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Trump Supporters: It’s Both Race and Class

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Here is another long essay about Trump supporters and what they see in him. The useful thing in this piece is how it identifies the divide between relatively wealthy Republicans who hate welfare programs and believe in bootstrapism no matter what and poor whites who really need government programs but who associate them with blacks and immigrants and see Trump as a way out of that.

How can we understand this growing gap between male lives at the top and bottom? For Murray, the answer is a loss of moral values. But is sleeping longer and watching television a loss of morals, or a loss of morale? A recent study shows a steep rise in deaths of middle-aged working-class whites—much of it due to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. These are not signs of abandoned values, but of lost hope. Many are in mourning and see rescue in the phrase “Great Again.”

Trump’s pronouncements have been vague and shifting, but it is striking that he has not called for cuts to Medicaid, or food stamps, or school lunch programs, and that his daughter Ivanka nods to the plight of working moms. He plans to replace Obamacare, he says, with a hazy new program that will be “terrific” and that some pundits playfully dub “Trumpcare.” For the blue-collar white male Republicans Sharon spoke to, and some whom I met, this change was welcome.

Still, it was a difficult thing to reconcile. How wary should a little-bit-higher-up-the-ladder white person now feel about applying for the same benefits that the little-bit-lower-down-the-ladder people had? Shaming the “takers” below had been a precious mark of higher status. What if, as a vulnerable blue-collar white worker, one were now to become a “taker” oneself?

Trump, the King of Shame, has covertly come to the rescue. He has shamed virtually every line-cutting group in the Deep Story—women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants, refugees. But he’s hardly uttered a single bad word about unemployment insurance, food stamps, or Medicaid, or what the tea party calls “big government handouts,” for anyone—including blue-collar white men.

In this feint, Trump solves a white male problem of pride. Benefits? If you need them, okay. He masculinizes it. You can be “high energy” macho—and yet may need to apply for a government benefit. As one auto mechanic told me, “Why not? Trump’s for that. If you use food stamps because you’re working a low-wage job, you don’t want someone looking down their nose at you.” A lady at an after-church lunch said, “If you have a young dad who’s working full time but can’t make it, if you’re an American-born worker, can’t make it, and not having a slew of kids, okay. For any conservative, that is fine.”

But in another stroke, Trump adds a key proviso: restrict government help to real Americans. White men are counted in, but undocumented Mexicans and Muslims and Syrian refugees are out. Thus, Trump offers the blue-collar white men relief from a taker’s shame: If you make America great again, how can you not be proud? Trump has put on his blue-collar cap, pumped his fist in the air, and left mainstream Republicans helpless. Not only does he speak to the white working class’ grievances; as they see it, he has finally stopped their story from being politically suppressed. We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.

Yet again, race and class are intertwined here. The white, poor southern men (the linked article profiles Louisiana) who love Trump are racist. There’s no doubt about that. They see their white privilege slipping away at the same time that they feel their class stability collapsing beneath them. How then to get the help you need in a world without good-paying working class jobs? Demonize those you used to demean for getting the programs you now need. Talk about yourself as a real, deserving American and the others as undeserving of Americanness.

There is no simply policy to solve racism. There are however policies that can undermine the class insecurities these people feel. Just because they vote for Trump and are racist doesn’t mean we should not take the precariousness of their lives seriously. Moreover, any class-based program that helps these white people in Louisiana also helps people of color. But sadly, working-class issues really are not on the table in this general election campaign (although arguably there are no issues under any kind of serious discussion right now). Democrats are a little better at recognizing the need to put people to work, but they have struggled mightily to come up with any sort of serious jobs program that would find good work for poor Americans. It’s all education and retraining, which are easy panaceas that make policymakers feel like they are doing something but which do almost nothing for the affected people. That’s what has to change–people of southern Louisiana, black or white or Asian or Latino, all need access to good jobs in the places they live. Racism will never go away. But until good jobs are in place, it will be very easy for fascists like Trump to make the kinds of connections between economic hard times and racial mythology to create very scary political movements in the United States.

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  • Saskexpat

    This raises the question of how to build political support for policies that help working class voters in a political climate that emphasizes racial and cultural identity. I have absolutely no ideas on how address that issue.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Human nature being the sorry thing it is, I don’t think there is a way. Trumpian benefits for deserving me vs bupkis for undeserving thee tactics are working well politically in a lot of countries.

      • DrDick

        Divide and conquer has always been the favorite tactic of our oligarchs in dealing with the great unwashed.

        • LosGatosCA

          It works – Every generation has proved the validity of Jay Gould’s observation:

          ‘I can hire 1/2 of the working class to kill the other 1/2.’

          Or,

          ‘let’s you and him have a fight over the few crumbs I decided one of you may be entitled to.’

          etc, etc, etc.

      • David Hunt

        Roger Ebert once described Ayn Rand’s Objectivism as “I’m aboard, now pull up the ladder.”

    • Linnaeus

      If Lee Drutman’s analysis in Vox is accurate, it may not get any easier:

      The short version of the explanation is that race and identity is now the main issue holding both parties’ coalitions together, which means that neither party’s leadership has a strong incentive to try to make politics about anything else. The short version of the implication is that most likely this will reduce polarization, because it splits the parties on economic issues and thus creates a whole new set of cross-party coalitions. However, there are ways in which it could also fundamentally tear our nation apart.

      [NB: There’s a link in the article to a longer piece by Drutman in which he goes into more detail.]

      • PJ

        The whole thing is kinda facile, but that excerpt is some Both Sides horseshit.

        One side advocating for white supremacy is NOT equal to another side looking for equal rights, equal access, and a redress of historical wrongs.

        Congratulations to the white pundits suddenly realizing that Race Matters in America, but this is not how you do it.

        The whole point of so-called identity politics on the left is that minority groups are being excluded from political and economic opportunity due to their identity. Trump’s appeal is that he is apparently implying that he will create a better welfare state but for white people only.

        EDIT: Again, before writing missives about the poor WWC, they’re the ones who vote in stupid fiscally conservative politicians dogwhistling race on economic policies. That point should always come first.

        • Saskexpat

          I think he was trying to be purely descriptive, but agree that he could do a better job explaining his approach.

          • PJ

            Excerpt from the Vox article.

        • Linnaeus

          I’m not sure that I agree with Drutman, but I don’t think he’s making the “both sides do it” argument in the rhetorical sense that the argument is generally made. I don’t think he is making a normative equivalence between the Democrats and Republicans, but is trying to argue what issue both parties will continue to coalesce around due to internal dynamics in both parties.

        • PJ

          “Purely descriptive” doesn’t really get at the heart of what’s motivating either side, which is sort of explains the intractability.

          The Dems are the home of the minority votes not because people things they’re morally superior, it’s because they’re the ones who historically have not shoved away minority groups. In fact, it seems there’s little utility in looking at this issue only through party politics because literally the only reason parties exist as they did/do in the US is because of how they treated black people and how whites voted as a response to that.

        • CP

          I thought the class politics discussed in the excerpt – the notion that the parties are all about race and identity and each are split on economic issues now, or about to be – gave of an erroneous “both sides do it” vibe as well.

          The Democrats have become more attuned to class consciousness and economic populism in recent years, not less. It’s not just the Sanders campaign. Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for Fifteen, Elizabeth Warren’s rise as a spokesperson for the economic left, and opposition to the TPP all predate Sanders’ moment in the sun, and those things aren’t going anywhere. To say nothing of things like the Affordable Care Act. The DLC/Third Way mentality, meanwhile, is in retreat. Hard to imagine a president or anyone who wants to be saying “the era of big government is over” as Bill Clinton did in the nineties.

          The Republican Party may indeed be getting split along economic lines – and more than that, along class lines. But the Democrats, as near as I can tell, are becoming more unified there.

          • Linnaeus

            The Democrats have become more attuned to class consciousness and economic populism in recent years, not less.

            True, and this is one issue that I have with Drutman’s piece. But it looked like a serious enough analysis to be worth sharing.

            • ForkyMcSpoon

              Both could be true at the same time. It could be that the consensus on economic policies is moving leftward AND the parties are becoming less defined by their economic positions. That would be consistent, for example, with both parties moving left, but the GOP moving further left relative to their old positions.

              BUT the evidence for that is pretty scant, being 1. limited pretty much to Trump’s candidacy 2. not large enough movement to fit that story and 3. much of it is a lie anyway – Trump has moved left rhetorically, but when it comes to concrete plans on most economic issues, it’s the same old GOP policies (for example: get rid of federal minimum wage, tax cuts for the rich, repeal the ACA, openness to cutting Social Security expressed behind closed doors, etc.). It remains to be seen whether other GOP politicians adopt positions similar to Trump’s. So far, the answer seems to be no, with mini-Trumps all losing their primaries.

              • MDrew

                Hillary’s campaign, and her winning the primary so decisively, are evidence for it.

