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American Dignity

I am preoccupied with Trump, and what he means for our nation. He is single-handedly destroying the Republican Party. We haven’t seen a political party collapse in this country in well over a century. It’s happening now. Institutions that are strong don’t collapse overnight. I don’t know that even Trump saw the rot in the GOP. But it was rotten, and that’s why it’s collapsing.

Consider: the last two men standing in the GOP primaries are the two candidates most hated by the Republican establishment: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Sure, Rubio and Kasich are still officially in contention, but they’re not going anywhere. After next week, Rubio will be out, and even a Kasich win in his home state of Ohio will only prolong the inevitable for him.

Though a conservative, I have not considered myself a Republican for almost a decade, and have come to expect nothing from the Republican Party except more of the same stupid mistakes and policies that brought the country low under the Bush presidency (for which I voted twice). But I had come to think of myself as one of those TAC eccentrics, standing outside of institutional conservatism, throwing brickbats. There seemed to be no cracking the bubble. The GOP machine was going to keep churning out candidates for whom it was always 1980, and that was just how it was going to be.

And now Trump. I think back to watching his Mobile rally [1] — August 21, 2015 — on TV, the first time I had seen an entire Trump campaign speech. Thirty thousand people came out to hear him. And the speech was ridiculous — a rambling mess. I snorted that anybody would be taken in by this nonsense. I didn’t care for any of his competitors either, but at least they gave coherent speeches. This guy? Clown.

Seven months later, he’s still giving the same speeches. And now he’s probably going to be the Republican nominee. It’s an incredible thing. Nobody has ever seen a thing like this in American politics. How did the once-mighty Republican Party fall like this? Why did its authority collapse so thoroughly, and so quickly?

It took an outsider so rich that he didn’t have to depend on the party’s donors to fund his campaign. But Ross Perot was that rich guy back in 1992, and he choked. But that was near the beginning of globalization. A quarter-century later, and we’re living in a different nation.

I want to share with you an insightful post by Charles Featherstone, [2] who is a friend of this blog’s. Charles, as you may recall, wrote an amazing memoir [3] about his difficult life, his passing through Islamic radicalism, and hearing a divine call to become a Christian on 9/11, as he worked in downtown Manhattan. Charles’s book began as a long e-mail to me, a critical response to something I wrote about Pope Francis. Here is the original letter from Charles [4]; I suggest you read it in preparation for what I’m about to quote. The point is that Charles has been beat up pretty bad by life. It’s still happening. He’s a middle-aged white guy struggling for work, struggling to find solid ground.

And he likes Donald Trump.

No, he’s not going to vote for him. Charles is not particularly conservative, either. But he likes Trump, and he explains why in this post. [2] Excerpts:

As someone who was told, by the respectable heads of a deeply respectable institution, that I am not a respectable person and have no place in respectable society (and I have heard some version of this my entire life), to see Donald Trump succeed is … well, gratifying. There is nothing respectable about the man. His tawdry, messy life is an open book, his mouth something of a festering, running sore. He’s not much of a thinker. His use of the law to advance his fortune is rather shameless. But honestly, I wish I could live that shamelessly, with that kind of courage, and that kind of persistence, and not have my life and my words constantly held against me. Or not care, because the judgements of gate-keepers don’t matter. Trump is poking all of the right people in the eyes for all the right reasons. I don’t so much care that he wins, but I am enjoying the spectacle of watching someone live so openly and so honestly. He’s coarse and crude, but he appears to make no pretenses. He offends all the right people. He seems to be honest about who he is. That’s not the same as speaking the truth — Trump speaks very little of that. But as someone who has lived in a world that has held the fact that I am Charles Featherstone against me, I am in awe.

I wish I could do that. I wish I could get away with it. And succeed as spectacularly as Trump is.

Past that, though, what he actually says resonates with me. Some. Mostly his anger, the anger he channels of people who do not matter, and who know they do not matter, who know the world is increasingly rigged against them.

Charles talks about the immigration issue, and how he has benefited personally from immigration — for example, in the friends he has met who were immigrants, and who cared for him when nobody else would. More:

But it always struck me there was some other agenda to the immigration. That there still is. I’m not sure what. So immigration — legal, illegal, refugees — makes me uneasy. And I hear, somewhere in the background as I struggle and try to eke out a marginal existence, unable to find meaningful work or care for the people I want to care for — from the advocates for immigration, whether progressive or conservative: “You are privileged, and so you must sacrifice, you must be made to sacrifice. We will take from you and we won’t care what becomes of you. Because you no longer matter.”

So, as horrific as Trump’s pronouncements on immigration are, honestly, they speak to me. They shouldn’t, but they do.

Trump channels something — the rage and desperation of a people who know they don’t matter anymore. Whose lives and wellbeing have become a blight, an embarrassment, who are now disposable. Yes, they have may been a privileged people once, knowing the order of the world arising from the great struggles of the first half of the 20th century was arranged for them, and may be struggling for privilege again, but they also know politics has told them — economically and socially — “lie down and die.” That they are white, and crude, and prone to brutality and violence, frequently not very compassionate or empathetic, all-too-often confused by the world, and that their religion is simplistic and mostly idolatrous, all that makes it hard to sympathize with them. (I find it hard.) But you leave people behind at your peril. You can tell them to “lie down and die,” and some will. But many won’t.

Read the whole thing.  [2] Charles foresees tragedy. He compares Trump to Hugo Chavez, who rose to power by making the masses of people who are nobodies in their country feel like somebody was standing up and speaking for them. Yet (says Charles), Chavez ruined his nation. Would a President Trump do that to America? Charles believes the country is already well on its way to ruin.

Charles Featherstone is not an optimist.

