I began this post hoping to find some information to help me fathom these election results—and then present what I’ve learned to you in the hope that you’ll respond with your insights.
How can we explain Donald Trump’s vote total in the midst of the pandemic—among other things?
But along the way, the picture got considerably murkier. So I’m going to present some of what I’ve seen to date, along with my tentative sense that maybe it’s too soon for this exploration—or maybe the topic is way more complex than a blog post can bear (which admittedly hasn’t stopped me before)—or some variation of an old joke: how many economists does it take to interpret which data to help us figure out what’s really going on? I don’t even quote all the ones I’ve just come across.
Thomas Frank published “What’s the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America” in 2004. He was grappling with the reasons that his native state, which toward the end of the 19th century had been a “hotbed” of left-wing populism, had become so conservative.
Frank saw the shift from an emphasis on economic equality to a focus on abortion, gay marriage, and the demonization of those termed the “liberal elites.” Not incidentally, fiscal conservatism had won the day. The result, Frank concluded, was that Kansans voted for politicians whose support of economic policies was against their own interests.
“What’s the Matter With America?”
When Frank’s book was published in England and Australia, it bore the title: “What’s the Matter With America?”
I thought of all this when I read a Washington Post article bearing the headline: “Biden won places that are thriving. Trump won ones that are hurting.”
The sub headline reads: “In a trend that’s been unfolding since 2000, Democrats continue to gain votes in prosperous, highly educated urban areas. Republicans are gaining in small cities and rural communities.”
I remain enormously grateful for the Biden-Harris win, which was substantial. I’m especially grateful to the Black women and other people of color who made it possible—and it’s well past time that we finally and fully address their legitimate grievances, which should at last be viewed as America’s grievances. Of course those voters ranged widely in their socioeconomic status: they don’t neatly fit into the picture the Post has described.
But I also think we need to examine the divergent voting trends closely if we have any hope of forging enough of a governing coalition to last us for years and allow us to accomplish the critical work of economic and social justice—even after the pandemic is at last under control.
The Post article points out that the election results flipped the usual assumption:
“Are you better off than you were four years ago? That question has been at the heart of presidential campaigns since President Ronald Reagan first asked it in 1980. The general thinking has been that voters who are doing well would vote to reelect a sitting president.
“That’s not what happened in 2020.
“This time around, those who were better off voted for a change in the White House.
“The parts of America that have seen strong job, population and economic growth in the past four years voted for Joe Biden, economic researchers found. In contrast, President Trump garnered his highest vote shares in counties that had some of the most sluggish job, population and economic growth during his term.”
We knew that Trump would attract more of the rural vote and those who were less educated. It’s still hard for many of us, myself included, to comprehend how anyone other than his most rabid cultists could vote for a man whom we see as a racist, corrupt, inept demagogue who came close to destroying our democracy—and bears considerable responsibility for the deaths of several hundred thousand people.
Exit polls did indicate that education and race were the strongest indicators of how people voted, but closely behind was a county’s economic status. Those findings were also offered by economist James Chung of StratoDem Analytics. Based on these data, the Post asserts that those votes didn’t follow good economic performance.
Sure looks like folks were voting against their own self-interest. And the fact that many are hurting economically and are less well-educated probably makes them more likely to be bitter and angry. These are the people who depend upon manufacturing, construction, and energy, the Post points out.
A Quickening National Trend
The Post observes that these results are the continuation of a trend since the turn of the century (which, I note, fits in with Thomas Frank’s findings about Kansas).
Since 2000, Democrats have made election gains in densely populated and affluent urban areas, while Republicans prevailed in rural areas and smaller cities.
But the pace seems to be quickening. George Bush in 2000 won 2,417 counties, amounting to 45% of the US economy; Al Gore won 666 counties comprising 55%—not a vast split.
In contrast, according to a Brookings Institution analysis this year, Biden won 490 counties holding 70% of the US economy, while Trump won 2,534 counties—slightly less than 30% of the entire economy. (By comparison, Hillary Clinton won counties accounting for about 64% of the US economy.)
Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution told the Post: “This is not a scenario for economic consensus.”
According to the Post,
“The United States is transforming into a knowledge and digital economy, and the political map appears to be shifting with it. Some call it the urban versus rural divide, but it is also a digital versus blue-collar split.”
Another View—Also True…
All this appears true, but today’s New York Times has a different take: “Counties for Biden Had Higher Job Losses.” The Times writer observes that
“After the worst of the downturn in April, many of the most affected red counties recovered far more swiftly than blue counties did. By September, as unemployment fell nearly everywhere, blue counties were more likely to have higher unemployment rates.”
This article seems intuitively right, as we know that Black, brown, and indigenous people have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic in terms of both their personal and economic health. And service jobs in blue areas have suffered greatly, some to extinction.
As the pandemic spreads, in a few months we may see those red state areas that haven’t yet been badly affected economically find themselves in more dire conditions.
I’m not tempted to conclude that Democrats voted against their economic interests. They seem to have had concerns other than the economy on their minds—say, the pandemic and racial justice. (I say that with full awareness of my biases…)
A Few More Brush Strokes to Add to the Picture
Here are two more interesting ideas to add to the mix. Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times columnist, offered “A Simple Theory of Why Trump Did Well.”
He says, “It’s the Money, Stupid.”
Trump signed the Cares Act and, in a clever marketing ploy befitting an egomaniac (my description, not Bouie’s), had his Sharpie signature writ large on those checks.
Lost on those voters was the fact that the legislation originated with the House Democrats, who fought for it against Republican opposition, including Trump’s.
The voters just knew they’d gotten real money in their pockets. (Bouie’s piece is also worth reading for his assessments of other “perceived wisdoms” about the election.)
Another interesting fact is found in a Politico article by Jack Herrera that explains how carefully Trump targeted certain groups of Latino voters, which helped him win Florida and hold Texas.
Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate in 100 years to win Zapata County, Texas—and that county is more than 90% Latino or Hispanic.
Reading my mind, Herrera states:
“To many outsiders, these results were confounding: How could Trump, one of the most virulently anti-immigrant leaders, make inroads with so many Latinos, and along the Mexican border, no less?”