        • Jackov

          Poor whites (those in the bottom third of income) are more likely to vote for Democratic presidential candidates than whites at any other income level. In the non-South, the share of the Democratic vote among the white poors was ~12 points higher than among the NPR listening and canvas bag toting whites in the upper middle class in 2012. Of course poor whites vote at much lower percentages than middle and high income whites.

          • PJ

            There “poor WCW” the parlance of the media, which is a combination of actual poor/actual working class whites and the small business owners/single truck owners/blue collar professionals who are, economically speaking, neither poor nor working class.

            There’s actual poor whites and working class whites, who, yes, do vote in greater proportion for Dems. But taking note of the fact that you pointed out about actual voter participation, and the fact that most media outlets are actually talking about an mass of “cultural” affinities that have nothing to do with actual money, how much difference does pointing this out make? A lot of people have already pointed out that the median incomes for Clinton voters are actually lower than Trump voters. And yet we keep hearing stories about “poor” WCW.

            There’s also proportion to the population I guess — take the percentage of whites who vote for Dems/Dem policies relative to their share of the pop vs., say, percentage of Asian Americans who vote for Dems/Dem policies relative to their population.

            • Linnaeus

              There “poor WCW” the parlance of the media, which is a combination of actual poor/actual working class whites and the small business owners/single truck owners/blue collar professionals who are, economically speaking, neither poor nor working class.

              This is an important distinction to make, and is often not made enough.

        • ColBatGuano

          Trump’s appeal is that he is apparently implying that he will create a better welfare state but for white people only.

          Yep. Behind that “Mexicans and Muslims won’t get food stamps, but you real Americans will.” is the suggestion that other not real Americans, like black people also won’t get them. It’s basically a return to early New Deal politics where poor whites received help, but not others.

          • tsam

            Well, most of those poor racists loudly remind everyone that they would NEVER take a handout from the government. They can be nearly suicidal with that goofy pride.

            “My daddy had rickets, I had rickets. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for my kids too.”

      • Saskexpat

        I read the initial essay, and found it persuasive but disheartening. I also felt he did not address the cynicism of conservatism’s use of racial politics sufficiently. Also, one of the charts listed Pete Wilson as an example of a Republican with “cosmopolitan” leanings, which is a total howler.

    • LeeEsq

      This is why some classic Leftists have a distaste for identity politics. They believe, with some justification, that an over-emphasis on race-gender-sexuality-religious based identity will have to lead to less support for class based politics because wealthy and non-wealthy African-Americans would be more likely to identify with each other than with other Americans of the same class.

      What the fail to understand is that these other issues are equally important as class/economic issues and failing to address them can also result in great harm. Race, gender, and sexuality issues need to be addressed on their own merit to. You can’t solve them by class/economic issues.

      • Barry_D

        “This is why some classic Leftists have a distaste for identity politics. They believe, with some no justification whatsoever, that an over-emphasis on race-gender-sexuality-religious based identity will have to lead to less support for class based politics because wealthy and non-wealthy African-Americans would be more likely to identify with each other than with other Americans of the same class.”

        Sanders ran such a campaign, and conspicuously got (a) very few black/hispanice/’minority’ votes and (b) even fewer of former Republicans.

        • LeeEsq

          Sanders did apparently win the under 30 person of color vote. Its just that many of them aren’t any more into primaries than their young white counterparts.

          I’m also not sure if your right either. There is always a trade off with everything and the trade off with emphasis on identity politics is that it can lead to more tribalism in politics among other things. Sometimes going for the universal is better than the particular.

          • Brien Jackson

            Maybe, but this is definitely not the critique leftists make of identity politics. At least not now.

            • MDrew

              What? Yes it is.

      • MDrew

        Thanks, Lee, for articulating this view as generously as you do here, despite clearly not entirely sharing it. And a fair rejoinder as well.

        ETA: I do think that that identity (racial, gender, sexual orientation) politics has its place in a left-liberal politics, of course. But it has come, very quickly – very much in the latter 2/3rds to half of Obama’s presidency (his 2012 campaign was not about ID politics) – to dominate rather overwhelmingly. (I view this as largely a premeditated strategy on the part of the Clinton message machine.)

        Basically, I think think Drutman’s piece is right on the money.

    • Brett

      A straight-forward jobs program aimed at impoverished areas (regardless of race) seems like it would only encounter anti-tax opposition. It’s hard to demagogue people wanting to work.

      • LosGatosCA

        It’s hard to demagogue people wanting to work.

        The Republicans have not proposed or passed a single jobs bill in the greatest economic downturn in 70 years without political penalty at the state or national level.

        If they thought jobs was a winner for them they would do it. Sequester was their answer to the crisis

  • NewishLawyer

    1. The woman in the article seemed like a bit of an unreliable narrator. Working for commissions is tough, I don’t think I could do it. On the one hand, she said she and her kids survived on peanut butter during lean months but she has also taken her kids on some very expensive vacations around the country and globe. She also drove a nice new car. Were the lean months a long time ago when she was starting out?

    2. Her statement on if you are able bodied, you should work, even for pennies, struck me as why UBI is not coming anytime soon. “Those who don’t work, don’t eat” is too hardwired into human thought and culture. She seemed to think that you should work for starvation wages.

    3. I gotta admit that I was shocked by the anecdotes as much as the woman who used to own the trailer park like the guy who married his son’s ex-wife….

    • Mac the Knife

      I had a friend from LA who told me (possible he might have been winding me up, but if he was, he’s got a great imagination) about a guy who wore his wife’s ex-husband’s dentures every day….

      …and used Starbust candy to hold them in

      (since then, I’ve mentally replaced “the chicken or the egg” with “the starbust or the dentures”)

      True or not, it’s definitely a colorful place.

      • Woodrowfan

        some decades past I dated a girl who was a social worker in Kentucky. I only remember a few of the stories, but they’d curl your hair and destroy any remaining faith you have in humanity…

    • TheSophist

      She took her kids to Iceland, for goodness’ sake. When I was there I tried really hard to be thrifty, and still haemorrhaged money. While I applaud her stated (and practiced) desire to show her kids the world, that certainly makes one suspicious of her claims of near poverty. It seems to me that the gap between this woman and the other folks mentioned in the article is much greater than is recognized.

      I get the argument that much economicinsecurity is perceptual, but still..

      • sharonT

        Visa card vacation

        • NewishLawyer

          I know people who did this while students “What’s a few thousand more in debt?”…..

          • LosGatosCA

            In my family.

    • LeeEsq

      1. Her narrative doesn’t add up but she just might be getting events confused.

      2. Yep.

      3. My clients and clients of other lawyers that I know get into some pretty wild situations that causes me to wonder how many people really think things through. I know they aren’t exaggerating because what they did comes back to haunt them.

      • LosGatosCA

        how many people really think things through

        I can only refer you to George Carlin –

        “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

        • LeeEsq

          When I became a lawyer, I’d never thought I’d end part social worker.

    • los

      masochistic authoritarian mindset. proud “inferiority complex”

  • Phil Perspective

    2. Her statement on if you are able bodied, you should work, even for pennies, struck me as why UBI is not coming anytime soon. “Those who don’t work, don’t eat” is too hardwired into human thought and culture. ….

    That’s not what is stopping UBI at all, and you know it.

    Edited: This was meant as a reply to NewishLawyer, right above.

    • NewishLawyer

      No I really don’t. Occam’s Razor. There are no shadowy elite cabals. No false consciousness. People simply believe that the able bodied should work and abled bodied is defined very broadly.

      The economy is really complicated and people have a hard time believing that there might not be enough work for everyone. At least one guy I know from high school went super right-wing. He seems to fully believe that getting by is as simple as going out there and getting a job and in two weeks, you will get paid.

      • DrDick

        While they are not very shadowy or well organized and unitary, there definitely are elite “cabals” and false consciousness is ubiquitous and has been for a very long time. The GOP has been blaming minorities for the plight of the white working classes for decades. While there are certainly people who refuse to take welfare in any form (I have know some), most of these people believe that minorities get special expanded benefits not available to white people.

        • Origami Isopod

          It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. “False consciousness” works because most Americans don’t follow politics closely, and a lot of them are selfish. It doesn’t take any kind of cabal to produce that kind of resentment here. It’s baked into the polity.

          • DrDick

            However, there has been a 40 year propaganda war by Heritage, AEI, Cato, etc., as well as the growth of rightwing media which all actively promote these ideas.

            • guthrie

              A Cato spokes-lunatic was on radio 4 yesterday here in the UK incoherently arguing that taxes were bad, therefore Apple being forced to pay Ireland 11 billion pounds was bad. He ignored questions about why it was okay for Apple to dodge taxes and yet other companies had to pay 12.5% tax.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                Well, if only those other companies would apply themselves, maybe someday they’ll be so rich as to get away with whatever!

                New Rule: Cato, Heritage, Brookings, etc etc, all such providers of Talking Mouth on Radio or Talking Head on TV, shall be referred to as “fink tanks.”

            • Brien Jackson

              I don’t think that plays that much of a role, really. Heck, look how often Loomis dismisses UBI on the theory that people inherently want to work for wages 40 hours a week for 30 years.

