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Trump and Identity Politics

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I hope Sean writes up this point in a longer piece, because it’s brilliant:

Exactly. There are inevitable disagreements on the left about what policies to prioritized, what a president should have been expected to accomplish in a particular context, etc., but there’s a broadly shared assumption that when they hold office Democrats should be trying to accomplish concrete policy goals. Nobody would defend Obama by saying “at least he pissed conservatives off!” For the Republican base, pissing off Democrats is sufficient. If Trump was governing as campaign Trump rather than on Ryanomics this wouldn’t make him more or less popular with core Republican voters. They just don’t care.

“Identity politics,” as Sean says, is an insulting, shallow way of describing a pro-civil rights agenda and an inclusive party, but for Trump-era Republicans it fits perfectly.

[EL] See also….

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  • CP

    DamnYankee (I believe) has made this point several times – Democrats are a party united (and divided) by beliefs about policy issues, Republicans are a party united by the belief that The Right People should be in power.

    • DamnYankees

      Hey, you remembered! Thanks!

    • Ronan

      That point is also laid out in detail here

      https://global.oup.com/academic/product/asymmetric-politics-9780190626600?cc=ie&lang=en&

      (though I prefer DYs telling)

      • rea

        Yeah, and you can see this, for example, with health care, where Trump is supporting a bill that is completely contrary to everything he said during the campaign, essentially because its the Republican plan, and not Obamacare

        • Downpuppy

          During the campaign? The bill is contrary to what Trump said May 28th –I suggest that we add more dollars to Healthcare and make it the best anywhere. ObamaCare is dead – the Republicans will do much better!
          http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-updates-everything-president-trump-s-day-in-tweets-sunday-may-1496026978-htmlstory.html

          • so-in-so

            he didn’t say for WHOM it would be better, now did he?

          • Schadenboner

            Well, we *will* spend more dollars. Because it’s way way more expensive to treat a case of flu that walks into an ER because they don’t have a PCP anymore.

            It’s just that the increased spending won’t result in improved individual or public health outcomes.

    • The Republican Party is a party of trolls, represented by trolls, led by a troll, who as a base proudly identify as trolls, and for whom trollish behavior is their single most distinguishable and unifying characteristic. I used to think labeling Republicans as the worse people was hyperbole, but not anymore. They really are, at the most fundamental level, trolls.

      • StellaB

        I disagree. The leadership are all trolls, but much of the rank and file is just made up of idiots who aren’t smart enough to troll.

        • I never really considered trolls to be that smart, but if the Republican base is not outright trollish, it is as a minimum troll-curious.

  • keta

    Identity Politics: a unifying dynamic on the right of the political spectrum, and a divisive dynamic on the left.

    • Yellow Rose

      Yes, this. Democrats certainly are as much an identity party as the Republicans–this is the Big Sort at work–we just have more identities. We are a party united in our opposition to the hegemony of white males. We are largely the party of women and minorities.

      There’s nothing wrong with identity politics per se. Blacks certainly voted for Obama because he was black, same as Catholics voted for JFK because he was Catholic. I’ve heard that LaGuardia did some good things playing identity politics. At best Identity is just a simplistic way of divining ideology. The problem is when you let it foreclose all thought. Marion Berry’s election is an example of that on the left, and Trump’s election is an example of that on the right.

      • randy khan

        You might want to distinguish between Marion Barry’s initial election as Mayor and his last election as Mayor. The last one certainly falls into that category; the first one, not so much.

      • ExpatJK

        What randy khan said about Barry’s first vs later elections is highly relevant. I’m sure some Black people voted for Obama because he was Black, but I think many, many others did that because of reasons such as 1) they liked his proposed policies, 2) the GOP is a pretty anti-Black racist party, etc etc.

        • erick

          Didn’t Kerry get like 93% of the Bkack vote? It ain’t like Obama pulled some huge swing.

          • searcher

            Yeah, basically every Democratic candidate for President in the last 30+ years has gotten 90%+ of the black vote.

            Obama got like 1-2% over the previous high, and a higher turnout (but not by like a factor of 2 or anything; you can only increase the black vote through enthusiasm by so much before you run into the hard ceiling of voter suppression).

    • Dilan Esper

      It exists on the left, but it’s never bothered me.

      For instance, for all my issues with Hillary Clinton, voting for her because you want to see the first woman President seems totally reasonable (just as Obama got the support of some blacks who don’t normally vote for the Democratic nominee because he was going to be the first black President).

      • keta

        Nor does it bother me.

        What does aggravate is those who insist their particular identity/cause is paramount in the political world on the left and thus becomes a wedge instead of a coalescing element.

      • Identity politics on the right is strictly stimulus-response. Someone screams “[email protected]@er! or Fag! or FemiNazi! or Illegals!” and the right winger votes for them. Their idea of promoting their self-interest is to hurt others.

        On the left we have to consider every issue, and often and often, vote for the least evil person or program. It takes some thinking, as well as compassion, and promoting our long term self-interest, which means the interests of most everyone.

  • Domino

    The topic and photo recalled an article I read not long ago that stated Bannon was some sort of strategic genius, but only for the right.

    And my reaction to that was – it’s incredibly easy to organize the right in this country. All you have to do is post a couple of articles on Breitbart & Fox News about how liberals are for a certain policy, and you’ll immediately get 75% of the Republican base against the policy. It doesn’t take much, due to their own propaganda most Rs don’t trust non-conservative news sources. So the market is dominated by a handful of organizations, thus making it really easy to coordinate messages.

    • CP

      Yep.

      Global warming is the ultimate example of this.

    • Jon_H11

      Russia proves this in spades.

      But this is really part of the basic conservative/progressive dynamic in US politics, isn’t it? Conservatives are averse to change generally because they are (or perceive themselves as relatively) powerful and thus they are risk averse. They don’t really have specific policy goals or desires. Liberals don’t have a general picture or baseline view of society to promote or protect, or to build an identity around– they are just advocates for specific policies.

      The general picture/identity that held it all together on the left in the New Deal coalition was a class/labor tilt that has proved very difficult to reproduce

      • Robespierre

        I’m not sure I really agree with this. Of course liberals have a consistent view of what society should look like. Rights-based constitutional democracy is as much a model as, say, Christian Dominionism

        • Jon_H11

          ‘Rights-based constitutional democracy’ is indifferent to what people do with those rights, so it’s a political view of the good society, not a cultural one. Liberals leave the aesthetics to the individual. The right has an (at least partial) aesthetic unity (identity) that the left doesn’t (and frankly, I happy about that).

          For example. I don’t particularly care what my neighbors do with their home/property so long as it doesn’t smell/isn’t too loud/doesn’t endanger me. One neighbor paved over his lawn with green painted asphalt in order to not have to mow. My uncle on the other hand lives in an HOA run neighborhood where all the houses must be painted certain shades, have the same architecture, lawns have to be manicured regularly. There’s some similar dynamic going in the broad political sphere with the US left and right (he’s conservative as well).

          • DamnYankees

            Interesting observation.

          • eclare

            Your example is illustrative, but I think it doesn’t account for the libertarian aspect of the right, which abhors HOA’s and would claim that they are an example of liberal oppression (I actually do know people who have made this exact claim). I think we can weave these two components together, though – what conservatives want is the ability to impose their own view of the world free from interference by the government.

            • Jon_H11

              Yep. They’re fine with the HOA as long as they feel they/their kind run it.

  • aturner339

    We shake our heads at Kurdish and Sunni political parties in Iraq all the while missing that the US has a genuine ethnic major party currently in control of all branches of the federal government. I don’t say this to be alarmist (though there may be cause for alarm) but just point out that the GOP is a conscisously and uniformly white as the Dawa party is Shia.

  • DamnYankees

    I’ve been banging this drum for a long time now.

    The Democrats are a party of a diverse coalition. There is no single “identity” to being a Democrat. It’s the opposite – the Democratic Party is essentially a coalition of *non-reactionaries* who are bound together as a result of being excluded (either in actuality or through their own perception) from the identity of the American conservative.

    The GOP party, on the other hand, is built on a single identity – the white, Christian, straight man. It is overwhelmingly made up of people who either *are* that group, or are closely affiliated with it (married to one, for example). There are of course people who don’t fit into this broad generalization, but unfortunately you need to generalize in discussions like this. And the GOP id is essentially entire built on “the type of person we stand for should be in charge – we’ll figure out the policy later, it’s all about identity.”

    This election was a perfect example of this. Donald Trump has almost no policy platform *other than* catering to the identity of the base. He was the most “macho” (i.e. dickish) of the candidates, and has represented whiteness like no other GOP candidate before him. The fact that he’s not very conservative, is a billionaire, is married to an immigrant – all of this which *should* matter to a party which claims to be based on ideas? It didn’t matter. Because the GOP is a party which is *profoundly* enthralled to identity politics.

    The reason we don’t think of it this way is that the “identity” the GOP appeals to is the largest one in the country. So appealing to those people has never been portrayed as an “identity” thing – it’s just the default.

    In the 1980s (well, the 1950s and 1960s, but it really blossomed in the 1980s) is when the Democrats really became very honest about the fact that they were the party of the people who did *not* identify with this majority identity. Think about Jesse Jackson’s “rainbow coalition” – the idea was that the Democratic Party was a big tent which was basically open to everyone. And the people it attracted were those people who saw themselves as separate from the majority identity of the country.

    Black. Gay. Jewish. Working, single women. As time has gone on, Asians and Hispanics moved to this party, as it was the “natural” place for a person who feels they are not part of the plurality culture.

    What Donald Trump seems to have proved was that if you openly and clearly appeal to the GOP’s “cultural identity”, something that McCain and Romney didn’t really do other than in the shadows, you can win.

    The sad truth, from a liberal perspective, is that Trump has shown that the reactionary identity has a sufficient number of people who identify with it.

    • Davis X. Machina

      There is no single “identity” to being a Democrat.

