Nick Cohen pins some blame on liberals for Trump’s election on the Regressive Left

November 19, 2016 • 12:40 pm

Several commenters on the Internet have blamed the Regressive Left (RL), for contributing to Trump’s victory, asserting that working-class whites, who were Trump’s major supporters, were turned off by the identity politics of liberal young people and Regressive Leftists. This thesis appeals to me because I despise the RL’s hypocrisy and arrogance and would love for Trump’s victory to have one salubrious effect—that of dissolving the RL. But as a scientist and skeptic, I am wary of supporting theses that emotionally appeal to me, and I’ve always doubted whether white working-class Americans even read anything by RLs, including feminists and liberals who support oppressive Muslim ideology.

Yet the RL-created-Trump idea is adumbrated by the estimable Nick Cohen in this week’s Guardian, in a piece called “If liberals want to stop the right winning, we must change.” He first blames Democrats in general for running a poor candidate, one who didn’t appeal to the white working class:

If we were just talking about the United States, we could concentrate on the shocking irresponsibility of the Democratic party in running an establishment candidate in a country that was sick of the status quo. It is bizarre to see people who condemn cultural appropriation engage in political appropriation. But maybe US leftists are right to think that a portion of Trump supporters were secretly on their side and a more radical Democrat would have won them over.

Unfortunately, this is not just an argument about the wretched Clinton campaign. Not only in America, but across the democratic world, liberals and leftists are becoming used to waking up in the early hours and learning that they have lost. Again. They did not expect the Conservatives to win the British general election or the British to vote to leave the EU. They didn’t see Trump coming. They won’t see Le Pen coming. Poland may be the future. In a country that had a centre-left government within recent memory, not one member of the Polish parliament now calls himself or herself a social democrat or socialist. Debate is between the internationalist right in opposition and the authoritarian nationalists in power. Theirs may be our future too.

To suffer such calamitous defeats and not feel the need to change is to behave as irresponsibly as the US Democratic party. It is a myth that Trump and Brexit won because of overwhelming working-class support. Nevertheless, they could win only because a large chunk of the white working class moved rightwards. Debates about how to lure them back ought to reveal the difference between arguing with and arguing against your fellow citizens, which most middle-class leftists have not even begun to think about.

Here I think he’s right. I never was a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton, though I voted for her (and stop blaming me for being tepid in that support!), and the Democrats simply didn’t have an appeal to populism. It’s also true that many Americans who voted for Trump previously voted for Obama, probably because Obama offered hope for the working class, and indeed tried to provide it through initiatives like Obamacare. (Ironically, many of those who voted for Trump were voting for the elimination of their own healthcare).

But then I think Cohen goes too far in blaming the Regressive Left on the calamitous US election as well as the calamitous UK Brexit vote:

You can only argue against committed supporters of Trump. If they believe all Mexicans are rapists and Muslims terrorists, you cannot compromise without betraying your principles. Fair enough. But before you become self-righteous you must accept that the dominant faction on the western left uses language just as suggestive of collective punishment when they talk about their own white working class. Imagine how it must feel for a worker in Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown to hear college-educated liberals condemn “white privilege” when he has a shit job and a miserable life. Or Google the number of times “straight white males” are denounced by public-school educated women in the liberal media and think how that sounds to an ex-miner coughing his guts up in a Yorkshire council flat. [JAC: have a look at those links.]

Emotionally, as well as rationally, they sense the left, or at least the left they see and hear, is no longer their friend. They are men and women who could be argued with, if the middle classes were willing to treat them decently. You might change their minds. You might even find that they could change yours. Instead of hearing an argument, they see liberals who call the police to suppress not only genuine hate speech that incites violence but any uncouth or “inappropriate” transgression.

For too many in the poor neighbourhoods of the west, middle-class liberals have become like their bosses at work. They tell you what you can and can’t think. They warn that you must accept their superiority and you will be in no end of trouble if you do not.

Cohen offers two solutions, both involving abandoning RL tactics:

There are times when your opponents must be defeated, whatever the cost. Defeating them today involves nothing so violent as necessary murders. Thinking about class, not instead of but along with gender and race, would be a step forward. Realising that every time you ban an opponent you prove you cannot win an argument would be another. I do not doubt history will look back on 2016 and say “alas”. But it will not pardon defeated liberals who never learned that to win they had to change.

