THE WAY WE LOOK: And the way we think!

MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2017

Part 1—Also, the ways we behave:
How do we in our liberal tribe sometimes appear to others?

Yesterday, the New York Times published a set of letters which help us consider this question. Nicholas Kristof had written a column in which he suggested that we should trashing and loathing Trump voters with so much devotion to task.

The Times published eleven reactions to Kristof's column. Mercifully, the letters published by the Times contained an assortment of views. One letter even came from a former county co-chairman for the Trump campaign in Virginia.

Amazingly, the eleven letters the Times chose to publish didn't all say the same things. One liberal even said that we shouldn't hate Trump voters, though she does "expect them to own up to the harm they’ve done our country."

That writer's renunciation of hatred came a basic condition. Another apparent liberal explicitly said that the "left needs to stop demonizing these folks," who are "generally good, hard-working folks," though he said we need to understand "the Trump voter who votes against his or her best interests."

Was that possibly condescending? Another writer went all in on this general approach:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (4/10/17): It might be useful to view such voters as similar to battered wives who excuse their husbands’ violence and cruelty as their fault, or who stay with their abusers out of a twisted sense of loyalty or because they believe they have nowhere else to go. I choose to characterize these voters as suffering from “battered Trump-loyalist syndrome.” Like battered women, these voters need a safe haven, a party that is genuine about having their back.
Working hard to understand, he said it might be useful to view those 63 million Trump voters as so many battered wives!

One or two liberals were a bit less passive-aggressive in their defense of Trump voters. One writer even mastered a line of thought which, within our own experience, was once being taught in ninth grade:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: As enlightened intelligent readers of The New York Times we know better than to make sweeping generalizations, equating Islam with terrorism, for example, to justify a Muslim ban. We know how dangerous it is to dehumanize entire groups and make them the “other,” blaming them for our ills and holding ourselves high above them.

Then why are we treating Trump voters this way? Trump voters are not the problem. They are just an easy target. It has been heartbreaking and disheartening to review reader comments about Trump voters.
Much of that letter went unexplained, possibly due to editing. (Why aren't Trump voters "the problem?") But the writer suggested, with admirable skill, that we liberals may be selective in the way we apply our basic principles.

All in all, it probably doesn't make sense to issue "sweeping generalizations" about 63 million different people. According to this writer, we liberals observe this general rule in many contexts, but tend to honor it in the breach when it comes to Trump voters.

We tend to "otherize" them, she says. We act like they're all just alike.

A few of the letters gave voice to standard liberal loathing, in which the 63 million were said to be racists and/or misogynists, or were at least said to be in the grip of "racial resentment," apparently with no exceptions. That said, the Times published a varied set of letters, some of which raised interesting questions concerning the reasons for Trump's support last fall.

We expect to return to some of these letters as the week proceeds. For today, let's focus on just one, a letter from Brooklyn, right there in New York.

The writer of this letter expressed a thoroughly standard tribal view, one we've discussed several times in the recent past. You simply can't talk to Those People, he said. Why would anyone try?
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: What makes Nicholas Kristof think that Trump supporters can be recruited by the Democratic Party? Can you recruit people who continue to support a president whose legislation if passed would threaten their very existence? Can you recruit people who still believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States? Can you recruit people who cannot be persuaded by rational argument and scientific evidence? Can you recruit people who take the most preposterous lies of the right-wing news media as gospel truth?

I am afraid that many if not most Trump supporters will stick with the president until the pain he will inflict upon them can no longer be tolerated.
That letter is wonderfully irrational. That said: in its wonderful illogic, it might help us liberals understand a key point about ourselves.

The writer seems to express two points in his two-paragraph letter. As he starts, he suggests it's foolish even to try to recruit Trump voters, given how irrational and stupid they are Over There.

In his second paragraph, he makes a second, apparently contradictory point. He says that many Trump voters—indeed, perhaps most—will stick with their man to the end.

Can you see the problem there? For ourselves, we'd bet the house that many, perhaps even most, Trump voters will stick with their man to the end. But this formulation suggests that many other Trump voters, perhaps even most Trump voters, could in fact be lured away from their man.