Look, not everybody who votes for Trump is poor, or working class, or struggling economically. One Trump supporter I know lives in a million-dollar house; he just hates what his party has become, and voting Trump (as he did in his state’s primary) is a way of sending a message to the RNC. He might have sent it before with his vote, but there was no message candidate to vote for. Point is, Trump is drawing from all demographic groups. Come to think of it, it might actually be more interesting to find out why Republicans for whom America has been working pretty well are going for Trump.

Still, voices like Charles Featherstone’s must be heard. Here’s something by Michael Cooper Jr., a lawyer writing from his home in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina: [5]

Now, I walk into the courtroom every week and see the faces of childhood friends in a town where 23 percent of the population lives in poverty and 25 percent never finished high school.

So if there are winners and losers in America, I know the losers. They lost jobs to China and Vietnam. And they’re dying younger, caught in an endless cycle of jail, drug charges and applying for disability to pay the child support bill.

They lost their influence, their dignity and their shot at the American Dream, and now they’re angry. They’re angry at Washington and Wall Street, at big corporations and big government. And they’re voting now for Donald Trump.

And:

His supporters realize he’s a joke. They do not care. They know he’s authoritarian, nationalist, almost un-American, and they love him anyway, because he disrupts a broken political process and beats establishment candidates who’ve long ignored their interests.

When you’re earning $32,000 a year and haven’t had a decent vacation in over a decade, it doesn’t matter who Trump appoints to the U.N., or if he poisons America’s standing in the world, you just want to win again, whoever the victim, whatever the price.

Reading these essays made me think about the future for my three kids. The oldest is 16. It never occurs to me that they are going to have trouble making it in the world. They’re going to graduate college, and get on the career track. Or so I tell myself. Truth is, I don’t know this to be true at all. I live in a bubble. America “works” for me and mine … until it doesn’t. Then what?

I haven’t cast a vote for president in the last two elections (a write-in protest vote in ’08 doesn’t count) because I have no faith in either party. Michael Cooper Jr. writes:

As productivity climbed, working-class Americans wanted their wages to rise also. Instead, Republicans gave them tax cuts for the rich while liberal Democrats called them racists and bigots.

Yep. And I would add that Republicans gave them needless foreign wars. Who needs a conservative party like that? A conservative activist chided me on Twitter yesterday for not getting behind Ted Cruz, who is “a Reagan conservative.” As if the Soviet Union were still a menace, and there was no economic problem that couldn’t be fixed by tax cuts and deregulation.

Let me say it again: I think Trump is a poor man’s idea of a rich man, a demagogue who would be a terrible president, possibly even a tyrant. But I get why people less secure economically than I am don’t care, and are for him anyway. Hell, in Louisiana, our crackpot Gov. Earl K. Long was a total buffoon, and probably insane — but he came from somewhere, and he did a lot of good for poor people who were ignored by proper, respectable people in the establishment. If you are a mainstream Republican or Democrat, and aren’t trying to understand Trump’s appeal (as opposed to simply writing his backers off as racist clods), then you are making a big, big mistake. Trump may be denied the GOP nomination, in the end, and he probably won’t be elected president. But the people he motivated, and who voted for him, they aren’t going away — and neither are their problems and concerns.

Who will speak for them then?

 

138 Comments (Open | Close)

138 Comments To "American Dignity"

#1 Comment By Rich S On March 10, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

BCaldwell says:

Some of you have said that they have ignored the Democrats whose economic policies would be better for them and that they voted for the Republicans so they get what they deserved. Well, economically that may be true, but you forget about the other side. If someone was constantly denigrating you , calling you a racist, calling you a bigot and belittling those values that you held as integral , like traditional family, childbearing AFTER marriage. The natural order of things like if you are born a man then , guess what Bubba? You’re a man and no amount of dress up and prosthetic surgery is going to change that. These were values that had kept their grandparents and parents world stable and sustained. Democrat elites look at those people in that world with a more than obvious dose of condescension. Their response: ” I’m not doing you any favors.”

Are these white working class beliefs, or traditionalist Christian beliefs?

I think you’re ignoring the responsibility of the rightwing establishment in establishing these as hills to die on. These cultural flashpoints exist because activist right-wing Christians saw what activist progressives were doing, and felt that they had a moral imperative to stop it. In creating the conflict, sides were then formed, and the media elements on either side started attacking and denigrating the other.

I could just as easily flip your post, and say that the Democrats should be voting for Republicans because there’d be more stable families and less drug abuse but they didn’t because the conservative media has been casting them as hedonistic baby-killers intent on having an orgy on a pile of crosses and dead fetuses.

Progressives are beginning to reap what they sowed when they started minimalizing and denigrating the “white European heterosexual male…and female.”

I see little progressive backlash here. Much like I believe Rod thinks, this backlash is primarily the white working class realizing that the Conservative Establishment has done nothing to improve things for them, after years of promising that they’d reverse Obamacare (how?) and gay marriage, therefore making America a better place.

I’m tempted to think that the Liberal Establishment hasn’t had the same problem to the same degree because the liberals recognize that Democrats want to do more, but they’ve been stymied by the Republican refusal to give Obama any wins.

#2 Comment By dominic1955 On March 10, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

“These cultural flashpoints exist because activist right-wing Christians saw what activist progressives were doing, and felt that they had a moral imperative to stop it. In creating the conflict, sides were then formed, and the media elements on either side started attacking and denigrating the other.”

So, its not the fault of activist progressives for starting this? Maybe if they hadn’t been activists, actively trying to promote their garbage there never would have been any reason for a right-wing backlash…

The fault rests with the progressivist crazies for starting this crap in the first place.