And here he’s partly right and partly wrong. RL speaker bans and identity politics that exclude class as a factor may have played a very minor role in both Brexit and the Trump victory; buit the real solution involves in running liberals who have a solid program to help the working class. After all, such a platform is the historical basis of liberalism, but has been abandoned in favor of Clintonian appeals to the rich and to the upper middle class. She had nothing to say to the working class except vague pieties, and while Trump had nothing substantial to offer them either, he represented an alternative, however odious, to the “rich people’s politics” of Hillary Clinton. Remember how much money Clinton made by giving speeches to Wall Street Banks. That was not going to instill confidence in the poor that she was on their side.

Any working class person who voted for Trump probably wasn’t thinking, for Trump is also rich, favors the rich (as does his party), and his pandering to the working class was largely an appeal to prejudice and nativism. But it was still an alternative to the status quo. We, the Left, need to offer something tangible to the poor, both black and white, and not just demonize Republicans or sneer at working-class whites, people who are generally seen by RLs as racist and sexist—and therefore unworthy of consideration.

126 thoughts on “Nick Cohen pins some blame on liberals for Trump’s election on the Regressive Left

  1. I’m pretty much in agreement here. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Sexism and racism are real but the central fact remains that the Democratic Party has for 40 years been ignoring the basic needs of working folk. If it (we) don’t abandon the politics of the DLC and cut back on identity politics, the future will be even grimmer than it looks today.

      1. I think Lilla is correct that the Democratic Party should abandon its emphasis on identity politics. I was never comfortable with the notion that people should think of themselves primarily in terms of race or ethnicity or sexual orientation. It has the effect of dividing people. I do not like it when some liberals use the “beautiful mosaic” metaphor as a goal of American society. I much prefer the older “melting pot” metaphor. Moreover, it seems that thinking in racial or ethnic terms was fine for everybody except white people. I think this approach certainly repelled some whites from the Democratic Party and turned them into actual racists. Identity politics is bad politics and bad in principle.

        The irony is that the actual policies of the Democratic Party help all people in the middle and working classes: the protection of Medicare and social security, working towards healthcare for all, support for unions, the call for a higher minimum wage, programs to protect the environment, maintenance of progressive taxation, and the regulation of finance and business to protect consumers and small investors. Since at least Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic Party has had a proud tradition of fighting racism and this should continue. In the past decade, it has become the champion of the rights of the LGBT community. But, I contend that this fight should be undertaken to work towards a genuine colorblind society. The glorification of race or sexual orientation makes as much sense to me as the glorification of eye color. The identity politics wing of the Democratic Party has a lot of clout. It will take a lot of work to overcome it. Economic justice for all should be the emphasis of the party.

        1. “Since at least Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic Party has had a proud tradition of fighting racism …”

          As you allude to with your “at least,” Democratic support for civil rights dates back to before LBJ. Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces. And First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a paragon of the movement — riding with the Tuskegee airmen, arranging for Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial after the DAR refused to let a colored lady perform in Constitution Hall, co-founding the Americans for Democratic Action. Her contributions were mainly symbolic, but FDR himself also advanced the cause, if only very incrementally owing to the large role that segregationist Southern Democrats played in his New Deal coalition.

          This is why African-Americans (the ones in the North, who could vote) were part of the New-Deal coalition — and why that coalition became inherently unstable as the civil-rights cause advanced. In 1948 it frayed in ways that presaged its later dissolution when Strom Thurmond and the Southern delegation walked out of the Democratic National Convention to form the Dixiecrat party, after Hubert Humphrey gave a stemwinding speech in favor of a civil-rights plank to the party platform.

          I largely agree with you, Historian, regarding the state of the current Democratic Party and the identity politics that plagues it. But I think we should bear in mind the extent to which minority groups did not choose identity politics, but had it thrust upon them. People naturally see themselves according to their identity when the key characteristic of that identity — race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation — is precisely what has cut them off from every corridor of power.

          Also, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that their race and ethnicity haven’t been of prime concern to white people. They have. It’s just that their inherent superiority was so taken for granted — was so much a part of the fabric of their everyday lives — that they never needed to think much about it overtly, the way fish don’t think about water. For the longest time — from the founding of the colonies in Massachusetts and Jamestown until just 50 years ago — white folk enjoyed the ultimate “quota system”: 100% of every position worth having in American life being set aside for them.

          1. I largely agree with you, Historian, regarding the state of the current Democratic Party and the identity politics that plagues it. But I think we should bear in mind the extent to which minority groups did not choose identity politics, but had it thrust upon them. People naturally see themselves according to their identity when the key characteristic of that identity — race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation — is precisely what has cut them off from every corridor of power.