      There is, however, no shortage of people telling you that there is, and they know what it is, and that you’re not it.

      • Not for the first time, I’m reminded of “Dance 10 Looks 3”: that ain’t it, kid.

    • NewishLawyer

      Concurred and the problem with this is that as Davis points out, we spend just as much time fighting among ourselves as we do fighting against the Republicans. All Democratic voters might agree that GOP proposals are horrible but they don’t seem to agree on the counter-proposal and often passionately so.

      We even can’t agree on protesting. Look at what happened with Kathy Griffin yesterday. Half the people I know said “not helping!!” and the other half were pointing out the hypocrisy of all the right-wing thugs who defended (or kept silent) when Obama was hung in effigy but cried holy murder at Griffin’s tweet. Or how many liberals tsk tsked at one random sucker punch to Spencer.

      • Pat

        We could cut each other a break, and consider the possibility that the Russian disinformation campaign likely includes stoking these miniscule differences into arguments.

        • NewishLawyer

          There was some essay I saw where someone theorized that the BernieBros taunting her were really Russian bots.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          Those crafty Russians got to American comedy icon Will “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat” Rogers?!?

    • Domino

      To add ever-so-slightly to this:

      As we all know, when the GOP says “family values” it just means Straight, White, Christian men get to make all the decisions in the household. It doesn’t mean healthy relationships where both people who are married have equal say – it means the man gets to dictate everything and no one is allowed to question him.

    • xq

      Trump, Romney, McCain all won >50% of white women. White identity politics is obviously core to the Republican brand, but that message appeals to a majority of white women voters, not just white men.

      • Rob in CT

        From the post you’re replying to:

        The GOP party, on the other hand, is built on a single identity – the white, Christian, straight man. It is overwhelmingly made up of people who either *are* that group, or are closely affiliated with it (married to one, for example).

        IIRC, the GOP typically wins white women but absolutely clobbers the Dems amongst married white women.

        • xq

          Yeah, but marriage is correlated with a bunch of other stuff that we know are also related to vote choice. I don’t buy that white women who vote GOP are doing so only due to their affiliation with white men.

          • Ronan

            Is it a shift *once they get married* (ie their preferences change over time, rather than women more likely to marry are more likely to vote Rep)?

            • xq

              A good question. The only papers I can find on this are really old.

            • Rob in CT

              That is a damn good question. You’d have to follow people throughout their lives to find out I guess…

    • Origami Isopod

      The reason we don’t think of it this way is that the “identity” the GOP appeals to is the largest one in the country.

      More accurately, it’s perceived as the “default.”

  • cleek

    conservatism[d] = ~liberal[d]

    where d = day of the week

    • El Guapo

      You should, like, make that into a Law.

      • cleek

        i’ve tried. can’t get it past the committee.

        • Schadenboner

          The way to fix all your problems is to institute a preference-ranked instant runoff voting system on the committee.

  • AMK

    Apartheid is as much a policy agenda as civil rights. Saying “it’s all about pissing off liberals!” is true but implies that the GOP base has no policy preferences backing up that sentiment. With white identity politics–which is what the voting base of the GOP is–the policies are in fact very clear to everyone involved.

    • DamnYankees

      Yes, it’s a policy agenda, but the point is its an *identitarian* policy agenda.

      • Dilan Esper

        It’s not that the right doesn’t have any agenda. It’s that their desire to enact that agenda pales in comparison to their desire to piss off liberals.

        • DamnYankees

          Exactly. The lesson of the past 8 years, and especially the last 4 months, is not that the GOP doesn’t believe anything. It’s that they don’t believe anything *with any intensity* compared to certain paramount beliefs, in pursuit of which they will abandon almost everything they previously claimed to care about.

          • keta

            Hence the Trump Doctrine: Flexibility!

  • Jonny Scrum-half

    All this talk of identity politics is certainly true, but joined with that identity politics is a pathology of sorts. As Eric and others note repeatedly, post-industrial rural America is hurting badly. The people living there see their opportunities drying up, and no one offers anything that would reverse that decline (as opposed to helping cushion the blow, which is what liberal policies do at best).

    For the stereotypical WWC Trump voter, Trump wasn’t just the anti-politically correct guy who made transparently false promises, he was a method of registering their anger and resentment at having been left behind – a metaphorical middle finger to people who hadn’t been left behind.

    Now, it’s pretty ironic/hypocritical that these same people demanding that someone take note of their social problems (drugs, unemployment, out-of-wedlock births) generally ignored those same problems in Black communities, or told themselves stories about how white people (or perhaps white culture) were better than the minorities who spent their days in a crackhouse or hanging out on a corner. But that hypocrisy doesn’t make those problems any less real.

    I don’t know the answer, but I know that in a democracy we need to find a way to reach those people, despite how hard it is to do when (a) their beliefs are based on emotion rather than facts, and (b) they’re subjected every day to well-coordinated and powerful propaganda that deepens their resentment.

    • I agree with all this, but I greatly fear we’ll never be able to reach them. Our only choice is to organize, take back the reins, and do what needs to be done. Most people will get used to the new normal. Of course that is precisely the right wing view, too. They see themselves as doing that right now. Parallel universes.

    • mongolia

      i understand the sentiment here, but if there is no demonstrable path to get these people to vote for politicians who will demand and implement ways to improve these peoples situations, i think the only way forward is making sure that the party that works to at least partially ameliorate their material issues wins national elections. and that implies the only way forward, so far as i can tell, is to make sure we get more democrats in power.

      to put it another way: whose proposal would have done more to help coal country, clinton or trump? now, compare that to how the vote went in those areas. the way i view it is that, as annoying as it may be to be blatantly paternalistic in this way, is that the only way we can help these people is to kick their asses electorally, and then pass universal programs that will help them and their communities materially while they do everything in their power to resist them. if there is another way that has been shown to work, i’m all ears, but that’s essentially how we got ppaca, and i don’t think we should wait for 10 years to try and change these peoples minds when we can maybe peel off low-information swing voters that are easier to reach and more persuadable.

    • FlipYrWhig

      If they didn’t like what they were getting from Republicans they wouldn’t be voting for them. If they want something different from Republicans they can ask them for it. Until then, too fucking bad. The Democratic Party doesn’t have to reach everybody.

  • NewishLawyer

    Jeet Herr had a good article about this in TNR yesterday:

    https://newrepublic.com/article/142962/conservative-intellectuals-pledging-loyalty-general-trump

    “Oakeshott’s quaint, gentlemanly Toryism is just one form of conservatism, of course. In many ways, Trump-era conservatives are closer to Oakeshott’s German rival, Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), who believed it was delusional to hope for a respite from political warfare, either domestically or in foreign relations. The “friend-enemy distinction,” for which he’s famous, asserts that politics is inherently combative, everyone an ally or foe. “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy,” he wrote in The Concept of the Political (1927). “Only the actual participants can correctly recognize, understand, and judge the concrete situation and settle the extreme case of conflict.”

    So we are not working with people who want to exist in a pluralistic society with a free exchange of ideas. They want total victory and dominion and are closer to the Schmidt ideal.

    • They believe the correct forms of society are Ideas in God’s Mind and must trickle down to us sublunary beings lest we risk Apocalypse.

      • Davis X. Machina

        This isn’t a right-only phenomenon.

        Cf. Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies.

        The inevitable march of History marches in both directions.

  • NewishLawyer

    Sadly they also published this essay by Tomansky on the “elite” problem:

    https://newrepublic.com/article/142372/elitism-liberalisms-biggest-problem

    I’ll give this to the GOP, they made the most successful re-writing of “elite” I’ve ever seen. It is quite a linguistic coop. Now an elitist is anyone college-educated and voting Democratic it seems.

    • Dilan Esper

      People need to read Chris Arnade’s twitter feed. Liberalism definitely has a “front row kids” problem which has contributed to our losing rust belt voters who are needed in Presidential elections (and has tilted our policy agenda towards the populations that attend selective colleges and populate the knowledge sectors).

      Think about how much more energy liberals bring to the issue of racist speech on campuses versus the opioid epidemic, for instance.

      That’s real and it’s something we need to fix.

      • DamnYankees

        Chris Arnade is unbelievable annoying because not only is he incredibly pompous about his obsevations, but he only ever answers have the question.

        His entire shtick comes down to “people are sad and feel like doesn’t work for them”. Which, ok. There’s a lot of truth there, but its not a very interesting observation.

        What Arnade does not remotely ever explain is why these people vote for Republicans. Which seems like the important variable here.

        • Dilan Esper

          I think his point is that the Democrats have offered them some social programs, but no real hope that their communities can turn around. And that they ignore their problems in favor of those of the front row kids, which may annoy you but is absolutely true.

          Further, he is a journalist. He talks to these people. Do his critics?

          • DamnYankees

            This argument would be a lot more compelling if these people didn’t always vote for conservatives in every election. This is the same base of people that votes for socially conservative reactionaries in basically every election dating back forever – those reactionaries used to be Democrats but are not Republicans. The idea that this is some brand new phenomenon which reflects on recent Democrat failures has never held water to me.

            And of course, you like Arnade ignore the question of why the hell someone who feels ignored and left behind would vote for Republicans *other than* out of identitarian anumis towards minorities.

            PS: Is it just me or is there no blockquote button anymore? Or any other formatting buttons?

            • Dilan Esper

              What people? He has talked to plenty of people who voted for Democrats. Plenty of blacks, notably. He is documenting serious problems and saying “hey, while you guys are obsessing about free college tuition and keeping Milo off your campus and pushing your free trade agreements, this is happening and the only answer they get from the Democrats is to throw some money at social programs, limited by the edict that we can never raise taxes on people making $399,000 a year”.

              Further, even if they did all vote for Republicans, that wouldn’t matter. Their problems are more pressing than those of the front row kids. It’s not merely a political argument he is making.