#3 Comment By Inigo Martinez On March 10, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

The narrative that the WWC will not vote for Democrats because they are upset about being called mean things by Democrats who hurt their feelings by denigrating things they value, is one of the silliest narratives around. This pictures the WWC like yet another precious and cosseted group that needs protection from all the meanies that don’t ‘get’ their lifestyle. I suspect that the people voicing this narrative are actually channeling the cultural left’s ubiquitous victimhood argument because that argument seems to be culturally potent. Just as campus social justice warriors need to understand that cultural appropriation of foreign cuisine is not really oppression, the proponents of WWC victimhood also need to put on their big boy pants and understand that other people criticizing their decisions and their choices is not denigrating them.
Yes, it’s true, there are many people who disagree with the WWC’s views on family, marriage, and sexuality (although, listening to what Trump tends to speak about, and observing the very precarious state of marriage and family among the WWC, I’m tempted to say adherence to those views may not be all that deep) but that is not ‘denigrating’, it is the premise of the possibility of genuine democratic debate.
if this is correct, it suggests the reason they don’t vote for Democrats is not really because they feel insulted. It is because they are not interested in the policies the Democrats are offering, which will help all ethnic groups indiscriminately. What they want is to restore the special, exalted place of the WWC in American cultural and economic life. As they remember it from the postwar era, when it fact it was supported by robust state efforts to keep other groups in their place.

#4 Comment By antimule On March 10, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

Rod,

I was wondering what is your opinion on Basic Income? The idea is to give to everyone in the country some minimum sum of money (say 10k a year) that is just livable. Although it seems nuts, (and right now it probably is) as automation marches on it might not be.

That might be a safety net that would considerably mitigate the age of automation.

[NFR: Never thought about it, to be honest. — RD]

#5 Comment By EngineerScotty On March 10, 2016 @ 4:18 pm

I’m tempted to think that the Liberal Establishment hasn’t had the same problem to the same degree because the liberals recognize that Democrats want to do more, but they’ve been stymied by the Republican refusal to give Obama any wins.

One other interesting thought:

Trump is a backlash against the GOP elite, in all its various and sundry forms. Whether Kasich, Jeb, Rubio, Christie, or anyone else–none of these are acceptable to the disillusioned party base. Nor would Mitt Romney be were he to waltz into the convention and wrest the nomination away from Crump–his main selling point in 2012 was that he wasn’t Barack Obama, and that’s not relevant this time around.

Much of the angst on the Democratic side isn’t against the Democratic establishment per se, but against the specific person of Hillary Rodham Clinton (and a few other specific Democrats whom the left intensely dislikes, no others of which are running), who has, for reasons both good and bad, a lot of enemies. Were the 22nd Amendment to not around to prevent it and Obama to seek a third term, he’d waltz to the nomination. Were Joe Biden to run in her stead, he’d receive widespread support across the board. Likewise with many other party fixtures who are highly popular among Democrats (even if reviled outside the party).

#6 Comment By JonF On March 10, 2016 @ 4:39 pm

Re: The Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts were used as wedge issues by the 1968 Nixon campaign.

More like the 1970 midterms– that was the real dawning of the Southern Strategy. 1968 was not a good year for that as George Wallace was in the race and he had the segregationist vote all sowed up. The GOP noticed of course and immediately set out to appeal in that direction in the next major election.

#7 Comment By FL Transplant On March 10, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

[NFR: Sooner or later, you may understand that simply because I post something doesn’t mean I agree with it. I don’t think voting Trump is a good idea, for many of the same reasons I think it was a bad idea to vote for Marion Barry. But it does no good to say, “People are crazy,” and not try to understand why they would cast a vote that appears unreasonable. — RD]

I know you’re not a Trump supporter; my questions were directed at those commenters who are supporting him.

My extended family is most definitely WWC; my Dad left his hometown to enlist in the military instead of going into the coal mines and made a career of the military. To the best of my knowledge I’m the only one of my numerous cousins with at least an undergraduate degree–the children of the ones who stayed behind grew up in a substantially different culture with vastly different work and life expectations. Visiting my Dad’s family as a kid and over the years has always felt like entering a foreign land.

So I’m familiar with what’s happened to the WWC, and with some of the causes of the changes. I’ve got great sympathy for those caught in the crosshairs. At the same time, I’ve listened to blatant, offensive racism on the part of my relatives for decades now, and when I read descriptions of their plight that unchanged describes the worst aspects and behavior of inner-city life, written by those who have spent their lives vilifying those in the inner-city as only needing to get their act together, I go tilt.

#8 Comment By KS On March 10, 2016 @ 4:46 pm

“Who will speak for them?”

Who will blame Mexican immigrants for our economic problems, do you mean? Because that’s what put Trump in the spotlight, and that’s what launched his remarkably successful campaign.

The answer (if the question is not rhetorical) is simple: other politicians. (For instance, Pete Wilson and the California GOP in the early l990’s rode a wave of anti-immigrant popularity with a proposition, 187, that in effect punished Mexican immigrants for a recession that hit the state at that time.)

But Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise, didn’t cause the recession in California in the early 1990’s. Prop 187 won easily but was found unconstitutional literally overnight by the courts, and as Democrats and Latino voters mobilized a response at the ballot box, Wilson and the California GOP went on to fade remarkably quickly and permanently into a demographic sunset in the state.

In the nation at large, Mexican immigrants didn’t cause the Great Recession or the slow recovery. So even if Trump were to become President and actually build a wall on the border, it would do little or nothing for the economy and the gradual loss of white privilege that seems to be at the root of much of the rage of his followers.

Real issues have led to real pain and suffering for many of what Trump calls “the poorly educated,” but Trump’s “solution” — let’s blame the Mexicans — is a category error. For which he will be justly voted down by those threatened by his blaming.