The answer: the Latino vote is not monolithic. As the chair of the Starr County Republican Party in Texas says, “Here, people don’t say we’re Mexican American. We say we’re Tejanos.”
They see themselves as red blooded Americans whose concerns include the oil and gas industry, gun rights, and even abortion. Thus, attempts by Democrats to woo Latino or Hispanic voters without recognizing the particular concerns of the specific community are doomed to failure.
How Do We Proceed?
I recognize that these articles simplify the voters and circumstances on both sides. In addition to the hard core Trump idolators who are probably lost to the Democrats forever (fine!), those 71+ million include the very wealthy who don’t want taxes/regulation, the fence-sitters who were frightened by the disinformation about Biden’s alleged socialism, etc.
I think it’s important that we continue to try to peel away the parts of that 71+ million who are “gettable.” And a big chunk of them are in rural America.
“Democrats need to figure out what their positive and inclusive vision is that speaks to rural America,” said Kenan Fikri, research director of the Economic Innovation Group. “Democrats really didn’t make inroads into rural America this time around.”
Biden is doing the right thing, I believe, by stressing jobs in rural communities and among laborers who are hurting. Concerns about the closings of rural hospitals and lack of access to broadband are also the kind of issues with appeal.
All this will be possible with a Democratic Senatorial majority, so we must continue to hope for that (and donate, write postcards, make phone calls, do whatever we can to help Ossoff and Warnock in Georgia.) Otherwise, it becomes much more difficult.
I’m not suggesting that we slack off one whit in engaging more young people, Black and brown people, and others who’ve voted rarely or not at all. We must do both–and continue fighting against voter suppression and gerrymandering.
I’m going to defer to Biden’s oft-stated conviction that he gets along with people because though he questions their positions, he never questions their motives. (Before you start yelling at me, I’m simply saying I think it’s good he can do that!)
The numbers in the articles I’ve cited may present a confusing picture, but regardless, they suggest to me that if the Biden administration is to succeed—and grow its mandate in 2022—it must find ways to win over more of those who voted for Trump and the Republicans.
I don’t think we can have a secure democracy if we don’t.
What do you think?
49 thoughts on “Trying to Understand This Election: “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” 2.0?”
I agree. Those on the far left may disagree, but Biden was the right Democratic candidate for these times. Of course, I can’t prove it, but I believe Trump would have beaten any Democrat other than Biden,who had just enough appeal to Hillary-hostile blue collar workers to re-take Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania from Trump (and it didn’t hurt that he chose Kamala Harris as his running mate). If the Dems can win the two Georgia senate seats, I predict Biden will be an effective President and easily win re-election in 2024 (assuming he chooses to run again, which he may not).
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I think that there are a couple of things here to unpack. There was a lot of ticket splitting, and that’s how we ended up with Biden winning and the senate/house losing to Republicans. I’m not sure if that is a big story or a little one, but it is part of the mystery.
The second one is more opaque, but I think that there was a lot more resentment voting than we can understand easily; this quote (though from last year) stayed with me because it is bluntly chilling:
I was told growing up that we Americans will face racism before we face classism, and I think this is true. The people who vote against their own best interest know what they are doing and they know why. They don’t want a hand up, they want to bring the others down.
The missing ingredient is animus.
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I certainly won’t negate the degree of racism in this country; I have written about it a number of times, including the fact that it has received a sharp boost out into the open due to trump’s rhetoric and actions. But 71+ million people are a hell of a lot of people. Though each one cast his/her vote knowing of his character and attitudes and–if not endorsing them–certainly not dissuaded by them, I think the intensity of racism varies and does not account for the entirety of the vote.
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I agree. My larger point was that sheer class animus is a greater driver than racism, though I think the two have a relationship.
When Trump stands before his fans at his rallies and goes through his endless list of grievances, he is reciting to them their own grievances. It’s mostly us vs. them stuff, but the “them” is amorphous enough it can be any demographic.
I don’t think his followers are stupid, far from it. But I do think they are hateful, and their choices reflect that. They would rather drag it all down than try to lift themselves up. The rising boats metaphor from the Reagan era showed them it wasn’t going to happen, so destroy it all is what they see.
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Well, I think this one got lobbed at me. I apologize in advance, this will not get the time it deserves due to taking a break at work. But here goes.
4 years ago there was a bunch of discussion just like this. “We have to understand why all these people voted against Hillary.” Then everyone stopped trying to understand and went on a 4 year jihad against the one those people voted for.
Here, I think, is the secret. And this is not directed at you personally, but at the main, prevailing culture of entertainment, academia, government, the establishment press, big tech and the corporate world. Stop. Being. So. Condescending. There it is. People who don’t agree with the left are defective. We cling to guns and religion. We are deplorable. We are clowns. If we question a 3rd grader going trans at a Catholic school or the fairness of biological men winning all the trophies in womens’ sports we’re transphobes. If we question whether the war on poverty has helped the inner city poor we are racists. If we think Obama was a lousy president, it’s because we can’t stand the thought of a brown guy in the white house. If we think that divorce or unlimited access to porn is bad for kids we are misogynists or bible thumpers.
Here is the thing – there are people with actual brains and educations and all that stuff who disagree with the liberal left on a whole host of things. Once upon a time we had policy disagreements. Now we are either dishonest or just stupid. Re-read those articles from the NYT or the WP – insert “stupid rubes” for “rural” or “midwestern” and see if it reads any differently. Bet it doesn’t. Look again at the title of that book – “What’s Wrong With Kansas” – why does anything have to be wrong just because they don’t agree with you?
Trump has a lot of faults, but they’re all out there in the open for everyone to see. A lot of people saw him as the one guy who would stand up and flip a middle finger to everyone calling him names, because those same people are basically calling all of us names too. Democrats are becoming the party of the rich now – something Republicans were a generation or two ago. And that carries a tendency to be snooty and condescending.
This wasn’t all about the social issues. Trump presided over a great economy before Covid, and one that is recovering swiftly. Or has been. It’s easier to get your kids out of a bad school and into a charter or private one. The unlimited immigration that has been great for big business has slowed and regular people had better jobs, with real income actually rising for the first time in a long time. Agree with his priorities or not, he made promises and he stuck to them, for the most part.
