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A comment elsewhere, captured with modifications here, triggered by a review of The New Minority.

One idea here that's important if true is "the political culture of the white working-class Midwest is pervaded by a nostalgia that reveres, and seeks to reinstate, a bygone era.”

I mean, me? I don't want to go back even 20 years. Why would I? What does 1996 have to offer me that 2016 doesn't improve on?

But for someone who looks longingly back to 1996, to 1986, to 1956... someone for whom going back _doesn't_ mean giving up their family, their civil rights, their status as a human being... someone for whom it means feeling more important, more secure, more successful... the equation is different.

So, sure. The idea that in order to secure the political backing of that powerful culture in elections, politicians need to appeal to that nostalgia makes sense, given the premise.

But if it's true, that's a problem for progressives, since that sort of nostalgia is a natural ally to reactionary politics. It's not an accident that the GOP has more success recruiting white working-class Midwest (and Southern) voters than the Democrats do.

I don't know what we do about that.

I mean, there's this pervasive idea (especially in the wake of Trump's 2-million-voter loss Electoral College victory) that Democrats need to shift our attention to being more inclusive and supportive of the white working-class, whose interests have been neglected. Leaving aside whether the premise is true or not, I don't know how Democrats appeal to "the political culture of the white working-class Midwest" without giving up to some degree on things like egalitarianism, or scientific research, or religious pluralism.

As I've said elsewhere: if we abandon the things that made me differentially support Democrats in the first place, why should I care whether Democrats win elections?

Of course, this isn't a novel position... many leftists have long since sailed on that boat. Just look at how many Sanders, Stein, etc. supporters in this election were strongly motivated by the idea that the Democratic party has already abandoned progressivism and was "no different than the Republicans." (Admittedly, many of those same people sure do seem to care about the difference now. Heck, Stein herself is pushing for a recount, almost as though it matters whether Trump or Clinton is president. Nevertheless, it was a popular refrain a month ago.)

So I dunno. Maybe this is just the sound of me becoming radicalized. Maybe by the time I reach 2020, I won't be able to bring myself to vote for a "centrist" Democrat who is just doing the things that are necessary to win elections in the U.S.

Then again, I look to 2008 and 2012, when a Black man was elected president... twice... and sure as hell not by appealing to the reactionary elements of "the political culture of the white working-class Midwest." To put it mildly. And I think maybe it's not as bad as all that.

On the third paw, I look to the general consensus in 2007, even among conservatives, that the GOP had screwed the pooch in a big way with respect to the economy. And I think maybe that was just a really special circumstance.

On the fourth paw, I fully expect a Trump administration to raid the treasury to provide financial incentives to Trump and his family and friends and social class, rather than invest in the country. In which case maybe that circumstance isn't as special as I hope.

Hell, I dunno.

Quite frankly, "burn it all down" is starting to feel like a much more plausible long-term plan.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2016 09:07 pm (UTC)
Part of the problem, as I look at it, is the reactionary elements of the white middle class seems to exclude anyone who isn't white (and possibly a few other qualifiers) from their version of "us". They have a community, blacks/hispanics/Muslims/immigrants/gays/etc. aren't part of it, and they're upset that their extremely restrictive community is declining. I think the fundamental problem is that their idea of community is too small, but I have no idea how to actually address the problem.

ETA: reactionary qualifier.

Edited at 2016-11-24 09:08 pm (UTC)
Nov. 26th, 2016 05:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, me neither.
Nov. 25th, 2016 01:02 pm (UTC)
I'm one of those progressives who knows the ship has sailed, and though it ultimately didn't matter given where I live, I did vote for Hillary in the general election.

Leaders of the independent movement are saying that people want change. Barack Obama in addition to being Black was much less of a democratic party insider than Hillary Clinton. She came in in 2008 with "it's my turn" and democrats and independents said "nope" and then Barack Obama won in the general. Did the economy help? Sure. But it's also true that the democratic party leadership made certain that Hillary got the nomination (closing primaries, etc) in 2016. We'll never know if Bernie Sanders would have defeated Trump, but the interpretation I'm hearing from independents is that the voters said "well, if I can't change everything, at least I can change something."

This weekend, I'm visiting family in Kentucky, and yesterday I had a few snippets of conversation that seem directly relevant to this convo:

1. My uncle said "Well, I guess I could get us and the girls EU citizenship. Germany wouldn't be such a horrible place to live. I should look into that. Though, my dad always said what happened there would never happen here because we have a tradition of democracy and Europe never did."

2. My cousin's step-son's (17 year old, white, not Jewish) girlfriend said "It's so great to be at a thanksgiving where there is actually food."