According to the writer's assessment of the facts, those other Trump voters are the people who could "be recruited by the Democratic Party." And duh:

In order to flip the national outlook in a major way, Democrats don't have to persuade all Trump voters; they just have to persuade some. If Democrats could have flipped just five percent of Trump's voters last fall, Candidate Clinton would have taken the White House in a walk.

That letter's "logic" comes live and direct from the swamp of "Us and Them." Prehistoric parts of the brain tell us to split into two different tribes, and to think that Those People, the ones Over There, are in fact all alike.

When we succumb to this tribal imperative, we may picture the most loathsome of Those People, the ones Over There. We then persuade ourselves that The Others are all just like that person:

"What's the point of talking to Them?" our lizard brain then commands.

That letter was just two paragraphs long. In that short space, its writer managed to be deeply self-contradictory.

The logic of that letter was dictated by the hounds of Hell and the gods of war. At the present time, those hounds are very active Over Here, within the tents of our deeply self-impressed liberal tribe. That said:

For us Over Here in our liberal tents, that letter may help us see something important. Again and again, We liberals really aren't super-sharp—and many, many other people are fully able to see this.

Our tribe has long been self-impressed; it's a basic part of liberal culture. We constantly assure ourselves that we're the ones who are smart and good—and that the stupid, bad people are found Over There.

That very idea is basically dumb. But the idea is bred in the bone, and it's currently very active within our liberal culture.

This week, we'll look at some of the ways we liberals appear to others.

In various realms, our tribe's behavior has been increasingly strange of late. Other people can see this fact. Everyone sees it but Us.

We liberals! We look extremely good—to ourselves. For reasons which make perfect sense, that's not the way we look to many other people, a certain number of whom decided to vote for Candidate Trump last fall.

Tomorrow: What Petri couldn't hear


  1. Why is Somerby arguing that people don't have a right to consider themselves good people? There is nothing wrong with having a positive self image, considering ourselves to be smart and good. It would be sick to try to convince someone otherwise.

    I personally don't care what Trump voters believe or why they voted for Trump. Our national problem is not them, but Trump himself. Trump is the one damaging our country.

    When a Democrat runs again, he or she should not woo Trump voters. That candidate should put forward a humane, workable, solid program that will attract whoever wishes to see that person put into office.

    I would hate to see any Democratic candidate attempting to attract Trump voters by saying or doing any of the things Trump has done, anything he stands for. I don't want a Democrat who tweets, who alienates allies, who gives support to bigotry and doesn't represent the diversity of our country. I hope that is not what Somerby means when he suggests we should seek Trump supporters' votes.

    Somerby thinks liberal behavior has been strange. I think he has gotten stranger over the past weeks. I don't recognize anything liberal in these posts. Maybe he has a brain tumor or maybe he is getting some form of dementia that is affecting his judgment. Or maybe he is spouting some Sanders line about economic class uniting people across party lines and he is trying to accomplish that good old Marxist line (which has never worked because culture is thicker than economic need). Whatever the reason, Somerby is not making sense and his daily attacks on the goodness and smartness of liberals is just plain offensive. You don't beat someone up to teach them empathy.

    1. Ageism, mental illness slurs, and red baiting.

      A- with points off for thinking you're a liberal.

    2. A diagnosis is not a slur. Bernie's Marxism is a matter of record.

      I consider myself a Democrat, having voted for the Democratic candidate in every election since 1968. I do not consider Bernie any kind of Democrat. I don't know what Somerby is -- maybe he isn't sure either.

    3. Well, the problem is that people think their TRIBE is smart and good and they are convinced that the people - all of them, in the other tribe are stupid and bad.

      A more objective person, who is not drinking two liters of haterade every day, sometimes looks at their own tribe and tries to get them to actually be kinder and gentler and smarter.

      Of course, at that point it is demanded for them to say shibboleth 1,000 times to prove that they are "of the body".

    4. I heard a snippet of Trump speaking at a rally today. He called the people in government stupid and losers. We're supposed to try to recruit the people to whom that kind of talk appeals.

      I never heard Hillary say anything like that. So, I think this is a false equivalence. We are not doing the same thing as Trump and his supporters did during the campaign. I've never called anyone a stupid loser in my life.

      So, yes, Somerby's pleas are falling on deaf ears in my household.