You and your readers are going to have lots of reasons for why I’m wrong. But look around you for a moment. The southern 1/3 of my state (Indiana) used to elect Democrats all the time and we had a number of Democrat governors over the last 30 years. Not any more.
Everyone said it was going to be a “blue wave” but that didn’t come close to happening. Trump and republicans gained ground in virtually every demographic group – except white men. Your (the group you, not you personally) choice is to either seek out real opinions on why this is happening, or to continue to call people like me names and shut us out of social media accounts and good respectable corporate jobs. There really is a totalitarian streak that is growing among younger people on the left these days. They frighten me. 20 years ago I would have had a lot of company among Democrats being upset at big companies muzzling free speech. That’s not true today.
So, there is one man’s opinion. Sorry for the length, and I am not trying to attack anyone personally. But I perceive that there is a groupthink out there, and am becoming afraid that my normal tendency towards subtlety and nuance is not helping anybody. It’s OK to read the NYT for comfort and support. Just don’t expect that paper to have even the most basic of clues about what’s going on in other places.
I’m sorry but you are all victims of your own victim mentality. I have two degrees & I can’t stand the NYT. Nuance? In the NYT? You obviously haven’t read it in a while.
I live in the city but I would rather be in the woods. I can’t/don’t hunt anymore due to my arthritis but I miss it. But it’s not a rural/city divide. Lots of trumpsters in the city, my friend. & there were a lot of democrats in the country but of course, they were always shouted down by the conservatives, especially the men. But conservative women are becoming pretty nasty nowadays, too. I don’t want to have anything to do with any of you people. Sorry. None of you know the first thing about how to conduct a debate.
The thing is … white men are bullies. In fact, most men are. It didn’t used to be this way. I remember when men used to woo a woman. Now they’re in your face about EVERYTHING. They will taunt you with politics … “You’re a democrat!” a man said to me the other day. “No I’m not,” I replied. “You hate Trump, that makes you a liberal democrat,” he came back at me. With this kind of logic, I just don’t want to have anything to do with these people & I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE.
Another white man I know … was going off about how (he used a well-known slur for black people) & poor people “belong to us” & that they owe “us” their “labor” … really? He was advocating the return of slavery … “It’s good for them”.
BTW, I live in NY state.
The thing is, I am neither liberal nor conservative, like many people I am a mixture of the two. Neither party represents me & I am fiercely independent.
& sorry you’re afraid of young people. I adore the youth. They’re going to save us. I loved the protests this summer, I never felt so alive. It was great to be with the kids & even though they all called me “Mama”, I was happy to be out there in the streets again!
Maybe if they took all the hate talk off the radios & all the stupid Christian programming (which is almost the same thing) & put great music on the airwaves again, this country would be a great place again. You talk about the change in Indiana in the last thirty years? Well, it’s probably the hatred on the airwaves. It’s the same everywhere.
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JP: I appreciate your response, and I do agree with you about the condescension. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of name calling all around. You are right that many people like me find it difficult to comprehend the support of trump by people like you. I’ll just focus on what’s going on right now. You’re a lawyer, so you must be aware that trump’s attempts to overturn the election results have resulted in a 1-27 count of losses vs wins because they held no substance. (The one win was the court granting Republican count watchers permission to move six feet away from the count, rather than the 12 feet that had been instituted for the safety of the election workers.) These defeats have been based on there being zero substance to the cases. Now Giuliani, who has lost any shred of respectability, is requesting $20,000 a day to continue the work that all reputable law firms have either declined to pursue or have withdrawn from. These cases have been thrown out by judges appointed by both Republican and Democratic Presidents. The integrity of the elections in various states has been attested to by both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state and election officials.
And still the blatant attempt to overthrown the will of the people continues. You may not be motivated by racism, but the efforts to throw out the votes in predominantly black areas is irrefutably voter suppression. I heard one former US Solicitor General say “If anything supports passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill, this is it.”
When trump and the Republican Senate rushed through its court-packing to get Barrett confirmed, trump crowed that it was necessary to get “my” justices in line. His intent: to use “his” Supreme Court to overturn an election that Chris Krebs, the Election Cybersecurity official, called one of the safest and fairest in years. Of course, that got Krebs fired. Similarly, the conservative Republican Secretary of State of Georgia, who is a beacon of integrity in all this, turned down trump’s offer that he co-chair the state’s efforts for trump and endorse him in January because he felt it interfered with his role in charge of the elections. When he stated publicly that there’d been no fraud in Georgia’s elections, the two Senate candidates demanded he resign. He refused. He and his wife are getting death threats, which is the fate of anyone who stands up to trump’s abuse of power or crosses him in any way.
It is indisputable to most people that although trump was not responsible for the pandemic, his refusal to use the tools available to him to fight it–and his appalling politicization of mask wearing–have led to far more deaths than would otherwise have occurred. And now his refusal to allow the Biden team to even meet with the CDC and other officials will mean additional deaths. These are facts, JP, not opinions of mine or the New York Times.
Many people both within and outside trump’s orbit say he’s fighting to overturn the election because without the power of the presidency, he faces serious legal troubles. And these are for crimes he allegedly committed even before he became President. The man is a fraud and a grifter who has done his best to subvert our democracy. Putin didn’t succeed in intervening in our election, but it didn’t matter. The subversion came from the Oval Office. And the phony scandals will make it harder for Biden, a thoroughly decent man, to try to bring this country together.
So yes, I find it difficult to understand how you and other intelligent, honorable people can support this thoroughly corrupt, evil man.
You have kind of moved from “how can we Democrats broaden our appeal” to “Trump is evil and has no basis to contest the election results” – a different question entirely.
My response to the second is that there is clearly evidence of fraud/shenanigans. (Dead voters, for one). The questions are whether Trump can meet a burden of proof on whatever irregularities he contests (there are many different kinds) and even if he does can it turn the numbers he needs.
I don’t think it’s racism to question voting in Detroit and Philadelphia. Big Democrat machine cities have been vote factories long before they were majority black.