          • NewishLawyer

            I’m not a fan of false consciousness because it sounds like academic middle-class Marxists being butthurt that the working class believe in the profit motive. I don’t know if aspirational should always be seen as selfish…

            • LeeEsq

              False consciousness always struck me as convenient excuse for not trying to understand why people who you think should agree with you do not. You don’t want to label them as evil because they are your group so you attribute their disagreement to false consciousness rather than assuming they believe you are wrong in good faith.

              • DocAmazing

                Yes, advertising does not work and no one ever spent money on anything they didn’t need. “False consciousness” is a useful concept that can be applied to a great many things, and a distaste for things tarred by Marxism does not change that usefulness.

                • Brien Jackson

                  When people spend money on things they don’t need, it’s usually because they want it.

                • DocAmazing

                  True, usually; no one, however, would deny that many people buy tons of useless crap that they want only because it’s advertised to them. Barnum did not formulate his law in a vacuum.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Mmmmmm…. baked polity.

            • LeeEsq

              I’d prefer a baked Alaska.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                I believe it was Ben Franklin who said, “A Republic, if you marinate it for at least four hours and bake it at 350F for 17 minutes.”

                • LeeEsq

                  It wouldn’t surprise me if he could cook. That man could do everything. He was our founding mad scientist/nerd.

      • leftwingfox

        There’s an associated anti-reform attitude, which is that is something was unfair to me, why should you expect it to be fair?

        I had to work awful jobs, so it’s not fair if you get paid more for less danger and abuse. I had to pay for college, why should you get it for free?

        • NewishLawyer

          Right “dues paying” is a big part of it and why it is also hard to reform work places known for long hours or where underlings get abused. “I was treated like shit as a medical resident and you will be treated like shit too….”

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Yes, I always think of the overly-long, sleep-deprived schedules of medical residents, and, of course, frat boys being hazed swimming across a lake with a lit candle sticking out of their b-holes.

            People who get hazed will be damned if the institution they were humiliated to get into will start allowing people in without paying that toll.

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      It’s one of the things that’s stopping UBI, yes. As a society, we’ve been teaching people that paid work is what generally what makes someone a useful member of society, and that if you get money for something that is not paid work you are a “taker”. Even if some folks in Silicon Valley come around to UBI they’re not going to get everyone who has been steeped in the “virtue through paid work” philosophy to suddenly forget the whole thing because UBI is the “in” thing now. It’s going to take a bit more time than that to make the idea socially and politically acceptable.

    • djw

      There are lots of ways to design a UBI, and lots of ways to explain them. I’ve presented the idea to students on a number of occasions, using a variety of different strategies. And the reaction, overwhelmingly, is almost always something very much like what newishlawyer describes. Moreover, there’s very little difference between how those who would consider themselves liberal or leftist or conservative react to it.

      As far as radical-ish policy ideas go, it’s got more cross-ideological support than anything else I can think of–plenty of leftists, wonky liberal technocrats, and libertarians. But that support dries up pretty quickly outside intellectual circles. The modal UBI supporter probably has a PhD.

      • Drexciya

        As far as radical-ish policy ideas go, it’s got more cross-ideological support than anything else I can think of–plenty of leftists, wonky liberal technocrats, and libertarians. But that support dries up pretty quickly outside intellectual circles. The modal UBI supporter probably has a PhD.

        The woefully underdiscussed and important Vision For Black Lives platform (from the Movement For Black Lives folks) includes a UBI as one of its proposed planks in the reparations section. While I won’t claim that’s unassailable evidence that support for it is broadening, I’ll say that I won’t be surprised if it becomes a focal point for future left/racial advocacy and activism. Semi-relatedly, it was good seeing Dorian Warren making a spirited defense of targeted universalism in his interview at the Washington Post:

        THE FIX: Okay, why is targeted economic policy needed and why does it typically get stuck? For instance, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has advocated for his 10-20-30 economic plan for years.

        WARREN: Most progressive policies have not moved in a polarized and divided government, including Rep. Clyburn’s innovative and targeted 10-20-30 plan.

        Targeted policies are important because seemingly “universal” social policies, from the New Deal to the Great Society, often do not benefit those in greatest need. And universal policies have had intended and unintended consequences of maintaining or exacerbating existing racial and gender inequalities. From racial and gender-based exclusions in the National Labor Relations Act, to the Social Security Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the discriminatory implementation of the GI Bill, and housing and access to credit and asset building, many supposedly “universal” policies ultimately were not.

        “Targeted universalism” means everyone benefits (the “universalism”) while also ensuring that the policy reaches the most vulnerable among us (the “targeted”). When policies are simply “means-tested,” like in the case of public assistance, they lack the broad public support necessary to remain viable.

        While I won’t claim to fully agree with this as an aspiration, I think it’s an approach to discussing poverty and solutions to it that doesn’t normalize the removal of black and brown people (and their histories with universalism) from political consideration.

        • MDrew

          I’m glad for this link because I have an outstanding question posed to this community: Would those seeking African-American reparations accept it if it was offered as a UBI to everyone? Or does it need to be differential in African-Americans’ favor – i.e. they get it, others don’t, or they get more, or first, etc.?

          Either view seems eminently reasonable to me, but at some level within the context of blue-sky discussions of United States domestic policy, both of these items have a rightful (in my view) place place on the agenda. But they implicate each other unavoidably in this way.

          • MDrew

            …From the Platform:

            A Universal Basic Income (UBI) provides an unconditional and guaranteed livable income that would meet basic human needs while providing a floor of economic security. […] All individual adults are eligible.

            […]

            A pro-rated additional amount included in a UBI for Black Americans over a specified period of time.

            …So that’s their request.

  • E.Garth

    Infrastructure. There is a lot of infrastructure that needs to be repaired (bridges, water systems, dams, etc). More than that though, there are lots of things that people twenty, thirty, and more years from now, will be very glad were done. Planting trees would be one example – every street that has, or can have, sufficient water for trees should be tree-lined. Lots of cities have expanded their roads, but have not yet expanded their sidewalks. There are forests that can safely be allowed to burn if the accumulated detritus that allows for fires hot enough to kill mature trees has been removed/reduced. Every bus stop should have a bus shelter so that passengers waiting for the bus can stay out of the sun/rain. Erosion control is another potentially labor-intensive task that will always pay off in the long-run.

    • Linnaeus

      Agreed, but the question is how to get the money spent to do all that.

      • a_paul_in_mtl

        Yes, although that’s a political question, not an economic one. It’s not that “the money isn’t there”.

        • BobOso

          Yup. I do recall being told in high school that the rational for the interstate system was to get troops and supplies from one part of the country to the other- so it became a national security issue. Can it not be the rationale again? Nation-building but here?

          • Woodrowfan

            building another gigantic aircraft carrier enhances freedom, but building bus-stops or schools is socialist tyranny. apparently.

            • Linnaeus

              Dwight Eisenhower, raging communist*:

              Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a
              theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

              *Of course, the bulk of the speech shows that he was anything but that, as we all know.

              • Dwight Eisenhower, raging communist*

                *certified as such by the John Birch Society at the time!

      • delazeur

        I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but we spent $1.6 trillion chasing our tails in the Middle East at the drop of a hat. We should be able to fix some of our roads.

        • Linnaeus

          Absolutely the money is there. The political question of how to get that money used for such purposes, as a_paul_in_mtl, points out, is the real problem.

          • sapient

            Simple. Elect Democrats to Congress until they control it. And when federal money results in infrastructure and jobs, there should be a huge ad campaign so that everybody knows it.

            • Libtards just want to make it easier for ISIS to drive across America beheading white Christians.

              • BartletForGallifrey

                Can confirm.

                -Certified Libtard

          • piratedan

            well, a great deal of that is already outlined in her ads… taxing the rich, taxing the corporations that move their businesses offshore and updating the tax code that will allow the profits from the folks abusing the hedge funds from paying a fair share on their profits. Namely, she taxing those that have already benefited the most. Sounds simplistic, but hell, that’s who has the money and who can afford the tax hit.

        • SNF

          That could be justified because it let us kill scary brown people who were going to destroy the world with WMDs.

          Building infrastructure doesn’t have that same primal pull.

          • NonyNony

            I dunno. We got the Interstate system built on the threat of scary Commies who were going to invade the country.

            • Rob in CT

              Which is why, as Krugthulu said, we really need the threat of alien invasion.

              SETI didn’t play ball though…

            • Linnaeus

              We got a lot of things built on that threat. You sometimes hear the argument that the US has never had an industrial policy, but that’s not true. The US had a rather expansive one in the 20th century, but we just called it “defense spending”.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                Yes. We are not allowed to have any kind of plan. That’s commanism! Just let corporations and their lobbyists write the legislation they need and figure it out as we go!

      • E.Garth

        The government can create as much money as it wants to spend, and then remove any excess money from the economy through taxing the inevitable concentrations of wealth.