              • DamnYankees

                I’m sure he talkde to plenty of Democrats, but this is where his anectodal method of analysis just falls down. The overwhelming most likely indicator of voting patterns in this election was party ID. Republicans overwhelmingly voted for Trump, and Democrats for Clinton. The shift in votes which gave Trump a win versus a Romney loss was at the margins. And given how narrowly Clinton lost, the myriad changes between 2012 and 2016 could all be pointed to as the “reason” for the loss.

                I’m not particularly interested in the specific reason Hillary lost a few thousands votes in a few key states. That doesn’t tell an interesting story to me – it’s a contingent circumstance which could have swung on way or another in any given election. As I’ve said elsewhere, what keeps me up at night is not how Trump got from 44% to 47%. It’s how he got from 15% to 44%. Arnade doesn’t explain that. To be fair, he’s not trying to. But that’s why I find him rather uninteresting.

                I’m not interested in how Trump won a tossup. I’m interested in what it says about American conservatives that they so rallied behind this obvious unfit nutjob such that we were in a tossup position to begin with.

                >It’s not merely a political argument he is making.

                Him, maybe not. You? Seems so.

                • Dilan Esper

                  Are you interested in solving the problems of destitute communities in middle America? I mean, in a sense, your desire to see these people solely as a political problem demonstrate’s Arnade’s point.

                • DamnYankees

                  Can I be interested in two things at once? I’d like to make their lives better. I also want to understand voting patters. I can’t do both?

                • Dilan Esper

                  You can, but Arnade’s critique is that if their lives never get better, don’t expect them to vote for you.

                • so-in-so

                  They vote Republican, their lives don’t get any better (probably worse) under Republican leadership, they continue to vote GOP…

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Are you interested in solving the problems of destitute communities in middle America?

                  No. I am not. They can seek help from the people they enjoy voting for.

                • Schadenboner

                  I propose we regulate the use of Naloxone by EMTs, banning it’s administration in the field for any location more than 30 minutes ride from an Level II trauma center (due to the complexity and potential dangers, doncha’kno).

                  Then we let attrition do the rest.

                  Fuck them.

            • humanoid.panda

              “This argument would be a lot more compelling if these people didn’t always vote for conservatives in every election. This is the same base of people that votes for socially conservative reactionaries in basically every election dating back forever – those reactionaries used to be Democrats but are not Republicans. The idea that this is some brand new phenomenon which reflects on recent Democrat failures has never held water to me.


              I am not a big fan of Arnade and his schtick, but that’s seriously misleading: the most recent estimated of O—>T vote is that it ranges from six to nine million. This means that very large numbers of people did NOT vote for reactionaries until 2016.

              • mds

                Well, technically, it means that very large numbers of people did not vote for reactionaries for President in 2008 and 2012 specifically. It seems plausible to me that there was a nontrivial Bush –> Obama vote, in which case they were previously voting for Team Reactionary. That makes it more an issue of Obama’s personal political skills, the Great Recession, Romney’s drawbacks as a candidate, etc.

                It makes me wonder what might have happened had Trump followed through on his rumblings in 2012. When pressed on the subject early on, Franklin Graham chose Trump as someone he’d like to see in the race. He might have done a better job consolidating the not-Romney vote. And if he had ended up the nominee, would he have done better or worse than Romney?

          • NewishLawyer

            DamnYankees is right here. The Democratic Party has offered policy after policy for these people and they still vote GOP. The last Democratic President they seemingly voted for and liked was Bill Clinton. Gore and Kerry managed to win some of these states.

            • Dilan Esper

              Really? Opioids has been going on since 1998. Whrn is the first time a Democratic presidential candidate or President talked about it? And what was offered as a solution except token increases in funding for health care programs?

              • DamnYankees

                Let me ask you a question – if Bill Clinton was the candidate, and not Hillary, do you think he wins?

                • Dilan Esper

                  I don’t think so, in the sense that I think Hillary did a great job campaigning and Trump’s celebrity was the key determinant.

                  But I can’t say anything for sure in an election this close.

                  I definitely don’t blame Hillary for her loss.

                • DamnYankees

                  Fair enough.

              • sibusisodan

                What political solution would attract their votes?

                Once we know what the goal is then we can assess its political cost.

                Warmly agree that on lots of areas not enough has been offered. I’m less confident that there is actually a politically viable solution, of that many such voters would accept it even if it existed.

                • Dilan Esper

                  One thing this ignores is the Democrats have a policy shop. What are they working on? Anything to turn these communities around? Last 20 years they were doing health care, which was fine, and some other stuff like college tuition, but was any think tank working seriously on this issue?

                  It’s really easy to throw up your hands and say we can’t do anything when you didn’t try in the first place.

                • ap77

                  And what are the Republicans working on to address these issues, Dilan? Seems to me their agenda includes a lot of things that will make the lives of these folks a lot worse.

                  They have no accountability for continuing to vote for the GOP regardless? Not to mention the fact that “if you don’t specifically address all of my personal issues right now, I’m voting for a racist authoritarian lunatic” is not exactly a defensible position to take.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Yeah, I don’t get this. Republicans give them nothing, and have no intention of giving them anything more than nothing, and they happily, giddily, vote for Republicans anyway. If their votes had anything to do with a desire to get help or solve problems they wouldn’t vote for the chucklefucks they’ve been electing for 50 years because of negroes and longhairs.

              • Brien Jackson

                I grew up in a area hit HARD by opioids that’s borderline unrecognizable now in some places. I can’t tell you WTF you say to appeal to the WWC Republicans who are horrified by the situation, though, above all else because they don’t even know what they want for solutions, and the only answer you get with any degree of consistency is tougher sentences for drug dealers, or maybe just summarily executing them.

                • Dilan Esper

                  Bear in mind, “we are slightly less bad than Republicans” is neither effective politics nor particularly responsive to their problems, especially when it is clear the Party DOES care about others a lot more.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I don’t have any idea what this means. But I promise you that these people have no interest in hearing that the problem is that exploitative capitalism has wrecked their communities, the Republican politicians they voted for destroyed their schools, and Democrats will fix it with SOCIALISM.

                  You’d get a lot further if you promised a Phillippines style campaign of murdering people in the streets for carrying heroin. Sometimes the voters genuinely suck and create their own problems.

                • There are lots of people with solutions for addiction. Most of them involve the idea that traditional morality has weakened, and should be strengthened more or less directly. Conservatives go for “more,” usually, and liberals go for “less” (psychological factors that aren’t political and have mostly to do with reforming cultural institutions, often to be generally less traditional). Most R pols, accordingly, are more likely to come down hard on illegal drug use “because Oxy and Percocet”.

                  It’s true though that D pols are either addressing this in terms of drug manufacturers or vague rising-tide arguments. It’s a hard problem and our only real program is culturally unacceptable to people who really think we need more traditional morals.

                  But though I don’t dislike Andrade as much as some here, he’s buying into “liberals won’t do just what conservative (elites) would like, therefore liberals have written off the working class.” Unfortunately, recognizing that gets us nowhere.

              • Only modest increases in drug treatment? Oh well I guess they’ll just have to vote for eliminating drug treatment, lock em up or perhaps “My friend Duterte might have some advice.”

            • Jon_H11

              I think a good part of it is rhetorical. Dems propose policies that might help or mitigate their situation, but they refuse to speak in the shibboleths and dialect of their culture.

              For them it’s a lot more about acknowledgement and affirmation of their group than it is about actionable, helpful policies. Bill Clinton was good at that. Other Dems since Johnson, not so much.

              • NewishLawyer

                Bill Clinton was also much more of their culture. A town called Hope and all that. So was Johnson and Carter (to a lesser extent). Edwards could have pulled it off potentially even if Clinton and Edwards became bourgeois themselves.

                It would just be seen as “inauthentic” if Gore, Kerry, Obama, or HRC tried. All grew up in variants of middle-class.

                I loathe for a Democratic Party that can only win by electing people that speak in the sibboleths and dialects of WWC rural towns.

                • Jon_H11

                  “I loathe for a Democratic Party that can only win by electing people that speak in the sibboleths and dialects of WWC rural towns.”

                  I agree. But I think we can make a lot of progress at the local/state level by capitulating to these impulses where necessary.

                  At the national presidential level we can probably build an electoral coalition without them by pushing Florida/GA/NC/TX/AZ the way of Virginia and Colorado by poaching educated white suburbanites.

                  What we might need is a less–not more–united Democratic party. Basically more Joe Manchin, Jim Bell Edwards types in areas that are otherwise unwinnable. And accept that they’ll be hyper-critical of the national Dems as a posture, and break on certain issues (but still be better than Republicans), but be votes in the house/senate when it counts.

                • mongolia

                  bill clinton also went pretty hard right on race – remember stone mountain and sista soulja – which no national democrat at this point can do. jamelle bouie had a good article on this before the election, where hrc ’16 was basically a repudiation of wjc ’92: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/10/hillary_clinton_s_reverse_sister_souljah_moment.html

                  point being, we ain’t getting these voters back, because economics aren’t the reason they aren’t voting for us. which, to go off on a bit of a tangent, is why i get frustrated about all this talk about how “democrats need a populist economic message to get working class voters.” compare the party platform and politicians to ’04, and tell me which one is more economically “populist.” also, is there any indication that there’s any level of economic message that can reach these people? based on my experience with (both us and non-us) rural voters, they tend to be extremely traditional and conservative, and distrustful of elites, especially those of different races, ethnicities, and religions, who they often blame for the woes of their communities. in the american political system, which party do you think fits their views better?

              • Junipermo

                I don’t think the problem is rhetorical, at least not to a significant degree.

                The problem is that Dems propose policies that might help WWC voters in struggling rural areas, but also offers help to other people with different identities. They want the Democratic Party of the pre-Civil Rights Era, the one that let FDR’s New Deal help white people but largely leave out black people. But Democrats won’t do that. So, they prioritize their bigotry and grievances over their physical and economic well being.

