INFIRMITIES AND DELUSIONS: Biden voters support secession!


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!


  1. "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."

    These are not the words of a 20 year old. These are the words of a wannabe folk singer imitating Guthrie by trying to sound world-weary, but it is a pose.

    Woody Gutrie, toward the time he was rambling around the country, was showing symptoms of the Huntington's Chorea that would take his life. He was self-medicating with alcohol and singing for his dinner, but subject to cognitive decline and emotional upset. It is unclear whether Dylan (at age 20), knew this about him. That doesn't lessen the importance of his contribution, but it does reflect tragedy that is perhaps being romanticized by Dylan, and cynically used by Somerby here.

    The world was not dying, although Guthrie tragically was, at too young an age. Somerby shits all over the things that matter to actual 60s liberals.

    1. I wonder how much of Somerby’s angst over America’s death is influenced by the weariness over covid death around us. I suspect Somerby’s depression has very little to do with politics.

    2. It's because he hates blacks and women.

    3. Conservatives have a greater fear of death than liberals. It partially explains their covid denial. I think Somerby is projecting his internal state onto the world, not just anthropologists in caves and, now, Bob Dylan.

    4. Right, Anonymouse 11:49am, and when noticing that our civic life is imitating “fiction”, we should always remember that George Orwell was dying of TB.

    5. I don't think our civic life is imitating 1984. For one thing, neo-Nazis would never be tolerated in an authoritarian society and there wouldn't be 2nd Amendment rights either. And there would be no question about taking a shot if Big Brother required it. And the Republican obstructionism wouldn't be permitted to exist either.

      That speculation about Orwell comes from a bacteriologist, not a psychologist.

    6. Anonymouse 9:24pm, good to know that authoritarian societies are picky about their authoritarians.

      My condolences on all the political “obstructionists” and the as yet ungulaged vax refuseniks.

  2. "We first saw this survey cited by Henry Olsen, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post."

    Somerby just laps this stuff up.

  3. We look like people who made same-sex marriage legal, to mock men and women marrying.

    1. The Bible was the first to knock men and women marrying.

    2. You can only consider same-sex marriage a mockery if you don’t regard gays and lesbians as real people with the same feelings as heterosexual couples.

      In general, it is hard to regard The Others as people with the same feelings as us. They lack empathy, for one thing.

    3. Corby, you unfailingly…fail…to ascertain that your comments are ripe with the fanaticism you pin on others.

    4. You have no idea what I ascertain or do not ascertain. I don't consider it "fanatacism" to consider and treat all people as human beings.

      The Republican deficit in empathy isn't my idea. It has been empirically studied by psychologists. Further, you have displayed it many times here yourself. Even so, I would never begrudge you the right to marry whomever you choose. Republicans are the ones who are too mean-spirited to bake a cake for two people in love.

    5. Corby, how difficult for you was America circa 2008 when President Obama displayed the same nasty and mean tendency to advocate for a position based upon a Judeo-Christian tradition?

      He also harbored the notion that traditional families were the natural default institution that should be enshrined as the norm.

      Now days we are told that it’s normal for people to go up an escalator thinking that they’re a man and come down the other side as a woman.

      Maybe give the great unwashed a little time to get to your level of moral perfection.

      If only for Obama.

    6. If only for Hillary Clinton (2008)

  4. "Say what? Forty-one percent of Biden voters, and 52 percent of The Others, say they would favor secession?"

    The Blue states would benefit financially from such a deal. As in the 1800's, the Red states would be impoverished because they would be unable to support themselves. Even in CA, where such succession plans have been on the ballot several times, the red counties that wish to secede are the least prosperous, least populated, and would have the least means to support themselves as an independent state, much less a country.

    Somerby can count the Biden voters who approve of secession as "good riddance" votes. Now that the Red States are the ones who will not cooperate with public health measures to control covid, I am surprised that any blue voters would oppose secession!

    Somerby doesn't mention the main objection to secession -- both red and blue voters are intermixed in most states, so that separation would not be geographically practical because both types of voters live together in nearly all states. The urban blue areas of Washington cannot be easily detached from the rural red areas, and there are red voters in the cities and blue ones in rural areas too. Separation would require some sort of mass migration that many people would not wish to undertake, leaving us with two separate countries comprised of both red and blue voters, much as we have now, only smaller. What would be the point of that?

