Part 4—The concept of some versus all: On Thursday, February 23, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof made a set of deeply offensive statements.
Most horrifically, he seemed to say that Those People, the 63 million Trump voters, aren't all exactly alike! We liberals saw this as fake news.
The 63 million people in question aren't all "hateful bigots," the columnist strangely said. (They aren't all "bigoted unthinking lizard brains," he offensively suggested at another point.)
Kristof even said that liberals shouldn't "stereotype" the 63 million as "misogynist bigots." He said we shouldn't "demonize" the 63 million, or even engage in "name-calling!"
At one point, the offensive journalist even claimed that millions of those Trump voters could be won by Democrats in future elections. As evidence in support of these claims, he cited friends of his from his lower-class hometown of Yamhill, Oregon.
According to Kristof, he thinks his friends were "profoundly wrong" in deciding to vote for Trump. But he described Them as "well-meaning people"—and he even said that we liberals have tended to "otherize" such rustics.
The 63 million aren't all alike? Plainly, this was offensive speech. We liberals fought back, the very next day, with three letters in the Times.
We think those letters help us see The War We (liberals actually) Are.
Throw away our reams of self-praise, which we tend to juxtapose with the insults we aim at The Others. Instead of listening to our self-praise, look at the other things we say and do. In our view, those three letters to the Times help display The Way We Are.
They help display how dumb we liberals (frequently) are. They help display how much we love to demonize and stereotype The Others, preferably in very large groups, millions of Them at a time.
Yesterday, we looked at the first two letters of protest which appeared in the Times. In the first letter, the writer agreed that we shouldn't demonize, stereotype and name-call Trump voters. He then proceeded to do little else all through the rest of his missive.
In the second letter, the writer quickly agreed with Kristof. "Clearly," the 63 million are "not all bigots," she said.
Despite this instant admission, the writer said she can't understand why Kristof thinks We should "be magnanimous" to Them. Let us suggest that she was stumped by a simple distinction—the distinction between "some" and "all."
In his column, Kristof explicitly said that some Trump voters really are racists or bigots. ("Yes, the Trump camp includes some racists and other bigots.") He simply said that isn't true of all.
At first glance, this might seem like the simplest distinction on Earth. But when we humans get our loathing freak on, we flee, in remarkably stupid ways, from this simplest of all distinctions.
When we decide to otherize, we cease to think in terms of "some." We insist on thinking in terms of All. We happily take 63 million people and say they're all just alike.
The first letter-writer was quickly explaining what all Trump voters know and believe. This is a very dumb thing to do, but at highly partisan times like these, we tribals instinctively do it.
The second letter writer explicitly said that They aren't all bigots Over There. But even as she made this admission, she instantly lost the thread.
We humans! When we put our tribal shoes on, we long to demonize The Others, preferably in very large groups. We long to say that the members of our tribe are good and smart (full stop), and that the members of their tribe are very bad and stupid.
This unintelligent manner of thinking is wired in our lizard brains. Prehistory bred this in the bone. This thinking was once a survival skill. Today, it's simply ugly and dumb, and it washes all through our low-IQ, self-impressed liberal culture.
We liberals love to loathe The Others, preferably in large groups. Consider the way the third letter-writer responded to Kristof's suggestions.
"What is truth?" Pontius Pilate once said. The third letter was just one sentence long, but its writer played Pilate as he sought to undermine Kristof:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (2/24/17): Assuming that one were inclined to give economically stressed Trump voters a pass, I wonder what justification Nicholas Kristof would attribute to those who voted for Donald Trump who were middle class, wealthy or super-wealthy other than bigotry and greed.Despite its brevity, that letter is very dumb. It's also filled with insinuations, designed to undermine the suggestions that Kristof directed at Us.
More to the point, the letter seeks to undermine Kristof himself. The writer is willing to assume, perhaps for argument's sake, that Kristof imaginably might have a point about low-income Trump voters. But what would he say about middle-class voters? our own Pilate skillfully asks.
What would Kristof say about middle-class voters? We have no idea! We would say that they aren't all alike—that this self-impressed hater should go and speak to such voters, if he's so curious, and assess them one at at time.