Declaring Trump some sort of spokesperson for “the poorly educated” gives him too much credit for caring about the plight of the white working class.

It’s simpler than that. Trump found popularity as a politician in a strategy of anti-immigrant blame. Sad!

#9 Comment By JonF On March 10, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

Re: I’m not in the white blue collar class, but I’d rather see the whole damn country burn than let those people have their way.

What a sad and spiteful thing to say!

Re: While I don’t completely and utterly disagree with Democrat economic policies I would never vote for a Democrat, even for dog catcher, because of guns, abortion, gay stuff and all the other sundry cultural revolution/make us more like Europe

Again, what a sad thing to say. It’s absolutism like that which is very much part of the problem, never the solution. Would I vote for a Republican? Maybe, if he wasn’t a reactionary. The current crop– no. Not even Kasich, who is fairly sound and sane in many ways, but his foreign policy is actually the worst of the bunch– no one who wants to risk actual war with the planet’s other major nuclear power has any business being in the White House. But what if our Maryland governor Larry Hogan were to run someday? It would depend how far he had to toady to the far Right and depend very much who he was winning against– but it’s within the realm of possibility that I could vote for him. That fact that people I disagree with on various issues might also vote for him would not dissuade me at least.
By the way what is wrong with being more like Europe? If we’re talking northern (Germanic) Europe, wouldn’t that be all to the good? Many of us source of ancestry in those regions– our very language was born there, as was the Protestant faith that has long been America’s default faith. Moreover those countries seem to have solved the riddle of how to keep good working class jobs available, and how to maintain a social safety net without creating a permanent dependent class. What’s not to like about that?

#10 Comment By Antony On March 10, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

Dancer Girl:
“So what happened in Michigan, where he took 30% of the black vote? I suspect the difference was trade. The unions left the South years ago, but they matter in Michigan, and there are plenty of black folks in unions.”

Yes, black people in the North are Northern.

#11 Comment By BCaldwell On March 10, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

Rich S says:

I think you’re ignoring the responsibility of the rightwing establishment in establishing these as hills to die on. These cultural flashpoints exist because activist right-wing Christians saw what activist progressives were doing, and felt that they had a moral imperative to stop it. In creating the conflict, sides were then formed, and the media elements on either side started attacking and denigrating the other.

Do you suggest that they are not hills worthy of dying on. Right now the backlash is against those that the white middle class was counting on to be their allies in the struggle. But make no mistake, they hold the same animus towards the progressives who have grown to ridicule and belittle the white middle class’ very essence. They are tired of the derogatory comments all around and they are using Trump as their tabula rosa.

They are tired of being used by both sides and their numbers dictate that they are paid attention to a large extent. Progressives of both parties need to realize that cultural issues are important to these people in addition to the economic ones. They are not rubes to be dismissed.

#12 Comment By Stephen Gould On March 10, 2016 @ 6:24 pm

I’m just going to repost what I posted on my FB page yesterday:

To Republican supporters of Donald Trump: I understand your anger and rage at the Republican Party’s failure to pay sufficient attention to your economic concerns – specifically the consequences of exports of jobs and illegal “imports” of workers. but also issues like wage stagnation. I understand, therefore, when the GOP finally has a candidate who does mention these concerns front and centre, he has an appeal for you lacking in the other candidates.

However, you brought this on yourself. When Republicans passed tax cuts you were NEVER going to benefit from; when Republican governors campaigned on or promoted anti-union legislation; when the GOP passed huge unfunded military expenditures that turned out to be massive subsidies for the defence industry (and weakened the Federal government’s fiscal health); when the GOP stopped all attempts at restricting government contracts with US companies that moved overseas; what did you THINK was going to happen to your jobs and your wages?

Yet you rewarded them with your votes – and you ignored all the voices that told you what would happen because “liberals”. And in exchange what did you get? Reruns of largely losing social issues that did nothing for you economically. So if you want to punish the GOP by voting for Trump in the nominations, fine – but if, believing that you’re part of the party of personal responsibility, you want to know who to blame for your rage – take a look in the f*****g mirror.

And if you really want to punish the GOP – vote for Hillary or Bernie in the presidential election. Much of what you believe about them was told to you by the same groups who conned you for more than a generation. If they lied to you about their own people and policies, why think they’re telling the truth about the other side’s?

#13 Comment By Nicolas On March 10, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

America’s wounds are entirely self-inflicted. They include the massively destructive drug war; imperialist adventures that have drained the national wealth, made life less safe, and savaged civil liberties; and an increase of government spending as a percentage of GDP from 7 percent in 1900 to 37 percent today. Almost any economist, left or right, would agree that trade and immigration (legal or not) are net benefits.

Conservatives, Republican or not, have failed to defend, much less extend, economic freedom; have supported the growth of government; and have persistently supported militaristic empire.

Trump is the predictable result of the nasty and dunderheaded populism toward which conservatives have been moving for the past 25 years or so. He is the upshot of an ideology whose prominent voices have included Coulter, Savage, Hannity, Limbaugh, and O’Reilly. In politics, you get what you pander to.

Trump is winning by scapegoating those who bear no responsibility for America’s social and economic ills. Still even conservatives who consider themselves proximate descendants of the old right twiddle their thumbs and blow kisses to the ignoramuses who embrace Trumpian populism, rather than challenging his malignant and foolish prescriptions. If Trump is elected and gets his way, perhaps the ensuing international economic disaster and war with China will help to clarify conservative thinking. I doubt it, though, since conservatism’s singular distinction is its failure to accomplish anything that its adherents desire. The failure has been patent for a long time, and succinctly described by Hayek in 1960.