            • libarbarian

              “these people”?

          • so-in-so

            So did the journalist with the “cutting the line” analogy. Okay, we understand their feelings. How do we win them over against someone who lies and says everything will be better when we let them take everything for the 1%?

          • SNF

            I can’t take Arnade seriously after he got into an argument with me on Twitter where he claimed that Trump voters don’t know what Australia is, and so it’s elitist to judge someone as stupid if they don’t know what Australia is.

            https://twitter.com/Chris_arnade/status/827145204696281088

            • Origami Isopod

        • Ronan

          Yeah. I like Arnade in some ways but I’ve seen him expand on his front row back row thing and its literally “everyone with a PhD vs everyone else.”
          There is a fair point to be made that left parties across the west (I assume also with dems but it could be a bit different) have become the party of the young liberal educated professional classes , at the expense of their old base (the old working class) But it’s a point that arnade refuses to expand into because his front row back row boilerplate is so useful, rhetorically.

          • NewishLawyer

            This is far from a new thing or tension though. The UK Labour Party (and maybe every other Labour Party) has had the same coalition since the early 20th century. Attlee was a middle-class chap and the son of a solicitor. So was Michael Foot. The Fabians were middle-class intellectuals and semi-bohemians but still prosperous and bourgeois. And they formed an uneasy coalition with the working class in Britain.

            There were plenty of young, educated professionals in the FDR and JFK admins who had an uneasy coalition with the Unions.

            I think the splits started happening in the 1960s and it was a total disaster (stealing this from Drum). The Unions broke with the Bourgeois professionals over Vietnam and the “counterculture” (really the breaking of traditional social norms and liberalizing of society). The bourgeois professionals broke with the Unions because of their social conservativism.

            So there is a traditionalist streak in a lot of people and they are willing to accept bad economics for these traditionalism to be upheld.

            • Ronan

              They were always broad enough churches, but the argument would be that the core of the party(for example Labour UK) shifted from the older unionised working classes, to a younger,more educated professional class.(with that,party preferences on econ issues and values also changed )
              Not saying that’s a good or bad thing, but it could explain why an older, more socially conservative, and less educated demographic is less enthused by left politics.

              Eta: I’m really only repeating what you said. I think we agree mostly

              • Richard Gadsden

                Certainly the UK Labour party used to have lots of senior politicians who had done working class jobs. The last couple I can think of are John Prescott (merchant seaman), retd 2010 and Alan Johnson (postman), retd 2015.

                If it’s an identity politics appeal to wanting people they can identify with – ie people who sound like someone they work with rather than the guy that sacked them – that’s a perfectly reasonable thing. Though why they then vote Tory, I have no clue.

                • NewishLawyer

                  The current Prime Minister of Sweden has a working-class jobs background IIRC.

          • FlipYrWhig

            There is a fair point to be made that left parties across the west (I assume also with dems but it could be a bit different) have become the party of the young liberal educated professional classes , at the expense of their old base (the old working class)

            But that’s a two-way street. The “old working class” got mad about the counterculture 50 years ago and started voting for Republicans instead. The Democrats then started trying to plug the gap by appealing to the affluent suburbanites who voted for Republicans 50 years ago. Democrats didn’t just wake up one day and decide, fuck the white working class. The white working class started sloughing off half a century ago, and Democrats adapted.

      • randy khan

        Liberals still bring much more energy to the opioid epidemic than conservatives.

        And, honestly, I don’t know that I’d discount the importance of racist speech on campuses – it has the effect of making non-whites feel excluded, which is a significant equality issue.

      • D.N. Nation

        “Think about how much more energy liberals bring to the issue of racist speech on campuses versus the opioid epidemic, for instance.”

        Yes, yes, POC need to ease up a little bit on the whole “racism” thing, or trans people need to just use the bathrooms in their home, or…

        Arnade is a self-promoting poverty tourist, whose solutions always seem to involve *those* people being quieter. Hard pass.

        • ap77

          Well put. Somehow the concerns and troubles of POC, etc., are always less legitimate than salt of the earth white folks who vote for Trump. Must just be a coincidence.

  • McAllen

    This means, of course, that anything is on the table for Republicans, and there’s no real way to moderate them. A more rational conservative party might anticipate extreme right-wing actions might have negative consequences and not do them, or at least recognize the negative consequences after the fact and reverse them. But the modern Republican party only cares about consequences to the extent that they anger liberals.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I only see three paths for the US, assuming no nuclear war or other major catastrophe:

    1) Things continue as they are, more or less alternating between Republican and Democratic national power. Republicans do a lot of damage and Democrats make limited repairs, but ultimate the nation becomes increasingly weak and isolated.
    2) Conflict between the left and right develops into a major crisis, second only to the Civil War. A lot of people die, and the right is defeated and its power broken, thought the ideology remains latent.
    3) Same as 2, but the right wins and the US becomes fascist outright.

    Is there something else I’m missing?

    • Dilan Esper

      The excluded middle.

      Simply put, there are members of their coalition who do care about policy outcomes. That’s why Democrats scored big wins in 2006 and 2008. Some Bush voters defected over Katrina and Iraq.

      Don’t confuse the loudest voices for all voices. I hate to quote Nixon, but he was right that the “silent majority” is a real thing. Politics is about convincing enough of the non-activists to go your way.

      • AMK

        Low info Obama-Trump voters in key states. A real thing, as hard as it is for people who follow politics to understand.

      • so-in-so

        That’s McAllen’s 1), unless you see a way that the disillusion lasts more than two years or forces a change in the GOP ideology.

        • Dilan Esper

          The parties’ ideology is dependent on sorting and where the center is. Shifts take a long time. The shift with blacks and Southern whites took 80 years to complete.

          But the Republicans may be developing a reputation at being bad at governance. They didn’t have that 35 years ago. If you asked me to predict a shift, that’s what could precipitate one.

          • John F

            “But the Republicans may be developing a reputation at being bad at governance.”

            By all accounts, they should already have a reputation at being bad at governance- but for whatever reasons these things take time.

            No one wants to hear about demographics and actuarial tables after 2016, but….
            In 2004 Dubya won among folks born before 1951 by 52 to 47
            In 2016 Trump won among folks born before 1952 by 52 to 44.5

            In 2004 Dubya won among folks born 1955-1974 by 53 to 46
            In 2016 Trump won among folks born 1952 to 1974 by 52 to 44

            In 2004 Kerry won among folks born between 1975 to 1986 by 53 to 46
            In 2016 Clinton won among folks born 1972 to 1986 by 51 to 41

            In 2016 Clinton won among folks born 1987 to 1998 by 55 to 36

            In 2004 Dubya won the popular vote by 2.4%, in 2016 Trump lost it by 2.1%

            Do you see how stable those age cohorts are?
            That’s why voter suppression is so important to the GOP, their problem is that it’s just a delaying action.

            Their problem is that the clear majority of people born in and after the 1970s see the GOP as the party of bigotry and poor governance.

            People under 40 do not watch Fox News, they don’t listen to talk radio much.

            So the REAL question is- how badly are they gonna damage our democracy before their grips are pried from power? They want to maximize the vote of rural whites at the expense of everyone else- they will not stop at voter ID laws and gerrymandering, so what else are they gonna do?

            This is why they saw 2016 as a “flight 93” election- they lose in 2016 it would have been game over- the last shot at a POTUS win for the foreseeable future, and with a liberal majority on SCOTUS, roll back of voter suppression laws, even the undoing of some gerrymandering- between that and the continuing march of demography they would shortly be unable to win Congress for the foreseeable future.

            But what we see now is still just stalling, the actuarial tables continue to run. They are virtually at the point now when even if they passed voter ID laws in every state they still won’t be able to win a popular majority. What next? My guess is that states with GOP Governments but whose voters are likely to vote for a Dem POTUS, will apportion their electoral votes rather than stay with winner take all.

            • Just_Dropping_By

              My guess is that states with GOP Governments but whose voters are likely to vote for a Dem POTUS, will apportion their electoral votes rather than stay with winner take all.

              Except that system can backfire. I’m pretty sure that I saw someone crunch the numbers to show that if Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan had had that allocation system in effect in 2016, Clinton would have won the EC.

              • John F

                Hopefully that will give them pause.

  • Brett

    There are elements within the party that absolutely do keep track of “achievements”, such as they are. Think of the scorecards used by the anti-choice movement and anti-tax movement to track the loyalty of GOP politicians.

    But beyond that, Sean has a point. I’d add that the Republican Party doesn’t need a focus on achievements, because it’s a party of the status quo – its agenda is either to preserve the status quo culturally and politically, or “restore it” to some constructed reactionary myth version of the past (i.e. back when they had prayers in schools, etc, etc). It’s very much a politics of fighting against the forces of evil trying to subvert the good, of taking strong stances amidst a perceived worsening moral climate, and so forth.

    Democrats, meanwhile, promise a better world. You don’t become a Democrat if you like the way things are (or some imagined version of what they were), and don’t want to change it. It’s just always been an argument over whether change should be 1)revolutionary, 2)radical, or 3)gradual.

    • Dilan Esper

      That’s somewhat over-reductive.

      The most effective right wing politician of my lifetime, Ronald Reagan, definitely promised a better world.

      The dystopian elements have definitely taken over conservativism. But there’s nothing intrinsoc to right wing thought that says you can’t have progress. Indeed, Reagan was a more appealing figure than those who came after him.

      • Karen24

        But Reagan promise progress back to 1918. He didn’t want a genuinely better world for everyone. He wanted a world of patriarchs and clients.

        • humanoid.panda

          Yes, but Dilan is not speaking about what he wanted, he is speaking about what he promised. And what he promised was universal prosperity.

          • humanoid.panda

            And this is the problem in a nutshell: Democrats know that in the end, some problems don’t have solutions, and therefore are loath to make unrealistic promises.