Our own Pilate seems to think he's found the flaw in Kristof's holier-than-Us presentation. We'll give Kristof the low-income voters, he says, but aha! He didn't mention the many Trump voters who are better off!
In one fell swoop, this writer accomplishes two tasks. He undermines the offensive person who failed to kiss the hem of his tribe's flowing robes. Even better, he gives us a way to continue to loathe The Others en masse, tens of millions of Trump voters at a time.
(We can't loathe 63 million? he says. Can we loathe 43 million?)
We humans love to loathe The Others in very large groups. This loathing has been a large part of liberal culture for as long as we ourselves have been alive. (Hooray for Hollywood! Examples below.)
People like these letter writers may be unaware of those facts. But everyone else can see The Way We Are. The Others have known this about Us for a long time. In recent years, our loathing is getting more obvious.
In closing, might we briefly work the numbers in one part of Kristof's brief? We refer to the third part of his column, in which he made these offensive political claims:
KRISTOF (2/23/17): Yes, a majority of Trump voters are probably unattainable for Democrats, but millions may be winnable. So don’t blithely give up on 63 million people; instead, make arguments directed at them. Fight for their votes not with race-baiting but with economic pitches for the working and middle classes.Are millions of Trump voters "winnable" in future elections? In perhaps his ugliest moment, that's what Kristof said.
Clinton’s calling half of Trump voters “deplorables” achieved nothing and probably cost her critical votes. Why would Democrats repeat that mistake?
The three letter-writers all blew past this offensive statement—an offensive claim which seeks to keep us from insulting The Others en masse. But if you want to win elections, consider how the numbers work.
As Kristof says, a majority of Trump voters are probably unattainable. Those people are Republican voters. They vote that way every time, as do many Dems.
That said, let's imagine that as few as ten percent of Trump voters are "winnable." Imagine what would have happened if Candidate Clinton had won only half those voters last November—had flipped only five percent of Trump's 63 million voters.
Go to this site and do the math. (Warning: Math is hard.) Here's what you may find:
Clinton would have won Michigan by roughly 250,000 votes. She would have won Wisconsin by maybe 120,000 votes.
She would have won Pennsylvania by 250,000. She would have won Florida by 360,000. She would have squeezed through in North Carolina. She even might have won Georgia.
Is five percent a lot of votes to flip? We have no idea. Beyond that, there are other ways to change election results.
Flipping votes from R to D is only one way for Democrats to gain. Dems can also gain by increasing blue voter turnout and depressing turnout among red voters. With that in mind:
One of these times, the Bernie and Nader Bros will perhaps stop hugging defeat and disaster. The black assistant professor crowd may stop telling black voters to stay home based on random, one-time remarks from the mid-1990s.
One of these times, the Hollywood crowd will rein themselves in long enough to stop costing Democrats votes. Susan Sarandon will stop telling folks that it would be better for Trump to win. The rest of the A-team will put a lid on their masterful skill at losing votes through unfortunate jokes.
Still and all, Kristof was making a sensible suggestion about our tribe's persistent, stupid name-calling. Aside from the fact that our sweeping claims are factually wrong, couldn't this be a way to lose votes among those who are winnable?
Inquiring minds might want to know! At times like these, we tribals don't have such minds. Our lizard brains prefer to loathe. We tend to prefer it to winning.
At highly partisan times like these, our lizard brains instruct us to loathe The Others en masse. Over here in the liberal world, we've been inclined to behave this way for a good many years.
Those three letter-writers all sought ways to "keep name-calling alive." It's been an unfortunate part of our "liberal" culture at least since the 1950s.
The Others have their own orgs now. More and more, it's become easy for The Others, and for people around them, to see what we can't see about ourselves—to see The Way We Are.
Hooray for Hollywood: For extra credit, review the 1950s films of William Inge, in which the white working class in the flyover states all turn out to be secretly nuts. Suggestions: Picnic, Splendor in the Grass. We especially recommend Rosalind Russell's crazy meltdown in Picnic. Everyone was nuts in the states where They live.
Also, try the 1950s films in which the white working class all turn out to be nuts as long as they live in the South. Strongly suggested: Baby Doll. Also, try God's Little Acre.
We've tended to do this forever. More and more, The Others have started to notice The Way We Are, even if We ourselves remain a bit barefoot and clueless.