SNAPSHOTS OF A CULTURE: Four out of five Democrats can't all be wrong!


Sympathy for the bumpkins:
At least one reader of the New York Times saw value in David Brooks' column.

The column appeared on October 5. It presented an imaginary conversation between a Trump supporter (Flyover Man) and an unconvinced interlocutor (Urban Guy).

At least one reader thought he took value from the column's imaginary conversation. On Wednesday morning, the Times published five letters about the column. One of the letters said this:
To the Editor:

David Brooks’s imagined conversation with Flyover Man was quite telling. Those of us who consider ourselves liberals or even moderates need to listen with open minds. Heeding the wisdom of Mr. Brooks’s imaginings may be the only means of winning the election in 2020. We as liberals cannot continue to think (and act) as though we have all the answers. We simply do not! That kind of arrogance must end.

J— L— S—
West Thornton, Colo.
Where do they get these people? This writer's the type of self-loathing liberal who is prepared to deny the claim that we liberals "have all the answers!"

How should readers have reacted to the column in question? It's a bit hard to say.

The problem with imaginary conversations is the fact that someone has dreamed them up. The Brooks column didn't let us evaluate the thoughts of any real Trump supporter, of whom there are still tens of millions.

That doesn't mean the column is worthless. It makes it a bit harder to say how we should react.

The Times published four other letters about the column; they outvoted West Thornton Guy by a score of 4-1. We were struck by the way the column had seemed to the writer of this, the first of the five:
To the Editor:

David Brooks unabashedly ignores differences among America’s population in his imagined conversation between “Urban Guy” and “Flyover Man.” Americans outside the Beltway aren’t a homogeneous monolith. Lumping together Michigan factory workers, Arizona retirees, disenfranchised African-Americans, flood-ravaged Nebraska farmers and insolvent college students fails to reflect multiple differences of opinion and circumstance. These populations are far more disparate than Mr. Brooks’s East Coast media cohort.

Trump voters also are not a monolithic group. Assuming they’re all angry, underinformed bumpkins belies his support from greedy corporatists more concerned with personal wealth than national solutions. Where’s the fictional conversation with the C.E.O. aware that Mr. Trump is a traitorous grifter but voting for him to maintain his favorable tax rate? Dark money enriching Mr. Trump affects our democracy more than flyover angst.

W— J— A—
This writer seemed to think that Brooks' "Flyover Guy" was an "angry, underinformed bumpkin." Angrily, he wanted to know why Brooks hadn't written about the support Trump draws from rich corporate CEOs.

Phoenix Guy wasn't the only writer who felt that Brooks should have pursued a different topic. A writer from Chicago adopted this same style of complaint:
To the Editor:

Why is it always Flyover Man and Urban Guy? Doesn’t this conversation just add to the polarization in our nation rather than explain it? How about a conversation between Moderate Meg and Fundamentalist Florence or between Small-Town Sam and Big-City Sarah? Let’s hear some women’s voices discuss the Trump impeachment.

Instead of stridency and grievance—which we heard from David Brooks—I bet there would be more and quieter expressions of sorrow, loss and concern as we each struggle with our humanity and with the pain of who we are as a nation.

S— E— A—
Brooks was just adding to polarization! This writer wanted to hear "some women’s voices discuss[ing] the Trump impeachment."

We were struck by that request. Is there anyone who hasn't heard women complaining about Donald J. Trump? Of course, many women oppose impeachment. Is it possible that this irate writer was asking to hear from them?

In our view, major pseudo-liberal news orgs have shown amazingly little interest in asking why so many people supported, and still support, Trump. When newspaper have explored such topics, liberals have often responded by angrily insisting that such coverage should stop.

Full disclosure. Anthropologists have despondently told us that the human brain, such as it is, is wired precisely this way.

We're wired to loathe and avoid The Others, these top major experts have said. "Whatever you do, don't speak to Those People!" So our lizards are allegedly wired to tell us.

We can't say if these experts are right, but their East Coast credentials are daunting. Meanwhile, one other writer bluntly expressed her reaction to the imagined flyover Trump supporter:
To the Editor:

David Brooks’s characterizations of Trump supporters don’t elicit my sympathy. Struggle and disappointment are not unique to white Americans in the middle of the country. People everywhere deal with job loss, family chaos and communities coming apart. One of the things that makes urban-me mad is the fact that my kids can’t afford to live in this town where they—and I—grew up.

Whites in rural America have no special privilege to justify their nihilism.
Life is difficult for everyone. Deal with it. Grow up.