    1. And they would become extinct, because they would pass laws against masks and vaccines.

  5. "Remember: According to mandated hard tribal law, things must always be worse Over There."

    As Somerby just noted, things ARE worse "Over There". That isn't by mandated tribal law, but what the stats show. If we were saying they were worse when they are not, Somerby would have a point. But complaining because we say things are worse when they actually are, just doesn't make any sense, much less demonstrate the existence of a law.

    Try again, Somerby.

  6. Quite a few of my liberal friends have been considering individual secession -- they are thinking about (or even planning) to leave the US for a more reasonable country to live in, permanently. Some find our country disgusting, some ridiculous, and some are frightened about the violence and inability to control covid here. The survey doesn't measure that sentiment, but I hear debates at social gatherings about whether Portugal is better than Costa Rica and how to negotiate Canada's point system for emigration.

    I find this more worrisome than half-baked secession plans that are mostly threats or excuses for caching guns. The people who have the resources to leave may just do so, resulting in a kind of brain-drain or talent loss, like that experienced by other countries (to our gain). Patience for nonsense is becoming exhausted and the ones who leave will be better than the ones who stay.

  7. Somerby italicizes this without citing a source:

    "Amerika is crawling with racists."

    But who said this? I don't hear this said among the liberals I know. It is obviously true when we see images of the alt-right gathering in Charlottesville. Those people are racists. It is also true when we see daily news accounts of black people being harassed for going about everyday activities and Tesla losing a lawsuit for $137 M due to racism. But I don't see anyone referring to the US as Amerika -- who is doing that? And who is calling everyone racist? I don't see that either, unless this is the right's generalization of systemic racism (which is demonstrably real) to individual people?

    This phrase sounds to me like a caricature of the left's concern over social justice. It sounds like a defensive reaction to demands for change in how minoriies are being treated, heard as an accusation that no one is making in such a manner, if at all. On the left, anti-racism is about making life fair, not about blaming white people, but that is what the right tends to translate such efforts into. I don't see how the left is responsible for that misconception, invented to defend itself from the need to change.

    So, when Somerby pretends that this is how the right sees the left, he needs to be clear about (1) is such a perception real, true; and (2) is it a tactic to mischaracterize the left; and (3) what response is owed such a mistaken perception, especially if motivated by hostility?

    I frankly don't care how the right sees the left. I care about what is happening to those who bear the brunt of mistreatment in our society. That isn't white people in Red states, no matter how hard Somerby works to portray them as victims.

  8. Blue states should split, leaving the fools behind.

    1. People in blue states don't believe in abandoning those in need. That's why so many hospitals in blue states have been accepting ICU patients from the red states with no room for them.

    2. They're smarter and more moral.

    3. Let’s stay together, baby, we’ve gotten this far.

  9. "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."

    No, it doesn't depend on this at all. It depends on whether people can get along with other people who are different than they are. That is the heart of multiculturalism.

    The right seems to want to turn this into a Christian evangelist nation, with room only for people who adhere to God's rules in their theocracy. That never was America and I hope it will never be. But, when that is the goal held by others, there is no room for coexistence. And that is not my fault -- it IS theirs.

    Republicans have shown no good faith effort to govern in a bipartisan manner. They have been holding our country hostage in an effort to force others to enact their agenda. That is not my fault, and it is not the fault of Democrats. The Republicans are to blame for the difficulty Democrats have been having addressing our nation's needs. I am not going to pretend that Republicans have a point of view, other than obstructing in order to prevent Democratic action.

    To the extent that this country has become dysfunctional, the Republicans are to blame, along with the Trump supporters and Trump himself. They couldn't be doing more damage to our nation if that were their main goal and every action were directed to achieving our downfall.

    This needs to change, but the solution is NOT for liberals to compromise with conservatives. The more we "listen" to The Others, the more we are complicit in our own downfall. And Somerby is part of the problem, not the solution.

  10. "our Capitol with its surly bureaucrats and devious pols"

    What an ugly perception of career public servants!