  2. "Our tribe has long been self-impressed; it's a basic part of liberal culture. We constantly assure ourselves that we're the ones who are smart and good—and that the stupid, bad people are found Over There. "

    No, the stupid bad people are found in the Sanders camp. They are the ones who knew better and still sabotaged Hillary in the last campaign.

    We think it was a coincidence that Bernie honeymooned in Russia. Maybe he has maintained that connection in the intervening years. Maybe it is what he and Trump had in common, comrades working toward the same goal.

    Notice Sanders claimed he would stay a Democrat. Notice how quickly he went back to being an Independent after the election. He doesn't mind lying any more than Trump does. Notice that nice dacha he bought right after the campaign ended? Now he's back pretending to champion the poor. Fool you twice, why not?

    1. And conservatives, especially tea-partiers, are not self-impressed? In what universe?

    2. Bob is right about the presumptuous and self-impressed. In our Sanders tribe we know we are the smart and good ones, and that the bad people are found Over There, in the Clinton camp and to a lesser extent the Trump camp. The presumptuous and self-impressed will never get this and will keep asking themselves how they can make us "see the light."

    3. I'm willing to stipulate that conservatives don't like us any more than we like them. I don't understand why we have to try to recruit them. It is a waste of time.

      As Mark Twain said about teaching pigs to sing -- it irritates the pig. I wouldn't take that as any commentary on the value of music.

    4. “If Democrats could have flipped just five percent of Trump's voters last fall, Candidate Clinton would have taken the White House in a walk.”

      Let’s see if the math-challenged Bob can follow this...which is easier, Candidate Clinton flipping three million Trump voters (voters who chanted “lock her up!”) or Candidate Clinton flipping three million of the seven to eight million write-in and third party voters or Candidate Clinton maybe inspiring three million from the hundred million who didn’t vote at all to vote for her?

    5. She only needs those 70,000 in the electoral college states who didn't vote. Lets not forget she won the popular vote by 3 million.

  3. Great post. Thanks Bob.

    1. It is so sad that the people who like Somerby best are the trolls.

    2. Bob used to have a pretty informed readership that brought something to the table. The comment section suggests that they are long gone. A few of us hang on as a counterweight to David in Ca.

  4. Joseph Cannon has an interesting post today about the connection between Bernie's campaign and the operatives behind Trump's campaign.

    Here is a quote from Roger Stone's unpublished autobiography:

    "The fourth, and one of the most effective, is through fragmentation of the vote. There is, say, overwhelming support for candidate A, who will raise the minimum wage, versus candidate B, who won’t. You split this overwhelming vote by funding another candidate, who wants to raise the minimum wage even higher, and who chastises candidate A for compromising their principles and being beholden to business interests for not asking for a higher wage. Through a vote split, candidate B, the one who says he believes the condition of workers must be improved, but not through easy sounding solutions like a higher minimum wage, scores a victory."

    Then there is this:

    "Throughout the Democratic primary, the Sanders campaign was cited for FEC violations on three separate occasions including a mysterious $10 million donation from a single address in Washington, DC. Despite consistent calls for financial transparency on the campaign trail, the Sanders campaign was exceedingly secretive when it came to its own finances. After twice filing for extensions from the FEC, the Sanders campaign ultimately decided to forgo its final financial disclosure statement in June citing the fact that campaign was no longer active. This decision was accompanied by the news that Sanders himself had purchased a $575,000 home in August, much to the dismay of his loyal followers. The home would be the third residence for Sanders, someone who railed against a system that increasingly favored the millionaires and billionaires of our country.

    Yet these financial gains for both Devine and Sanders would never have been possible had it not been for the millions of campaign contributions that came their way. And the only way to get campaign contributions is to convince your supporters you might actually have a chance to win. Luckily for Devine and Sanders, they had some foreign friends who were willing to step in. As reported by Rachel Maddow late on Tuesday, there existed an army of Russian bots who were weaponized to influence our election. Many of them took to various social media sites to discredit and disrupt Hillary Clinton's campaign and thus, energize potential Bernie Sanders supporters. Knowing that Clinton had been a target of right-wing media smears for a quarter-century, all the bots had to do was plant this seed to potential Sanders supporters, many of whom had no experience in politics, to get them onboard with the Sanders campaign. By doing this, Sanders and Devine were able to successfully pocket millions of dollars all while pretending to be champions of the common man."

