A story Jonathan Capehart likes!


A dream of death panels restored:
We've never met Jonathan Capehart. Observed through the screen, he has always struck us as a very nice, good decent person.

He has also always struck us as a person who could write an opinion piece like the one which appears in this morning's hard-copy Washington Post.

It appears beneath an awful headline. To read the piece, click here:

"The real reason working-class whites continue to support Trump"

That's the headline above Capehart's piece. Questions:

Do some working-class whites support Donald J. Trump? Or do they all support him?

Are there various reasons for that support? Or is there just one real reason?

That headline blows past both these questions, in a way which reminds us of a highly counterintuitive point: In much of our upper-end journalism, practitioners seem to lack even the most basic intellectual scruples and skills.

That headline wasn't encouraging. In his actual text, Capehart says that someone has finally helped him understand Those People, the ones who didn't vote the way he did last year:
CAPEHART (6/7/17): Unlike anyone I’ve read or talked to since the November election, Justin Gest has helped me to really understand why President Trump won white working-class voters and hasn’t thus far lost their support. In the latest episode of “Cape Up,” we discuss the George Mason University professor’s new book, “The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality."
As it turns out, Capehart's guru is Assistant Professor Gest, a youngish scholar who graduated from Harvard in 2004.

In fairness, a reader can't necessarily blame Capehart's column on Assistant Professor Gest. We have no transcript of the various things Gest may have said to Capehart. All we have is some quoted remarks, as selected by Capehart.

That said:

As quoted, Gest takes Capehart straight to the Those People Are Racists file. We expect to discuss this file in more detail next week. But Capehart is thumbing through it today, in a rather remarkable manner. When the rubber starts hitting the road, Capehart quotes Gest saying this:
CAPEHART: That doesn’t mean race doesn’t play a major role for the white working class. “Much of white working-class politics has been to create distinction with a group that they thought they were above,” Gest told me. “So much of American history has been white voters seeking to reinstate ways to subordinate people of ethno-religious and ethno-racial difference.”
The highlighted statement is certainly accurate. That said, this statement about this nation's political history doesn't nail down any facts about votes which were cast last year.

Capehart isn't bothered by that as he paints with his very broad brush. Amazingly, astoundingly, he ends his short piece with this:
CAPEHART (continuing directly): Listen to the podcast to hear this important and provocative conversation about how economic dislocation and demographic changes are fueling discomfort and desperation among white working-class voters. While Gest says that both Republicans and Democrats have exploited these voters, he sees a way forward.

“The only way of addressing their plight is a form of political hospice care,” he said. “These are communities that are on the paths to death. And the question is: How can we make that as comfortable as possible?”
According to Capehart, those remarkable highlighted comments represent Gest's "way forward." As quoted, it isn't quite a "final" solution, but it comes darn close.

Those highlighted comments are simply astounding. Did Capehart, an all-too-"Amurrican" journalist, actually notice or care?

Concerning what was actually said: What did the assistant professor actually say?

Capehart provides a link to his award-winning podcast, Cape Up. You can check what was actually said.

For ourselves, we were astounded and chastened by what appeared right there in the Post. Can a continental nation function this way?

We'd say the odds are not good.


  1. You'd think a college educated man like Somerby could handle a metaphor about economic dislocation, especially after he's been ranting about coal country discontent ever since the election. Now he pretends to be obtuse because Capehart interviewed an assistant professor.

    Alternet has pointed out that white middle class voters are not the majority of Trump voters. But they have been getting the lion's share of attention (not talking about any actual lions Bob).

  2. Questions: Do some working-class whites support Donald J. Trump? Or do they all support him? Are there various reasons for that support? Or is there just one real reason? That headline blows past both these questions

    Coincidentally, my wife (also a math person) and I were just discussing the problem when quantities are not identified. If journalists studied more math, this sort of ambiguity wouldn't happen.

