WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2021
Trump voters support it too: Does that ancient Dylan lyric capture the state of the nation?
As we noted yesterday, the lyric in question went exactly like this:
Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
’Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along
Seems sick an’ it’s hungry, it’s tired an’ it’s torn
It looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born.
The song was beautifully written, very beautifully sung; we'll suggest that you give it a listen. The year was 1961. The singer was 20 years old.
That said, do the highlighted lyrics capture the current state of the nation? To the extent that it remains a nation, can it perhaps be said that our nation "seems sick an’ it’s hungry, it’s tired an’ it’s torn?" That it "looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born?"
Does our nation look like that, to the extent that it can be described as a nation? Consider some results of a recent survey by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
We first saw this survey cited by Henry Olsen, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post. Below, you see the headline atop Olsen's October 1 column, along with his (accurate) account of one of the survey's findings:
Our republic is gravely sick. A new poll confirms it.
Substantial numbers of Americans in each camp are even willing to break up the country. Forty-one percent of Biden voters and 52 percent of Trump voters say the “situation in America is such” that they would favor Blue or Red states “seceding from the union to form their own country."
Say what? Forty-one percent of Biden voters, and 52 percent of The Others, say they would favor secession? That's a whole lot of "treason," given the way our own tribe's "thought leaders," such as they are, tend to categorize secession, if only when practiced by Others.
Reading his column, it's clear that Olsen doesn't favor secession. On Monday, a writer from our own tribe's side of the aisle cited that same UVa survey and voiced that same point of view.
Ed Kilgore discussed the same survey at New York magazine's Intelligencer site. Below, you see the headline on his piece, and his nugget description:
There’s growing sentiment for secession, particularly on the right. It should be rejected.
Acknowledging a national political and cultural divide does not, however, mean jumping to the conclusion that the United States would be better off just calling it a day after 245 years. That view is, however, a growing sentiment among Americans, especially in MAGA Land, as some recent polling suggests. A new University of Virginia Center for Politics poll found that 52 percent of Trump voters said they now favored red states “seceding from the union to form their own separate country,” compared with 41 percent of Biden voters who said the same about blue states.
Ed Kilgore opposes secession / separation too. That said, we couldn't help noting the lightly tribalized way he framed the situation:
This undesirable desire for secession is "a growing sentiment among Americans, especially in MAGA Land," Kilgore said.
You can call that statement technically accurate, because in one sense it plainly is. Given the remarkable pair of numbers which emerged from that survey,, we'd also be inclined to call it a modest form of TribalSpeak.
Remember: According to mandated hard tribal law, things must always be worse Over There.
Do that many people really favor secession in some serious way? We have no idea.
That said, it's strange to see a serious person like Kilgore forced to say, in all seriousness, that he doesn't favor secession / separation. Here he is, apparently feeling forced to articulate a truly remarkable viewpoint:
KILGORE (10/4/21): But this Union is still worth fighting for, no matter how frustrated we all are with congressional chaos, with elections that feel like nuclear exchanges, and with “debates” taking place between people who can barely communicate with each other. I’m not willing to peacefully give up our Constitution, abused and abusive as it has sometimes been; our Capitol with its surly bureaucrats and devious pols; or the bonds of kinship and history that connect me with so many red-state people, much as we disagree on most everything other than college football and fried food.
So I say to the would-be secessionists: Please don’t go. And if it’s somehow in my power, I won’t let you go. I have no illusions of compromises yet untried or “third ways” left unexplored. So let’s have it out right here in America as peacefully as we can manage.
For the record, we don't disagree with Kilgore. But the remarkable data to which he's responding are part of what we've had in mind when we've said that "silent secessions" have already taken place, and when we've said we find it hard to see a good way out of our current mess.
Do that many people actually favor some serious sort of secession? We have no idea, but we will say this:
During the period when these sentiments have been forming, our own blue tribe may have losing a bit of ground among the national electorate.
Last November, after four years of Donald J. Trump, Democratic candidates were able to attract only 50.8% of the vote in our nation's 435 elections for the House of Representatives.
Twelve years earlier, as Obama was being elected, Democratic candidates had been able to do much better. But even after four years of Trump, that was the best our blue tribe could manage to do last fall.
Frustration in the face of such results may be fueling desire for "treason" over here within our blue tents. In a dimly rational world, those results might also fuel a bit of curiosity—curiosity about why that many people would still be supporting the party of Trump.
As far as that goes, Candidate Trump got 46.9 percent of the nationwide vote himself, as opposed to 51.3 percent for Candidate Biden—and if you take away Biden's massive advantage on California, the vote totals are amazingly close to even in The Other 49.
In a rational world, curiosity might be aroused about all those votes for Trump and the party of Trump. Why did people vote that way? Why would they vote for him?
A news report in today's New York Times discusses a new analysis of that question. By and large, though, our own blue tribe has tended to react to such inquiries with anger, telling news orgs that they should stop interviewing Those People and reporting their points of view.
How does the state of the nation look to all those Trump voters? Last week, Kevin Drum offered a type of subjective appraisal.
In this post, he offered his view of the way a particular proposal must look to voters in Iowa and Ohio—by which he meant, to the kinds of voters who have swung over to Trump. In this way, Drum was suggesting an answer to this very basic question:
How Do We Look To Them?
We all know How They Look To Us. As a general matter, our tribe's "thought leaders," such as they are, tend to reassure us with this explanation of those peculiar vote totals:
Amerika is crawling with racists.
That's the way They Look To Us—but how do We Look To Them?
Tomorrow, we'll consider Drum's assessment. We'll also review this subsequent post, in which Drum asks a similar question.
How do we look to those pro-Trump voters? Under prevailing circumstances, that strikes us as an almost existential question. Next week, we plan to explore that question in embarrassing, depressing detail.
Can our nation remain a nation? Can it function as a nation? In part, it all depends on The Way They Look to Us, and on The Way We Look to Them.
At present, our view tilts toward the gloomy. Concerning our "nation," it seems sick and it’s hungry, it’s tired and it’s torn. To us, it almost looks like it’s a-dyin’—and it’s hardly been born!
Tomorrow: Attention Iowa voters!