Why does almost the exact same proportion of the American public support or oppose the current Republican candidate for president over time, with this proportion neither increasing nor decreasing in response to changing economic conditions or anything else? This is the thing right here:
The most powerful factor in the new stability may be the shift in the basis of voters’ allegiance to the parties. Increasingly, campaign strategists and political scientists agree, voters are choosing between the parties more on their views about fundamental demographic and cultural change than on their immediate financial circumstances or even their views of economic policies, such as taxes, spending and regulation.
Partisan allegiances grounded in these fundamental measures of personal and national identity — such as whether the nation must do more to assure equal opportunity for people of color and women — appear highly resistant to reconsideration based on immediate events.
In important research, Schaffner and his colleagues found that the denial that racism or sexism exists in America was the best predictor in the 2016 election of support for Trump, far more than any measures of economic distress. On the other side, Schaffner found that the belief that racism and sexism are serious problems predicted support for Clinton more powerfully than economic attitudes, as well.
“Now the parties are very clearly sorted on issues of identity politics,” Schaffner says. “If you have fairly racist or sexist views you are … very likely to be a Republican. And if you have the opposite views you are very likely to be in the Democratic Party.”
This by the way is from CNN. CNN has become a particular bete noire for both Trump and the right wing scream machine — as if there’s any real difference between those two entities — because it’s an indisputably mainstream news organization, but it still prints articles in which Republican voters get called racist and sexist for no better reason than that they hold racist and sexist views.
This sounds sardonic, but it’s a literal description of the current cultural situation. For 40% of the country, more or less, what those pointy-headed cultural Marxists that brainwash our youth call “racism” and “sexism” is simply holding Normal Views if you’re a Normal American. That’s what racism and sexism now are! What’s changed, of course, is that in the past few years being a Normal American no longer immunizes you from having your views characterized as racist and sexist by CNN, not just by the Evergreen State Review of Trotskyite Transgenderism.
A friend of mine put it this way three years ago, and I believe his take is even more salient now, in the dying days of the Trump regime and/or liberal democracy in America:
People resent being told they are stupid, and that their long-held values are silly and wrong.
There are a huge number of people in this country, in all parts but certainly more heavily concentrated in the middle, that believe in “traditional American values.” This is set of views that has gone largely unchallenged for most of their lives, and upon which they honestly believe this country is based. The key tenet is being “normal”:
-Christianity is normal, and so is quiet agnosticism. All the different kinds of Muslims (Muslim Muslims, Hindu Muslims, Sikh Muslims) are not normal and are maybe violent. Jews are not normal, but are smart and non-threatening, although you need to watch them. They have never actually met a Muslim or a Jew.
-They don’t believe they are racist at all. They judge people by how they act, not how they look. If all blacks dressed and acted like the ones in the Olive Garden commercials, they would be totally fine with them. But the saggy pants and all the jewelry and bright colors and filthy rap music and whatnot – that isn’t normal. If they want to be accepted, why don’t they just act normal? They don’t know any black people, beyond maybe someone they say “hi” to at work.
-They know some people are gay, but it isn’t normal. It’s fine if they want to do that, but they shouldn’t flaunt it in public and make everyone uncomfortable. And they shouldn’t be putting it on tv or movies like it is normal and just as good as regular relationships, because it isn’t. They know some gays, but they aren’t invited to the bbq this weekend because there are going to be kids there.
-They think the whole trans “debate” is the silliest thing they have ever heard. What, boys are girls now, or vice versa, or whatever they want? And that’s supposed to be normal? And my daughter is going to see some weirdo’s dick waggling out in the bathroom because he feels like he is a girl? Not normal. Not fucking ok.
Especially over the past decade or so, these people have increasingly been told that their deeply-held views are not only wrong, but make them bad people. And, being humans, their reaction isn’t to rethink their lifelong worldview and change their attitude, but rather to dig in and say “fuck you.”
They know they are “supposed to say” that they are ok with gay marriage, and black lives matter, and all that, because if they don’t they are going to be called stupid, redneck racists by people on TV and in print media. So they have changed what they’ll say out loud, or at least to whom they will say it, but haven’t changed their beliefs. And Hillary and the Democrats are exactly the kind of people that would judge them harshly for their views, and Donald Trump and the Republicans are the kind of people who don’t. So they are voting Republican, no matter how big of a clown Trump is, because at least those people don’t piss all over my fundamental sense of self.
Normal Americans support Trump because Trump defends Normal Americans, and Normal America, from invasion and destruction by the Others. A white evangelical Christian is the modal Normal American in this model. Back to CNN:
Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, says the White constituencies most hostile to demographic and cultural change will likely become more embittered through the 2020s as evidence mounts that they no longer constitute the nation’s majority. Just since 2008, he notes, White Christians have fallen from about 54% to 44% of the population; that decline, he believes, will become vastly more tangible for them if Trump loses in November.
“This White Christian base has been shrinking and becoming more shrill at the same time: I think those two things are related,” says Jones, author of the recent book “White Too Long,” a history of Christian churches and racial bias.
Trump’s relentless rhetorical salvos against immigrants, “mobs” and African American leaders from politics to sports and his insistence that religious traditions (like Christmas) are under siege all inflame a deep-rooted anxiety among conservative White Christian voters, Jones notes.
“Particularly White Christian folks really did think they were the country,” he says. “So if you take that really seriously, [as] something they believed to the core of their being, then what’s becoming abundantly clear is that that is not true. But that is a foundational piece of their self-understanding. To fight tooth and nail for something that is going to actually undermine your basic identity is not too surprising. It runs just that deep.”
That’s what it’s all about. Normal Americans view this election not as just an election but as an existential struggle — and in one sense they’re not wrong. They despise the idea of living in a country in which their views are labeled as “racist” and “sexist” by “the elites” (CNN!), when all they want to do is live their Normal Lives like Normal Americans in Normal America.
And this is why the whinging from the Bari Weiss/Andrew Sullivan types about how nobody can be friends with let alone married to people who disagree about politics any more is so ridiculous:
The “disagreement” about whether Donald Trump should continue to be president isn’t a disagreement about “policy” in the ordinary sense: it’s a disagreement about whether America is going to go back to being the country of the Normal Americans, or whether that country will be transformed permanently by the Others, and replaced with a fundamentally different kind of place.
And that is a kind of basically metaphysical political disagreement, that can’t be papered over with platitudes about civility and tolerance etc.