    1. Philosophy majors too. Does it really matter how many people are being described when someone is discussing the concerns of a specific, clearly defined segment among voters? Gest and Capehart are discussing the people they have said they are talking about. Whether they are a minority or majority of Trump voters isn't the topic and doesn't have to be.

    2. The "ambiguity" doesn't happen because of innumeracy, it happen's because they're selling a product with certain characteristics. The writers (Capehart and Gest) don't believe a thing they're saying. They are not arguing in good faith. They're salesmen who are paid to sell a product.

  3. Not this one, buddy.

  4. The metaphor is about dying towns not people.

  5. Booman Tribune said when Dems say free college!, working class says how about better paying jobs that do not require college? I have been to thousands of factories over the years. These folks have been under assault the whole time. Company sold to an investment group, everyone is fired, those that are re-hired have their wages cut in half, benefits stripped, and the Union is long gone. Neither party has come to their direct aid, but repubs have convinced many their problems are because of those people - immigrants, blahs, and related. (Obamacare comes closest to helping them, but is seen as a gift to those people, not them.)

    1. Free college is a horrible idea, since the critical thinking skills of most who graduate from college now, even the elite schools, do not improve, or become worse. A college degree is no longer evidence of an education.


    2. It is evidence of ability to read, write, and follow complicated instructions, work in groups, give a talk, and often, do math. Many have real skills, such as ability to play a musical instrument, write a computer program, analyze a chemical compound, keep a set of books, etc. It is fashionable to sell young people short but their earning ability is the best testament to their value to employers -- it keeps going up.

    3. Thank you for your comment, Mart. Now we're getting to a potentially useful area of discussion. Why is our economy structured in a way that is, albeit ever more spectacularly, rewarding fewer and fewer people and leaving "the rest" behind?

      The Clinton/Obama crowd will tell you it's not the system's fault, it's just that most of "the rest" didn't get themselves properly educated and what they really need at this point is a student loan; though some of "the rest" do belong to a victimized class and, therefore, justice demands a precious few of them should be numbered among the successful.

      What's been completely lost sight of is what the two paramount objectives for the political economy to deliver in a democratic society should be: sustainability and widespread prosperity.

      Instead what Democrats have been selling since the rise of the DLC (the Third Way, the New Democrats, the Clinton Democrats) is that neo-liberalism is the true religion and, except where white male sin has prevented some patches of Eden from getting proper irrigation, that "the judgments of the [Market] are true and righteous altogether."

      Enough with this dead end Obama/Clintonism. Democrats, find your way back to the better angels of your nature.


      Give me that old time religion
      Give me that old time religion
      Give me that old time religion
      It's good enough for me

      Makes me love everybody
      Makes me love everybody
      Makes me love everybody
      It's good enough for me

    4. The Clinton/Obama crowd was trying to make community colleges free and create more jobs programs at that level. Obama especially was focused on community college job training programs. Clinton emphasized that in her higher education plan (along with reducing college loan interest rates). Bernie was the one offering free college to tuition to all, thus solidifying the 18-21 yo vote. Clinton was also against for-profit colleges.

      Neither Clinton nor Obama believed that four-year college was for everyone. But there is no reason why someone who has been laid off and cannot find another job cannot retrain at a local community college. That's how people get new jobs or change careers or find a way to make more money in their existing job, or find their way to a four-year public university without spending an arm and a leg. And many people, including elders, attend community college for recreational purposes and to meet people, learn a new hobby, stay busy.

      But you apparently think that staying stupid and moaning about it is the key to success.

    5. Anon @ 8:02 - CMike's not much more than a David-in-Cal type troll who's happy to have helped elect Trump.

    6. Nice link CMike, all three parts are worth listening to. It would be nice if the economically displaced and disadvantaged could simply earn a certificate from a community college and all would be well, but it doesn't always quite work that way. The economy just isn't producing the decent paying jobs needed to meet the demand.

      Thomas Frank covered meritocracy in his most recent book Listen, Liberal!

    7. You don't wait around doing nothing hoping for a "decent paying" job. You take what you can get and prepare for something better. Even a one-semester class in keyboarding gives you another skill to put on your application.