There are many anomalies that make me scratch my head over the results. My own admittedly uneducated guess is that there was some monkeying with the machines and that the funny business in the big cities only happened once they started seeing far more Trump votes than expected so that relying on the subtle tampering was no longer enough. I don’t see how Trump made inroads in virtually every demographic but white men, how there were no significant D gains in the Senate, serious D losses in the house and in State races but Biden alone managed a record setting popular vote total. There are a lot of people who don’t think it smells right. The people behind an independent counsel probe, an impeachment and a nonstop resistance surely aren’t above a little vote tampering when fighting what they see as pure evil.
I have some comments and a few questions.
What do you mean it got “lobbed at you”? Do you feel personally attacked? If so, why?
That “4-year jihad” was a 4-year expression of dismay at the repeated violations of: federal rules, various laws, conventional standards, telling the truth (I’ll show my tax returns in six weeks; Obama spied on my campaign; my doctor gave me a note saying I’m the most terrifically healthy human he’s ever known; I’m not fat I’m just tall and the scale is wrong), – and meantime there were numerous members of his family brought into sensitive positions in his admin (a side of nepotism) without the requisite security clearances those positions require. He just executive authorized them, overriding the requirement, and it was apparently allowed as a temporary measure. Foreign dignitaries (and Republicans) were encouraged to rent excessive and lavishly priced rooms at Trump properties (emoluments, anyone?), and trump seemed far more involved with endless campaign (ego-stroking) rallyes than with learning his actually job, let alone doing it. This is not a “jihad against the one those people voted for”. It is a response to verifiable bad behavior.
I believe you are confusing “people who don’t agree with the left” with people whose philosophy is “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts”.
Slinging mud at a monolithic straw-liberal doesn’t improve your claims.
Why does Trump’s multitude of faults become okay because he broadcasts them every chance he gets? I don’t get it, seriously. Please explain this one.
How is flipping a middle finger to everyone calling him names a virtue? This is especially puzzling because Trump is famous for making up playground insults (i.e.: name calling) for everyone he disagrees with. So I guess we should flip him the middle finger…
I don’t know what examples you have about big companies muzzling free speech. However, big companies have a stake in what their employees do and say, so they will, for example, encourage volunteering for disaster relief and discourage Nazi sympathizer stances. That is within their rights. It is the government that is constitutionally constrained from suppressing free speech.
Bad schools is a problem that should not have to be fixed on the backs of kids getting an education, but it was Republicans, not liberals, who began to argue that there shouldn’t even be a Department of Education to support public schools. Pretty sure that bad and underfunded schools belong on their side of the scorecard. Charter schools have a worse reputation overall than most publicly funded schools.
There has never been unlimited immigration in the last century.
Regular people’s incomes started rising before Trump even announced he was running when Target and Walmart both announced they were leaving federal and state minimum wages behind and declaring their own “starting wage” with the goal of raising their hourly wages to $15 per hour over several years, and the two of them employ enough people for that action to have a domino effect on a lot of local economies. It wasn’t something Trump did.
I recently went over a list of Trump’s Promises Kept in PolitiFact, where there were several of them that said stuff like “Trump tried to stop this but was overturned by the House and/or Senate – so he kept this promise.” Kind of shows a disingenuous attitude toward making promises, one he’s shown throughout his business career as well. Also shows PolitiFacts thumbing of the scale for Republicans.
There is no way that I could shut you out of social media or good corporate jobs. Why do you think that is happening?
I’m not claiming you (you personally) don’t have brains or an education. You are actually capable of laying out an argument, one that I think is flawed and full of errors, misdirection and disproven claims, but still an argument rather than just the “ha, ha, I love liberal tears” stuff I see far too much of. I appreciate that you kept this comment mostly civil. We could even build on this, start an actual discussion of the issues, but that takes both sides. Are you up for it?
Sure. I’ll respond to the first two points. I said the question was lobbed at me because I think I’m the only conservative who comments here sometimes. I am a lawyer in a red state that saw 4 out of 92 counties go Biden, and one of those was just barely. I grew up around people the Democrats used to represent. I know these people and have been kind of amazed to watch some old Democrat strongholds going Republican. I never thought I’d see it.
The jihad I referred to was the independent counsel episode that was stacked full of people who believe as you do yet could not make a case. That “Steele Dossier” is going to go down in history as the most successful political dirty trick ever – it tied an administration in knots for 2 years but was based on nothing. They followed up with an impeachment attempt for the supposed offense of threatening to withhold aid to Ukrane unless certain actions were taken. The joke was on us because they went after Trump (who didn’t do that) instead of Bidan (who did).
Trump is many things. He can be a blowhard, an asshole, a braggart, and a loose cannon. And yet we have Arab peace treaties with Israel and gas under $2/gallon.
I see no basis to support your theory that this entire blog post was written solely for you. So that makes you appear delusional, stuck on yourself, or just like a bomb thrower. It’s up to you to not take everything personally.
By the way, the biggest change that I have repeatedly heard about in the last 30 years was popularized by Rush Limbaugh and his bottomless supply of name calling and conspiracy theories. It isn’t that amazing that people constantly listening to propaganda on their drives to work will start to believe the ridiculous things that are being repeated. The repetition is a technique that has been known for centuries.
I don’t pretend to understand why the *Special Counsel’s* report was handled as it was. It was, however, a Special Counsel, not an Independent Counsel. I remember there was a discussion of whether to allow another Independent Counsel and the decision being made not to do so – using Ken Starr’s abuse of that procedure in the 90’s as an example.
And the jihad – see that wasn’t even an Independent Counsel that Mueller headed. Plus you are assuming you know what I believe, you bring up the debunked “Steele Dossier is a dirty trick” claim, Trump *was* impeached, and there was credible evidence that Trump threatened to withhold aid that was already approved for the Ukraine if they didn’t come up with some dirt on Biden.
One last thing. Of course it is directed at people who support trump and think anything negative said about him is a lie and an attack – Stop. Being. So. Sensitive.
Wow, this took a fast turn. I never claimed that Annie wrote this solely for me. But it seemed to me that a discussion among mostly big city/coastal Democrats about how to appeal to folks in RedLand is something I might have some ideas about. So far on this thread i’ve been called a whiner and a bully and either delusional or a bomb thrower. So much for civility.
You are right about the special/independent counsel thing. I will admit guilt for imprecise language use.