        • Linnaeus

          In theory, yes. In practice, it’s a much harder row to hoe.

      • Morbo

        I hear interest rates are fairly reasonable right now.

      • manual

        Borrowing. Debt.

    • Rob in CT

      Obviously, yes, we should do those things. But it has to pass Congress.

      • Pat

        It could pass a Democratic Congress, especially if it is paid for by taxing the wealthy.

        • Rob in CT

          Even then, I think we’d need more than 50%+1 to pass something that would have significant impact. They’d not only need a majority, they’d need some cushion so that a couple of congresscritters can’t hold up the whole thing.

          But yeah.

    • Lurker

      I object to the categorical point about bus stop shelters. There are bus routes where a stop is essentially only for leaving passengers. For example, commuter routes in residential areas near the terminus are such. It makes no sense to build a shelter to such a location.

      • Linnaeus

        Yes, there will be exceptions. But the point stands.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        There’s also the fact that in many instances transit systems are eliminating bus shelters for reasons unrelated to the cost of building them.

        • Lurker

          Yeah. I remember a summer when there used to be a homeless alcoholic always sitting on the bench of the bus stop Imused for commuting. After seeing him regularly for weeks, I decided it was unreasonable not to acknowledge his human dignity. I started greeting him always with a “Good morning”, though never discussing any more. Sitting by him was unthinkable. He smelled like anyone who has not taken a bath for a week or more.

          After a couple of months, he was waving me even if he saw me at fifty metres. I was probably one of the few “normal” people who ever talked him even that much. Yet, I can well understand why you would want to avoid shelters at bus stops.

          When the autumn came, he vanished, with most of the alcoholics he used to hang with. I wonder what became of him. I never knew his name.

          • Linnaeus

            In City of Quartz, Mike Davis writes about “antibum” bus benches in Los Angeles that were rounded so that homeless people could not sleep on them.

            • guthrie

              That has been suggested as the rationale behind the sloped and uncomfortable bus shelter seats in use across the UK.

            • Richard Gadsden

              Ever wondered why there are armrests on public seating?

            • The Lorax

              Prior to coming to LA, I was at Borders looking for books on LA. I picked up Ecology of Fear. Probably not the wisest choice, in retrospect. Though I did enjoy it.

              • Linnaeus

                I liked it too, but City of Quartz remains my favorite of Davis’s books (well, at least the ones I’ve read).

                • DocAmazing

                  For an excellent quick read, get his Buda’s Wagon.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      In the past ten years, I have spent many a night around a campfire listening to right wing white males bellyache about the evule gubberment, in state park campgrounds in the Southeast built by the CCC in the 1930’s. Adding to this is that you can even hear these people, without prompting, express positive opinions re. FDR and the CCC.

      I wonder what happened between the 1930’s and the 1980’s that… just kidding. I know.

  • ploeg

    The trick is to convince these folks on some level to help us help them. I’ve used Steve King’s district in Iowa as an example. Lots of corporate farms, younger people moving to cities with higher paying jobs, older people being left behind in towns with declining tax bases and with small shops closing down and moving. The needs are there. But there are plenty of single-issue voters in the district (anti-abortion, pro-gun, and straight-up racist), and they won’t vote for you or support you in any way. Steve King even bucked Big Ethanol to back Ted Cruz, and he overcame this year’s primary challenge easily. And any effort to improve matters for the folks in his district would mean compromise, which is anathema anymore. And if Steve King isn’t going to help his constituents, and his constituents won’t replace Steve King, you might be able to help his constituents in spite of themselves, but the amount of help that you can provide will necessarily be limited.

    • nemdam

      I have family from Steve King’s district, and you are exactly right. I believe more and more every day that almost 100% what drives these people are cultural values and economics barely matters. The governor of Iowa raised the gas tax to pay for infrastructure improvements, and Steve King’s district very much benefited from this. The family members I talked to didn’t care. It was taxes are bad, big government dependency is bad, and if people would just work harder and take more responsibility, then these problems would easily be solved. Taxes and government spending, even for jobs programs, are all just part of ruining our work ethic. And to complete the cliche, my uncle has been on food stamps before. They really aren’t very animated about any of the other usual culture wars, but this is their issue, and I just can’t see them changing because of a government jobs program.

  • piratedan

    well, we can talk about things like Clinton’s Jobs Program proposals which are tied to funding infrastructure like roads, bridges, waste water treatment and upgrading the grid to incorporate solar and other energy development (wind, geothermal etc) but hey, outside of campaign speeches outlining them and a nod to their existence on her ads, the MEDIA is largely ignoring the ever living fuck out of them.

    We can talk about low cost or no cost education for junior college and vocational training. We can even discuss the modification of current educational debt structure but that is inherently unsexy to the folks that drive the narrative.

    Clinton has mentioned the need to help small town America, the question remains, if no one reports it, who gets to hear it?

    The GOP cares fuck all about those people other than to keep them scared that their values and way of life is in danger, so you better vote for them.

    It is an issue as far as the Dems are concerned because they actually give a shit about government. The only reason you do not see any discussion of working class issues are pretty fucking obvious:

    1) The GOP has no plan
    2) The Media could give a shit about reporting or debating or analyzing such a plan that the Dems have on the table.

    • Rob in CT

      There’s also:

      Hillary’s plans can’t pass congress (unless the Dems retake the House, which is unlikely), so it’s DOA and not worth talking about. Ooh, look! Weiner!

      [I share your frustration on this, in case that’s not clear]

      • Pat

        I disagree. Plans that are paid for can pass through reconciliation. That wasn’t an option for Obama during the Great Recession, but it is an option now.

        • piratedan

          well Pat, sure they can, if the two sides can agree on how that is done. After all, post the sequester, which was everyone sharing the pain, it was plainly evident that the GOP effectively reneged on any kind of good faith process as they continually sought to bankroll their programs with additional funding at the expense of the other programs, after they signed off on the deal and why we had the government shutdown because they couldn’t believe that the President and the Dems would actually try and hold them to their previously agreed upon funding levels.

          I have no faith whatsoever that the GOP has had a moment of lucidity since, after all, who is their nominee for President?

          • Pat

            I don’t have any faith in them either. But if Clinton has a majority in both houses, the House can pass a bill that the Senate can pass using reconciliation to block a filibuster. It only works if the bill is scored as budget neutral. This wasn’t available to Obama because he had vowed not to raise taxes.

            Clinton has made no such promise.

            Note that the plan will have to gain the support of the most conservative Democrat to pass.

    • tsam

      2) The Media could give a shit about reporting or debating or analyzing such a plan that the Dems have on the table.

      Media outlets generally push the perspective of right wing economists–debt/deficit/all spending is bad and punishing future generations to poverty because reasons, see? They uncritically let assholes like Paul Ryan advance that narrative, even though most of what he says is easily proven to be false.

  • These people (along w/ a hell of a lot of others) must be prevented from reproducing. Can we pay them not to?

    “Sterilization yesterday, sterilization today, & sterilization forever!!”

    • Origami Isopod

      Yeah, let’s not go there, thanks.

    • Rob in CT

      Ick.

    • Linnaeus

      That hasn’t ended well before, and it wouldn’t end well now.

    • witlesschum

      Human rights, schuman rights.

    • Go ahead, ignore the root problem that causes all the other problems. Your mutant offspring will curse you for perpetuating this world of shit & pain, especially after they’ve used up the planet your horrid world has been imposed on.

      • Rob in CT

        So, you’re a Bender 2016 guy, then?

        • Bender, Giant Meteor, Incurable Plague, Lizard Beings from The Pleiades, whatever. It’s too damn late to be picky.

      • LeeEsq

        This time our massive sociological experiment in controlling the population will work because reasons.

        • The planet will deal w/ all of you eventually, & it won’t be an experiment.

      • Do bear in mind that once the permanent flooding starts these Louisianans will be fleeing their tidal wasteland. Do you want them in your neighborhood, taking your jobs & impregnating your daughters?

        • Origami Isopod

          Do you want them in your neighborhood, taking your jobs & impregnating your daughters?

          What the everloving shit is this rhetoric on a progressive blog. Doesn’t even work as snark, quite frankly.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Actually heard an objective reporter voice on NPR this weekend refer to “the population scare of the 1970’s” when listing past silly fear-fads that today’s young concerned (and rare as hen’s teeth) professionals considering not breeding because of climate change. Er… if we had done more then…

  • Origami Isopod

    Sharon especially admired Albert, a middle-aged sheet metal worker who could have used help but was too proud to ask for it. “He’s had open-heart surgery. He’s had stomach surgery. He’s had like eight surgeries. He’s still working, though. He wants to work. He’s got a daughter in jail—her third DUI, so he’s raising her son—and this and that. But he doesn’t want anything from the government. He’s such a neat guy.” There was no mention of the need for a good alcoholism rehab program for his daughter or after-school programs for his grandson. Until a few days before his death Albert continued working, head high, shame-free.