            • FlipYrWhig

              To a large degree because embracing the politics of realistic promises was how they started to win in the suburbs and among the educated.

    • randy khan

      I’m actually curious whether the scorecard-keepers will be as aggressive in the current environment as you’d expect from past behavior, or if they’ll be more likely to cut some slack to Republicans even though they don’t take any action on some things.

  • rfm

    Am I the only one who thinks of Sean McElwee as being kind of like Matt Bruenig but genuinely good?

    • DamnYankees

      Bruenig is more intellectual (or at least tries to be) in his arguments, I think, which cuts both ways. McElwee is much more straightforward about the moral issues at stake, which is probably why Bruenig has basically become anti-anti-Trump in his public persona while McElwee recognizes that doing that would be contrary to everything he believes.

      • Ronan

        Breunig is smarter, I think.

        • DamnYankees

          Maybe. I don’t know them on that level. I’m just commenting on how they present themselves publicly. McElwee might be a genius who just chooses to present his arguments in more moralistic way.

          • Ronan

            McElwee is like your smart and pleasant neighbour who learnt how to interpret the output of a linear regression. Breunig is the semi genius local loudmouth who you’ve barred from your house because he never shuts the fuck up.

        • ASV

          Bruenig is more clever than smart, IMO.

    • mongolia

      had that same thought a few days ago. big problem is that while breunig does good work a lot of the time, he’s such a major troll online that he’s basically quarantined himself from most of the center- to lefty-twitter and blogosphere, and from what i can tell really only engages with people who agree with him or to concern-troll liberals when they say something he thinks is wrong.

      mcelwee, on the other hand, i generally just good – he does the “call out centrists/right wingers/liberals when they’re wrong” thing, but will actually engage with people not arguing in bad faith, and *gasp* acknowledge that leftists/liberals can sometimes agree on policy matters, and that everyone who wasn’t bernie-or-bust isn’t the enemy.

  • so-in-so

    White Christian (cis-het male) is just a default setting, not an “identity”. /snark.

  • Brien Jackson

    In pink bunny parlance, “identity politics” is really just a covert way for Brogressives to say that women and POC only voted for Hillary because of her gender and because Hillary had near unanimous support from non-whites in the establishment.

    • aturner339

      Yep. The precise same way conservative use the term. People who should rightfully be a shamed of their identity daring to vote.

      • Brien Jackson

        I don’t know about that. I think it’s more that they took a lot of heat when they argued that people only voted for Hillary because she was a woman (“having a uterus is not a qualification) or danced around the notion that non-white groups are a monolith that just do whatever “their leaders” tell them to do.

        • cleek

          it would be nice if they danced a little bit better… i’ve heard quite enough about “the Democratic plantation”.

          • aturner339

            Jesus. The day I hear that phrase in person from a self described leftist is the day I land myself in prison.

          • mongolia

            who could forget the when some online sandernista’s were floating #mississippiberning before the MS dem primary…

      • tsam

        Or have a voice in the direction of the party. Their fetish for the WWC hasn’t gone unnoticed and has nothing to do with winning elections.

        • Brien Jackson

          That too. It sure is odd how “moving the party to the left” never incorporates POC, women, LGBT activists, etc. in defining what “left” means, innit?

          • randy khan

            Yeah. See how people argue that progressives should support Periello over Northam in the Virginia Democratic primary, even though Northam’s record is meaningfully better on abortion rights. (Periello says the right things now, I agree, but their records are what they are.)

  • Cash & Cable

    I completely disagree with this position. Recent scholarship has been tearing into the American mythology of the informed, policy-oriented voter. (See, e.g., “Democracy for Realists” and the new publication “Neither Liberal Nor Conservative.”) The difference between conservatives and liberals is not the presence or absence of identity politics; the difference is that liberals have to contend with a broader range of identity politics, which in turn limits any tendencies towards extremism.

    But the lingering bitterness between Hillary and Bernie supporters? That’s identity politics. Bernie’s struggles with minority voters? That was identity politics. Recent gains by the Dems among suburban professionals? That’s identity politics. I know voter suppression played a role in lower black turnout in 2016, but that was also partially a function of identity politics and not having a black man at the top of the ticket.

    It’s true that Democrats aren’t nearly so limited by their identity politics as Republicans; there’s much more serious policy thinking and proposals on the left than the right. But even that is at least somewhat attributable to the chunk of Democrats for whom “taking policy issues seriously” is a major part of their political identity. And the fact that many Dem (and dem socialist) proposals represent serious policy thinking does not erase the fact that the rank-and-file supports them for more tribal reasons.

    • Rob in CT

      It’s identity politics all the way down, then.

      • humanoid.panda

        And of course, there is enormous historical literature on how the working class is a cultural category, not necessarily “people who do manual work.”

      • Cash & Cable

        Yes, and I think the problem with McElwee’s thinking is that encourages Dems to ignore the ways they could practice a better form of identity politics. I recently read Katherine Cramer’s depiction of “rural consciousness” in “The Politics of Resentment,” and I was struck by the way the power of identity politics stemmed from issues that Dems seem to ignore. Sure, rural residents exhibited signs of racial resentment. But that resentment was tied into a broader theme of resentment against urban communities, and that resentment manifested itself in some very interesting ways. Complaints about infrastructure and school funding. Complaints about the expense of four-year colleges AND the attention on those institutions at the expense of less selective schools. Complaints about the lack of community engagement by the State Department of Natural Resources. There are a lot of ways in which Dems can improve their identity politics game and expand their political base without “selling out” minorities.

        But what worries me is the suspicion that Dems are putting blinders on by either saying “if we push broad government reforms we’ll win the less-racist pockets of these people over.” I think this gets the process backwards; we have to produce a strong message and more modest policy proposals to build trust and “buy-in” from these communities before we go all-in with government restructuring. So before we make a big push for a federal jobs guarantee, why not pitch a revival of the Civilian Conservation Corps and set up work camps across rural America to rebuild infrastructure, provide skills training, and boost local economies? We need to find relatively simple, high-profile government interventions that can generate immediate results if we want to convince rural voters that Dems respect their identity and can be trusted with more ambitious reforms.

        • humanoid.panda

          There is a lot in what you say, but there is also a significant fly in the oitment: rural voters feel they are exploited by the urbanites, but the numbers clearly show that urbanites are subsidizing them. As long as this dynamic continues, hard to see how anything changes.

        • John F

          “But that resentment was tied into a broader theme of resentment against urban communities, and that resentment manifested itself in some very interesting ways. Complaints about infrastructure and school funding. Complaints about the expense of four-year colleges AND the attention on those institutions at the expense of less selective schools.”

          Well, part of the problem is that in many (if not most) states those specific complaints/resentments are NOT JUSTIFIED, it’s is urban dwellers not rural dwellers who get less than their “fair share” of those types of things. How do you deal with that?

          • humanoid.panda

            And that is where Arnade’s “front row kids” shtick fails: what to do when the front row kids have facts, and the back row kids have resentment?

            • Dilan Esper

              One answer is “don’t assume things that flatter yourself”.

              Indeed, that’s a good lesson for all of life. Conservatives do it all the time. What do you think Charles Murray’s scholarship on IQ is? (Just as an aside, has any eugenicist, ever, ever concluded that their OWN racial or ethnic group is inferior?)

              A very wise man once said “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

              Don’t assume that front row kids are solely motivated by facts. They have prejudices and self-interests and stereotypes just like everyone else does. Part of what Arnade is trying to do is hold a mirror up and get them to see them.

              • John F

                Oddly enough yes, some white eugenicists will “admit” that East Asians are [lightly] superior to whites (of course they seemingly do this as rhetorical tactic, see I’m not racist in favor of whites…)

              • ap77

                Sure, “front row kids” – and this is a stupid meme, btw – have their own prejudices and self-interests just like everyone does.

                They also happen to be right in this case and supported by incontrovertible evidence. Sorry if that upsets the back row idiots.

              • humanoid.panda

                “Don’t assume that front row kids are solely motivated by facts. They have prejudices and self-interests and stereotypes just like everyone else does. Part of what Arnade is trying to do is hold a mirror up and get them to see them.

                You really are a world expert in constructing straw men, aren’t you?

          • Cash & Cable

            I’m not sure there’s a silver bullet solution to that problem, but I think we need to think about what constitutes a “fair share” and what influences people’s assessments of whether they’re getting their fair share.

            Take roads, for example. A “fair share” could mean every state citizen gets well-maintained roads on his daily commute, or it could mean every country gets the same per capita amount to spend on roads. A state could satisfy the second version of a “fair share” without satisfying the first (due to the greater amount of road mileage per capita in rural counties). You and I would probably saying the proper yardstick is spending, but that doesn’t mean rural folks are crazy for thinking differently.

            As for the perception factor, I think part of the problem here is the same problem that plagues Americans in all localities – the inability to perceive government assistance because it comes indirectly through subsidies or the tax code (the “submerged state”). That’s why I think things like a revived CCC could be even more helpful as a political message than as a policy proposal; it’s an undeniable government intervention that can take on high-profile jobs like repairing schools and fixing old bridges (as an aside, you could assign camp slots based on statewide population, so unemployed urban youth also get the benefits of skills training and paid work). In the end, I think providing people with a ready example of obvious government assistance (in a form other than welfare) will do more to make them feel like they are getting their “fair share” than simply spending more money.

            Another idea (which might be too cute by half): why not occasionally steer into the skid on this problem? Why not pitch a state income tax by telling the rural folks that 90%+ of the burden will fall on the urbanites? Or give rural areas the power to levy a special tax assessment on vacation homes?

          • Rob in CT

            Well, one possibility is that we could “stuff their mouths with gold.”

            We recognize sometimes that we have to pay off stakeholders/rentiers to get good things done. Most of us here, being relatively grown-up, will swallow hard and make those deals (obviously, the details matter, but bear with me).