I still want to believe that it’s possible for two people who disagree about politics to have a rational conversation. Perhaps that’s no longer possible.
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I would also like to believe that “it’s possible for two people who disagree about politics to have a rational conversation”
I was going to ignore your reply but we are back to being reasonably civil. Perhaps we can meet at some halfway point after all.
The biggest problem I see here is the facts.
You are bringing out debunked claims to bolster your stance. If you consider these facts, we have no common basis for discussion.
This is a problem that I first saw addressed in Alice in Wonderland, and could be the place to start working toward two way communication. Seriously, I think I was 8 when I was formally introduced to the philosophical concept of defining terms before you expect communication to happen. Thank you Lewis Carroll.
Rather than re-reading all the comments again, I’m guessing that all the names you claim to have been called – “a whiner and a bully and either delusional or a bomb thrower” I’m going to discount (heh) based on the fact that you include my comment on what your post was looking like. To be precise, I did not call you a bomb thrower, I did say you looked like one. There is a difference. The main point being that when you deny being a bomb thrower I am willing to believe you.
Back to Alice in Wonderland. Words. Instead of words meaning whatever we both want them to mean let’s pick one. There’s one that you put some emphasis on, so I propose this one.
What do you mean by “Condescending”?
Hi, MDavis. I assume JP will respond to you, but I wanted to welcome you to annieasksyou. I share your desire to pursue civil discussions with people who disagree with you. JP and I have been at this for quite a while. It isn’t easy for either of us, but there have been rare occasions on which we find common ground, and that is gratifying.
Annie, thanks for the welcome and kind words.
After JP’s reply to my comment I was prepared to just ignore his next (after reading it, of course) but he surprised me by continuing to be relatively civil. I can see where a discussion can happen, and view it as part of the work needed. It’s worth the effort to stop and think about what he(?) is saying and ask if I am not clear on what is meant.
I appreciate your willingness but I think the wiser thing is to be a good guest here on Annie’s site and leave the party before it gets late.
Thanks JP. I’ll agree with you on this.
Until next time.
Hi JP. I am curious . You stated that Trump made a lot of promises and stuck to them. And that the economy was doing well because of him. I must have missed something. So , let us look at facts and not words.
Trump said on day one he would have a health care plan that covered EVERYONE.. Was CHEAPER. And had better coverage. That was his rationale for trying to destroy Obamacare. As of this August (4 years later) he had yet to propose such a plan. Where is it ? Where was it?
Mr Trump promised he would have the BIGGEST, BEST infrastructure program ever. The Dems, like myself, were quite supportive of that. It would fix our roads, bridges and creates millions of new jobs. That was his promise. As of November 18, 2020, he has proposed no such plan. Where was it?
Mr Trump promised he would bring in the BEST people. Yet, as we see, his cabinet and other offices have become revolving doors of corruption and incompetence. His administration, in less than four years, has had more indictments for criminal activity than any since Nixon. His BEST people are now allowing almost 3,000 Americans a day to die from covid and the number increases daily. And what is he doing about it? The BEST people?
Trump and his minions deny global warming. They put in place trade deals that cost jobs. trade deals so bad that we have had to give farmers billions of dollars to keep them afloat. Before the pandemic hit the employment numbers for Trump’s first 3 years were BELOW the employment (new jobs) numbers for Obama’s last three years. This was the great Trump economy?
Trump did promise massive redistributions of wealth of the rich. He succeeded in that . (83% of the GOP tax cuts went to the top 1%) and he did partially build his wall. (Which is easily breached). Other than that not a single promise has been kept. The promise was that by giving money to his friends at Mar-A -Lago this would magically convert into jobs for other Americans. Didn’t happen. Never was going to happen.
So, yes, as an arrogant liberal I have two choices to make when I look at folks, including my own relatives, who voted for Trump the second time. They are either racist or stupid. They certainly cannot be voting for him due to his handling of the economy. Which is in the toilet. Or the handling of covid, which is disastrous. Or the broken promises regarding infrastructure or health care . Which never materialized.
So, what other explanations are available? Sorry if it offends you but the evidence is there. And , notice I did not even bother to delve into the personal corruption and impeachment. No need to . The evidence of his failure is plentiful without it. The question is: Why would you vote for a man who has demonstrated such incompetency? If not ignorance, what? If not stupidity, what ?If not racism, what?
Educate me as to the great achievements of the last four years so I can understand .
Well, happy Thanksgiving to you too, Joseph.
JP: please see my response to Joseph. I was busy baking a cake, so my timing was off. Sorry.
Joseph: I feel the need to comment here. I think the points you’ve made are all valid, and I would be most interested in JP’s responses. HOWEVER, the way you’ve structured your comment (“If not racist, what? If not ignorance, what?”) comes across as a personal attack, which both breaches my efforts to maintain civility on my blog and strikes me as a conversation ender, rather than an earnest attempt to understand.
I value your contributions to my posts, but I felt compelled to call this one to your attention, as it was unusually harsh. I hope you understand. Thanks.
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I think this is a lot less complicated that people make it out to be.
The Trump vote is driven mostly by the rural/religious/uneducated subculture’s resentment and hatred against the urban/secular/educated element which they know (a) is more prosperous than they are and (b) looks down upon them. The constants here are cultural identification and religion, not party ID. Today the Republicans are strongly identified with religious fundamentalism and the culture that goes with it, while the Democrats are strongly identified with the secular/urban culture, but that was less and less true the further back in time you go, so whether today’s Trumpanzees voted Democratic twenty or thirty years ago isn’t really relevant. The cultural divisions are the constant — it’s just that today the party division corresponds more closely to the cultural division than it used to, so the cultural resentment can be expressed by voting against Democrats, which was much less the case a couple of decades ago.
People are voting due to cultural identification. The secular/urban people vote Democratic because that party reflects our cultural values. The fact that we’re doing well economically doesn’t inspire us to vote for the incumbent when the incumbent is Trump, because we can see that what prosperity we have is nothing to do with him, and his incompetence will eventually wreck the economy, as it already has to a degree, via mishandling the pandemic. We’re voting for the party of gay rights, abortion rights, separation of church and state, etc. The other side is voting for the party which is the opposite. It’s about cultural values.