L— S—
Berkeley, Calif.
Nihilists be damned! She has no sympathy for the bumpkin! But is that was the column had sought?

Why did 63 million people vote for Donald J. Trump? Some voted for Trump due to their loathing for Hillary Clinton. This morning, our big newspapers are dribbling out the news about the probe of her emails—the topic those newspapers beat to death in 2016, even as tribal stars like Rachel Maddow refused to tackle the topic in any way or challenge Comey the God.

(Question: Are we bumpkins when we fail to see the topics this star keeps avoiding?)

Why do (various) people still support Donald J. Trump? We'd like to know more about that. Meanwhile, for a second trip to rural Arkansas, we'll recommend this week's column by Gene Lyons, a New Jersey man by birth.

A few Sundays back, Monica Potts took us to Van Buren County, where the locals are "very religious" and refuse to do what they're told by people with several degrees who are patiently trying to help them.

Just for the record, these are the "educated" people who sat on their ascots while Clinton was savaged for her emails as Our Own Rhodes Scholar refused to speak up or complain. They're the people who said nothing when Clinton was slimed as "Evita" and "Nurse Ratched" many long years before that.

Potts took us to Clinton, Arkansas, population 2500. Lyons takes us to Perry County, "just down the road from Clinton."

What are thee bumpkins in that county like? Lyons provides brief description.

As you may already know: Lyons is the author of Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater (1996), a book press elites knew they had to ignore. Four years later, he and Joe Conason wrote The Hunting of the President.

Because these books discussed the work of the upper-end mainstream press, the books had to be ignored. We intelligent liberals rolled right along, self-impressed to the end.

We decided to try to resist. But only after Trump won!


  1. So, dear Bob, you're alleging that that only 80% of your zombie cult are true brain-rotten zombies?

    Sorry, but I beg to differ. There's no doubt in my mind that they had to sift through hundreds, thousands of zombie letters, to find that one, from Colorado. Or, better yet, they simply fabricated it, for the 'balance'.

    As for the poor Psycho-Witch, The Queen of Warmongers, Embodiment of Corruption, and Personification of The Rot, may I suggest this cartoon for your viewing pleasure?

    1. Say whet you will about Mao being a moron, who couldn't think his way out of a room full of doors, but his gibberish is some of the smartest, and well thought-out mental meanderings ever written by a Conservative.

    2. Damned with faint praise!

      Soon Mao will leave us because his services will be needed by the Gabbard campaign.

    3. That is what I was thinking. How is Mao going to grift money next summer if Clinton spoils his Comrades 3rd party spoiler campaign to honor dear Russia...

  2. This idea that liberals think we have all the answers, that we are arrogant, is a straw man.

    It is obvious that no one has all the answers. I've never met a liberal who thought he or she had all the answers.

    But we are entitled to our views and we are also entitled to express them with forcefulness. We are allowed to be self-confident in our opinions. That isn't arrogance. We are allowed to advance reasons for thinking what we do.

    I see this argument of Somerby's as an extension of right-wing victimhood. If opposing views make conservatives feel picked on, that is not because liberals are being arrogant. It is because their expectation that everyone else should agree with them is wrong-headed.

    We already know that Somerby thinks professors are arrogant. Now he seems to think liberals are arrogant too. It seems like he thinks anyone with the courage of their convictions is being arrogant. But if we are not permitted to know our own minds, what is left to us of individuality, personality, identity? Maybe those things are what Somerby dislikes (in other people)? Take away people's right to have opinions and to express them and what remains is a totalitarian state, thought control, mindless obedience to authority, perhaps theocracy (the source of right-wing knowledge, aside from Ayn Rand). I will take liberal independence, even if it comes with a soupcon of "arrogance" because it represents liberty and I am still in favor of that, even for liberals.

    1. One thing is for sure, Trump will win in 2020.

      Hillary Clinton has to be the worst politician of all time. What she just did against Gabbard guarantees Trump's victory.

      She is the absolute worst.

    2. She may have been the worst (she isn't running now), but she was right. And she is probably right this time too. For all of her faults, she has had a habit of being right about things throughout her career.

      What exactly is Hillary campaigning for now? That's right, nothing. She has been working for charity and writing a book with her daughter. She HAS NO HORSE IN THIS RACE. But if she says Russia is up to its old tricks, I think we should listen and do something about it.

      A wide variety of sources has been pointing out the Russian media support and social media campaign in support of Tulsi Gabbard. It didn't take Clinton to point that out. It is obvious to anyone who will look.