    Granted, there are a lot of conspiracy theories these days, but there are also some conspiracies. Russian meddling is now proven. We are just figuring out the details. Bernie has a lot to answer for because so much of his behavior made no sense from the standpoint of liberals trying to win an election. You may love what he tells you, but please be more suspicious of his motives and look behind the superficial appeal of his campaign statements. Otherwise, you are behaving quite a bit like one of those stupid Trump voters, chasing the first con man who tells you what you want to hear.

    1. Of course if you prefer your political discussions to be grounded in reality, back in the heartland of America, Brooklyn New York, here's that starting at 43:08 [LINK].

  5. Bob used to comment, when challenged about his ceaseless devotion to the Press's sins against Gore, that since no one else would comment on the stuff he had a right to be redundant. A fairly justified argument, but it is worth the time to point out he is now riding with a sizable crowd in the "poor winddow Trump Voters" meme. Indeed, as it is virtually impossible to defend Trump being President, outlets like the Times have little else to sell a potential conservative reader. Though I guess it's part of the Bernie Supporters bag of dubious concepts too.
    I like Bob's near outrage with the woman who simply believes Trump voters should be held responsible for their vote. It would seem Bob would support a movement to let such people simply keep their library books.
    Bob does not bad mouth Fox because he essentially has adopted their view of life, one side is so titanically awful that HIS total lack of objectivity or fair play is completely justified. He comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. " am afraid that many if not most Trump supporters will stick with the president until the pain he will inflict upon them can no longer be tolerated."

    This letter-writer is completely out of touch with reality. When the President inflicts pain on Trump voters that can no longer be tolerated, Trump voters will blame the poor, immigrants, minorities, and liberals for their pain. Same as it ever was.

  7. Here in the real world, Trump is inflicting relief, not pain, on his supporters, and on his opponents as well. All Americans are benefiting from lower unemployment, higher stock market, and fewer illegal immigrants.

    How much good news will it take for Trump opponents to come to their senses? Is there any point in even talking to them? Are they totally mired in their hatred of Trump?

    1. "All Americans are benefiting from lower unemployment, higher stock market, and fewer illegal immigrants."

      Outside of (maybe) fewer undocumented people, is Trump responsible for any either of the others? Would you have said the same if Clinton had won?

    2. This is precisely the same shit you posted a week or so ago, David.

      You were asked to provide any data to support your contention that Trump is responsible for lowering unemployment, and the higher stock market. You ran away and hid. That's what cowardly trolls do.

      Obama inherited an economy in flames from dumbfuck GW. Stock market has gone up over 200% under his 2 terms. You've been whining like a bitch the entire time.

      With that in mind, it may be tough for stocks to enjoy nearly as explosive a rally under Trump in the next four (or eight) years as it has during Obama's tenure.

      The Dow has gone up more than 140% since Obama's inauguration in January 2009.

      If you look at how the Dow has done since it hit its low point on March 6, 2009, it's up 210%.

      If the Dow goes up 140% during the next eight years (yes, I am going to hypothetically assume that Trump winds up a two-term president for the purposes of this story) then it would be trading around 47,800.

      And if it goes up 210%? The Dow would be at about 61,500.

  8. IMHO Trump deserves credit. His stated plans and more aggressive legal action make the US less attractive for illegal immigrants. (Note that Trump's enemies are eager to blame Trump for a reduction in legal visitors from abroad. I agree with them.)

    I think Trump's promises of more business-friendly policies boosted the stock market and encouraged more hiring of employees. The timing the stock market jump, starting right after his election, would support this reasoning.

    1. Analysts estimate that Trump has cost the travel industry 158M in lost revenues (as of Feb 28).

      Trump's claims about the decrease in immigration are inflated because there was an unusual increase at the end of Obama's term in anticipation of Trump's stricter enforcement and Trump is comparing against that. Also immigration is usually down in winter and increases in Spring. We'll see if there is any real decrease over the next few months.

      It is unclear to me how increases in the stock market reflect anything Trump has done when he hasn't done anything yet. The market fluctuates based on statements people make, but long term health of the economy depends on action and I haven't seen Trump do one single thing that would benefit businesses in any substantial way. Most of it is cosmetic (repealing regulations, claiming job retention announced before he became president, meeting at Mar-a-Lago with businessmen to play golf, etc.). When is he going to actually do something?