            So we could view this similarly. Rural areas have out-sized political power. That is wrong, and should be changed, but we’re not in position to change it (and won’t be anytime soon). They are resentful, and in large part that resentment is built on bullshit. We need to win some of those areas if we are to wield power and accomplish good things (I’m not talking just POTUS now – talking HoR, which is stacked against us at least for the time being).

            • so-in-so

              Works (sorta) when you are talking a fairly small group like UK doctors (the source of the phrase, IIRC). Buying off all rural areas takes a lot more gold, and is extra hard when they also resent government programs other than tax breaks to companies that might create a few jobs.

              • Rob in CT

                Yes, that’s the source of the phrase.

                My (not original, I’m sure) thought would be that we try to kill 2 birds with one stone: throw a shit-ton of money at rural areas via a massive green energy/infrastructure program that would benefit us all.

            • rea

              Well, one possibility is that we could “stuff their mouths with gold.”

              Did not work out so well for Manius Aquillius

        • Caepan

          So before we make a big push for a federal jobs guarantee, why not pitch a revival of the Civilian Conservation Corps and set up work camps across rural America to rebuild infrastructure, provide skills training, and boost local economies?

          Because the moment a politician proposes that policy, the right-wing Wurlitzer will start screeching about how “government doesn’t create jobs!” and “work camps” will suddenly become “librul gummint reeducation FEMA camps!” A few might remember how their grandfather worked in a CCC camp and helped build a local state park, but THAT WAS THEN!!! THIS IS SOCIALISM!!!

          American conservatives have been conditioned for the last forty years to believe that everything that has helped them rise is no longer worth doing. When their exalted saint Ronald (I was for gun control until someone paid me to be against it) Reagan claimed that “government was the problem” then spent eight years trying to prove it, it became their battle cry. Well, that and “why won’t the government DO something?!”

          (I apologize if my HTML tags show up in this reply. We’ve lost all edit functions! Dammit, if only Clinton had campaigned in Wisconsin!)

          • Cash & Cable

            Okay, and then the response to those communities is very simple: “Do you want that bridge rebuilt or not? Do you want more people coming into your town or not? You say you’re not getting enough resources; why are you voting for the guy who won’t try to get you those resources? Why does he think we should spend billions nations building abroad but not spend anything on nation building at home?”

            • Steve LaBonne

              And then they’ll say “fuck you stupid libs” and vote Republican. By the way they DON’T want more people coming into their towns and contaminating “their” “culture”. They want to return to the days when any dumbass high school dropout who happened to be a white male could get a factory job that would pay for a boat. Nobody can make that fantasy come true. And since they can’t have that they’ll settle for being told “I’ll make sure ‘those people’ are even more screwed than you”.

              • Rob in CT

                Then we are doomed. And we cannot accept that. We have to try.

                • Steve LaBonne

                  We’re doomed only if we cling to stupid, doomed strategies like chasing after Obama-to- Trump voters.

                • humanoid.panda

                  “We’re doomed only if we cling to stupid, doomed strategies like chasing after Obama-to- Trump voters.

                  Here’s the thing: it took an enormous swing and an uprecedented landslide among WWC for Trump to capture the presidency. You don’t have to fight him to a draw, just chop into the margins to kill him off..

                • mongolia

                  wouldn’t it be easier to try to get middle- and upper-middle class suburbanites who find trump and much of the rest of the gop uncouth and gross, but this time instead of choosing between evil librul hillary or gross-ass donald trump they can vote for random dem on the ballot to act as a check on donald? seems an easier demo to shift, especially since we saw a (not large enough) shift from ’12 -> ’16 in this demo

              • Cash & Cable

                That’s not consistent with Katherine Cramer’s research (which, fyi, was done in rural Wisconsin). Sure, some of these people are going to say “fuck you libs.” But we don’t NEED to start winning a lot of these rural areas – we just need to be competitive enough in them to win national and statewide elections.

                • Linnaeus

                  Although winning enough on the margins might help in certain congressional and state legislative districts.

          • ASV

            Also too, Democrats, including elitist neoliberal austerian Hillary Clinton, have continually pushed for infrastructure spending. Making it CCC instead of contracting is a fairly minor detail. But $275 billion in infrastructure spending is not something that conservatives are interested in.

    • xq

      Yes, good post. Hasn’t Scott himself written about “Democracy for Realists”? (Maybe just djw).

    • Brien Jackson

      It’s also reflective of the fact that it means FINDING POLICY SOLUTIONS to problems that exist as a consequence of racial, gender, and other social dynamics built around identity. There’s no “either/or” here.

    • randy khan

      There’s also research for the proposition that black voters actually are more engaged on the issues, etc., than white voters. That’s worth considering when asking why they didn’t vote for Sanders.

  • aturner339

    As numerous people have pointed out part of the difficulty with getting people to recognize the GOP an an identitarian movement is that it is built around dominant identities. It’s notable that the one place where the invisibility is starting to wear off is the one place were demographics are moving the most rapidly (religious observance).

    And additional problem I think is the reticence among many political commentators to acknowledge just how seductive white identity is as a concept. There seems to be this fear is that remind people that they are white and they will begin to like it too much.

    I think that’s precisely backwards.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Yeah, if you’re way up the ass of white culture, “white” isn’t an identity, it’s a synonym for “normal”. That makes people who refuse to question white identity very, very difficult to reach for any kind of inclusive center-left movement.

  • Dilan Esper

    I’ll start a new thread on the Arnade thing, because I don’t want this buried in the weeds.

    Some questions:

    Which will get more retweets by Democratic activists on twitter: (1) a tweet about Milo being invited to speak on a college campus; or (2) a tweet about the opioid epidemic?

    Which venue is a Democratic politician least likely to speak at: (1) a luncheon at a major New York financial firm; (2) a college graduation ceremony; or (3) a small town in Ohio whose factory closed down and which has 35 percent unemployment?

    Which issue is being worked on by more policy wonks the staffs of members of Congress and Presidential candidates, and Democratic party think tanks: (1) how to reduce the cost of selective colleges; or (2) how to solve the social and economic problems of destitute towns in the rust belt?

    This is our front row kids problem. It’s real. If you want to hate Arnade’s tweets, or argue that he is unrealistic in thinking there is a goldmine of Democratic votes there, or whatever else, fine. But this is a real, serious problem that has at its root the shift of the Democratic base from a Midwestern labor base to the selective college set on the coasts. This is a thing that has actually happened to the Democratic Party, and it’s not surprising that the voters whose problems have been deprioritized by Democratic politicians and activists are not excited about voting for our candidates.

    • DamnYankees

      None of this explains why these people vote for Republicans.

      • so-in-so

        “They lie.”

      • Dilan Esper

        Again who is “these people”?

        DY, some of the people in these communities vote for Dems. Others used to vote for Dems but now vote for Republicans. Others don’t vote at all anymore. Others voted for Obama and then voted for Trump.

        The story here is a story of communities where Dems used to get 70 percent of the vote and now get 35. What happened? And it’s just really convenient to say “well we can’t reach those people”. Especially since Arnade is talking to them and we aren’t.

        And yes, I think my post explains a fair amount of it. The Democratic Party HAS deprioritized these communities. I demonstrated it pretty nicely. What’s your claim– that you can deprioritize the problems of communities and still expect the same percentage of them to vote for you? Because that’s nuts!

        • DamnYankees

          >What happened? And it’s just really convenient to say “well we can’t reach those people”. Especially since Arnade is talking to them and we aren’t.

          The Democratic Party has been changing from being the home of reactionary white people without strong policy views and the GOP claimed that ground.

          Why is this explanation not sufficient?

          >And yes, I think my post explains a fair amount of it. The Democratic Party HAS deprioritized these communities. I demonstrated it pretty nicely. What’s your claim– that you can deprioritize the problems of communities and still expect the same percentage of them to vote for you? Because that’s nuts!

          But voting is zero sum. Even if you think Democrats haven’t solved these communities issues, neither have Republicans. So, why are Republicans now getting their votes? What’s your explanation for why these communities vote for a party which is just tangibly worse on every issue you mention as hurting these people?

          This is the line you don’t draw. You are claiming two premises – these communities have problems, and Democrats aren’t answering them.

          Even if I grant those premises, you are not explaining how that leads to Republican votes, given that Republicans *also* aren’t answering them.

          There is an obvious answer here, one that is actually in line with this thesis, that you don’t seem to want to state – that these people are reactionary bigots and that in the absence of either party offering them economic benefits, they will vote their bigotry. Is that your position? If not, what’s your explanation?

          • sibusisodan

            You also have to fit the auto bailout in here somewhere.

            • Dilan Esper

              The auto bailout was good politics in the region. But it is essentially defensive and really was a response to a macroeconomic crisis.

              I suspect the Democrats would actually do even worse in the rust belt if they hadn’t bailed out the automakers. But it’s also not the same as any sort of affirmative policy work focused on returning jobs and prosperity to those communities.

            • humanoid.panda

              Plus, there is another point to be made here. In a two party system ,it simply unrealistic that one party will be able to advocate for the interests of 99% of the population. Basically, what Democrats are expected to do is effectively advocate on behalf of their constitutuents AND republican constituents, and sometimes, its just not plausible.

          • Dilan Esper

            The Democratic Party has been changing from being the home of reactionary white people without strong policy views and the GOP claimed that ground.

            Why is this explanation not sufficient?

            1. It is too convenient, because it is exactly the story front row kids want to tell themselves, rather than admitting they are more moved by problems faced by their own cohort than by problems of poor voters they have little respect for.

            2. It isn’t how electoral politics works. Electoral politics is about bits and bites. For instance, Obama-Trump voters are gettable. So is the guy who answered the canvasser in 2008 by saying “we’re voting for the [n-word]”. You can’t just assume that nobody in these communities is gettable simply because you have a stereotype that they are all a bunch of incurable racists.

            But voting is zero sum. Even if you think Democrats haven’t solved these communities issues, neither have Republicans.