      If something like this "guarantees Trump's victory" then Republicans are truly traitors, each and every Trump voters, because they are handing our government over to Russia and its hand-selected puppet. Someone might have been fooled in 2016, but the truth about Trump is obvious now and someone who ignores it and votes for that guy again doesn't care about America or its people.

  3. "Is there anyone who hasn't heard women complaining about Donald J. Trump?"

    Here Somerby evokes the trope that women talk too much, nag and whine and that men are tired of listening to them.

    And he talks about Trump's numerous sexual assaults as if they were something to "complain" about, and not actual serious crimes.

    And he ignores that the letter writer was asking for people like Brooks to channel women's voices, not for women to be allowed to talk. The "Chicago guy" was asking for women's voices to be represented by the media, where despite their stridency and number, women tend to be ignored, overlooked and numerically underrepresented, still.

    This is yet another example of Somerby's attitudes toward women poisoning what might otherwise be a plea for fair representation of all voices.

  4. "In our view, major pseudo-liberal news orgs have shown amazingly little interest in asking why so many people supported, and still support, Trump."

    This seems wrong, given that Trump is finally losing his support. He is losing support steadily among independents and his base is shrinking and Republicans in both the Senate and House are edging away from him.

    This isn't the time to be asking why people supported Trump. It is the time to rejoice that all those people are finally seeing the light (or their self-interest elsewhere).

  5. "Full disclosure. Anthropologists have despondently told us that the human brain, such as it is, is wired precisely this way."

    Anthropologists understand the difference between universals, things that are innate to being human and arise in similar ways from our shared humanity, and culture, that which humanity has created but which differs cross-culturally, arising from environment and context.

    Anthropologists would never agree with or approve of the way Somerby borrows their authority to give weight to his faulty opinions.

  6. " This morning, our big newspapers are dribbling out the news about the probe of her emails—the topic those newspapers beat to death in 2016, even as tribal stars like Rachel Maddow refused to tackle the topic in any way or challenge Comey the God."

    This is the point where Somerby should say that the investigation found, once again, that Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong in the handling of her emails, and that her staff likewise did nothing wrong. This investigation cleared her.

    Would it be too much for Somerby to mention that? Why does he omit it? Does he still think Hillary invited all those investigations, all that media focus? Does he wish to aid conservatives by preserving the fiction that Hillary's emails were a legitimate topic?

    Why is it such a big mouthful for Somerby to actually say that this investigation exonerated Hillary?

    Somerby makes me sick!

    1. 'Why is it such a big mouthful for Somerby to actually say that this investigation exonerated Hillary?'

      Because Somerby is now a Trumptard. QED

  7. Somerby recommends Lyons' column. Lyons ascribes a view to Potts that she didn't express, wanting to get away from Clinton as fast as she could (after choosing to go back there). Then he says about his own Arkansas small town:

    "Partly, I miss my cows and horses. I miss the quiet days, the nightly chorus of frogs and owls; the crows and red-shouldered hawks feuding over the east pasture; the bald eagles overhead."

    Notice that he doesn't say he misses the people. Inferring that he didn't like them as well as the wildlife would be the kind of unfairness he inflicts on Potts (with Somerby's approval).

    Potts didn't come home hoping to effect change. She came home to write a book about poor women. That depressed her, as it should since it is a depressing topic. Kind people should feel sad about the condition of the poor. And then Lyons accuses Potts of making a mistake by working through government instead of churches. Her secularism was her sin, in his Catholic eyes. And Somerby approves.

    This is not a liberal blog and Somerby is no liberal. And there are so many other things it is not.

  8. Lyons has written a modest paean to rural life.

    But part of the reason he liked it there was because he studiously avoided talking politics with anyone. The old saying was never talk about religion or politics.

    That’s a fine way to exist, if you think politics doesn’t matter or should never be discussed. Another saying that comes to mind is “ignorance is bliss.”

    Of course, because Lyons chose not to engage his neighbors in political discussions doesn’t mean his neighbors don’t have strong political opinions. They by and large do. He just chooses to avoid those kinds of discussions. Perhaps his neighbors would have treated him differently if they had known his political views, or his religious affiliation.

    Would he have publicly stated an opinion about that librarian’s salary? Once you do, you enter the political fray, unavoidably.

    It’s also worth noting that Lyons deems Potts’ views “over the top”, but he doesn’t condemn liberals in general. He isn’t a self-loathing liberal like Bob Somerby. He doesn’t even claim Potts is being condescending. He just presents an alternative view, even if it depends on remaining apolitical while living in rural Arkansas.

