Monday, March 14, 2016


Perhaps I'm spending more time than I should on trying to understand the factors driving Donald Trump's continued success. I believe this essay from Sean Trende gets to an important point:
To be clear, racism and racial resentment clearly play a role in the Trump candidacy. But to write it off as a mostly racial phenomenon, as many on the left seem to do, is a mistake.

If you look at where Trump’s electoral strength has been concentrated, it has, in fact, been in areas with high concentrations of African-Americans. This is consistent with the “racial threat” hypothesis that political scientists have commented on since the 1940s, and more generally with the liberal interpretation of his candidacy.

But Trump’s support is also concentrated in counties with high levels of unemployment, high numbers of voters with a high school diploma and nothing more, and low housing values. These are the people that globalization left behind, who fifty years ago would have had decent paying jobs in factories or even performing manual labor, and who could hope that their children would have the same. Instead they see their towns characterized by vacant buildings, drug problems, and government dependence.
It's all out there to see, if one cares to look. Mostly, we don't. Back to Trende:
But it goes well beyond economic issues. What drives this quest for “authentic” candidates is also cultural.  I would ask my readers to consider: How many people who staunchly oppose gay marriage do you know? How many people who are “pure” creationists – who believe that God created the world largely “as-is” – are in your circle of friends?

I would guess that for a large number of readers, the answer is quite close to “none.” Yet these are not obscure viewpoints; in fact, the “pure” evolutionary viewpoint is a minority view in America. The odds of having no one with these views in your circle of friends are, literally, astronomically small. We’ve self-segregated as a society, and people who adhere to what we might call a cosmopolitan worldview or morality system increasingly fail to interact with people who view the world differently. As a result, cultural traditionalists have been otherized.
Emphasis mine. And the implications?
Cosmopolitans also happen to occupy the commanding heights of American culture, and they’ve become increasingly aggressive in promoting what one of my friends called a “sneering disdain” for traditionalists—an attitude I myself sometimes struggle to keep in check.  So it is unsurprising that when the RAND Corporation recently polled candidates’ supporters, “people like me don’t have any say” was the strongest indicator of support for Trump, beyond education, beyond income, and beyond antipathy toward Muslims and Hispanics.
Again, emphasis mine. I live in a middle-class neighborhood, but other than waving at my neighbors as they drive by in their cars, to destinations I can't necessarily identify, I don't spend a lot of time interacting with most of them. I don't honestly know if my concerns match theirs. Hell, life is easier if you don't have those sorts of discussions any more.

Most of the houses on my street were built about 50 years ago, the time Trende describes in his essay. A few of the original owners on my block are still here. At least one of my neighbors has worked for a small manufacturing facility that is less than a mile from here and he has, in the main, walked to work every day since he moved into his house in the mid-60s. He is still working there, even though he is now in his 70s. I have no idea concerning my neighbor's politics. One thing I know -- he has been able to have a tidy life, on a tidy street, in a tidy neighborhood, for his entire adult life. And I also know that the life he's led is well-nigh impossible to duplicate now.

We have more information now at our fingertips than ever before. I can get the answers to countless questions with a few keystrokes. It's a tremendous time to be alive. It's easy to confuse the accumulation of knowledge with wisdom. And it's also easy to assume your beliefs are justified if you aren't challenged on them. It's also easy to go through life without thinking deeply about why you believe what you believe. We recognize this failing in others. The fancy term is epistemological closure. If you'd prefer another explanation:
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Back to Trende:
In case you can’t tell, I’m deeply ambivalent about our outburst of populism. I don’t particularly care for either populist candidate, and I certainly don’t share either of their worldviews. But I also know that I operate from a position of relative privilege here; I’m by-and-large on the winning side of the culture wars, my job is in little danger of being outsourced, and a relatively large cohort of people (for some reason) listen to what I say. You could say that I have a fair amount of empathy for the devil. Which in the end, may be all the devil really wants.
We may not be able to duplicate the conditions that my neighbor has experienced. But we'd better understand that the "devil" Trende describes may live on your block.


Chuckwagon Boy said...

Mr. D., This is a good article and I have seen this first-hand. I know a lot of my neighbors and there is a big range of opinions - some pro VD & some anti. I have many conservative friends who believe in creationism, etc. that are torn as to whether to support VD. They like some of his opinions, but find his moral fiber disgusting. I would say it is 60 to 40 w/ 60% not supporting him right now.

When push comes to shove, if VD is the nominee, I am not sure what they will do. Many of them said they will either not vote or write in someone like Rubio or Kaisch as those same people find Cruz to be a weasel. In fact, one of my close friends who used to be in the U.S. Justice Dept that helped write the Patriot Act knows individuals who have worked w/ Cruz and find him to be completely opposite to what he states on the campaign trail.

Mr. D said...

Think motes and beams, CB.

Chuckwagon Boy said...

I try and do that every day with better success on some days than others. :)