The Trumpanzees may or may not believe Trump has improved their situation (or will), but the real root of their support is that he’s hurting and offending the people they hate and resent. This is pretty evident if you read as many right-wing sites as I do. It is all about “owning the libs” and “fuck your feelings”.
In short, there is no longer an American nation. There are two separate and hostile nations superimposed on the same territory, and they vote their perceived national and cultural interest, more than their economic interest.
(The central defect of both Marxist and libertarian thinking is that they believe everything is about economics. The central defect of liberal thinking is that they believe everything is about race. Economics and race do matter, but other things matter too, and often matter much more.)
The other important factor is the right-wing side’s ignorance and its militant disdain for facts, science, and expertise. This manifests itself in, for example, refusal to take the pandemic or global warming seriously, and willingness to believe Trump’s ridiculous claims about the election. It partly reflects our country’s generally low levels of education and disrespect for education. The same truculent stupidity which embraces astrology, psychic powers, low-carb diets, Kennedy assassination conspiracies, alien abductions, and suchlike nonsense, has alarming consequences when it’s applied to politics and epidemiology. Especially among the religious, a stance of rejecting evidence and science in order to cling to creationism and antiquated views of women and gays has “primed” the wingnut mind to more easily defend other cherished beliefs by ignoring and rejecting the evidence that they’re wrong.
The question is how many of Trump’s voters are irredeemably sunk in this mentality. I suspect it’s most of them. “Reaching out” to such people is a waste of time. There may be some marginal people who voted for Trump for other reasons, whom we can win over, but the kind of hard-core people I’m talking about are unreachable.
The Democratic party needs to focus on the wishes and needs to the people who vote for it or could be persuaded to vote for it. That’s why I advocate bold and uncompromising action on the agenda — Medicare expansion, strengthening of the social safety net and taxing the rich to pay for it, DC/PR statehood, strong support for abortion rights and gay rights, strong protections for voting rights (especially for black Americans whose voting rights are under threat). Any compromise or hesitancy on these issues in an effort to appeal to the Trumpanzees would be futile. You can’t win over people who hate you for not believing in God and believe you’re part of a Satanist pedophile conspiracy. You can’t reason with people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old and covid-19 is a hoax. Any such wavering would merely disappoint and de-motivate our own voters.
For the future, every election cycle, two years worth of older right-leaning voters die off and two years worth of younger left-leaning voters reach the age when they start voting consistently. In general the population is getting more educated and religion is imploding. Over time the problem will solve itself.
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The trumpsters THINK the educated voters look down on them. I’m not sure that’s true. A lot of us don’t give a flying F about them. & if we do look down on them, it’s because we hear them talking in bars & restaurants & we know what idiots they are. Is pitying a person looking down on them? The thing is, trumpsters are obsessed with how people view them. That’s their problem, not ours.
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Infidel: Well, I like your optimistic ending that over time the problem will solve itself, and as you are aware, I agree with your prescriptive approach to governing. I guess where we differ is that when I see the number 71+ million, I believe there is more complexity within those voters and the choice they made in this election than you do. I am unwilling to write them off and unwilling to accept as reality the concept that we are two separate nations at this point.
I do think we need to take a hard look at social media and its impact on conspiracy theories and other lies. Young people (and I share your belief that in the main, they are our hope) who are malleable are being radicalized by such exposure. In our efforts to ensure that facts are more widely believed than dangerous fiction, we must pay attention to the ways this subculture is being nourished. But that’s an exploration for another day.
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Oh, I don’t think all those 71 million are unreachable hard-core Trumpanzees (see my 3rd-to-last paragraph). On why some more moderate voters went for Trump, see the second video here, which discusses a genuine issue most liberals avoid (both videos speak for me, though). But I think my description applies to a large majority of those who voted for him.
Un-brainwashing them could probably only be accomplished by the same method that brainwashed them in the first place — prolonged, consistent exposure to carefully-designed influences via the media. This would be difficult since they’ve been taught to reject and avoid any ideas that conflict with their current world-view. Subliminal messaging might work, given enough time — but pulling that off would take people smarter at this stuff than Fox or MSNBC are.
Yes, Biden needs to win over goodly numbers of Trump fans. And let me say what I often say in one form or another: Trump eats it. He’s the worst 24/7.
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As usual, an intelligent, searching post that asks the right questions and posits some answers. 33% of my state (VT) voted for this guy joining some 70 million. That’s stunning. I appreciate your attempt to get to the bottom of the why of it, which is our best bet for avoiding his return. I would say “or something worse than his return” but honestly, I can’t even picture who or what that would be.
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Thanks very much; always appreciate your support.
One of the reasons I think it’s so important to expand the Biden coalition is that there’s broad agreement that if trump had been more knowledgeable about the system and less inept, he could have done even more damage. Since the Republican leadership seems to have abandoned even the pretext of belief in democracy (right to vote, peaceful transition of power), we must be extremely vigilant. Tom Cotton has made his political aspirations clear, and we’ll have to see…
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Thanks for this Annie, I’m thinking more “What’s Wrong with Americans?” because I keep trying to understand but once again I’m no closer. That I’m a Centrist Conservative Christian Canadian either makes me uniquely unqualified to comment here, or perhaps uniquely qualified by the same turn.
JP really gives me some food for thought, as the fact that Trumps many faults are out in the open makes it even more baffling to me why the evangelicals support him so fervently. It seems like they have failed the Matthew 7:15 test a second time. To paraphrase what one of our mutual friends told me in 2016 “Yes he’s a wolf, but he’s a successful wolf and I really think he’s going to advance the sheep agenda.” The wolf is going to advance the wolf agenda, which typically involves eating the sheep.
Then there’s that bit I always get stuck on about getting your kid out of a bad school. There’s a huge clue right there, why does the country with the biggest GDP have bad schools? The long term solution should be to have good schools so that you don’t have to get your kid out. Then maybe everyone will learn some math and critical thinking skills, which would help with your other problems.