    Ugh. Anyone else remember Cathy Seipp, the wingnut who was proud to be dying of cancer without taking any gubmint money for her healthcare bills? This mentality is just fucking sick. So is the idea that “sleeping longer and watching television [is] a loss of morals,” to paraphrase the author paraphrasing Charles Murray.

    Also, what this commenter said:

    Nuanced writing? Really. So much sympathy for the white poor, who vote against their self-interest. Sharon thinks because she’s white she’s owed something. That privilege mentality is hilarious. White supremacy has created one big mental health issue. Nothing sympathetic about these low-information folks. Why aren’t they responsible for their own condition?

    • Linnaeus

      Nuanced writing? Really. So much sympathy for the white poor, who vote against their self-interest. Sharon thinks because she’s white she’s owed something. That privilege mentality is hilarious. White supremacy has created one big mental health issue. Nothing sympathetic about these low-information folks. Why aren’t they responsible for their own condition?

      Eh, I can’t fully sign on to this sentiment. It’s possible to be critical of someone’s political behavior and be sympathetic to her/his situation.

      • Drexciya

        Where was the criticism in that piece?

        Edit: Where were the black and brown people generally?

        • Linnaeus

          My point isn’t that the piece wasn’t flawed. I’m drawing a distinction between “the article should have provided greater context as well as a more inclusive story of who is affected by precarious economic conditions” and “nothing sympathetic about these low information folks”. The former doesn’t require the latter.

          • Drexciya

            I think people should be considerably more critical of the political neutrality of things like “sympathy.” Who or what do you have to avoid thinking about to engage in political sympathy here? What, if anything, is being normalized in the political extension of sympathy? Sympathy, much like the almost entirely undiscussed historical context surrounding that piece, does not take place in a vacuum and it sure doesn’t get expressed in one.

            I also think it’s valuable here to distinguish between sympathy and responsiveness. You can be responsive (and as a liberal/leftist you have an obligation to be responsive) to the conditions that factor in this piece. But more is obscured and undermined by assuming that responsiveness has to come from a place of sympathy and empathy, especially when the political trajectory of their preferences is neither amoral or victimless.

            • Origami Isopod

              I think people should be considerably more critical of the political neutrality of things like “sympathy.”

              Thank you. I hadn’t thought much about it, but it’s like a lot like “forgiveness.” Remonstrations thereto are never deployed in a politically neutral manner.

              • Drexciya

                Exactly.

            • Steve LaBonne

              Hear, hear.

            • Linnaeus

              I think people should be considerably more critical of the political neutrality of things like “sympathy.” Who or what do you have to avoid thinking about to engage in political sympathy here?

              I won’t dispute that. Sympathy in a political context comes with notions about who gets it and who doesn’t and what exactly is being sympathized with. I think that definitely warrants critical examination.

              I also think it’s valuable here to distinguish between sympathy and responsiveness.

              I can buy that, but I was employing the concept of sympathy (or, in this case, the argument for the lack of it) in the comment that OI quoted that was more or less rhetorically consistent with the manner in which it is generally meant in this context. In such a context, the distinction you make is one that is typically not made, and it’s strongly implied (or even said explicitly) that “unsympathetic” people created their own problems, and hence do not “deserve” any responsiveness. That’s not a sentiment that I agree with.

            • Murc

              Who or what do you have to avoid thinking about to engage in political sympathy here?

              … nobody?

              What, if anything, is being normalized in the political extension of sympathy?

              … nothing?

              You can be responsive (and as a liberal/leftist you have an obligation to be responsive) to the conditions that factor in this piece. But more is obscured and undermined by assuming that responsiveness has to come from a place of sympathy and empathy

              I am a leftist precisely because I feel like approaching people who are in terrible, awful situations from a position of empathy and sympathy is super important almost all the time. Why on earth would I give a shit about leftism, which is super hard and super unrewarding compared to conservatism, if not for those things?

              Responsiveness does not have to come from a place of sympathy and empathy, but not a lot of people come to their political conclusions based on detached logic. And responsiveness that does come from a place of sympathy and empathy isn’t inherently problematic.

              • Drexciya

                … nobody?

                … nothing?

                Before I think of how to answer, do you think that’s true of the Mother Jones article in question?

                • Murc

                  The Mother Jones article, I think, does a good job of presenting things in a clear-eyed manner. Every time you start to get too sympathetic towards Sharon and her fellow travelers, it reminds you, again, that these people are plenty racist and plenty just plain mean. That you can’t think about them in a vacuum; you have to think about what they’re signing onto and what they’re driven towards as well.

                  It could have maybe done a better job on that score; it doesn’t take the next step a lot of the time and it could. But the article, it seems, is meant to be an in-depth examination of Trump voters in an effort to get people to understand where they’re coming from without necessarily approving of that place. That’s important, right?

                  I also don’t think the article normalizes anything that isn’t already, you know, normal. White folks in the poor south have pathologies that are terrifying; that’s a political story as old as the nation.

            • Brien Jackson

              I think the commenter was satirizing the way conservatives would react if the story had been written about black people myself.

              • Linnaeus

                That was actually my first thought.

      • tsam

        I don’t know–as long as their answer or ostensible solution to their plight is racism and xenophobia, I don’t have much sympathy for them. They could direct all that ire at the people who are really responsible for their situation. It ain’t Mexican immigrants or a black family just trying to get by in life the same as them.

    • But from what’s quoted here, this guy doesn’t feel entitled to very much. He doesn’t expect help for his family. He wants people to admire him for what he admires about himself, maybe, and he expects someone to make sure that works out for him. If you suggest material help from the government, for him or other people including his family, he rejects that. The only way to win his vote is to promise not to help anybody and promise not to do anything that makes him feel less proud. And that is tied up with both class and racism. And with the knowledge that the Democrats are what he doesn’t want.

      • Origami Isopod

        He feels very entitled to other people not getting anything. That is not “not very much.”

        • Steve LaBonne

          Exactly. That”not very much” has made our politics the mean and nasty thing that it is.

        • That strikes me as a bargain he’s made, on some level: he’s going to support self-reliance for people like him, and the people who’d otherwise have to pay for it tell him he’s special. It works out for this one man just well enough that he’s not destitute, and lucky for him, because the help might not exist for him even if he believed in it. Or maybe not lucky, because if he were destitute the bargain would be broken, and the bargain works just fine if it excludes women and children, as well as outsiders.

          That’s not the way the article frames it, though; I have to read it again, but I think she is suggesting a different kind of bargain, one that helps everyone. But anyway he should be acting more entitled to those services, not less.

          • Origami Isopod

            It didn’t work out for him at all. He’s dead.

            In any case, he doesn’t/didn’t get to make that “bargain” on behalf of other people. That’s rank arrogance.

      • Pat

        Yes, but he gets invisible help from the government. This can come in the form of tax benefits. It can also come in the form of redlining that maintains the homogeneity of his neighborhood and his children’s schools. All the people in this story have nothing to do with people who don’t look like them. And they are blissfully unaware of the institutional structures that keep them isolated.

        • I’m not sure what you’re objecting to in my comment.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Sharon especially admired Albert, a middle-aged sheet metal worker who could have used help but was too proud to ask for it. “He’s had open-heart surgery. He’s had stomach surgery. He’s had like eight surgeries. He’s still working, though. He wants to work.

      It could be pride, or it could be masochism. The GOP is a big kinky S&M-fest.

      If you choose the exceptionally hard path out of pride and self-reliance, that’s okay with me, but if you start lecturingand wagging finger about all the people who didn’t flagellate themselves like you did, well, I lose patience with you.

      • ColBatGuano

        I wonder how Albert got all those surgeries paid for?

        • BiloSagdiyev

          You wouldn’t believe how much sheet metal he snipped! And he saved all of his pennies.

          Socialized medicine only happens in funny furrin countries! (shake fist)

  • DAS

    They see their white privilege slipping away at the same time that they feel their class stability collapsing beneath them

    I’ve long thought that mistaking the correlation (perhaps with each of the two correlated occurrences being related via a complicated series of causations) of the first fruits of the civil rights movement and the economic stagnation faced by white America for a causation helps maintain racism and even more so helps maintain zero sum thinking: when you see that the fortunes of “those people” are getting better while yours are getting worse, what are you gonna think? You’re gonna resent “those people” for taking away what belongs to you.

    The solution is (to use the line analogy from the essay) to make sure that when we do let people, who have been excluded from even being in line, join the line in the place at which they deserve to be, we need to make sure that everyone standing in line gets what they are standing in line for, even if allowing new people into the line bumps some of the people on line to begin with backwards.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that a significant number of influential “thinkers” in our political discourse, firmly believe that we as a society cannot afford to let everyone standing in line get what they are standing in line for. And since a lot of the people who have a firm and sincere belief that “we can’t afford to let everyone standing on line get what they came for” self-identify as Democrats and are seen as “liberals”, well then, you have a lot of people who just “know” that liberals all believe in “letting those people cut in line and get stuff even while those of us who have been in line forever don’t get anything — and those liberals don’t even care that we’ve been standing in line for a long time!”

