OTHERS AND US: Charles Blow, by the numbers!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

The Others are all just alike: During the 2016 White House race, Candidate Hillary Clinton made an unfortunate statement. 

Her unfortunate statement became quite famous. The statement proceeded like this:

CLINTON (9/9/16): You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. 

(Laughter/applause

Right? 

(Laughter/applause) 

They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. 

He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.

Let's be fair! At some point, everyone who's running for office will make some sort of unfortunate comment. 

As it turned out, this comment attracted a great deal of attention. Also, we'd have to say this:

The comment captures the way the Others are often perceived and described by Us. And so, of course, it  always has been, down through the annals of time.

Let's be fair! Clinton only said that half of Donald Trump's voters qualified for residence in "the basket of deplorables." 

(What percentage were "irredeemable?" That was completely unclear!)

That said, Clinton was now saying that roughly one quarter of American voters were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic." 

"You name it," she said when she finished her list. And over here, in our failing blue tribe, we quite frequently do!

This is the way the modern-day Others are routinely described by Us. As such, we'd have to say that the modern-day "democratization of media" has created a type of rhetorical standoff:

Many Others believe the craziest things. We say that the Others are racists. 

Briefly, we'll be honest. It's hard for us to make a choice between those two approaches. 

Each approach strikes us as transparently undesirable. That's especially true when you see the ways our own blue tribe is routinely willing to invent, disappear or massage basic facts to advance our race-based narratives.

At any rate, Candidate Clinton said that half the Others were deplorables. Especially when we're given no way to identify such fallen people, such comments will always be heard to be referring to all.

So it was with Joe Biden's recent blood-red, imprecise comments about "these extreme MAGA Republicans"—people who, he chillingly said, are "committed to destroying America." 

Biden said that he was likely referring to fewer than half of the Others—but his remarkable blood-red assertions may been even more aggressive than Clinton's. In our view, when a politician makes a statement like that, he needs to be especially careful to say who he's talking about.

The uproar over Biden's remarks has tended to dissipate in the past few weeks. It may be that people have come to assume that he was talking about Republican office-holders and officials, not the Republican rank and file.

On Labor Day, he seemed to signal that distinction. In our view, the president should have been much more precise. 

We think he should have been more precise in what he said about the Others. But along the way, reaction to Biden's remarks has tended to demonstrate an interesting fact about Us. 

Consider the Labor Day column by Charles Blow. In his column, the Timesman complained about the fact that Biden had said that his denunciation wasn't aimed at everyone who ever voted for Trump.

Online, Blow's column appears beneath this headline:

Biden Shouldn’t Apologize to Republicans

In print editions, the headline said this: 

Republicans Don’t Deserve an Apology

Had Biden apologized to the Others? Apparently, that's the way it seemed to Blow!

Charles Blow is a good, decent person—but he's also a person person. In this column, he was demonstrating a basic human tendency—the tendency to identify a gang of Others, then make our species' oldest declaration:

Those Others Are All Just Alike.

Blow was upset with President Biden, who had been far too kind in his denunciations of these Others. His column started like this:

BLOW (9/5/22): Republicans are outraged—or possibly simply pretending to be outraged—that President Biden has, in recent speeches, warned that “MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy and, at one point, called the philosophy fueling Trumpism “semi-fascism.”

But there is no scandal here. Biden was simply calling a thing a thing. In fact, I would prefer that he be even more pointed and not try so hard to dodge the charge that he’s casting the net too widely.

Biden first used the term “semi-fascism” two weeks ago, at a Democratic fund-raiser in Maryland, saying: “It’s not just Trump; it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the—I’m going to say, something, it’s like semi-fascism.”

Republicans quickly demanded that he apologize for insulting half the electorate. But those Republicans who voted for Donald Trump deserve to be called out for their actions. Trump has consistently exhibited fascist tendencies and espoused racism, misogyny and white nationalism. Republicans supported him, defended him and voted for him. They’ve been actively courting this condemnation.

Biden had failed to denounce everyone who voted for Trump—all 74 million Others. Blow thought this was weak and wrong:

BLOW (continuing directly): And yet, ever since the initial brouhaha over his fascism comments, Biden has insisted on walking back his assertion, seemingly determined to distinguish more genteel Republicans from the rest of their party. At a rally in Maryland, shortly after his fund-raiser, Biden said: “I respect conservative Republicans. I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”

Personally, I have a very hard time splitting that hair. In 2020, 92 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters backed Trump. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, 73 percent of Republicans still have a favorable opinion of him, and 72 percent want him to run for re-election in 2024.

The overwhelming majority of Republicans support Trump. The pool of respectable conservatives is shallow, and that’s assuming that they can be neatly defined as those not voting for Trump.

Biden had said that he respected some Republicans. To Blow, that was the latest outrage. He had trouble "splitting that hair."