            So what? Let’s say they irrationally vote for Republicans on racial issues unless Democrats give them a tangible reason to think their problems are going to addressed. Why is the answer to that “well fuck them, then”, rather than “let’s start working on their problems again”?

            You are claiming two premises – these communities have problems, and Democrats aren’t answering them.

            I’m also claiming a third, which is that the Democratic Party has deliberately deprioritized them in favor of the problems that front row kids care about, and a fourth, which is that these voters aren’t completely stupid and realize that the Democratic Party has deprioritized them.

            • DamnYankees

              >1. It is too convenient, because it is exactly the story front row kids want to tell themselves, rather than admitting they are more moved by problems faced by their own cohort than by problems of poor voters they have little respect for.

              As though the story you tell isn’t the one you want to tell yourself? Come on now.

              >Let’s say they irrationally vote for Republicans on racial issues unless Democrats give them a tangible reason to think their problems are going to addressed. Why is the answer to that “well fuck them, then”, rather than “let’s start working on their problems again”?

              Is someone against working on their problems?

              This is the two step that so often happens. I am merely trying to *observe* bigotry as a possible explanation. I never once, not once, said that this should prevent us from trying to help them. But too many people – you included – seem to think that noticing that a lot of these voters are reactionaries who vote bigotry is some sort of statement that we shouldn’t help them. No one is saying this though. You’re arguing a strawman.

              All I’m asking is that we’re more honest about what’s going on here.

              >I’m also claiming a third, which is that the Democratic Party has deliberately deprioritized them in favor of the problems that front row kids care about, and a fourth, which is that these voters aren’t completely stupid and realize that the Democratic Party has deprioritized them.

              The convenient swapping of “front row kids” and “minorities” is what gives a lot of people like me pause. Whose interests are actually being prioritized in the manner that causes us to lose these votes. What’s more potent – Hillary’s closeness with Goldman, or her support for BLM?

              You’re telling yourself the story you want to hear. Over and over again, polling has shown that Trump voters were motivated by concern with immigration, terrorism and racial resentment. Voters who consciously cared about economic concerns voted for Hillary.

              • aturner339

                Precisely. The assumed neutrality is precisely what Scott’s post is arguing against but he just can’t seem to help it.

              • Dilan Esper

                As though the story you tell isn’t the one you want to tell yourself?

                Actually not. My self interests are in liberals serving the needs of people on the coasts and the entertainment industry, and keeping “middle class” (including professional class) taxes low. And my policy interests include free trade and increased immigration.

                So no, I am actually arguing against my interests here.

                Is someone against working on their problems?

                As a matter of revealed preferences, yes, the Democratic Party is against working on their problems. Because they really do the things I said in my post above. The tweets, the political appearances, and the policy shops all favor the front row kids’ priorities.

                Further, the preferences are revealed in another way– any time someone makes Arnade’s point, a bunch of Democrats dismiss the voters as bigots.

                The convenient swapping of “front row kids” and “minorities” is what gives a lot of people like me pause. Whose interests are actually being prioritized in the manner that causes us to lose these votes. What’s more potent – Hillary’s closeness with Goldman, or her support for BLM?

                I think BLM is a cherry-picked example. Yes, Hillary opposed police brutality against black people (which, it should be added, she and her husband supported in the 1990’s), and that’s both an honorable position and an important problem.

                But take the issue I singled out– cheaper college. I think cheaper college is a very reasonable policy position. It has its place in the Democratic platform. But it literally does less than nothing for the people we are talking about.

                Or take another issue– no “middle class” tax increases, where “taxes” are defined as income taxes, and “middle class” means people making less than $400k a year. Well, that sort of thing is great for the front row kids, but it doesn’t help the people we are talking about (most of whom don’t even pay income tax) at all.

                Or take all the energy that is wasted on issues involving selective college students. Really, I don’t like Ann Coulter either, but if what pisses you off in this world is that some college students get to voluntarily listen to Ann Coulter on a campus while the Rust Belt is dying from closed factories and opioids, I’m sorry, you have your priorities wrong.

                BLM is an outlier, because it is an actual issue where Democrats have increased their commitment over previous platforms, in order to help actual poor people getting shafted in a real way. What you want to do is find issues equivalent to BLM that will help these people, and get the Democratic policy shop going on those issues.

          • Marc

            Your “obvious answer” is that all of “these people” are just stupid bigots. It’s a real shock that this message doesn’t appeal to them.

            • libarbarian

              It’s called “negging” and I hear that it totally makes people fall madly in love with you!

              • Dilan Esper

                lol well played

            • DamnYankees

              It’s sort of a weird cycle, where liberals have long through their opponents are bigots, and so their opponents seem to be going out of their way to prove the point.

              I don’t know what you want me to say. Do you want me to stop believing that a large part of the motivations for these votes was bigotry? Or should I just stop saying it out loud?

              • farin

                Look, as long as you admit it’s Hillary’s fault they’re racist Dilan will be satisfied.

                • Dilan Esper

                  That’s really silly in a comments thread where I specifically said that Hillary is not at fault for her loss (which I have said over and over again since the election).

                  This is a nice demonstration of why snark is the refuge of idiots without a real argument. What is farin’s point? It’s certianly not anything I actually said. It’s not even anything I could actually be fairly inferred to believe. It’s just “I don’t have anything intelligent to say in answer to the arguments made, so I will make this truly moronic attack on Dilan without in any way explaining what I am arguing”.

                  And it doesn’t hit me at all. It just makes farin look vacuous.

      • aturner339

        Right. I also question the idea the the WWC is as worked up about the opiod epidemic as the median Democrat.

        • Dilan Esper

          Do you really question that the people who Arnade interviews, living in these communities, aren’t as worked up about the opioid epidemic (which, I might add, it’s somewhat telling that you do not know how to spell correctly :) ) as a typical blue state urban Democratic voter is?

          Because that just seems flat wrong to me.

          • aturner339

            My terrible spelling aside I was born and bred in Alabama separated from the WWC by a couple of miles, some railroad tracks, and the racial wealth gap and no they aren’t.

            • pseudalicious

              Just wanna tell you that I’m really glad you comment here.

      • Marc

        People can tell when they’re being disrespected by a political party. It explains why even culturally conservative minority groups are reluctant to support the Republican party.

        A deep lesson in liberal politics has been that, when it comes to minority groups, we listen to what they say motivates them. We don’t tell them what their “real” motives are. We don’t accept stereotypes about, say, Muslims and terrorists, because statistical correlations don’t say anything about individuals. We accept that it’s wrong to make sweeping generalizations about large and diverse groups.

        A lot of liberals, in the last election cycle, were totally OK with using statistical arguments to label all Republicans as bigots. Many prominent voices repeatedly asserted that white working class voters were motivated entirely by racial animus. Disagreement with Clinton was (and is) repeatedly cast as motivated by hatred of women. Discomfort with low-skilled immigration was cast solely as racist.

        There *are* Republican bigots, there *are* racists, there *are* sexists. That’s not in doubt. It’s the casual willingness to mind-read and stereotype large groups of people that generates real hostility. These themes come up repeatedly in interviews with blue-collar voters: variants of “they think we’re stupid bigots”; “they think they’re better than us”. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of liberal self-righteousness, you can perhaps understand why people might react badly to it.

        Arrogant liberal self-righteousness and intolerance is a major theme in conservative media. It’s been a pretty successful tactic for them. We won’t recover politically until we figure out a way to counter it.

        • aturner339

          Opposition to low skill immigration is chiefly driven by xenophobia and not economics. This is the conclusion of decades of research on the topic everywhere from France to Texas.

          The notion that pointing of the GOP is as an institution racist is itself a form of bigotry is absurd. If you mean all the nonsense about “white trash meth-heads” voting from trump I agree that’s nonsense and should stop but let’s not get carried away here.

          • sibusisodan

            Here in the UK, communities with a higher proportion of immigrants end up less worried about immigration.

            • aturner339

              As I recall that holds in France, the US, and I think Germany. The fact is the central organizing principle of the Republican Party is white nationalism. Even Avik Roy can admit that.

            • Ronan

              To some degree. But there’s also a selection effect out of and in to high immigrant areas(ie those more likely to not favour immigration will leave, younger more educated will come) Also depends how you look at it, demographically. There’s the “halo effect” which is when relatively homogenous areas near more diverse areas are quite likely to be hostile to immigration. Also areas with high levels of recent immigration(though relatively low overall diversity) are more likely to be hostile to immigration, at least in the short term.

        • farin

          Other successful themes for conservative media: John Kerry’s dishonorable military career, Obama’s foreign birth, Clinton’s orchestration of the Benghazi attacks, the ACA making health insurance unavailable for working people.
          I guess we need to stop nominating foreign-born deserters and mass-murderers for President if we want to counter those attacks?

        • applecor

          Presumably the Target Voters do not experience liberal self-righteousness and intolerance directly very often because Big Sort etc. If Fox News etc. is the main method by which the people upset about LSR&I find out that it exists, it doesn’t really matter if it is real or not, does it? Fox will continue to say it exists whether it does or not.

    • Alex.S

      ELKHART, Ind. — Seven years ago President Obama came to this northern Indiana city, where unemployment was heading past 20 percent, for his first trip as president. Ed Neufeldt, the jobless man picked to introduce him, afterward donned three green rubber bracelets, each to be removed in turn as joblessness fell to 5 percent in the county, the state and the nation.

      It took years — in 2012, Mr. Neufeldt lamented to a local reporter that he might wear his wristbands “to my casket” — but by last year they had all come off. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, is among the country’s lowest, so low that employers here in the self-described R.V. capital of the world are advertising elsewhere for workers, offering sign-up bonuses, even hiring from a local homeless shelter.