    • Steve LaBonne

      You’re overthinking. They’ve always been racists and will be as long as they live. Their parents were racists. Their grandparents were racists. Etc. Nothing is needed to “maintain” racism, it’s the strongest constant in American life.

    • Matt McIrvin

      The expansion of civil rights was followed, by complete coincidence as far as I can tell, by a terrifying crime wave that lasted for a quarter-century. I’ve sometimes wondered if things would have been better had that not happened. But maybe not, if it’s just “racists will be racists”.

      • Rob in CT

        I’ve had this thought as well.

        • LeeEsq

          Same. It just isn’t the crime wave but the entire Counter Culture. What o wonder is if Civil Rights would have gone smoother if society didn’t undergo such a radical transformation during the mid to late 1960s.

          • Bruce B.

            The transformation had actually been underway since World War II: a fuller account would include “many people drastically changed their ways of life in and around World War II, in ways that social conventions would previously have blocked; there was massive and sometimes deeply organized reaction in the fifties; by the end of the fifties that reaction was crumbling and the changes actually made in the forties emerged into more public view starting in the late fifties.”

            Bad Girls: Young Women, Sex, and Rebellion before the Sixties is fascinating reading in this regard. And it’s really changed my thinking. What the racist right idolizes as the America they want to return is not, really, the last hurrah of a lengthy period of social history. It’s the fairly brief period of failed propaganda aimed at restoring a social order that had already in practice been lost. White women, people of color, disbelievers in American Protestantism and religion in general, gay people, and others had already made moves to build better lives rather than waiting and hoping for the racist reactionary crowd to give them anything.

            What we notice as unusually earnest craziness in the mass media of the fifties was driven by flat-out panic behind the scenes on the part of a lot of authorities who realized they were losing the kind of control they’d been accustomed to. The Southern Strategy in the next decade was part of their concession and retreat, and it looks like a lot of them were really not very hopeful that their day could ever come again.

            In this context, I’d like to mention Robert Frank’s frequently vile, but interesting, Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich. It’s an unqualifiedly admiring, toadying look at how our wealthiest live now. But there’s an interesting recurring theme running through it when people talk about their history as, say, trainers of butlers and maids, or builders of boundary-pushing yachts, or whatever. They all recall the postwar forties and fifties as a miserable, awful, hateful time for them and their kind – or their parents and grandparents, depending on their age. Anyone who ever wonders if high tax brackets actually matter should read this book to find out just how much they do.

            It seems at least plausible to me that the social counter-revolution of that era fell apart partly because the richest couldn’t bring as much to bear as they could once their boy Reagan et al had done their thing. Conversely, people on the margins and at the bottom had relatively more of their own to bring to bear than their counterparts in this age of wage stagnation and viciously rising costs of necessary stuff.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        I’ve been just as terrified by a much longer wave of right wing politicians screaming OMG CRIME OUT OF CONTROL!!! no matter what the statistics show.

        And to bring up lead exposure is exactly the kind of nerdy, sciency, fact-based thing a liberal could do that if we were to bring it (look! new studies! assiduously dispassoniately evaluated realities! work done by dull nuance barglers in large institutions you don’t go to or teach at or work at ever!) I fear that people would just tune us out in 200 milliseconds.

    • MDrew

      This is a thoughtful comment, and I agree with its basic argument, especially the causal untangling of the social advancement, with consequent economic benefits, of minorities from the economic stagnation experienced across the middle-lower part of the economy.

      But I’m left wonder who you’re referring to with the description of liberal identifiers who don’t think everyone in line should get what they’re in line for. That’s an interesting observation; who’s it about?

  • ThrottleJockey

    A recent study shows a steep rise in deaths of middle-aged working-class whites—much of it due to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. These are not signs of abandoned values, but of lost hope. Many are in mourning and see rescue in the phrase “Great Again.”

    TI would like a word with you…

    Your values is a disarray, prioritizing horribly.
    Unhappy with the riches cause your piss poor morally.

  • Jed

    This essay was an excerpt of Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, which was published by The New Press, Erik’s publisher, and even worked on by one of his editors (ahem), so you should buy the book and don’t just settle for the MoJo article!

    As a special for LGM readers, the book contains the best Dead Horse in American History I’ve come across outside of this blog.

  • It’s the economy. It’s always the economy. When people feel good about their future, they’re generally more gracious. When they feel their future is in jeopardy, they tend to be less gracious. Eight years after the Great Recession, a lot of people aren’t feeling very gracious. The difference between the Trump crowd and the Sanders crowd is in which message resonates: race or the system. The point being that if people felt good about their future, there would be much less resonance on either side.

    • Origami Isopod

      White people were feeling mighty good about their future in the 1950s. They were also racist as fuck in the 1950s. When the Civil Rights Movement hit the headlines nationwide, things were still looking pretty good for white people, but they weren’t precisely “gracious” toward the protestors.

      • This ain’t the 1950s.

        • Origami Isopod

          You said:

          It’s the economy. It’s always the economy. When people feel good about their future, they’re generally more gracious. When they feel their future is in jeopardy, they tend to be less gracious.

          My comment disputed that.

      • JKTH

        And when Nixon pulled off the Southern Strategy, the white middle class was basically at its peak and unemployment was below 4%.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Yes, but there was so much CRIME. You know, CRIME. CRIME everywhere!

          And disorder! And uppityness!

      • Murc

        White people were feeling mighty good about their future in the 1950s. They were also racist as fuck in the 1950s. When the Civil Rights Movement hit the headlines nationwide, things were still looking pretty good for white people, but they weren’t precisely “gracious” toward the protestors.

        This doesn’t really undercut C.V Danes point, though. The legislative successes of the Civil Rights era did actually happen despite the racists freaking the fuck about them, and there’s a strong argument to be made that they don’t happen in an environment in which the country is basically prosperous and people are basically confident in the future of themselves, their neighbors, and their offspring. And even though the 60s were pretty turbulent folks, especially white folks, were employed, making money, and generally did have that confidence.

        I think that’s a non-trivial factor in minorities getting enough of them on-side to make change happen. In an environment in which white folks were a lot more immisserated than they were at the time and also exercise equivalent political power (and the demographic ratios are the same as they were) I don’t think anything substantive happens.

        • so-in-so

          “Gracious” probably isn’t the word, maybe they put up a bit less resistance. Although given that I think lynching peaked post-war through early 1950’s, maybe even that isn’t the case.

      • MDrew

        The ’50s weren’t that great. Check out the living standards in general. The 50s were when the big postwar engine was really getting revving. But the benefits hadn’t filtered out to the broad public yet in the way they started to by the 60s. Moreover, in the 50s social life was still determined by people who had grown up in the Depression, then fought the war, and now were working their assess off in factories, offices, schools, and hospitals, socking away the prosperity that their kids would get to really enjoy. (It;s not as enjoyable when you’re the one who works his ass off to make it. Still great, but not as freeing.) Things were quite overdetermined to remain racist as fuck in the 1950s.

        Moreover, I would argue that the prosperity -> less racism syllogism (and I do largely buy it) mostly applies to the post-CRM era. Essentially, I think we had a national awakening to the wrongness of racism in the 1960s. Before that, people (not everybody, but people) would defend segregation, white supremacy, or at least discrimination straight-up to your face. During the ’60s, at the very least everybody learned that it was now shameful to hold those views, and many, many people took the ideas fully to heart. They tried to put those ideas into reality, but clearly we have managed only incomplete success in that effort.

        I happen to think that broad prosperity aids that effort greatly. You’re free to disagree, but I don’t think the 1950s are a powerful piece of evidence against that notion, for the reasons I state.

    • I don’t know. A better economy, better help for people who are struggling economically, can keep people from turning to someone like Trump. Or, if he’s not there (yet), from stewing and developing ideas about conspiracies, ethnonationalist miracles, and so on. Once they have those ideas, they can easily find a way to call for racist versions of economic help.

      That mechanic is, hopefully, never going to find out that President Trump wouldn’t keep him from being looked down on because he gets food stamps.

      • Exactly. A sane Republican is still better than a radicalized Republican.

        • A sane Republican can conclude the Republicans legislate against their interests, and vote Democrat instead. A radicalized Republican will never leave the Republican Party no matter how much “socialism” they are, objectively, in favor of.

    • FlipYrWhig

      This is true but it doesn’t mean running on many great plans for boosting the economy is going to win the votes of people who feel bad about their future. You help those people because it’s right; you don’t count on their voting for you in exchange for it, because they won’t, because they’re the base of the other party and they hate you.

      • True. But happy Republicans might just be sane Republicans, instead of the burn-it-down yahoos who are lining up behind Trump.

    • witlesschum

      If people were feeling better about the future during the actual, factual depression when they elected FDR and huge Democratic majorities promising generous solutions, they were some very optimistic people. It’s way more complicated than that.