Blow seemed to think that Biden should have denounced all Republicans, full stop. He shouldn't have said there are some he respects. Why in the world would President Biden want to say something like that?

We don't know why Biden said that. Also, we think he should have been much more clear concerning who he was talking about in his denunciations of the people who want to destroy this country.

That said, we were struck by the way Blow reacted, or failed to react, to the various sets of numbers which littered his column. In our view, he was displaying an ancient impulse—the impulse to denounce all the Others, everyone who isn't one of Us.

Consider Blow's work by the numbers! Let's start with the numbers we've already posted above:

In the passage, Blow says that 73 percent of Republicans still have a favorable opinion of Trump. Forgive us for being didactic, but that would seem to indicate that 27 percent of Republicans don't have a favorable view of the former president.

What would be wrong with observing that distinction—and with trying to peel those voters away from the GOP column? To Blow, it's hard to split that hair. The Others must all be condemned.

As Blow's column proceeded, so did this peculiar aspect of his work. Even as he thundered that Biden should have denounced all Republicans, he cited an array of statistics which seemed to show that many Republicans don't support Donald J. Trump.

We humans are wired to loathe en masse. Let's ponder some of Blow's presentations:

BLOW: Make no mistake: A significant portion of Republican voters have done exactly what Biden has tried to exempt them from having done. A Public Religion Research Institute poll published in November found that nearly a third of Republicans agreed with the statement “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Also, a later poll found that a quarter of Republicans were adherents of the internet conspiracy theory QAnon and believe that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” and that “a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation” control America’s government, media and financial system.

As PolitiFact noted in June, citing a number of polls, roughly 70 percent of Republicans don’t see Biden as the legitimate winner of the presidency.

Consider Blow by the numbers! If "a quarter of Republicans" are adherents of QAnon, doesn't that mean that three quarters are not?

(Fuller disclosure: In the survey to which Blow referred, nine percent of Democrats also qualified as QAnon adherents.)

Also this:

Seventy percent of Republicans don’t see Biden as the legitimate winner? Truly, that's a shocking number—but doesn't that mean that 30 percent of Others agree that Biden won?

If a third of Republicans agree with the statement about resorting to violence, doesn't that mean that two-thirds don't? That's one of the ways such numbers strike us, but it isn't that way for Blow.

Blow rolls with the numbers like this: "A significant portion of Republican voters have done exactly what Biden has tried to exempt them from having done."

That representation of Biden's statement is semi-bungled. But if a significant portion of Republican voters have behaved in the ways Biden denounced, doesn't that suggest that another "significant portion" haven't? And isn't that more or less what Biden said?

Blow was working by the numbers in a largely irrational way. According to Blow, many Republicans had behaved certain ways, so we should condemn all. 

Of course, that's the way these assessments have always gone, given the way we humans are wired. The Others will always look just alike—or so they will look to Us.

Near the end of his column, Blow quoted Hillary Clinton's unfortunate remark from 2016. 

"She was absolutely right," Blow said. "She may have even understated the number."

With that remark, Blow helped us see one of the ways we humans are wired to behave: 

People like Blow are confident in their assessments concerning who is "deplorable / racist / irredeemable." And if some of the Others are deplorable, that means that all Others are!

Throughout his column, Blow had been working the numbers in a rather strange way. He kept posting statistics which said that some Republicans were guilty of the crimes he alleged—and on that basis, he kept insisting that Biden should have denounced them all:

"No person who voted for Trump or supports him now is above being named and shamed," Blow wrote at the end of his essay. In this way, the columnist was "killing the pig," tens of millions of pigs at a time.

If you voted for Trump but don't support him now, you should be blamed and shamed too! Let's forget about any attempt to peel such voters away from the GOP column.

In our current "democratized" situation, a truly amazing number of Others believe the craziest things. To Us, such facts mean that all the Others qualify as deplorable racists.

Which of these tribes is behaving more poorly? More and more and more and more, we find it hard to say—but you really can't run a large modern nation this way.

Has our nation, such as it was, already ceased to exist? Watching these warring tribes in action, we're inclined to suspect that it has!

Tomorrow: Why Biden had to say what he did. What Biden could have said.


22 comments:


  1. "At any rate, Candidate Clinton said that half the Others were deplorables."

    Yeah, dear Bob, and we love 'em the adorables.
    Especially with a lot of garlic...

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    1. “half”
      Hillary Clinton, ever the rosy-eyed optimist.

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  2. I'm other words, Somerby is a racist for criticizing Blow.

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    Replies
    1. "So it was with Joe Biden's recent blood-red, imprecise comments..."