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#14 Comment By ADC Wonk On March 10, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

What a great discussion!

OK, responding to about a half-dozen different comments:

First, regarding the “information bubble” that some are in, we have this:

Aside from government employment the Clinton admin was a hostile force to their interests.

Actually, the opposite was true. Fed Government employment went down 8 straight years during Clinton’s Admin, and started going up again under Bush. Stereotypes don’t equal facts.

There is not one scrap of statistical evidence – no crime stats, no violent crime stats, NOTHING – that supports Featherstone’s outrageous statement that Trump white supporters are “prone to brutality and violence…”

OK, now that’s pretty ironic, coming on a day when a 78-yo Trump supporter just got arrested for sucker-punching a black guy who was getting thrown out of a Trump rally, as others were yelling f*****g n*****s. (See it at [7] — where the perpetrator goes on to say he enjoyed doing it and would kill him next time) (And the day after Trump’s own campaign manager Corey Lewandowski accosted a Breitbart reporter). Violence at Trump rallies is nothing new in 2016. Google it.

One commenter said that entire reason the WWC votes for the GOP is: “Race. That’s it. Pure and simple.”

The response from another: “What a load of crap.”

I’m going to take a middle ground. I think that the Dems had far better economic policies towards the WWC than the GOP, but that because of the Dems leaning so far liberal on social issues, that partially alienated the WWC.

But race was most definitely a part of it. Southern Strategy? Welfare Queen? Lee Atwater? Those things really happened and we can’t wish them away.

Look — being against immigration for economic reasons has some logic. But being harsh about it also attracts xeonophobes and racists. I don’t think Trump is racist, but when he was a bit slow to respond to the KKK’s endorsement of him, I think Trump was trying to figure out a way not to damage his support among the white nationalistic crowd.

William F. Buckley, we could sure use you now!

The evidence is thick is that despite his election, certain elements in the Republican Party persisted in presenting Obama as the Other, the treasonous Other.

Indeed. He was a black-Commie-Kenyan who was illegible to be Prez. And note who was a prominent leader of the so-called “birther movement”? None other than The Donald himself. And the GOP, with a nod and a wink, didn’t protest too much, because they thought it’d be useful in the 2012 elections. (McCain of all people, bless him, was one of the few prominent GOPers in 2008 who pushed back on this Otherization.)

“The problem with BLM and the ‘racism’ narrative is that there is a real demonstrable problem in that young Black men commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes (for whatever reason), and you can’t come up with good public policy unless you get honest about that fact.”

True. But the problem with the pushback against BLM is that there is a real demonstrable problem that there are a number of racist police who target blacks and abuse their authority — and lie on official reports about it. (The Ferguson Report was absolutely devastating!) Conservatives who favor limited government ought to be all over that, no? The main thing that’s changed now is the ubiquity of cell-phone cameras and increasing use of dash-cams, so we all can see, with our own eyes, what the black community has been complaining about for 150 years.

#15 Comment By Chris Atwood On March 10, 2016 @ 8:29 pm

Dancer Girl,
What you’re trying to do is make the “What’s the matter with Kansas?” argument a matter of the candidate’s approach not the voters’ response. But in the final analysis, it amounts to the same thing.

Assuming (for the sake of argument) that Bernie will get blacks the single-payer health insurance and free college tuition they’ve longed for. You’re saying that because he didn’t approach their barbershop the right way, they voted against that–not just for themselves, but for their families, their children, the whole country. That’s not any different from saying that W won the election because white people thought he was the kind of the guy you could have a beer with.

Your response shows that no, there’s no way you can spin the “They vote against their best interest and good policy because of culture” argument in a way that doesn’t make them look like bad voters. You understood that fact, which is why you felt that you had to reply and say, no, that’s not really the case. You felt the need to rebut it. Well, so do white working class voters when the argument’s used against them. Which illustrates why using that argument is not a good way to win over voters.

And by the way, reality check: winning 30% of the vote of a given demographic in a two way contest is not promising, not hopeful, not a turning point–not any of the things the Sanders campaign says it is. It’s getting CRUSHED, SHELLACKED, DEFEATED IN A LANDSLIDE–what ever headline phrase you want to use. The fact that it’s being spun as somehow a great new emerging reality of a “Feel the Bern” moment among African-Americans is testimony to the enduring hold of the myth that the “What’s the matter with Kansas” argument is only relevant for the voting behavior of down-market whites.

#16 Comment By KS On March 10, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

James Fallows quotes a data analysis of the vote in Michigan that finds to the analyst’s surprise that districts that suffered the greatest loss of manufacturing were NOT the districts that voted predominately for Trump…meaning “economic anxiety” does not explain the Trump voting pattern.

[8]

#17 Comment By Rossbach On March 10, 2016 @ 8:45 pm

“But it always struck me there was some other agenda to the immigration.”

The number of immigrants and their young children grew six times faster than the nation’s total population from 1970 to 2015 — 353 percent vs. 59 percent.

This is the single most insidious feature of globalism that the elites of both government parties have imposed upon us, and their plan to replace the historic American nation with a Third World majority is proceeding right on schedule.

And will America be the same with different people in it? If the answer is yes, we should ask for evidence that making it different makes it better. If the answer is no, then we should ask why we are doing this.

We are, in short, being told to commit suicide. For our children’s sake, is both our right and our duty to refuse.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 10, 2016 @ 10:06 pm

Were Joe Biden to run in her stead, he’d receive widespread support across the board.

Joe Biden has run for president a couple of times, and he always stayed in single digits for the simple reason that he always puts his foot in his mouth, way in. I have difficulty believing he wouldn’t do so again. I mean, he did it on the afternoon after the inauguration. Then there is his propensity to pontificate on what Catholic doctrine really means — just like dominic1955 does. A political leader in a constitutional republican should simply say “I was elected to represent the people of Delaware, not my church.”