    No one would ever call Lauren Boebert "devious". She is stupid, undereducated, self-serving and narcissistic, but hardly devious since what-you-see-is-what-you-get with her. Mainly, she lacks any service ethos and does not know how to serve her constituents or care whether she does so. Same for many other Republicans. Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lindsay Graham, and too many others to name. McConnell may be devious, but mainly he too is just following a straight-line toward obstructing everything. He doesn't bother trying to pass any legislation. His efforts are just to curtail the activities of any Republican with an impulse to compromise with Dems.

    So-called deviousness in politics consists of manipulating the rules to achieve results for the American people, balancing competing needs for available resources. It doesn't exist in an environment where nothing can be done because Republicans have decided to gum up the works because they are not the majority party. That isn't devious. It is tantrum-throwing obstinacy by people who have long abandoned any desire to help the people of our nation via government.

    The people who should be prosecuted for treason are those who have decided to blow up the government. These people exist on the right, not the left.

  11. I guess Somerby doesn't know that there have been actual studies of Trump voters that show that racism is their primary motive for voting for him.

  12. Reading through the same drooling comments struggling for relevancy is a daily torture I could do without.

    These comments, apparently from mainly the same person due to the consistent good grammar, high vocabulary, but totally vapidity... they are definitely suffering from a very high level Dunning–Kruger effect.

    1. "The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area."

      Which of the comments above makes any estimate of their own knowledge or ability? I don't see any.

      You disagree with someone, but rather than express your own opinion or make a counter-argument or analysis of your own, you just call names, in this case using Dunning-Kruger, a phenomenon you don't seem to understand very well.

      If you don't like reading comments here, there is nothing forcing you to do it. People are here to express their opinions -- that's what comments are for. Just bashing others isn't the same as expressing your own opinions. Why not do some drooling of your own?

      I'm not convinced you know what the word vapidity means either. It isn't a synonym for "I disagree with this." It means: "lacking or having lost life, sharpness, or flavor; insipid; flat." Whatever the flaws of the arguments in the comments above, being flat or lifeless doesn't describe them. It just makes you sound like you are grabbing a handful of insults and throwing them at the wall.

    2. There are some people among The Others who consider "good grammar" and "high vocabulary" to be insults, elitism, a reason to hate liberals (who tend to be more educated). Maybe that's how these comments look to Rationalist?

    3. Those comments are totally flat and lifeless, without flavor. They read like an output of an AI!

      As far as D-K effect, it's pretty simple. If you overestimate your skills of analysis and breaking down arguments you're going to make comments built on the assumption that you actually know what you are talking about. But I fear I'm just feeding the beast by explaining these things, there's really no value in continuing this dialog. It's a misguided attempt to raise the level of conversation in the comments.

    4. Good grammar and vocabulary are great tools when used to produce meaningful and relevant commentary.

    5. Says the guy who flings poo like a chimpanzee.

  13. No, Bob. We have a nation of minions whose ideas have been formed by the corporate oligarchs who own the mass media and the maniacal fundamentalist churches. Americans get their ideas from those two places. That's why the American people are as helpless as a kitten up a tree, and just as stupid. That line, from the song Misty from 1959, is far more apt to our situation.

    1. Nice, Gloucon... good to see you around again.

  14. "...but how do We Look To Them?"

    We don't know who exactly 'Them' are, but to us, unfortunately, your comrades look like a liberal-hitlerian cult, dear Bob.

  15. 'And if you take away Biden's massive advantage on California,'

    As usual, Somerby repeats the Trumptard talking point that California is somehow not part of the USA. Is Somerby naive ? Is he ignorant ? Is he a moron ? We can't say. Personally, we think he is a lying, moron so stupid that he thinks he can somehow pretend to be a liberal rather than the Trumptard that he obviously is.

    Oh, and Kevin was writing specifically about the infra/other bill, and suggesting that Dems compromise and pass it. When a letter writer mentioned the same and the NYT published it, Somerby went on a rant about their letter page for publishing that. What a liar.

    1. Centrist, Somerby was the last person I imagined parroting this argument, that California's vote total needs to be shrunk by X number of votes in other to analyze elections.

  16. Someday rarely says stupid things. Today, he did. He said that if we don't count many Californians, then Biden and Trump are extremely close.
    But why not erase Trump voters in a combination of red states, totaling the same number of dismissed Californians?
    For someone arguing against secession, Somerby sounds very tribal.

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