      If you cannot figure out how to get hired, how will you be able to any job?

    8. 9:22 PM writes:

      >>>...The economy just isn't producing the decent paying jobs needed to meet the demand.<<<

      An insight that accurate is rare to find in a thread at the Howler.

      As for that Thomas Frank guy, didn't he used to be some sort of a darling of the Clinton crowd after his "What's the Matter with Kansas"? He must have gone off the rails since then, you never see that guy via the MainStreamMedia any more.

      At the link in my earlier comment, Walter Benn Michaels refers to a satirical novel by Michael Young (b. 1915 d. 2002) about whom
      Wikipedia says:

      >>>During an active life he was instrumental in shaping Labour Party thinking. When secretary of the policy committee of the Labour Party he was responsible for drafting "Let Us Face the Future", Labour's manifesto for the 1945 general election, was a leading protagonist on social reform, and founded or helped found a number of socially useful organisations.<<<

      Here's Young himself in 2001 [my emphasis]:

      [QUOTE] I have been sadly disappointed by my 1958 book, The Rise of the Meritocracy. I coined a word which has gone into general circulation, especially in the United States, and most recently found a prominent place in the speeches of Mr Blair. The book was a satire meant to be a warning (which needless to say has not been heeded) against what might happen to Britain between 1958 and the imagined final revolt against the meritocracy in 2033....

      In the new social environment, the rich and the powerful have been doing mighty well for themselves. They have been freed from the old kinds of criticism from people who had to be listened to. This once helped keep them in check - it has been the opposite under the Blair government.

      The business meritocracy is in vogue. If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they can get.

      They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody's son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side.

      So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they arrogate to themselves. The old restraints of the business world have been lifted and, as the book also predicted, all manner of new ways for people to feather their own nests have been invented and exploited.... [END QUOTE]

    9. Don't you feel silly taking a satire so seriously?

    10. Bernie bought a new dacha right after the election and now has a 3/4 $million book deal. He sounds like he's joined the elite to me. You should be feeling kinda duped right now. You were.

    11. Sanders makes $174,000 annually from his Senate salary and his Social Security benefits. He's long been a high earner, everybody knows that.

      I supported him because of his long history advocating for social democratic policies,* the specific domestic policies he proposed during the 2005/2006 presidential campaign, and in spite of some of his military and foreign policy positions. I'm not a purist.

      *Sanders is an old school American social democrat, he refers to himself incorrectly as a democratic socialist. I guess he uses that latter term either because of some confusion on his part about its meaning or, more likely, he has chosen to overtly embrace his association with the left and doesn't want to sound like he's relying on a semantic distinction to cover that up. He doesn't want to be explaining constantly that he's not a socialist, but rather a social democrat, i.e. he believes in regulated capitalism with some elements of redistribution which is much in the tradition of yesteryear's New Deal/Great Society Democrats.

  6. Martin Longman at Booman Tribune has been doing some serious thinking about this subject and the best way forward for Democrats. It's a very thorny issue, and although I think both Longman and Somerby do great work, I keep wondering if what they're (especially Somerby) saying is that it's not helpful to blame racism/xenophobia, even if that's really a big underlying factor. I guess that I agree that liberals often don't present their case in a helpful manner, but if we're talking about the truth I can't help but feel that at least tolerance of racist attitudes and actions is a significant trait of Trump supporters.

    1. Better trolls, please.

    2. Let me ask you something ...
      Upon realizing a foul odor in a crowded elevator, do you:
      a. act surprised
      b. deny your involvement
      c. blame it on the person to your left
      d. all of the above

      If you chose d., then you should visit my favorite website - mrmethane.com

      Thank you for your time.

  7. "The few remaining racists in the country...tipped the election to Trump. In their defense, Trump, like every major Republican politician since Ronald Reagan, wooed them heavily.

  8. The few remaining racists in the country...tipped the election to Trump. In their defense, Trump, like every major Republican politician since Ronald Reagan, wooed them heavily.
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