#19 Comment By Lee On March 11, 2016 @ 1:08 am

William the Conqueror sang the song of Rollo while crossing the English channel.

Who will speak for them then?

Fehu

#20 Comment By EngineerScotty On March 11, 2016 @ 1:44 am

Biden’s stature has been elevated by serving as VP–as the incumbent veep I do think he would be favored in a race without Hillary.

But he’s not running, so it’s all academic.

#21 Comment By EngineerScotty On March 11, 2016 @ 1:56 am

@Chris,

The factors that drive a voters’ choices are often complex and subjective, and frequently amount to more than which candidate is offering the prettiest pony.

Trust is a big deal; the Clintons have a long history of good relations with the African-American community, including many endorsements by respected leaders thereof. Sanders (or most candidates) are not going to counter that by simply offering a somewhat more desirable set of policy positions–any more than a loyal buyer of Toyotas is going to switch to Ford because this year’s model has a better datasheet.

Cultural familiarity and personability are, of course, part of it–the past three Presidents have all been excellent schmoozers, with Hillary’s husband the most gifted of all in this department. And all else being equal, voters do prefer candidates more like them.

Obama was, of course, able to counter Hillary’s relationship with the black community by actually being black. Though even there it took a while for him to be accepted, as his upbringing (raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, by whites and by an Asian stepfather) was foreign. Sanders, being an old white Jewish guy, has no similar backdoor.

But the reasons that many blacks are reluctant to embrace Sanders are more complicated than his not kissing enough babies in barbershops.

#22 Comment By Walter F. On March 11, 2016 @ 2:44 am

“…the pessimism (or cynicism?) of Walter F.”

What’s pessimistic, or cynical, about seeing that one of the biggest obstacles to Progress and better, more equal and tolerant society is going the way of the dodo? I’m an optimist, since I believe the WWC has been defeated and will be destroyed, over those pessimists who believe that enemy is eternal.

#23 Comment By curious On March 11, 2016 @ 3:35 am

Rod,
Please post your reasoning for why You voted for Bush for the second time. The first election needs no explanation but why did you go back for seconds?
I’m sure many readers would apperciate knowing and perhaps it would tell us something about the reasons the Republican party is where it is.

[NFR: I can’t remember exactly, but I imagine that it was because the Iraq War still seemed like it had been a reasonable idea, plus all the usual social-conservative reasons (abortion, the Supreme Court, marriage). The Harriet Miers debacle was in the future, and so was the botched handling of Katrina, in which it was revealed that the president, despite 9/11, put a party hack in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The image I had of the Republican Party as competent began to unravel, and it went from there. I suppose the bottom line is that I still believed in 2004 that the GOP was what I thought it was. — RD]

#24 Comment By Deb C On March 11, 2016 @ 7:06 am

Catch the video of a white man punching a black man in the face at Thursday’s Trump rally. That has nothing whatever to do with the economic angst of the white working class. It’s that old-time religion we grew up with in the deep South. It’s the longing for absolutely dominance over nonwhites that never went away, just underground. It’s the “what we’re afraid to say” that Trump gives them to permission to say and show again. Where is this going?

#25 Comment By wintermute On March 11, 2016 @ 7:35 am

and an increase of government spending as a percentage of GDP from 7 percent in 1900 to 37 percent today.

Care to make a list of Industrialized countries in which government spend less than 30% of GDP that any sane middle class person would care to live in.

#26 Comment By DancerGirl On March 11, 2016 @ 8:06 am

@Chris Atwood

Assuming (for the sake of argument) that Bernie will get blacks the single-payer health insurance and free college tuition they’ve longed for. You’re saying that because he didn’t approach their barbershop the right way, they voted against that–not just for themselves, but for their families, their children, the whole country. That’s not any different from saying that W won the election because white people thought he was the kind of the guy you could have a beer with.

You started off with a pretty generous assumption. First, I don’t know that they were “longing” for free tuition. That’s a new one to me. Second, and more importantly, if we can just hand wave away the “likelihood” argument, that’s the ballgame, right? But we can’t do that. Based on things I saw some of these voters saying in interviews, conceptions of the realistic and the possible were animating many black voters’ minds in the South. Given that, what might they have done? Vote for one of the Republicans? Had they done that, I would concede that they had voted against their interests in a “What’s the matter with Kansas?” way. But that isn’t what they did. Instead, they looked at the candidate whose progressive proposals – which track very closely those of the other candidate, in most instances – were not just appealing to them, but sounded achievable given the comparative modesty of their ambition and scope. Picking the candidate whose policies will help you – even if they might not help as much as those of the other guy – is not a vote against your material interests. It’s a rational calculation of how much you’re willing to sacrifice in order to get the overall win. “What’s the matter with Kansas?” wasn’t happening with these folks.

As for the barbershop point, that was a metaphor for my basic claim: Sanders failed, and it was his own damned fault. He was a bad campaigner who didn’t understand that he was a big-talking stranger trying to convert a group of voters whose electoral instincts are often risk-averse. His losses in the South were due to his own incompetent failure to persuade.

#27 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 11, 2016 @ 10:59 am

I probably agree with Dancer Girl on the underlying empirics and demographics, but I think its a stretch to say Sanders utterly failed to connect with southern Americans of African descent. There is a LONG history of this demographic being loyal to the Clintons, which was cemented by the eight years of GWB following Clinton. It was at first hard for Barack Obama to make headway with this demographic, due to the pragmatic assumption that no sizeable fraction of white folks would vote for a black man in the general election, so might as well be realistic and stick with Hillary. (That began to change after Iowa in 2008).