Infidel753s line of thinking to forget about reaching out seems like exactly what got you into this mess. Books I’ve read about problem solving usually start out by telling you that you can’t get out of a problem with the same thinking that got you into it. So you cannot ignore the 50% of the country that doesn’t agree with you unless you want to split the country up, and despite some cheering for exactly that it usually isn’t a fun process that produces the desired results. Goodness knows we’ve spent enough energy trying to stave that off in our country.
I guess the main thing I’ve learned over four years of intentionally trying to engage Americans is that it’s a lot easier to demonize your opponents than it is to apply some thinking and do something useful. Now you’ve got another four years, how about everybody try to not fall for the demonization, and go do something useful?
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To me, you are a breath of fresh air! I am most grateful for your perspective and your remarks. Like you, I’m struggling to understand, but I know I live in my own bubble, with my own biases. So I believe you’re uniquely qualified.
I love your comment about schools. Charter schools drain the traditional public schools of funds and according to many sources I’ve read, don’t necessarily raise performance. One of the many benefits of the Biden administration will be to have a Secretary of Education who is knowledgeable about and devoted to educating ALL America’s children.
With regard to your comment about Evangelicals, I ‘m going to append a post I wrote recently about those who are adhering to their beliefs.
I remain hopeful, though we’ll have a giant hurdle if the Republicans maintain control of the Senate and continue the obstruction that seems to be their modus operandi.
Please feel free to offer your clear-eyed, common sense thoughts here whenever you like. I keep trying to take a break from politics, but then something comes up and I feel compelled to write again.
I am aghast and deeply disappointed. I have no further response.
One more thing: you were right when you said you probably shouldn’t respond to my political posts. I’m happy to visit your music reviews and similar pieces, and I welcome you to my nonpolitical posts, which I hope will increase once we’re safely in the hands of a President who cares about our country and its people.
In all honesty, the idea that the Trumpanzees just can’t be so unreasonable and unreachable, because there are so many of them and it would be so awful if it were true, rather reminds me of Trump’s earlier repeated claims that the coronavirus would just go away “like a miracle”. Unpleasant realities don’t stop being realities just because they’re unpleasant.
The people who voted for Trump saw the migrant kids in cages, they saw his calling the media “enemy of the people”, his sabotage of the Post Office, his profiteering off of the presidency, his insults to our intelligence services and military, his picking fights with other democracies and kowtowing to dictators, his ignorance and refusal to learn, his utter failure to handle the pandemic and indeed his sabotage of state efforts to handle it, and on and on and on — and they still voted for him.
One-third of our national population being borderline insane and filled with “animus”, to use Tengrain’s term, is a damned dangerous situation — and we’d better learn to deal with that situation the way it actually is, not the way we wish it were. I certainly wish things were different. I’m not really very interested in politics and I find writing about it to be a rather dreary chore, and I’d be a lot happier if I could just ignore it. But I choose what to believe based on the evidence, not on what makes me more comfortable. And the evidence on this question is pretty clear.
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Really interesting post
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Thank you, Sheree. Our exchanges haven’t been as civil as I would like, but passions are running high right now. I’m hopeful that once President-elect Biden assumes office, the chaos will subside a bit. I say that acknowledging my naïveté!
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I think we all share your hopes
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JP: Perhaps this is now a bridge too far, but as I reread DougD’s thoughtful words and had a good night’s sleep, I felt once again that if you and I, both good people who love our country, can’t keep trying to communicate across our biases, it does not bode well for the bigger American picture. So if you’re willing, I hope we can try again after the inauguration of President-elect Biden. I recognize you’re in the minority here, and I’ll understand if you’d rather not. But I hope you will.
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Thank you, this has been a difficult time all around.
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Infidel; Thanks for the videos. I love that redneck, and I think there’s a lot of truth in both videos. But I’m not sure how much of the losses were due to constant Republican propaganda painting all Dems with the brush of a relative few. And if an emphasis on demands for greater social justice for Black, brown, and indigenous people makes me woke, so be it. Look at the Republicans’ shameful attempts to throw out Black votes throughout the swing states. I feel strongly that we’re running out of time to get things right on racial issues in this country.
On the topic of math, tell me what you think about this, which someone put on Twitter: 71 million voted for trump; 250 million Americans are eligible voters; 328 million Americans total. Thus 28% of Americans voted for trump. I would add that I’m not sure you’re correct in assuming all those voters were as aware of his awfulness as we are; some people live in total, possibly willful ignorance of events beyond their personal lives. How many of them were in the new voters the Republicans recruited? We don’t know. Will they show up again? We don’t know.
I’m not minimizing the dangerous, unhinged, armed trump acolytes. They must be dealt with. And I’m relieved there are still enough career professionals to save Gov Whitmer’s life, for example. I expect further violence, but I try hard not to dwell on things I can’t control and to focus on those I can.
When Maher talks about the “woke” element, he’s not talking about mainstream liberal positions like minority voting rights or gay marriage. Obviously those are non-negotiable. He’s talking about the ridiculous lunatic-fringe stuff like making a fuss over politically-incorrect Halloween costumes, or people inundating JK Rowling with death threats for politely objecting to men being allowed to compete in women’s sports, or trying to get books pulled from libraries or speakers canceled from college campuses for “wrong” opinions, or being unwilling to condemn mob violence when it’s associated with a cause the far left favors. I don’t know whether you watched his entire video (I hope so), but he summed it up as the attitude that “silence is violence, but vandalism is not”. As long as the Democratic party is associated in people’s minds with that kind of thinking, a certain number of voters in the sensible center will conclude, not completely unreasonably, that Trump is the less-crazy option of the two.
A blogger I just discovered, “Daedalus Lex”, has a couple of good posts about this here and here.
I’m sure most Trumpanzees are not aware of most of Trump’s awfulness. Remember, they get almost all their information from crank lunatic-fringe “news” sources, and are now even turning away from Fox because it’s allowing discomfiting reality to seep in. But this is a huge part of the problem. They’ve been trained to avoid any information that clashes with the wingnut fever dream they live in. They don’t realize that a lot of what Trump is doing is hurting them, not just the people they hate (us).
As to the math, minors are irrelevant to politics, so the proper ratio to look at would be the 75 million (or whatever) Trump voters as a proportion of the 250 million (I’ll take your word for it) citizens old enough to vote. That’s 30%. Some fraction of that 30%, probably small, are otherwise-sane people who voted for Trump out of perceived self-interest or ignorance or disgust at the “woke” fringe on the left. The rest, probably the large majority, are the true Trumpanzees. The former group is potentially reachable and worth trying to communicate with, the latter is not.
