Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I found a series of reads this week on what makes Donald Trump supporters tick. It’s an interesting combination of things that dives into the deplorables. The primary focus of these studies are white, uneducated working class men along with a few women because the main demographics of Trump Voters are old, white, and not well-educated. There’s even one article with some tie in with similar right wing white angst movements in place like the UK and Scandinavia where white right wingers are getting increasingly xenophobic and sounding a lot more like their authoritarian counterparts from the 1930s. I thought I’d highlight a few of these pieces today.
Don’t think these articles and writers heap wicked judgement. Many of these reads are conciliatory and sympathetic. Like us, they are just trying to get it figured out. The pictures today are of damage done by the still threatening Hurricane Matthew when it caused death and destruction in Haiti. Tumult rules our current time line.
Project Syndicate has two interesting pieces up. The first is by Dr. Ian Buruma and is called “Trump’s Deplorables.”
The Trump supporters are showing a similar animus against symbols of the elite, such as Wall Street bankers, “mainstream” media, and Washington insiders. But their xenophobia is directed against poor Mexican immigrants, blacks, or Middle Eastern refugees, who are perceived as freeloaders depriving honest (read white) Americans of their rightful place in the social pecking order. It is a question of relatively underprivileged people in a globalizing, increasingly multi-cultural world, resenting those who are even less privileged.
In the US today, as in the Weimar Republic, the resentful and the fearful have so little trust in prevailing political and economic institutions that they follow a leader who promises maximum disruption. By cleaning out the stables, it is hoped, greatness will return. In Hitler’s Germany, this hope existed among all classes, whether elite or plebeian. In Trump’s America, it thrives mostly among the latter.
In the US and Europe, today’s world looks less scary to more affluent and better educated voters, who benefit from open borders, cheap migrant labor, information technology, and a rich mixture of cultural influences. Likewise, immigrants and ethnic minorities who seek to improve their lot have no interest in joining a populist rebellion directed mainly against them, which is why they will vote for Clinton.
Trump must thus rely on disaffected white Americans who feel that they are being left behind. The fact that enough people feel that way to sustain such an unsuitable presidential candidate is an indictment of US society. This does have something to do with education – not because well-educated people are immune to demagogy, but because a broken education system leaves too many people at a disadvantage.
The second must-read is by Professor Joseph Nye who puts the populist revolt into perspective and into its “place”.
In the US, polls show that Trump’s supporters are skewed toward older, less-educated white males. Young people, women, and minorities are under-represented in his coalition. More than 40% of the electorate backs Trump, but with low unemployment nationally, only a small part of that can be explained primarily by his support in economically depressed areas.
On the contrary, in America, too, there is more to the resurgence of populism than just economics. AYouGov poll commissioned by The Economist found strong racial resentment among supporters of Trump, whose use of the “birther” issue (questioning the validity of the birth certificate of Barack Obama, America’s first black president) helped put him on the path to his current campaign. And opposition to immigration, including the idea of building a wall and making Mexico pay for it, was an early plank in his nativist platform.
And yet a recent Pew survey shows growing pro-immigrant sentiment in the US, with 51% of adults saying that newcomers strengthen the country, while 41% believe they are a burden, down from 50% in mid-2010, when the effects of the Great Recession were still acutely felt. In Europe, by contrast, sudden large influxes of political and economic refugees from the Middle East and Africa have had stronger political effects, with many experts speculating that Brexit was more about migration to Britain than about bureaucracy in Brussels.
Antipathy toward elites can be caused by both economic and cultural resentments. The New York Times identified a major indicator of Trump-leaning districts: a white-majority working-class population whose livelihoods had been negatively affected throughout the decades in which the US economy shed manufacturing capacity. But even if there had been no economic globalization, cultural and demographic change would have created some degree of populism.