I would agree that Bernie Sanders needs to sort out how to build trust in a community to which he is a relative stranger, without indulging in the laughable role-playing that Hillary stoops to. It doesn’t require “acting black.” It requires an ability to relax and be himself without catering and without artificiality, and to listen carefully before offering answers.

#28 Comment By Chris Atwood On March 11, 2016 @ 11:01 am

Dancer Girl (and Engineer Scotty)
If everything you say is true then I just don’t understand your point.

Now you’re telling me it’s reasonable for Blacks to think Sanders can’t deliver, so a vote for him is a wasted vote. If that’s so, then why isn’t reasonable for Whites to think that Sanders can’t deliver, so a vote for him is a wasted vote?

Remember, this all started with your exasperation with why the White working class doesn’t wake up and do the sensible thing–vote Sanders. Now you’re telling me that there are very good and reasonable reasons why one should not vote Sanders. (And you know what, I might agree with you there.) So why are you exasperated with the Trump voters for not voting Sanders?

And if its Sanders’ “own damn fault” that he didn’t get the votes he needed to win, then why isn’t it the Democrats’ “own damn fault” that they don’t know how to win the vote of the un-unionized White working class? Why be exasperated with the White working class? Why not be exasperated with Democratic politicians? Why not emphasize instead their “incompetent failure to persuade” Republican voters?

#29 Comment By Chris Atwood On March 11, 2016 @ 11:16 am

To put it in general form, here’s my argument:

People that feel a sense of kinship with and connection to demographic X dislike it when demographic X’s voting behavior is explained by non-rational factors. They will therefore tend to resist such arguments and argue that voter preferences of the valued demographic X which seem irrational, are in fact rational.

Conversely, to argue that demographic X’s voting behavior is irrational is JUSTIFIABLY taken as evidence of lack of kinship with, and lack of sympathy with, demographic X.

Therefore arguments that demographic X displays irrational voting behavior is in fact likely to be completely counterproductive, IF the aim is to change the behavior of demographic X. Because the very fact that the argument is being made (whether it’s true or not is irrelevant) is evidence that the speaker lacks feelings of kinship and sympathy with the demographic X.

An implicit premise, which is obviously true, is that kinship and sympathy with a given demographic is the necessary (maybe not sufficient, but necessary) condition of reaching them and directing their voting behavior.

So to translate into popular language, the “What’s the matter with Kansas” argument is taken by any demographic to which it is applied as an insult and will NOT WORK in convincing anyone who feels kinship and sympathy with that demographic. This is true regardless of whether a social scientist would consider the argument plausible or not. If you actually want to reach a voter (just like a customer) start off with the presumption that the voter (like the customer) is always right.

#30 Comment By ADCWonk On March 11, 2016 @ 12:19 pm

Responding to both DancerGirl and Chris Atwood regarding Sanders’ poor showing among blacks:

The best explanation, imho, was provided by Cornel West in a book a few years ago (ironically — and irrelevantly — I think West is supporting Sanders this year)

He wrote that leftists-socialists going back to Eugene Victor Debs have always had a problem with the black electorate, and it’s because the socialists tend to see the economy as the source of all of society’s ills.

And, indeed, you can see it this year. Sanders answer to almost all of the blacks’ complaints relate to the “rigged economy”, special interests, and so forth.

I think Sanders is mostly correct regarding most of their problems. But he’s ignoring pure and simple racism. Blacks do not understand how, for example, the problem of police brutality is going to be solved by a more fair economy. This leads blacks to think “he doesn’t get it.” (For that matter, women, too, don’t see how that will help sexism in our society).

So, yes, increasing the minimum wage and many other things Sanders wants to do will surely help blacks economically, but they don’t see how it will help them vis-a-vis institutional racism.

According to West (and I don’t know enough to agree or disagree) this disconnect has been going on for 100 years.

#31 Comment By panda On March 11, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

“his is the single most insidious feature of globalism that the elites of both government parties have imposed upon us, and their plan to replace the historic American nation with a Third World majority is proceeding right on schedule.

And will America be the same with different people in it? If the answer is yes, we should ask for evidence that making it different makes it better. If the answer is no, then we should ask why we are doing this.

We are, in short, being told to commit suicide. For our children’s sake, is both our right and our duty to refuse.”

Let’s be honest here: there is pretty much 1:1 correlation between people who are concerned about “replacement ” of American people, and people who think Black Americans, here since the 1500s, and some other smaller groups, here since the 1800s, don’t belong to the nation you are trying to “protect.” Which is why your tears seem so hollow to outsiders..

#32 Comment By panda On March 11, 2016 @ 12:59 pm

“What’s pessimistic, or cynical, about seeing that one of the biggest obstacles to Progress and better, more equal and tolerant society is going the way of the dodo? I’m an optimist, since I believe the WWC has been defeated and will be destroyed, over those pessimists who believe that enemy is eternal.

Man, I don’t know if you are a troll, or actually real, but anyone who is gloating that tens of millions people are “destroyed” is about as committed to a “more equal and tolerant society” as Joseph Mengele.

#33 Comment By panda On March 11, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

“And if its Sanders’ “own damn fault” that he didn’t get the votes he needed to win, then why isn’t it the Democrats’ “own damn fault” that they don’t know how to win the vote of the un-unionized White working class? Why be exasperated with the White working class? Why not be exasperated with Democratic politicians? Why not emphasize instead their “incompetent failure to persuade” Republican voters?

I think that what DancerGirl is trying to say is that voting for Sanders of Clinton is a quantitative choice, while the distinction between voting Sanders (or Clinton) is a qualitative one. Sanders and Clinton both seek similar goals, but disagree about both how to get there and the ultimate shape those goals will take, but Republicans actively oppose those goals.

