finally, we lost the election because working-class voters deserted Clinton in droves. According to Drum, the evidence "strongly suggests that the working class was primarily motivated by economic concerns and only secondarily by racial issues. This is the opposite of what I thought during the campaign, but I was wrong."
Drum goes on to cite other reasons for the loss. But those are his three major reasons.
We don't know why Drum has flipped regarding the motives of working-class voters. We don't know why the evidence he cites convinced him to change his mind about the motives of those voters, who number in the tens of millions.
We see nothing in the evidence Drum cites which lets us assess the question of motive. Incomparably, though, we'll stress that one key point:
We're discussing millions of voters!
In the early years of TV, there were "eight million stories in the naked city." We'll suggest there are also many stories among the nation's Trump voters, whose number now stands at 62,206,395 and counting.
(Clinton's popular vote now stands at 64,223,958. As such, Candidate Trump's victory margin now exceeds minus two million!)
Are there millions of stories among Trump voters, who we know as faulty? Almost surely, there are—until We, the all-knowing losers, start explaining Their votes.
When we liberals explain their votes, one explanation tends to conquer all. In our view, our instinct to behave this way is probably one of the ways we managed to lose this election.
Why did people vote for Trump? We'll assume there are many reasons. That said, when journalists speak to Trump voters, one complaint often emerges.
During the campaign, The New Yorker sent Larissa McFarquhar to speak to Trump supporters in West Virginia. "The perception that people in West Virginia are voting for Trump because they are racist or ignorant is significant," McFarquhar wrote, "since it’s one of the reasons they’re voting for Trump in the first place."
According to a local professor, Trump voters in West Virginia "envision people in New York City making fun of them and calling them stupid. Every time you leave the state, you get it—someone will say, Oh, you’re from West Virginia, do you date your cousin? Wow, you have shoes, wow you have teeth, are you sure you’re from West Virginia?"
Elsewhere, McFarquhar fleshes out the idea that Trump voters in West Virginia resent being dismissed as racists—an insinuation she says they were hearing from Candidate Clinton on down.
That's part of what McFarquhar says she heard in West Virginia. Years earlier, Berkeley professor Arlie Russell Hochschild had gone to the wilds of Louisiana to study the outlook of Tea Party members.
Rachel Maddow had spent two weeks bombarding them with teabagger jokes. This is part of what Hochschild says she heard from one of those people:
"She explained that, actually, she saw Rush Limbaugh defending her against this hail of epithets that came, she thought, from Liberal Land. You know, that she was seen as fat and homophobic, and sexist and racist. And she saw him as defending her from that."
Are Trump voters sexist and racist? How sexist and racist are they? In the wake of our defeat by those painfully narrow margins, the New York Times sent Nikole Hannah-Jones to her native Iowa to investigate the thinking of Trump voters there.
Hannah-Jones focused on Trump voters who voted for Obama at least one time. She zeroed in on one such voter, helping us discover the obvious—that she is secretly racist.
In fairness, no one can challenge Hannah-Jones' skill at proving a preapproved verdict. After she spoke with that one Trump voter, she reported this:
HANNAH-JONES (11/20/16): When Obama was elected, she hoped he would “bridge race relations, to help people in the middle of Iowa” see that black people “are decent hardworking people who want the same things that we want.” She said people in rural Iowa often don’t know many black people and unfairly stereotype them. But Obama really turned her off when after a vigilante killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin, he said the boy could have been his son. She felt as if Obama was choosing a side in the racial divide, stirring up tensions. And then came the death of Michael Brown, shot by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo.We liberals told her she was racist. This complaint is widely heard when Trump supporters speak.
“I’m not saying that the struggles of black Americans aren’t real,” Douglas told me, “but I feel like the Michael Brown incident was violence against the police officer.”
The Black Lives Matter movement bothered her. Even as an Ivy League-educated, glamorous black couple lived in the White House, masses of black people were blocking highways and staging die-ins in malls, claiming that black people had it so hard. When she voiced her discomfort with that movement, she said, or pointed out that she disagreed with Obama’s policies, some of her more liberal friends on Facebook would call her racist. So, she shut her mouth—and simmered.
Is that Trump voter racist? Remember, she's just one person out of the 800,942 Iowans who voted for Candidate Trump. At least in theory, we can't learn about all the others just from reinventing her values in a way we like.
It may also seem strange to think that the person who voted for Obama is being diagnosed as a racist. But that's the insinuation which emerges from the omniscient Hannah-Jones, who shows no sign of understanding how the Martin and Brown cases looked to many people who don't live inside Our Own tents.
(Among other things, it looked like we were inventing facts about these cases, as we plainly did. In the face of morality as impressive as ours, the truth must sometimes give way.)
Why did people vote for Trump? It's hard to answer such a sweeping question. We can, however, tell you this:
Over here, within our own tribe, we love to denounce The Others. It's a moral and intellectual illness of an egregious kind.
It also constitutes an unforced political error. It may explain how we lost an election, by narrow margins, to a deeply disordered man.
What's the nature of our moral/intellectual illness? We see it played out when Hannah-Jones crams that one voter's remarks into our preapproved story-line.
We also see it here, when Charlie Pierce says "we finally come to the nub of it" in the published remarks of one working man in eastern Ohio or western Pennsylvania.
This man's published remarks concern racial banter where he works. They alerted Pierce's racial sensors in a way he doesn't attempt to explain. We have no idea what transpires at that man's work site. Neither does Brother Pierce.
By now, it's obvious to everyone else, even if it isn't yet plain to us. When We talk to Those People, we always seem to find a way to uncover The Story We Like.