      • so-in-so

        The New Deal was structured to (mostly) benefit poor white people, so the generous solutions applied to the people voting (and the rich guys were scared of a revolution, so willing to play ball a bit).

      • rea

        If people were feeling better about the future during the actual, factual depression when they elected FDR and huge Democratic majorities promising generous solutions, they were some very optimistic people

        So long sad times
        Go long bad times
        We are rid of you at last
        Howdy gay times
        Cloudy gray times
        You are now a thing of the past

        Happy days are here again
        The skies above are clear again
        So let’s sing a song of cheer again
        Happy days are here again

        Altogether shout it now
        There’s no one
        Who can doubt it now
        So let’s tell the world about it now
        Happy days are here again

        Your cares and troubles are gone
        There’ll be no more from now on
        From now on

        Happy days are here again
        The skies above are clear again
        So, let’s sing a song of cheer again
        Happy times
        Happy nights
        Happy days
        Are here again

      • BiloSagdiyev

        I don’t know enough about the electoral and political history, but I always had the impression the GOP really made it clear* that they thought the response to the Great Depression was: screw you, get to work, suffer, nothing can be done, especially by the government. They made it clear enough that low information people got the message.

        I don’t think it’s that obvious right now for some folks. You might say that 2008 wasn’t bad enough, and allowed too many people to cling to their (cough cough) false consciousness? Well, fanciful notions about how they’re not one of the little people.

        * Hell, with Amity Shlaes and her ilk, they’re still working on that message.

    • Matt McIrvin

      It’s the economy. It’s always the economy. When people feel good about their future, they’re generally more gracious. When they feel their future is in jeopardy, they tend to be less gracious

      And, unfortunately, that’s exactly the opposite of how Keynes says policy should work.

    • MDrew

      +1.

  • daves09

    The way to create good jobs is to pay good wages for all jobs.
    Saying that we need to create jobs where the people live is asinine. There are already jobs there, they just don’t pay shit.
    Service jobs are the present and the future for almost everyone in the US.
    If present automation and robotic manufacturing trends continue the only jobs in manufacturing and transport will be servicing the machines that do the actual work.
    Trump supporters know that the gov’t.is the only thing that stands between them and starving in the streets. But many of them would still rather starve than see the same benefits go to the evil and unworthy “them”.
    Interim solutions: $15 minimum wage-everywhere linked to inflation.
    Refederalization and expansion of food stamps.
    Medicaid for all with no state okey- doking.
    Hope that climate change is bad enough that it
    concentrates people’s minds, but not so terrible it
    kills those same people.

    • MDrew

      There are places with legit high-ass unemployment, where, no shit, there aren’t jobs for everybody.

      And, as we all of course know, the official (“U3” or whatever) unemployment fraction greatly understates the problem in those places (and in lots of other places as well).

  • Spiny

    Am I imagining things, or didn’t further investigation reveal that the decline in middle-aged white working class life expectancy was largely concentrated among women?

    • Rob in CT

      IIRC, white southern women.

    • FlipYrWhig

      I remember this as well.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      You are correct, Spiny, but the initial tale of Stoically Dying White Men is now a zombie factoid (or maybe a cockroach, I’ve never been quite clear on that distinction) that you will hear forever, because it sounds so right, along with “Washington was built on a swamp,” “Bill Clinton came out of nowhere in 1992,” “rich people tend to vote Democratic,” and basically everything most people believe about the federal budget deficit.

      • Rob in CT

        Wait. DC wasn’t built on a swamp? I’ll be damned. I thought that one was true (because I never thought to check).

        • Whoa! World askew!

          Hmm:

          The City of Washington, like every other US city founded in the 17th and 18th centuries along tidewater, did have low ground. But the knee jerk association of Washington with a swamp, on a list on urban history, does a disservice, unless we all want to join forces and begin talking about the New York swamp, and the Philadelphia swamp, and the Baltimore swamp, etc. It bears remembering that to many Europeans in the 18th century all of America was a swamp.

          Er…growing up in these areas, we DO talk about all those places as having been swamps!

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Bah! ROME was built on a swamp!

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloaca_Maxima

            • bender

              It was, and the summer malaria had a good deal to do with why it depopulated quickly when it ceased being an imperial capital, and did not recover population anywhere near as quickly as other European cities. European port cities got hit with recurring visits of the plague, but Rome had endemic malaria on top of that. Lots of engravings of the nearly empty ruins of Rome well into the eighteenth century.

          • Srsly Dad Y

            My point is the same as the quote you found. Washington has reclaimed areas but it wasn’t “built on a swamp”* any more than was any other city that sits next to a major body of water, or half the Netherlands, for that matter. But the cliche is only applied to DC because gummint, dur hur hur hur.

            * I actually think the word in the mid-Atlantic is “marsh,” but whatever, Webster’s tells me they’re synonyms.

            • bender

              Being built on a swamp has greater consequences for cities in warm climates, because of mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. For such a city to prosper, either the upper classes summer in more salubrious climes and the poor who die are rapidly replaced by immigrants, or the government has to be functional enough to keep the swamps drained.

          • FlipYrWhig
      • Spiny

        Yeah, folks really did buy the Hopeless Dying White Men hypothesis easily (with varying degrees of Stoically assumed). And per Drexciya’s point below, many fewer seem to be interested in imagining reasons for why women would be dying that are as filled with juicy political implications and policy-altering drama.

  • Drexciya

    All I have to say is that empathy is political and where it gets directed and what absences are brooked in its direction remains one of the clearest signifiers of who’s valued and who isn’t.

    • lizzie

      Well said, and can’t be emphasized enough.

    • witlesschum

      It sure is.

    • MDrew

      It’s an unlimited resource.

  • PJ

    Is anyone collecting these pieces for an anthology? Like, “White Trump supporter thinkpiece” is such a genre now.

  • In Louisiana , it’s racism , pure and simple. + a disdain for education. Jobs in big chemical plants or in the oilfield require virtually no “learning” and even higher education boils down to how the LSU Tigers are doing in football . Two of my three college educated daughters moved to other states , for more open job markets.

  • kped

    It’s not like Democrats are running anti-white people platform, so this is a dumb point. They are targeting everyone, so it is race, not class.

    Sorry, this argument doesn’t hold water.

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      Purely FYI, the OP does not actually claim that the Democratic Party is “running an anti-white platform”, nor is such a claim necessary to support Erik’s contention that “it is about race and class”. The claim that white members of the working class who are struggling in the current economic climate are more open to scapegoating of “others” than they would be in a more favourable climate can be debated, but it is not obviously “dumb”, nor does it absolve people of racism to say that their class issues ought to be addressed.

      • Brien Jackson

        It doesn’t seem to me that the white people in question were any less racist in the 1950’s or 1920’s, so I’m not really sure how open to debate it really is.

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      My conclusion from these pieces is that you have to give up on winning their votes.

      I don’t mean give up helping them. But the opinions expressed in that piece don’t suggest you can win them over if you’re not throwing some combination of women, black, Hispanic and/or LGBT people under the bus.

      Since I’m not willing to do that, I don’t really see what liberals can do differently to appeal to them that’s worth doing. I think it’s good to keep coming up with plans to help coal country and rural communities, and it seems Hillary is doing some of that. And yes, we need to move beyond “retraining” and all that. And we can keep making the argument against racism and sexism and such. And we can point out the real problems in those places that aren’t caused by non-white people or “moochers” or the like.

      But those things aren’t going to win Louisiana or West Virginia or Oklahoma. And the people who fret over how we need to do something or the other to win them over… I’m over them and their argument. Hillary doesn’t need them to win, and she doesn’t need to indulge their idiotic political preferences. The ones who aren’t too far gone will see the good that Democratic policies do.

      The hopeful note I got from that piece was that Sharon’s son wasn’t buying her crap, and was supporting Bernie Sanders. It’s a much smaller step from there to voting for Democrats who are imperfect but will do some good. Hopefully, we can get even better Democrats, but it is Louisiana, so Sanders ain’t winning any time soon. But maybe he’ll see the advantage of Gov. Edwards over Gov. Jindal, at least.

  • JustRuss

    Democrats are a little better at recognizing the need to put people to work, but they have struggled mightily to come up with any sort of serious jobs program that would find good work for poor Americans

    Pfft. Coming up with a jobs program is easy, coming up with one that has a chance in hell getting through a Republican house and senate is where the struggling comes in. That really shouldn’t be glossed over.

  • a_paul_in_mtl

    “Democrats are a little better at recognizing the need to put people to work, but they have struggled mightily to come up with any sort of serious jobs program that would find good work for poor Americans. It’s all education and retraining, which are easy panaceas that make policymakers feel like they are doing something but which do almost nothing for the affected people. That’s what has to change–people of southern Louisiana, black or white or Asian or Latino, all need access to good jobs in the places they live.”

    Liberals and conservatives alike tend to say that if only people got the sort of education and training they ought to have and were willing to “move where the jobs are” there wouldn’t be a problem. As if it were really that simple. Really “progressive” people may go as far as to say the government should support people in getting that education and training, although it’s still inadequate. They used to say in Canada that people needed to learn trades and go out to work in the oil industry or supporting businesses in Alberta. Even when that industry was booming it couldn’t have solved the unemployment problem, and since then boom has turned to bust.