#34 Comment By panda On March 11, 2016 @ 1:09 pm

Like take healthcare: Sanders is making the argument that the current system is immoral and wasteful, and if we want universal healthcare coverage, it needs to be torn down in full. Hillary is saying that we can’t really ever tear down a system so complex, and therefore we need to build on it to get to 100% coverage. Both are making good points, and both are dodgy about the weaker parts of their arguments, but I can see how someone who thinks we need universal health coverage can go with either (I, for once, am a reluctant Sanders suppporter, but think HRC has a better argument on this issue). Trump, the best of the republicans, has a program built on repealing the ACA, selling insurance around state lines, and HSAs- and he is the only republican who even gives rhetorical support for universal health coverage. The distance between him and either Democrat is drastically larger than between Bernie and Hillary.

#35 Comment By JonF On March 11, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

Re: …a data analysis of the vote in Michigan that finds to the analyst’s surprise that districts that suffered the greatest loss of manufacturing were NOT the districts that voted predominately for Trump

People do move and especially when their jobs leave.

Re: …their plan to replace the historic American nation with a Third World majority

Tin foil hat stuff. The elites have no deliberate “plan” to replace anyone. In fact doing so would be counter to their interests since those new citizen groups, being disproportionately mired in poverty, would vote for leftwing parties.

Re: And will America be the same with different people in it?

The answer is No, but that’s trivially true. Eventually we will have 100% population turnover even if we let not one immigrant cross the border. Death and birth, after all. And no our descendants will not be the “same” as us except in very superficial ways. We are significantly different from our ancestors, after all.

#36 Comment By JonF On March 11, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

Another observation about working class political behavior: we tend to talk here as if it’s purely a binary choice between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. But in fact there’s a huge middle ground called “neither”. When I think about the working class and lower income people I know the “choice” of most of them is exactly that: political detachment, and non-voting. Hardly a surprise when our politics, whether of the Left or the Right, ceased to be about them in any substantive way except as voting booth fodder every four years. By contrast the college graduates I know all have some sort of political involvement and preference even if it’s not a strong one.

#37 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 11, 2016 @ 9:32 pm

I, for once, am a reluctant Sanders suppporter, but think HRC has a better argument on this issue

I agree. The reason President Obama could not put across a shift to a unified single-payer system is the huge number of Americans who have health insurance and were quite fearful of losing it for an unknown quantity. Those fears were not entirely unjustified either… given the glitches that inevitably fouled the roll-out of the exchanges, there would have been major chaos if all of the already-insured had to go through similar obstacles.

But, I think Bernie is more committed to moving TOWARD a comprehensive single-payer system, and he will recognize he doesn’t have the support in congress to do so lock, stock and barrel, at once. A prototype could be developed, free of the dependence on profit-hungry private companies as the exchanges are, and as it grew and the bugs were worked out and it proved itself, more Americans could gravitate toward it, leaving Anthem and Cigna and Humana et al. to wither on the vine.

He wrote that leftists-socialists going back to Eugene Victor Debs have always had a problem with the black electorate, and it’s because the socialists tend to see the economy as the source of all of society’s ills.

That was an ignorant conclusory statement on West’s part, particularly if he used Eugene Debs as his baseline. Debs was quite vocal about the “malign spirit of race hatred” even within the socialist movement, he argued fiercely to remove racial criteria from the charter of the American Railway Union, he was always an inspiration to black socialists.

Now Victor Berger, on the other hand, openly described blacks as manifestly inferior. Frank Zeidler did not carry on that tradition, but bemoaned to his dying day that people blamed him for all the blacks moving to Milwaukee.

When it comes to race, socialism, like most other movements that might or might not appeal specifically to Americans of African descent, was a mixed bag.

#38 Comment By cdugga On March 11, 2016 @ 9:32 pm

I think racist clods is still definitive for many if not most trump supporters. We may want to assign some aspiration above racist clods, but I can’t find any. Allot has been said about why trump is popular, but not much has been said about the people he shines for. I have heard he tells it like it is. What is that? I have read here that supporters are suffering with their wives leaving, kids on drugs and have lost jobs to outsourcing. And my only answer is that there is nobody else to blame but ourselves. We voted for it, and ignorance is what we chose because to choose knowledge is accepting responsibility. Living through our decisions instead of denying regrets would be learning, and we simply do not get paid enough for that. Like, we still deny that we support evil when we ignore the issues and claim that all we can do is vote for the good man. You know, the one without the horns and pitchfork. The guy that sells himself with the bible held above his head. And that is the central thing defining who supports trump and why the don is appealing. We are victims. White victims. We have formed a union without vision, only despair. Make america great again is something done for us by the messiah. American dignity needs a pill cuz we are addicted to irresponsibility all the way to not being responsible for our own bodies and minds. We are being led by our despair. Trump is popular because he talks like he understands our desperation. And he is going to fix it all for us. It does not matter that the don really has no plan or ideological path. Things can’t get any worse. The biggest complainers about taxation that I have personally heard, pay little or no taxes. The biggest complainers about jobs that I have personally heard, do not have any skills compared to the supposedly unskilled mexicans who not only have skills, but form businesses. They get drunk on friday night, often while still working. But you won’t find them during the week with a needle or popping pills or sitting with their play phones, or listening to AM talk radio. We are the ones that do that. And we are voting for the don. And victimhood is popular. We contest each other’s victimhood with our own. So even the wealthy who should be happy want to join the white victims union. The don is going to save us from the blacks and mexicans and like featherstone, we want to be loud, crude and rich, and most of all, not responsible to anyone. We want to tell it like it is. We say they call us racist clods. But we tell it like it is.