But it is an overstatement to say that the 2016 election highlights an isolationist trend that will end the era of globalization. Instead, policy elites who support globalization and an open economy will have to be seen to be addressing economic inequality and adjustment assistance for those disrupted by change. Policies that stimulate growth, such as infrastructure investment, will also be important.
Writers for the Canadian Newspaper The Globe and Mail believe that Trump will lose but that his coalition of voter will continue to vex U.S. “elites”.
The accommodation between left and right started unravelling in the 1980s. The Bork confirmation. The Thomas confirmation. Contract with America. Impeaching Bill Clinton. Iraq. Obama. The Tea Party. Gay marriage. And now the Democrats want to replace a black president with a woman? A CLINTON?
Meanwhile, Peoria is hurting. The city is home to Caterpillar. But the heavy-equipment giant has outsourced most of its work force overseas or to so-called right-to-work states.
But what does Washington care? The left worries more about combatting global warming than about blue-collar workers with bad backs and no jobs. The right promises to retrain them, but somehow never gets around to it.
The laid-off boys in the bars of Peoria blame the illegals, the only ones even more voiceless than themselves. They seethe at the Wall Street suits who destroyed the economy and got off scot-free. And what the hell is transgender, anyway? They look at their daughter’s report card. She’s only getting Cs. What future is there for anyone who’s only getting Cs?
I will be your voice, Donald Trump promises. I will get your job back, or at least wreak revenge on the company that gave it away to a guy in Bangladesh. I will send the Mexicans back and keep the Muslims out and build a wall around our country. And you’ll have a man, a real man, a white man, your kind of guy, in the White House. We’ll be back in charge, folks, you and me. It’ll be great again. And they’ll never take it away from us.
There are probably enough people left who understand that this is a lie to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. But this is last-chance time. And not just for America, for all of us.
The rage that created Donald Trump voted for Brexit and is wreaking havoc on the continent. It’s Marine Le Pen in France and Norbert Hofer in Austria. It’s the Law and Justice party in Poland and Jobbik in Hungary and Alternative for Germany.
Don’t be smug. In politics, Canada is often the United States, only five years behind. We must heal this breach. It’s getting serious, now. The next Congress and the next U.S. administration must reach out to each other. They don’t have to get all kumbaya about it, but Americans of all persuasions can surely find ways to bring hope to Middle America, to working white America, to the old America that must never be dismissed, even if it is on the wane.
There were several articles that actually focused on individual Trump voters and the kinds of lives they lead. We’ve posted some of them down thread but I thought I’d excerpt and repost them here since we really need to read about these folk and understand that they hate us. Sociologist ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD wrote an incredible long form peace for Mother Jones. What struck me about the woman Sharon she followed as she lived life in Lake Charles, Lousiana is that Sharon doesn’t seem to realize she’s a parasite. She makes living basically selling scammy insurance products to poor working class men that really can’t afford them and in a different state with better worker protections, wouldn’t even be necessary. Yet, these folks do not seem to think about blaming the real causes of their life’s distress
“Hey Miss Sharon, how ya’ doin’?” A fiftysomething man I’ll call Albert led us through the warehouse, where sheet metal had been laid out on large tables. “Want to come over Saturday, help us make sausage?” he called over the eeeeech of an unseen electrical saw. “I’m seasoning it different this year.” The year before, Sharon had taken her 11-year-old daughter along to help stuff the spicy smoked-pork-and-rice sausage, to which Albert added ground deer meat. “I’ll bring Alyson,” Sharon said, referring to her daughter. Some days they’d have 400 pounds of deer meat and offer her some. “They’re really good to me. And I’m there for them too when they need something.”
These men had little shelter from bad news. “If you die, who’s going to bury you?” Sharon would ask on such calls. “Do you have $10,000 sitting around? Will your parents have to borrow money to bury you or your wife or girlfriend? For $1.44 a week, you get $20,000 of life insurance.”