      What kind of math do you do in your head to balance off the damage Trump does to individuals against gains by the stock market? Is the mother who was deported, leaving behind 4 citizen children worth a 1 pt stock gain? Is a decrease of 20 eagle births worth 2 pts? How do you do that math?

    2. Comrade DinC, fuck you and your disingenuous "humble opinion". Let's see some facts, jackass. Trump has not even passed a single budget yet, he's played golf more in the first 60 days than Obama did in a year, his repeal and replace went down in glorious flames, and he continues to take credit for things he had fuck all to do with.

    3. Look at the Dos Jones average for the last 2 years at

      You can see the dramatic rise beginning at the November election.

    4. President Obama says "you're welcome, dickhead"

      But the best reasons to think the rally will continue are fairly apolitical. The Dow's last 300-point gain before Wednesday was the day before Trump's election.

      For apolitical bulls, the first thing to remember is that the market has been rising for a year now — not just since the election. February 2016 marked the bottom of a market panic over China, and fears of a new European recession, that pushed the S&P 500 down 15 percent since June 2015. Then it rose 16 percent before Trump's election on Nov. 8. The surge that followed last October's market lull began the day before the election, when prediction models put Trump's odds of winning at anywhere from 28 percent to as little as 1 percent.

      That was happening because third-quarter macroeconomic data was strengthening, leading to a strong October as well, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. The U.S. economy grew 3.5 percent in the third quarter, which ended September 30, joblessness reached 4.6 percent by November, and especially strong readings on January manufacturing sentiment and construction spending sent first-quarter growth expectations much higher. Growth was also picking up outside the United States. And global stocks have kept pace with S&P 500 gains this year.

    5. Gallup confirms Trump's economic success:

      US Job Creation Index Continues to Hit New Highs

      US Job Creation Index Continues to Hit New Highs
      by RJ Reinhart

      Gallup Job Creation Index stands at +37 for March
      This is the third consecutive month the index has reached a record high
      Job creation strongest in Midwest (+39) and South (+38)

    6. However, the index typically rises during the first quarter of the year, with two- to three-point increases seen during this period in most years since 2010.

      President Obama says "you're welcome, dickhead".

    7. I'm in agreement with Dave. The Rust Belt worker's and coal miner's stock portfolios have gone up thanks to Trump's terrific presiding.

    8. OMG. We're still making believe the stock market has anything to do with reality, never mind the economy itself? Wow, Some people will never learn.
      Toto pulled back the curtain and showed us the Wizard was a fraud, but there are, apparently, still some in Oz who think the fraud is really a Wizard.

    9. The plumbers are swimming in bucks, fool.

    10. D in C
      "I think Trump's promises of more business-friendly policies boosted the stock market and encouraged more hiring of employees. The timing the stock market jump, starting right after his election, would support this reasoning."

      There is truth to that.
      It's known as the "Confidence Fairy".
      It benefits commission brokers, and few others. It's merely a Big Casino.
      The person dreaming of a comfortable retirement today could be brought up short by a burst bubble after they quit work. It has happened before.
      Bill Gates lost $2Billion in one day.

  9. People who are concerned with social and economic issues beyond partisanship and devotion to particular candidates should consider that since the 60's the main strategy of Republicans has been to polarize people on racial, religious and other "social" lines. This is obviously a deliberate distraction from the way that Republicans push policies favoring big business and rich people in general. Should self-described "liberals" fall in with this plan and concentrate on the supposed and real differences between them and those who vote Republican? Or should they concentrate on economic issues (especially) on which interests and opinions are actually shared? Could it be possible that some of those - even just a few percent and Somerby says - who voted for Trump could be distracted from their racism and xenophobia?

    1. I think Clinton tried to do that. She would have succeeded if not for the Russian meddling and Comey.

    2. Also, the media,especially social media, is policy-averse.

  10. Can't wait for coverage of the resignation of the Governor of Alabama on the Rachel Maddow Show tonight.

    Bob would rather jump over a traffic cone on the George Washington Bridge entry ramps in Ft. Lee than mention it.

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