      1. Note the use of the term blood-red, which is a color and does not apply to comments. It seems highly likely Biden had nothing to do with the lighting of his speech.
      2. Biden's comments were not imprecise. His definition was simply different than Somerby's preferred definition. Biden does have the right to give his own speech, not Somerby's.
      3. Somerby here repeats two conservative talking points that were being spread by Republicans immediately after the speech -- that it evoked Nuremburg, and that he tarred all Republicans with the MAGA brush.Somerby was as prompt with these as Hannity or any other Fox News lackey or House Republican.

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    2. 10:54 Can't you just extrapolate one from the other?

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    3. @11:23 -- what are you talking about? From one what to the other what?

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    4. The point was that Biden was lumping the led and the misled together into one group. Not the irrelevant and stupid DNC talking point that he "tarred all Republicans with the MAGA brush". So please go to hell with your idiotic propaganda.

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    5. Yes, you have parrotted Somerby's point back to us, but there is no reason to divide the right up the way Somerby desires. Being "misled" is no excuse for committing the crimes the right has done. Being "crazy" is no excuse either. This is Somerby's red herring. But did you read the Brett Stephens essay? It doesn't use Somerby's formulation. Do you mean to send him to hell too? He is the one I was arguing over -- and so was Charles Blow. So, if you didn't read that essay and you are instead arguing in support of Somerby without fully understanding what anyone here is talking about, it is you who is spreading idiotic propaganda.

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    6. How can Somerby be repeating conservative talking points when Brett Stephens did not use Somerby's formulation, dumb fuck?

      Go to hell with your bullshit that you pull out of your ass.

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  3. There is no reason to rehash all of this stuff Somerby repeats today. He says nothing new and I am tired of discussing his lies.

    Somerby has an odd notion that truth can be determined by how many people believe in it. That's idiotic.

    I wish the DOJ would complete its investigations and charge the lawbreakers so that we can stop this pretense that Republicans are being persecuted by Democrats (who never use the term "The Other") and instead understand the crimes that have occurred, committed by Republicans trying to stay in power, maximize their personal status and wealth, and kick down against minorities of all kinds. I want the 1/6 Committee to explain the connection between white supremacist domestic terrorism and Republican ambition. And I am not going to pretend that MAGA Extremists (as defined by Biden) are good, decent people, when they clearly are not.

    And yes, Somerby does single out Blow for special criticism, as he predictably does with any African American journalist or cable news host, every African American professor, legal expert, even Jackson-Brown (who everyone else considered highly qualified for her nomination), and every African American author. Somerby doesn't like successful female journalists and he has a thing about gay cable news hosts, but he devotes extra time here to those who are some intersection of black and gay, female, and successful. And, like Republicans, Somerby insists that racism is over and that this is a liberal big lie and not an ongoing social justice problem that needs to be addressed in order to achieve equity for all.

    I have had it with Somerby.

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    1. As Trump now slides unequivocally into the Qanon camp, things will get tougher on “the others”, and tougher on us. We will have to write off many we thought worthy of respect. There will be sad ugliness in this process. It will require wisdom and dispassion. Bob will only be one of many.

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    2. Former President Donald Trump said Thursday the nation would face “problems ... the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen” if he is indicted over his handling of classified documents after leaving office, an apparent suggestion that such a move by the Justice Department could spark violence from Trump’s supporters.

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  4. Clinton's statement wasn't unfortunate. It was true. The Republican embrace of its worst element should have told everyone what we needed to know about them.

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  5. "People like Blow are confident in their assessments concerning who is "deplorable / racist / irredeemable."

    This is an example of gaslighting. Somerby here attacks Blow's confidence in his own judgments about who is racist. As if a black man cannot tell when he has been discriminated against, when people are behaving in racist ways, after having grown up with racism, drawing upon the shared experience of other black people in his life. Somerby substitutes his own certainty about race, which he has pulled out of his ass. And this is the same Somerby who argues that women are not underpaid with respect to men doing the same work, despite the Dept of Labor's own statistics, which Somerby claims are a lie.

    White people do not tell black people whether racism exists and men do not tell women whether they are underpaid, especially when the statistics support the women's contention that they are treated unfairly, still, in the workplace.

    And Somerby's exercise in stats today leads him to ridiculous conclusions, such as that if there are some Republicans who are not MAGA extremists, then MAGA extremism is not a thing either, despite the people who died on 1/6 because of MAGA extremism. Biden never said that 100% of Republicans are MAGA extremists -- he specifically described the group who are a threat to democracy. The existence of those who are not is irrelevant to Biden's speech and to our current need to defend against attacks on our constitution. Somerby pretends Biden said there were 2071 and complains that there are actually 2070. That is how silly his argument today is. IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MANY FUCKING MAGATS THERE ARE, WHEN THEY ARE DOING DAMAGE TO OUR DEMOCRACY THAT NEEDS TO STOP! Somerby wants us to be distracted by trivia, to the point of forgetting what the problem is -- it is the MATA Extremists who are doing bad things to our democracy. The rest of the Republicans are not part of the solution (and neither is Somerby), so they are part of the problem too. It doesn't matter whether they believe in Q-Anon or not, if they are trying to stop people from voting and they are using violence to terrorize political opponents and others who are just doing their jobs, for political reasons.