    Others don’t even make it that far. One of the things HRC did during the primary that really turned me off was when people were talking about the look of good jobs and she said “well, there are plenty of job openings, people just need to get the training they need to apply for them”. Sure, Hillary, let’s just get on that.

    The problem is that saying that the government should create jobs for people where they are, based on community needs and people’s talents and interests, goes against the grain of corporate capitalism. Its supporting ideology says that any work that doesn’t contribute to the corporate bottom line is a burden to the “productive part of the economy”. It’s socialism, you know. And it’s true. For me, that’s a feature, not a bug, but too many liberals would prefer not to go down that path. Far easier to say the answer lies in education and training. Basically, we are supposed to change our shapes to fit into the slots provided by “the market”. That’s “economic freedom” for you.

    • Linnaeus

      Yep.

    • They used to say in Canada that people needed to learn trades and go out to work in the oil industry or supporting businesses in Alberta. Even when that industry was booming it couldn’t have solved the unemployment problem, and since then boom has turned to bust.

      I was flying the Edmonton line earlier this month. I hadn’t been there in a few years and they’re definitely feeling the pinch of the oil bust.

      The only thing keeping the place going is all the construction projects that were planned before the bust. Once those run out it could get ugly.

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      Lack of good jobs – typos, typos, ugh!

    • Murc

      Liberals and conservatives alike tend to say that if only people got the sort of education and training they ought to have and were willing to “move where the jobs are” there wouldn’t be a problem.

      It is always worth noting that things have to get really fucking bad before people even consider doing the latter, because people don’t exist in a background. All those people with Irish surnames in Boston and New York don’t live there because their ancestors decided to nip across the pond after hearing they were hiring stevedores; they’re there because the choice for their ancestors was literally starving to death or fleeing the country of their birth, often leaving kith and kin behind to never be seen again.

      It’s the same situation for many if not most of the other people during the great immigration waves of the 19th and early 20th century. My ancestors didn’t come here from Italy because they really loved working in mines and got a killer offer; they came because Italian society was imploding around them and they had no kind of future there.

      • so-in-so

        Add in- where do you go today for that “good job”? unless you have a specific skill set there really aren’t a lot of places where “good” jobs are going begging for lack of workers.

    • Brien Jackson

      “The problem is that saying that the government should create jobs for people where they are, based on community needs and people’s talents and interests, goes against the grain of corporate capitalism. Its supporting ideology says that any work that doesn’t contribute to the corporate bottom line is a burden to the “productive part of the economy”. It’s socialism, you know. And it’s true. For me, that’s a feature, not a bug, but too many liberals would prefer not to go down that path. Far easier to say the answer lies in education and training. Basically, we are supposed to change our shapes to fit into the slots provided by “the market”. That’s “economic freedom” for you.”

      Even taken sympathetically, though, a socialist economy isn’t going to actually be able to deliver a robust micro economy to sparesely populated rural areas with good jobs for everyone where they live. We have to have a really wide understanding of “where they live” to make this work.

    • Origami Isopod

      For me, that’s a feature, not a bug, but too many liberals would prefer not to go down that path.

      Including too many here.

    • sapient

      It’s socialism, you know.

      Creating jobs for people in their communities, where they live, is absolutely not socialism. True socialism allows for the government to control the means of production, which means moving people around in order to produce. The large countries that attempted socialism saw that in a huge way.

    • FlipYrWhig

      The problem is that saying that the government should create jobs for people where they are, based on community needs and people’s talents and interests, goes against the grain of corporate capitalism. Its supporting ideology says that any work that doesn’t contribute to the corporate bottom line is a burden to the “productive part of the economy”. It’s socialism, you know.

      Hillary Clinton has a very, very detailed plan for rebuilding infrastructure. It’s either a thumb in the eye of her corporate capitalist paymasters or a fiendish act of pure deception.

    • bender

      (replying upthread to a_paul_in_mtl)

      Yeah. I made the same point about creating jobs where the people are a couple of days ago while commenting on the most recent blog entry here about affordable housing.

      I pointed out that there is plenty of good cheap housing in rust belt cities like Detroit, and that instead of struggling for the resources to build new housing in already crowded coastal markets, it would make more sense to put those resources into creating jobs where affordable housing already exists and people have family and community ties they are loathe to abandon. It was late in the thread, and I received one dismissive reply.

      • Linnaeus

        I think you’re referring to my reply, and I wondered (too late, of course) if might be taken as dismissive when that’s not what I intended. What I wanted to do was make a cynical remark about why no one seems to want to do what you suggest.

        • bender

          Thank you. I thought perhaps that was the intention, but it was unclear.

  • Maybe we could just stop the welfare for corporate giants?

    Apple has $149,000,000,000 in cash (that’s billions) which according to Forbes is 1/10 of all the cash on the planet , and they’re crying like babies cuz the EU want’s to tax them. Sob stories abound.

  • rjayp

    seconded.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    Moreover, any class-based program that helps these white people in Louisiana also helps people of color.

    But will enough White people still support these programs once Republicans point out that they will also help those people to give those programs any chance of actually passing? Or will it be another case where the only way they become law is to have some built-in mechanisms to exclude the riff raff? The fact that class-based policies will help Black/Latinx/immigrants seems to be a bug not a feature to a lot of voters.

  • Brien Jackson

    The more I think about it, the more I think we’re all missing the forest for the trees. It’ s not “racial anxiety vs. economic anxiety,” it’s that they’re one in the same.” to Trump voting working class whites, the decline of white people as an economic class is fundamentally linked the rise in racial equality since the 1950’s. It’s the same phenomenon in their eyes. As for this:

    There is no simply policy to solve racism. There are however policies that can undermine the class insecurities these people feel.

    It isn’t wrong by any means, but you still have to acknowledge that these people don’t support these programs. Or, at least, they vote for politicians who don’t support them because of racism. There’s really no convenient way around that basic fact, and I’m more than a little tired of the implied hectoring of leftists as if it’s somehow our fault that there’s a lot of racist white people out there.

    • Lord Jesus Perm

      It isn’t wrong by any means, but you still have to acknowledge that these people don’t support these programs. Or, at least, they vote for politicians who don’t support them because of racism. There’s really no convenient way around that basic fact, and I’m more than a little tired of the implied hectoring of leftists as if it’s somehow our fault that there’s a lot of racist white people out there.

      Might be the truest shit said in this comment section. The issue is that the policies that would benefit working class white people would also help working class black and brown people, and this why WCW people are running to Trump. Short of throwing black and brown people overboard, I’m not sure what you do to get those people back into the fold.

      • Brien Jackson

        This probably oversimplifies too: The real problem is that these people have it in their heads that the proposals Democrats have made (which despite what a lot of doomsayers would tell you do exist in bunches!) are only meant for brown people and they won’t get any of it. This is nonsense, of course, but this is what they think even as they’re collecting benefits and, again, there’s not really any way around it short of them having their own epiphany.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Exactly. That’s always the vibe I get from Jim Webb. “Don’t you realize how many more votes you could get from Southern white men, a proud, combative people, if only you approved every war that was cooked up, threw The Blacks overboard, and put women in their place?”

        Uh, if we did that, we wouldn’t be Democrats. We’d be… some other… party. Why in the hell would we do that?

        • DocAmazing

          There was a party that supported land reform and government assistance to white working people to the exclusion of other groups, but I can’t name it without going full Godwin.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            I thought there was a memo, wasn’t Godwin suspended for 2016?

            • BartletForGallifrey

              In the future, 2016 will be the new Godwin.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                In Soviet Union, you crush Nazi!

      • Linnaeus

        Short of throwing black and brown people overboard, I’m not sure what you do to get those people back into the fold.

        Organizing and institution building is a start. Which is easier said than done, I know, but you can eventually win some people over.

    • FlipYrWhig

      In a lot of ways enacting social welfare policies is a way to help these people _against their will_. They are going to continue to hate Democrats for what they stand for even as Democrats do things that provide immediate and lasting benefits. That’s how it works. There’s no political-rhetorical cheat code. Resentment and hatefulness are why non-rich Republicans are Republicans in the first place.

      • sapient

        Honestly, I think you’re right when you say this: “enacting social welfare policies is a way to help these people _against their will_. ” I think that making it very plain that these policies (already enacted) are what help them will maybe change their political preferences. Because once you take that support away, they’ll resist over their dead bodies. Just like Social Security.

  • Here, it’s highly insulting to have won the Civil War and still be forced to recognize the rights of black people. Yes , they have taught themselves that “they won.” They have so enjoyed treating blacks badly , that they know payback will be a bitch.

  • MDrew

    Great post; I’m glad for your new tack. Even if it is a product of visiting some of these communities and being reminded of your roots, and some views you (maybe?) used to be more vocal in expressing.

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