I heard about some of the different job roles in the local Amazon warehouse, and which warehouse jobs pay closer to $15 starting salary vs $11 or $13. I thought about mentioning the fight for $15 minimum wage, but didn't know where to go with that. I heard about the experience of moving from a southern city (Louisville, Atlanta) where there are "lots of black people" to rural Kentucky where there aren't. I heard "louisville has housing projects, and i guess shelby county [I'm sure I'm getting the county name wrong I'm from the east coast] has trailer parks, but I mean they're nice. There are people who are more accepting, but there aren't any colored people there, because I mean, the big KKK guy, what is it? Grand Wizard? Lives there, and why would you want... And it's just people grew up there and it's how they were raised and it's all that they know."

I don't know. I'm misquoting somewhat, and I don't at all mean to be holding myself up as some example here. I have 25 things I should've said but didn't. I don't know how to do this well.

But I was really happy to see that the progressive democrats sent out an e-mail asking people to listen to their families. That the hardest part of organizing is listening and meeting people where they're at.

And I guess I just want to say that if we think that lefty politics are actually better for most people, then we should be able to just talk to people like normal people and figure it out. Oy, I should go eat breakfast. I hope this post isn't annoying to you.
Nov. 25th, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC)
Not annoying.
Nov. 26th, 2016 05:07 am (UTC)
I've recently read three articles that make me question whether it's even possible to, as you say, "appeal to 'the political culture of the white working-class Midwest' without giving up to some degree on things like egalitarianism, or scientific research, or religious pluralism". We hear a lot about our liberal bubbles -- and I sure do like living in mine -- but these pieces make a good case for the rural, white, Christian demographic actually being the ones who live in a bubble (or at least one of many bubbles).




If these articles are correct, then it sounds like we can't appeal to them without giving up the viewpoints and goals that drive us to differentially support Democrats. I don't want to give them up, or to have others do so in order to accommodate and appeal to a demographic that views people like you and me as less than fully human. Their way of life is one that I never, ever want for myself or my family. I don't have a good answer as to what we should do to try to open them up to the possibilities of other ways of life, though.
Nov. 26th, 2016 05:35 am (UTC)

There's been more than one time in the last twenty years or so that I've had to shrug my shoulders and accept that some people are simply my enemies, and I therefore should expect them to act against my interests given the choice, and that's just the way it is, and the thing I need to do if I want to preserve my interests is deny them that choice.
Nov. 26th, 2016 07:42 am (UTC)
It sure does suck to have to regard a whole swath of one's fellow citizens as enemies. I expect they feel the same about us. I don't know what to do about that, either.

I forgot to add this earlier: https://storify.com/donkify/jpbrammer-explains-the-political-economy-of-many-p

I just read this Krugman piece as well: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/opinion/the-populism-perplex.html
For let’s be serious here: You can’t explain the votes of places like Clay County as a response to disagreements about trade policy. The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn’t) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.

To be honest, I don’t fully understand this resentment. In particular, I don’t know why imagined liberal disdain inspires so much more anger than the very real disdain of conservatives who see the poverty of places like eastern Kentucky as a sign of the personal and moral inadequacy of their residents.

And when you follow the hyperlink from "moral inadequacy" in that article, you land here: http://www.nationalreview.com/node/367903/

Reading it now, I have a hard time thinking about these people as my enemies, regardless of what they may think about me and my life. I just feel sad for them. They've clearly been left behind, and I have little idea of what would actually help them. Those coal jobs aren't coming back (nor should they, honestly, and I'm aware that saying so sounds heartless). Personally, I'd be fine with my taxes going to support relocation, and/or retraining for better/more modern jobs, and/or a universal basic income for those who can't be retrenched for whatever reason, rather than to be used to prop up a dying industry that would actively endanger habitability of our planet if it were revived. But even then, I don't know if that would fix the problem of people using their benefits to buy cases of soda that they then trade for half their value in cash or for prescription pills. I want better for them -- not just because I want them to stop voting Republican, but because it seems to me that no one in an advanced nation like ours should have to live that way -- but I don't know if they would see that as honest concern or as "liberal disdain".

I don't know where I'm going with this.

Edited at 2016-11-26 07:45 am (UTC)
Nov. 26th, 2016 04:58 pm (UTC)

OTOH, for my own part I have no trouble thinking of them as my enemies when I remember, say, Laramie WY. Or the swastikas spray-painted on the cemetery my family is buried in.

Talk about disdain.
Nov. 27th, 2016 03:48 pm (UTC)
I wish I knew how to comfort you. It's difficult when I'm also terrified by what I'm seeing. One thing is clear, neither of us is alone in this.
Nov. 27th, 2016 03:58 pm (UTC)
(nods) I appreciate the thought, and the witness.
Nov. 28th, 2016 04:47 am (UTC)
I've been expecting to lose the presidency to the Republicans this year for at least four years. The parties have reliably traded the White House every eight years since WW2 (the only exception is Reagan grabbed one of Carter's terms). I had some hope that Trump was SO TERRIBLE that it would break the cycle, but apparently I was wrong. That said, I don't expect him to be able to break the cycle in the other direction, either, and the Dems will come back.

How to minimize the damage he does in the meantime is the thing that's keeping me up at night...
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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