We love to loathe and denounce The Others, in a way which extends from prehistory. You can see (and hear) the same instinct at play in yesterday's piece by Michelle Goldberg at Slate.
Goldberg says she spoke to "women who voted for Trump" on a major radio program. Her statement is technically accurate. She quickly sees through one caller's deceptive remarks:
GOLDBERG (11/26/16): The Friday after the election, I was a guest on the Brian Lehrer radio show, speaking to women who voted for Trump. One caller, a mother from Connecticut who’d worked in automotive and construction management, insisted: “Most women that have to deal with households vote for the economy. It’s economic issues that drive us.” But when pressed on Trump’s economic policies, she shifted to a denunciation of oversensitive college students who needed time off to process the election results. “It grieves me that these college students are all being given passes out of classes for an election,” she said, the heat in her voice rising.This woman claimed that many women "vote for the economy." But uh-oh! "When pressed on Trump’s economic policies, she shifted to a denunciation of oversensitive college students."
Goldberg omits this woman's backstory, which involves the fact that her daughter died of a drug overdose last year. She omits the way she baited this woman about her dumbness before receiving this prickly response in reply.
That said, this is part of our standard play, in which we catch Those People misrepresenting their actual views and motives. Goldberg catches this woman seeming to say that she voted for Trump because of the economy. Goldberg was skillfully able to see that this isn't the case.
In fact, Goldberg spoke to exactly two "women who voted for Trump" on that Lehrer radio program. Fascinated by her essay, we clicked the link she provided and listened to her 38-minute segment, in which she and a second liberal guest displayed our tribe's appalling inability to listen to people who fail to say the things we want to hear.
The first Trump voter on that program presented a striking case. Identified at Patricia from Bayonne, she turned out to be a Peruvian immigrant speaking accented English.
This woman said she voted for Trump because he said he'd create lots of jobs. Citing her sister's nightmarism experience, she also said she voted for Trump because Obamacare is a god-awful mess.
Fascinating! Here was a person who might start to flesh out the basis on which 29 percent of Hispanic voters voted for Trump. It also seemed fairly clear that this voter was a "regular person," not a wealthy elite, the kind of person a liberal pundit ought to know how to respect.
Goldberg and her fellow pundit showed little ability to listen to this woman's explanation of her vote. Rather than draw out this voter's story, they quickly began making it clear that this woman was wrong in her assessments.
Lehrer made his disapproval fairly clear as well. The interview ended after the woman said this:
PATRICIA FROM BAYONNE (11/11/16): You know what? And I want to say something....Poor people, they almost cry because this Obamacare. They have to pay the penalty, which is now gonna be, the minimum penalty, gonna be like $650, like that, if they don't have insurance.At that point, the interview ended. Lehrer moved to his second (and last) female Trump voter, whose story Goldberg finessed in her piece for Slate.
We'll suggest that you listen to the three liberals as they speak with Patricia from Bayonne. (Her sister had to return to Peru for an operation, Obamacare is so bad.) Her phone call starts around 14:30 of the Lehrer audiotape. It continues for a bit less than four minutes.
"Oh boy," Lehrer says at one point, as his caller's pitiful cluelessness becomes clear to his superior mind. When he throws to Goldberg, her own disapproval is quickly made apparent.
The caller's views and experience are disrespected. Our own tribe's heavily scripted wisdom must, and will, prevail.
To state the obvious, we can't learn why 62 million people people voted for Trump by speaking with two such women. That said, we were surprised by the arrogance we heard from the liberals on that audiotape. Meanwhile, Goldberg recorded that same old complaint in her piece for Slate, though she sanitized things a bit:
GOLDBERG: Over the course of the presidential campaign, I attended Trump rallies in the Northeast, the South, and the Midwest. Among the dozens of Trump supporters I interviewed, not one mentioned NAFTA, but many—perhaps most—complained about political correctness. Again and again, people told me how much they resented not being able to speak their minds, though none of them wanted to articulate what exactly they were holding in. They said they hated being shamed on social media, though they usually didn’t want to say what they had been shamed for."Some [Trump voters] felt bullied for violating more arcane speech rules they neither assented to nor understood?" Delicately, Goldberg is saying that these voters didn't like being called racists.
The spasms of unchained bigotry we’ve seen post-election suggest that some Trump supporters were simply longing to howl NIGGER! KIKE! CUNT! FAGGOT! Among those I spoke to, however, some felt bullied for violating more arcane speech rules they neither assented to nor understood...
Goldberg is delicate as she sanitizes this familiar complaint. Earlier, though, she's happy to list THE CAPITALIZED WORDS those other Trump voters longed to howl into the night.
She also sends dog whistles to us liberals when she says the Trump supporters with whom she spoke didn't want to say what they had been "shamed" for. In comments, us droogs knew how to interpret this statement:
They didn't want to explain what they'd said because what they said was racist!
Our liberal tribe is in the grip of a moral/intellectual illness. It leaves us barely able to reason, eager to call people names.
We interview a handful of voters, then let the few represent the all. No matter what those voters say, we find a way to discover the evil we seek.
This leaves us behaving like tribalists from a prehistoric age. Did it leave us losing three decisive states by very narrow margins?
We love to call The Others names. It often seems like our only skill, our only political pleasure. It sinks us in a well of deeply unintelligent conduct. Everyone else can see what we do. Our illness is invisible only to Us.
Donald J. Trump is going to change the history of our nation and world. Considering those narrow victory margins, does our own ugly, avoidable conduct explain how we got to this place?
In coming weeks: Extensive discussion of Drum's question: How did we lose to that guy?
Another poet is wrong: "No people are uninteresting," Yevtushenko foolishly said.
He never heard three liberals speak with Patricia from Peru!