    1. “Potts, however, made the mistake of involving herself in local politics”

      This is the telling sentence from Lyons’ column. As long as you don’t involve yourself in local politics, you’ll be just fine!

      That is a blinkered view. The local residents *have* to be involved in local politics, unless they don’t care what happens in their community.

      Lyons lived like some remote observer, distantly viewing local politics, but apparently never involving himself in it.

      Of his helpful neighbors, he writes:
      “I’ve no idea who either man voted for, nor even if they did. It wasn’t anything we talked about.”

      And therein lies a problem.

  9. I liked Lyons' column a lot. However, I didn't agree with his comment "Republican dogma that low taxes are the key to prosperity. It’s never worked."

    I think his POV is an example of liberal dogma. There's no way to say for certain that high taxes don't reduce overall prosperity IMHO. The impact of taxes on prosperity is very difficult to measure. So many other factors affect prosperity. Also, it's hard to separate cause and effect: poor people may not be able to afford high taxes.

    1. High taxes is certainly the key component for prosperity of government bureaucrats.

      Other than that, yes, it depends on a bunch of things, for example the alternative methods to raise government revenues (like liquor monopoly in NH), and, obviously, on what politicians do with your tax money.

      Well, typically, they tend to funnel it to their sponsors and supporters. Perhaps Mr Lyons is used to getting his share of the loot...

    2. Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire.

    3. Also, it's hard to separate cause and effect: poor people may not be able to afford high taxes.
      Huh? Poor people, for the most part, are not concerned about taxes. Taxes do not affect the standard of living of wage peons, who are, fundamentally, not in control of their livelihoods. If all of my federal taxes were to disappear tomorrow, my wages would be reduced by a commensurate amount the day after tomorrow.

  10. Someone needs to interview all of these Trump supporters now because in a few years it will be impossible to find anyone who will admit to having supported him.

  11. We need to take Clinton's accusation against Gabbard seriously. The Russians suffered no consequences for meddling in the 2016 election, so they are doing it again. This time, instead of Jill Stein, they have recruited Tulsi Gabbard and she will be used to pull votes away from whoever becomes the nominee. It worked last time, so why not try it again?

    Instead, as Zerlina Maxwell points out, people are letting their feelings about Clinton interfere with their ability to see what Russia is doing, right in front of our noses.

    Wake up folks!

    1. What preface is there for HRC’s claim? I’ve read the charge, but no one explains the basis for it.

    2. I obviously don't know why HRC is saying this, but here is a rundown of why others on the internet have been saying this for quite some time now:

    3. Here is what CNN says:

      "Clinton did not provide proof about how Russia is "grooming" Gabbard. She and her team pointed to allegations that Russian news and propaganda sites often report on Gabbard's campaign and that moments in Gabbard's campaign have been reportedly amplified by trolls and bots on Twitter with ties to Russia. Gabbard has denied those allegations.
      "They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far," Clinton said.
      Clinton's team also noted that some of Gabbard's foreign policy views align closely with Russian interests."

    4. Here is some more background on why Clinton made such an accusation:

    5. And here is some more background on Gabbard:

    6. Whadda buncha BM.

    7. There's no proof. It's a disgusting move by Clinton.

    8. The proof is the Mueller Report. There were no consequences following that subversion of our electoral system. There is no reason to believe that both the Russians and Trump aren't going to try the same thing again.

      And they will succeed because people are more focused on hating Hillary than on protecting the next electoral process.

      As Clinton pointed out, both she and Robby Mook tried to sound the alarm. She is doing that again now, and this time she has nothing to gain from being a lightning rod for the Hillary haters. WE need to take this seriously and do something about the attack on our democratic system, or we will have Trump again or someone worse -- someone who is both evil and competent.

  12. Is a “Russian asset” someone who intentionally advances Russian policy and influence or is the term now synonyms with “useful idiot”?

    1. "asset (intelligence) Any resource--person, group, relationship, instrument, installation, or supply--at the disposition of an intelligence organization for use in an operational or support role."

      The key is that the person called an asset is at the disposal or use of the foreign intelligence operation. That fits both Trump and Gabbard.

    2. 5:55pm, thanks for input as to intentionality.

  13. 'We decided to try to resist. But only after Trump won!'

    If 'we' had followed Somerby's playbook, we would have become Trumptards.

  14. Four out of five democrats -- isn't that too small a sample to draw any conclusions from?

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