Louisiana is the country’s third-poorest state; 1 in 5 residents live in poverty. It ranks third in the proportion of residents who go hungry each year, and dead last in overall health. A quarter of the state’s students drop out from high school or don’t graduate on time. Partly as a result, Louisiana leads the nation in its proportion of “disconnected youth“—20 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in 2013 were neither in school nor at work. (Nationally, the figure is 14 percent.) Only 6 percent of Louisiana workers are members of labor unions, about half the rate nationwide.
Louisiana is also home to vast pollution, especially along Cancer Alley, the 85-mile strip along the lower Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with some 150 industrial plants where once there were sugar and cotton plantations. According to the American Cancer Society, Louisiana had the nation’s second-highest incidence of cancer for men and the fifth-highest rate of male deaths from cancer. “When I make a presentation, if I say, ‘How many of you know someone that has had cancer?’ every hand is going to go up. Just the other day I was in Lafayette doing my enrollments for the insurance, and I was talking to this one guy. And he said, ‘My brother-in-law just died. He was 29 or 30.’ He’s the third person working for his company that’s been in their early 30s that’s died of cancer in the last three years. I file tons and tons of cancer claims.”
Sharon also faced economic uncertainty. A divorced mother of two, she supported herself and two children on an ample but erratic income, all from commission on her Aflac sales. “If you’re starting out, you might get 99 ‘noes’ for every one ‘yes.’ After 16 years on the job, I get 50 percent ‘yeses.'” This put her at the top among Aflac salespeople; still, she added, “If it’s a slow month, we eat peanut butter.”
There’s an interview with the author up at Democracy Now! that looks into what drive Trump supporters. Hers is just one book trying to figure out what’s going on with this segment of America.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, after all of those interviews in that time span, you decided on the title Strangers in Their Own Land. Why?
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Yes. Well, here’s the thing. I decided on that title because, in the end, it described how a lot of them felt. I talk about a deep story, because, at the end of the day, I keep asking, “Why do you hate the government, you know, all the things the government does?” And they would say—there were many answers to that, but one was this. It was the deep story. What is a deep story? It’s a story that feels true to you. You take the facts out, you take judgment out. It’s as felt.
You’re on a—waiting in line for something you really want at the end: the American dream. You feel a sense of great deserving. You’ve worked very hard. A lot of these guys were plant workers, pipefitters in the petrochemical—you know, it’s tough work. So you’ve worked really hard. And the line isn’t moving. It’s like a pilgrimage up, up to the top. It’s not moving.
Then you see some people cut in line. Well, who were they? They are affirmative action women who would go for formerly all-men’s jobs, or affirmative action blacks who have been sponsored and now have access to formerly all-white jobs. It’s immigrants. It’s refugees. And from—as felt, the line’s moving back.
Then they see Barack Hussein Obama, who should impartially be monitoring the line, wave to the line cutters. And then you think, “Oh, he’s their president and not mine. And, in fact, he’s a line cutter. How did he get to Harvard? How did he get to Columbia? Where did he get the money? His mom was a single mom. Wait a minute.”
And then they begin to feel like strangers in their own land. They feel like the government has become a giant marginalization machine. It’s not theirs. In fact, it’s putting them back. And then someone in front of the line turns around and says, “Oh, you redneck,” you know. And that feels insult to injury. It’s just the tipping point at which they feel not only estranged—I mean, demographically they’re getting smaller. They feel like they’re religious in an increasingly secular culture. Their attitudes are denigrated, and so they’re culturally denigrated. And then the economy begins to shake. And then they feel, “I need another leader.”
Two other articles that are worth reading, if you haven’t done so yet, are one from The Guardian which takes a more global perspective and one that’s very specific from WAPO. The WAPO features a woman who finds that Trump thinks like her. We’ve discussed it a little here this week. It seems like a very close look at some one grappling with mental illness which made me uncomfortable. I’m excerpting here from The Guardian piece which focuses on the link between education and Trump/Right Alt voting.