    Somerby never addresses the real issue. He tries to minimize the magnitude of this problem by claiming there aren't enough MAGA Extremists to worry about, and pretending mainstream Republicans are not supporting MAGA and Trump efforts. They can scrub their webpages but we still know who does and who doesn't support Trump's big lie, which is at the heart of their attack on peaceful transfer of power after an election.

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  6. Consider the kid who is caught shoplifting at the nearby store. Would it get him off the hook to say:

    "Consider this situation by the numbers! If "a quarter of kids" will occasionally lift a candy bar without paying, doesn't that mean that three quarters will not?"

    Or consider Trump's theft of highly classified documents. Does the fact that no other president has ever done this after leaving office get Trump himself off the hook? By Somerby's reasoning, it should. Imagine Trump saying "44 out of 45 presidents would follow the rules about handling classified documents, wouldn't think public property is theirs, and wouldn't leave office with a bundle of documents." Does that exonerate Trump in the slightest? Of course not -- it makes his crime more obvious and much more bizarre and it highlights what an awful president he has been.

    The fewer MAGA Extremists there are, the more extreme their behavior will seem, but the MORE MAGA Extremists there are, and the greater tolerance for their actions by the remainder of the Republicans, the greater the damage they can do to our country. These are VERY high percentages of MAGA Extremists within the right, and there are way too many MAGA supporters who believe in the big lie and support Trump in 2024 should he run, and who have sought his endorsement while running for office, for Somerby to claim that most Republicans are not tainted by MAGA Extremism. Compare mainstream Republicans against never-Trumpers to see the difference between a craven supporter of all things Trump and a Republican who has maintained integrity while the rest of the party has gone bonkers.

    Somerby's "by the numbers" argument today is specious from top to bottom. And he has worked very hard at it. Why? No liberal would take this line of argument.

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  7. "“Two migrant buses from Del Rio, Texas, arrived near Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning,” Fox News reports.

    “Between 75 and 100 people who were picked up in Eagle Pass, Texas, were sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.”

    From last night: DeSantis Sends Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard"

    These are the Republicans who Somerby argues are good, decent people. They are playing games with the lives of people seeking asylum, and causing disruption and needless expense to those who are receiving an influx of people (without advance notice). These are the kind of people who would separate children from their families and keep people in cages. They no doubt think it is funny to "own the libs" with stunts like this that involve other people's lives.

    Examples like this are the reason why I believe the left has been much nicer than it ever should have been to the miscreants on the right. This is beyond deplorable and no tickling of stats by Somerby excuses this kind of behavior.

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    1. From No More Mister Nice Blog:

      "So Abbott, like a human trafficker generously sharing some of his ill-gotten human goods with a fellow criminal, generously offered DeSantis a couple of planeloads of humans. Or maybe DeSantis paid Abbott for the right to have the human cargo flown to Florida, using Floridians' tax dollars.

      A $12 million human trafficking slush fund could cover a lot more charter flights between now and Election Day, though you also have to take into account the cost of non-monetary payments to DeSantis's chief publicist:
      A video provided to Fox News Digital shows the migrants deboarding the planes at Martha’s Vineyard Airport in Massachusetts.
      Fox got the exclusive video! Amazing how that always happens with DeSantis!

      If we've decided that this is an acceptable way to treat human beings in America, maybe blue-state mayors and governors should turn these planes and buses around and send them straight to Lachlan Murdoch's Bel Air mansion."

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  8. “Of course, that's the way these assessments have always gone, given the way we humans are wired. The Others will always look just alike—or so they will look to Us.”

    Here Somerby condemns Blow for making a sweeping judgment and then plows ahead and makes his own: such assessments always go like this, and all liberals view the “others” this way.

    Somerby does this so often now that he probably never notices his own hypocrisy.

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  9. “Seventy percent of Republicans don’t see Biden as the legitimate winner? Truly, that's a shocking number—but doesn't that mean that 30 percent of Others agree that Biden won?”

    Somerby pins his hopes on that 30%, but their acknowledgment of a simple truth, that Biden won the election, does not by any stretch of the imagination translate into persuadable votes for Democrats.

    And while we’re at it: what percent of the 30% are also in the third who advocate violence, or the 25% who support qanon?

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    1. Given that Republican support for Biden is around 10%, that’s a more realistic starting point. On the other hand, people who identify as a specific party (Republican or Democrat) are extremely unlikely to ever switch parties. That happens amongst “independents” or”swing voters”. Those groups are likelier to switch.

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  10. Hillary was generous in saying 50%.
    She is also 1000% correct.

    ReplyDelete
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