      Mr. Obama, whose four trips here during 2008 and 2009 tracked the area’s decline, is expected to return for the first time in coming weeks, both to showcase its recovery and to warn against going back to Republican economic policies. Yet where is Mr. Neufeldt leaning in this presidential election year? He may keep a photograph of himself and Mr. Obama on a desk at the medical office he cleans nightly, but he is considering Donald J. Trump.

      “I like the way he just won’t take nothing off of nobody,” Mr. Neufeldt said, though days later he allowed: “He scares me sometimes.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/us/politics/obama-donald-trump-economy-indiana.html?_r=0

      Obama should have taken a FIFTH trip here, but he didn’t even try.

      • Dilan Esper

        I think Obama is actually much better than most Democrats on these issues. Those trips were news in part because a lot of Democratic politicians don’t take them. And that might explain some ibama-Trump voters.

        Having said that, even Obama spent more time at front row stuff like colleges and fund-raisers and high culture events and meetings with the 1 percent than he did in these communities.

        Also, instead of snark at the end, you should answer seriously. Do you really deny that Democratic politicians spend far more time at front row stuff than they do in these communities? Or are you just trying to imply the denial while not actually saying it because you know you can’t deny it?

        • humanoid.panda

          “Also, instead of snark at the end, you should answer seriously. Do you really deny that Democratic politicians spend far more time at front row stuff than they do in these communities? Or are you just trying to imply the denial while not actually saying it because you know you can’t deny it?”

          Every politician in human history spends more time doing “front row stuff” rather than touring the periphery and talking to coal miners. It’s one thing to demand that Democrats devote mode policy bandwith to rural problems, but you are posing a ridiculous standard here.

          • Dilan Esper

            I don’t think so. Sanders, actually, spends less time in the front row. That’s really one of his central appeals.

            More generally, there is a failure of imagination on this sort of thing (similar to the Hillary speeches issue). We could, as Democratic voters, basically demand that party leaders not suck up to rich people so much. There’s no rule that says this can’t be a voting issue. There are lots of places politicians dare not appear already.

            • FlipYrWhig

              Come the fuck on. Sanders spent the entire fucking campaign traipsing from one college town to the next.

      • mds

        So … a Democratic politician came and talked to them, acknowledged their concerns, presided over a material improvement in their situation … and they’re aware of all that. Whereupon a bunch of the voted for Trump. Hell, 63 percent of Elkhart County voted for Romney. Gosh, as someone from an upper-Midwestern WWC background, I really hope Marc will be able to lecture me about how my initial kneejerk reaction of “What the fuck is wrong with you, you dumbshits?” is merely my stereotypical elitist liberal self-righteousness shining through.

        (I’d also really hope that Dilan would be a deflecting dismissive asshole who still manages to make it the Democrats’ fault, but that would be cheating at this point.)

        • Steve LaBonne

          It’s no use arguing with these dumbshits. Like, who fucking disagrees that the Dems need to further hone their economic messaging? So what we’re arguing about is whether to give some winks and nods to racists. Fuck that noise.

          • Dilan Esper

            Further hone?

            Tell me, in 10 words or so, what the Democratic message on the opioid epidemic has been over the last 20 years.

            You can’t hone what doesn’t exist.

            • Steve LaBonne

              You’re a fecking eejit. Not a day goes by that a Dem politician doesn’t call for greatly expanding access to treatment, or point out that the Medicaid expansion is key part of that.

              • sibusisodan

                I’ve just enlightened myself by reading the Clinton campaign page on the issue.

                It’s a defensible position that there needs to be more work on communicating their position. Saying they don’t have one is silly.

                • Steve LaBonne

                  And it’s a defensible position that pretty much nobody in the party disagrees with, so as above, what are we even talking about here?

                • Dilan Esper

                  I didn’t say Clinton didn’t have a policy position in the campaign. I said the Democratic Party didn’t have a MESSAGE on the issue for 20 years.

                  Don’t ever sit for a deposition, folks. Your tendency to respond to what you want to hear rather than what was actually said would cause you great pains if the questioner is competent.

            • Alex.S

              Tell me, in 10 words or so, what the Democratic message on the opioid epidemic has been over the last 20 years.

              You’re right, snark is a much easier way to respond to your requests.

              • Dilan Esper

                The opioid epidemic started in 1998, when the prescriptions were liberalized.

                If you don’t even know THAT, you are really demonstrating the problem.

            • Morse Code for J

              What exactly is the Republican message that’s been so successful?

          • mds

            Yeah, Elkhart County went 70-29 Bush (2004), 55-44 McCain, 63-36 Romney, 64-31 Trump. So it’s more that 2008 was a one-off based on desperation, and they’ve been regressing to the mean ever since. If only Democrats could learn to talk to them about their economic concerns the way Mitt Romney could.

            • Steve LaBonne

              “I’m voting for the n****r”.

        • Dilan Esper

          So 37 percent in a conservative Indiana county voted for Obama? That would suggest they aren’t all racists. I wonder what we could get that number up to if we got more Democratic politicians out of the front row and got our think tanks working on ways to revitalize their communities and started talking about their problems more.

          • farin

            “Some non-racist Democrats live near Republicans! So how can you say Republican voters are motivated by racism?”

            • Dilan Esper

              You have no idea who these voters are and whether all of them are racist or Republican.

  • gurkle2

    One thing I sometimes feel is that the Democratic coalition is united by a belief that social change will, in general, benefit them. There are plenty of people in the Democratic base who don’t like gay marriage, or would prefer to restrict immigration, but overall, most of them have reason to believe that they will be better off – materially and socially – as the country changes.

    The Republican base consists more of men and women who have reason to think they would feel less happy in a rapidly changing society, particularly since every change leads to other changes. Sometimes these issues take precedence over economic issues, and sometimes they’re linked (take a man who doesn’t want “handouts” but wants the good job his dad had so he can provide for his family alone: issues of work are linked to issues of cultural pride and a belief in strict gender roles). It doesn’t make sense to expect people to vote to give up their privilege, unless they’re given something else they like in return.

    If a Sanders type of candidate might have had more appeal to some of these people – and I don’t think he would have done better than Clinton overall, I’m just talking about a few swing voters here – it’s that he had a very strong sense of nostalgia to his campaign, a sense that America used to be better off when it had strong unions and lower immigration levels and all that. Clinton’s campaign seemed to argue that the more America changes the better off it will be.

    Some people, probably a majority if 2016 is anything to go on, like living in a society that changes rapidly. The fact that gay marriage went from nearly unheard-of to the law of the land so quickly, apart from being right, is a sign of what an exciting time this is when the rules are constantly changing in new and intriguing ways. It also creates a pleasant feeling that one is morally superior for voting for one’s own interests (though Republican “values voters” do this more).

    Next time the Democrats might be able to win without having to bring over a lot of people who don’t feel social change will be good for them. If they do need to get some of these voters, then it might become necessary to find some way to reassure them or at least play to their sense that America was in some ways better in the past, and that they don’t want to throw out the good things in pursuit of a more just society. I’m not sure if a play on pure economic issues will help because I think most people believe they will be economically better off in a society that suits their personal preferences.

    • applecor

      I think looking at the American polity this way no longer makes sense. Sure the Dems represent “change” if you are talking about immigration and gay rights, but on most other issues, Dems are fighting for the status quo (Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Roe vs. Wade etc.) and it was Reagan who said “WE ARE the change.”

      I said often during the election season that you can’t run for President saying “I’ll maintain level funding for Planned Parenthood, the National Weather Service and the CDC.” Because the Target Voters cannot conceive of the many ways in which things could change for the worse if they vote GOP.

  • Harkov311

    As Davis X. Machina has observed many times before, Trump is liked by the right because he hates the people they hate. It’s a bit unsettling that so many people’s politics basically consists of: “fuck everyone who’s not just like me,” but apparently this is a sentiment common enough to drive whole parties.

    • aturner339

      Whole political movements. Whole religions. Wars. Nations. It can drive a whole lot.

  • Adam Roberts

    Far be it from me to tell you your business, but it seems to me this is how you play this:

    “You say you hate liberals.”
    “Yes.”
    “American liberals.”
    “Any kind, but the American kind most of all.”
    “That’s the majority of Americans at the last election. So you hate Americans. Why do you hate Americans? Hating Americans means hating America. Why do you hate America?”

    • aturner339

      The Wabbit Season Gambit. Trouble is you’d have to get the media to play along and Joe the Plumber is a deeply beloved touchstone for much of it.

      • Rob in CT

        “Joe” the “Plumber” whose name isn’t Joe and was not a plumber…

    • Linnaeus

      “Now you know what a Super-Patriot is.
      He’s someone who loves his country.
      While hating 93% of the people who live in it.”

    • Alex.S

      Turns out that people living in a city are not real Americans.

  • Rob in CT

    Digby, on perhaps the most recent manifestation of the “Flight 93 Election” idea:

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2017/05/qotd-bizarroworld-edition-by-digby.html

    Dennis Prager, ladies and gentlemen:

    “I have concluded that there are a few reasons that explain conservatives who were Never-Trumpers during the election, and who remain anti-Trump today.

    The first and, by far, the greatest reason is this: They do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake. While they strongly differ with the Left, they do not regard the left–right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do.”

    This, of course, has nothing to do with swing voters. Neither this Prager asshole nor the few remaining never-Trump Conservatives are the people who swung this election (but if they weren’t so insane, Trump would have lost even with WWC crossover votes).

  • COnrad

    That must have been the least fabulous gay wedding ever.

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    It is not true that the Republicans do not have any policy preferences. They have two.
    1. Lower taxes on the wealthiest and make the tax code more
    regressive.
    2. Tear down anything that Democrats have built.

  • Democrats think politics should be an adult conversation: witty, diverting, challenging, never repeating itself. Conservatives see politics as an advertising campaign or religious rite: repetition, repetition, repetition. Democrats should already be saying in Appalachia: Trump promised to bring back coal jobs. He is not delivering. He lied to you. Say this a thousand times, and then start again. Be boring. Win.

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