But it is not simply a question of demographics. The gap has been amplified by certain forms of social mobility, which have reinforced the education divide by enabling the better-educated to start congregating together: socially, geographically, romantically. In a previous generation, graduates often married non-graduates, because their choices tended to be driven by where they happened to live or work. As the cliché has it: bosses used to marry their secretaries. Not any more, and not just because there are fewer secretaries. If you went to university, ask yourself: how many of your friends didn’t go to university? And among your friends, how many of those who did are married to people who didn’t? Greater freedom of movement produces greater freedom of choice. But that does not produce more social diversity, it produces more social stratification.
Social media now enhances these patterns. Friendship groups of like-minded individuals reinforce each other’s worldviews. Facebook’s news feed is designed to deliver information that users are more inclined to “like”. Much of the shock that followed the Brexit result in educated circles came from the fact that few people had been exposed to arguments that did not match their preferences. Education does not provide any protection against these social media effects. It reinforces them.
The growing political divide between the educated and the less educated can be seen across Europe. It is most pronounced in Scandinavian countries, where university attendance is high and levels of education are an increasing driver of voting habits. It is less visible in southern and eastern Europe – in places such as Portugal and Poland – where participation in higher education is lower, and other social factors, including family and religion, still exert a strong grip.
I’m closing today with a great article written by Joy-Ann Reid who dissects Donald’s focused hatred towards women. She argues that Trump hates women more than any other group he debases.
Even without the euphoria of “yes we can,” Hillary Clinton is to white women what Barack Obama was to African-Americans. She represents the opportunity to see a like image in the Oval Office for the first time. That has to be tempting even for Republican women who would never support a Democrat, let alone a Clinton, and Trump’s demeanor and debate performance is making it easier for white independent and even Republican women to cross over.
And Trump is uniquely vulnerable because his record of insulting and demeaning women is as long as his love of Putin’s Russia is deep. According to the documentary Trump: What’s the Deal, he verbally harassed first wife Ivana, before dumping her for Marla Maples, whom he resisted marrying in a most public and embarrassing way, only to dump her and marry Melania before reportedly berating her for not losing her baby weight fast enough after giving birth to their now-10-year-old son Baron. The most effective Clinton ads this season have been the ones showing women and girls listening to Trump’s cruel words in his own voice.
Trump is at further risk due to his almost limbic inability to control himself when attacked, particularly by a woman. Consider that there’s no one who gets under his thin skin the way Elizabeth Warren does. She and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd have shared the sobriquet “goofy” as stars of Trump’s infamous Twitter tirades—though Warren has the smear “Pocahontas” all to herself.
During the campaign, Trump has gone after white women, Latinas (Machado and Susana Martinez, the governor of Mexico), Asian-American and Muslim women (Gold Star Mother Ghazala Khan). His Fox News chest thumping at a black Flint, Michigan pastor, Faith Green Timmons, came a day after he sheepishly backed down when she stopped him from politicking in her pulpit. Interestingly, he has yet to have a go at Michelle Obama, who just cut a national ad for Hillary Clinton. One can only imagine how that might go.
We frequently discuss how being around the TV when Pence or Trump or any one of his supporters is speaking out is a lot like reliving the trauma of an abusive relationship. They give me PTSD flashbacks from every emotionally abusive person I’ve ever met. They are angry, hostile, and use the language of attack. We are their enemy. They label us hateful names. We women. We African Americans. We of Mexican and Latin descent. We who practice something other than the right brand of Christianity. Yet, it is they who feel under attack and not given their due. As the Canadian writers said, these folk have such palpable emotional turmoil that they are not likely going away with the Trump candidacy. They are also firmly seated in the Republican Party Grassroots.
I like that we’re beginning to understand and see more of these folks even though I frankly approach each article with wide open eyes and a dropping mouth. We don’t exist in the same narrow space. We exist at odds and at an arm’s length. We talk past and at each other. We don’t get each other’s lives or choices at all.
Something here has to change.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?