For more on why I feel visceral disgust at the idea of trying to find common ground with the real Trumpanzees, see my comment on this post (you’ll need to scroll down a ways). There is such a thing as evil that we should not compromise with. I know it’s scary to accept that such evil has taken root in almost a third of our country’s population, but as I said in the comment above, that’s the reality of our situation and we need to deal with it the way it really is.
I did watch the entire video, and I got the sense that apart from the obvious issues you cited, he thinks “too much” (whatever that is) focus on race is part of the “Wokeness.” While I’m not impressed with the white fragility stuff, I feel very strongly that this country had better make obvious progress toward racial justice this time—both because it’s right and because we cannot expect people to keep “loving this country even though it doesn’t love them back.” We’re at a pivotal point and we damn well better start redressing all those harms pronto.
Gary (Daedalus Lex) and I follow one another, and though I understand his—and apparently your—contempt for “wokeness,” I find it excessive—sweeping together a lot of things of varying degrees of importance without context sometimes. I have had these discussions with him. We have a lot of areas of agreement and some of disagreement. (He remains one of my favorite people because he said one line of a poem I wrote reminded him of Emily Dickinson! )He’s a talented writer and poet and a very interesting guy. It was his post citing Ram Dass: “You can only protest effectively when you love the person whose ideas you are protesting against as much as you love yourself,” which I had trouble with and prompted my post “‘Can Love Thy Enemy’ Be a Winning Political Strategy—as Well as a Balm for a Divided People?”
I just saw a strange guy, a former Moonie, interviewed. He allegedly deprograms cultists and wrote a book “The Cult of Trump,” about trump and his followers.
I realize I failed to point out the inclusion of the toddler vote in those statistics.
There are manifestations of evil everywhere—and trump’s greatest success has been in harnessing it, giving him power that his otherwise weak, ignorant, insecure self could never demonstrate.
A great post Annie…..and lots of good discussion, but I’m glad I came late to Reader, as my mind is spinning now. I keep thinking about the 80 million or so people who didn’t vote, not sure that is correct, but assuming as mentioned above, perhaps the better goal is to concentrate on increasing those numbers. (We have the same problem here in Canada, only 50-60% of eligible voters vote, the rest don’t think it affects them). You know my opinion of Trump – I perceive a great danger to the country should he run again, or worse hang around continuing to have an evil influence. I’m still bewildered at how such a poor excuse for a human being (really is there any positive thing to say about him, personality or behavior wise, any redeeming quality at all?) could be worshiped by so many, and the fact that he is a rich guy wearing a ball cap with a ten thousand dollar suit, who cares nothing about them or anyone for that matter makes it even more baffling. There are no easy answers.
Thanks very much, Joni. Fortunately, there are many efforts to increase voter participation. It cuts both ways, of course: the trump people were able to find first time voters too. But the youth cote went strongly for Biden—Avery positive sign that I hope continues—and manifests itself in Georgia on Jan 5.
We have a lot of soul-searching to do . I hope more of the Republicans who have allowed trump to take over their party awaken from his dreadful spell over them. But at this point, there’s little evidence that they will.
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I was mulling things over last night after I shut the computer off – I know the conversation has moved on but I’m curious about what Trump supporters think he has actually done for them in the past 4 years? Was there a tax cut, or was that only for corporations and the rich? IMO he did not make America great again, but they seem to think so. If your life isn’t any better, but the same or worse, why would you vote the same guy in? Wouldn’t you realize you were lied to? So was their vote for Trump or just anti-Democrat? As for young people voting, that’s something we were taught in school – it was your civic duty to vote. I would always be annoyed when it was election day here and I would go to work and none of my younger colleagues (well into their 30’s) would have voted….only those of us who were older did. Many of them couldn’t even tell you who was the party leader. A lot of people are just not into politics, and thus oblivious to what’s going on in the world outside their little bubble.
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I just wrote a lengthy response that got lost. I’ll summarize: cultists who believe every word he says; Evangelicals who think he was God-sent to put right-wing judges on the courts; very wealthy people who love his deregulation and tax cuts,;white racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Immigrant people who see that demographic change is making minorities the majority, etc. All encouraged by spineless Republicans who are afraid of trump and place power above principle and country, thereby bolstering this weak, insecure bully who wouldn’t otherwise be so dangerous, etc. An unholy alliance if ever there was one.
I’m hoping the youth voters continue to stay engaged. It’s critically important. Action on climate change is essential–not only for the planet’s sake–but to keep them involved.
Once we get through January 20th, I think things will start to be somewhat better–though I have no illusions the road ahead will be easy.
I appreciate your concern.
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That’s a good summary Annie. I read Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, a novel about how someone becomes “brainwashed” into the cult of white supremacists and found it a fascinating tale. One of her better books, If you’re up for a good read.
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I must add a couple items to your list. Some people actually think he’s made their lives better.
There is a tax cut included in the latest tax update (it sure isn’t reform) with the standard deduction doubled. At the lower income levels, this is significant. It is, of course, set to expire. He was pitching that he’d make it permanent (hah!) if he was voted in for a 2nd term. If that was the case, shoulda made it permanent in the first place. But I digress. When it expires, the blame for the “tax hike” will fall on Biden.
The second item is that people bought his scam to claim credit for the stimulus checks. He demanded that the stimulus checks have his signature on them. For direct deposits there was a letter sent that had his signature. I assume some people simply assume that means he pushed the stimulus through personally, but I have also read that some believed he literally cut a check out of his own funds, for everyone. On IRS check stock and letterhead.
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Thanks, M Davis. I had mentioned his giant sharpie signature on the checks earlier. A lot more could go into the etc, including people’s mistaken belief that he was a successful businessman. Anyone with information about his failed background knew better. That Apprentice image helped him a lot. People in NY knew him as the fraudulent grifter he was/is and tried to tell others, but…
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Is this blog where I read that people actually believed he funded the checks personally? Oops.
No, but I’m not surprised to hear that!
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