            That is heart-breakingly beautifully stated, Ken.

          2. Ken, I would like to expand on my comment and refer to yours.

            First, you are quite correct that FDR and Truman played roles in promoting civil rights. But, it was not until the administration of Lyndon Johnson that the Democratic Party as a political organization became committed to civil rights as a major part of their purpose and were able to enact in legislation parts of this agenda. Prior to this time, the southern segregationist wing of the Democratic Party had too much power for presidents sympathetic to civil rights to enact systematic programs. Also, the Republican Party had not yet become the “white party.” This did not take place until the initiation of Nixon’s “southern strategy” in the latter part of the 1960s. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act (both with Republican help, by the way), the Democratic Party repudiated the southern segregationists and incited the process whereby the overwhelming majority of white Southerners migrated from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, a situation we all know is the current status quo.

            Second, I agree that white people in this country, even before the Revolution, thought in racial terms. After all, their “whiteness” was a justification for slavery and the countless acts of discrimination and bigotry perpetuated against black people. But, what I am arguing is that in the era of identity politics whites have been told, if even only implicitly, by the Democratic Party’s intellectual elite that for them to even think or honor their race is by definition an act of racism, even though this would not be the case for other races. Many whites have chafed at this dichotomy and it is one factor why so many have found Trump appealing.

            My contention is that when people primarily identify themselves in terms of race the scene is set for the ruling elites to use divide-and-conquer tactics to maintain social, political, and economic control. To end this is why I believe the goal of a colorblind society is desirable for people of all races. Obviously, as this last election has shown, the United States, as a society, is nowhere near this goal. Is this goal pie-in-the-sky, at least in the long run? I am optimistic enough to say no, but I wouldn’t bet my last penny on it.

            1. I think you’re spot on in analyzing LBJ and the mid-Sixties civil rights acts, Historian.

              Johnson was the most potent, perspicacious US legislator ever to introduce a bill on the Senate floor in the 20th century. When he was thrust into office in 1963, he understood two big things regarding passage of the CRA: First, was to push the bill quickly, while the nation’s tears for his martyred predecessor were still warm. Johnson flogged the bill relentlessly in JFK’s name; as a result, in the popular consciousness, Kennedy is often more closely associated than Johnson with the cause of civil rights.

              (This is why, when I was a kid growing up in the Sixties, when I’d visit the home of a black buddy, invariably there’d be prints of two portraits staring out from the wall — John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ, with MLK soon to join them following the tragedy in Memphis ’68).

              The second thing, which Johnson knew from his days as Senate majority leader in the Fifties, was that as goes Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), so goes the Senate’s moderate Republicans. By deft manipulation of Dirksen’s vanities, done via third parties, Johnson was able to lead Dirksen to the water of righteousness, and once there, to make him and the Senate drink.

              On a personal level, LBJ could be a peckerwood prick (and he was a son-of-a-bitch on Vietnam). He also wasn’t averse to self-promotion or given to selfless gesture. But, when it came to pushing public policy he deeply believed in, everything else, including his own public glory, took a back seat. Civil right was something Johnson — who saw poverty firsthand growing up in the “hill country” and teaching school to the kids of disenfranchised Mexican immigrants in the Rio Grande valley — cared about deeply.

              If memory serves, somewhere in his epic (four volumes and counting!) biography of LBJ, Robert Caro describes civil rights as the golden thread running through the scarlet ribbon of Johnson’s legacy.

              Ya can’t hardly put it any better than that.

              1. You can say that again, DG.

                The presidents when we were youngsters — Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon — were larger than life, like Hollywood stars, like Gregory Peck or Spencer Tracy (or in Nixon’s case, a Shakespearean villain, like Iago or Shylock).

                Then in the Seventies, with Ford and Carter, they shrunk, did a reverse Norma Desmond — the office stayed big; it was the office-holders that got small. Then we got an actual B-movie actor trying hard to puff himself into heroic stature.

                After Dutch, it was back to small-ball. Bush-Clinton-Bush was more suited to Maureen Dowd-style farce than to epic. It’s telling that the best book to come out of the Clinton years was the roman à clef Primary Colors.

                And now Barack. The closer we get to the end, the more I know I’m gonna miss Barry something fierce. He’s certainly heroic, and classy, but I feel too close to scene to place him on this scale.

                As for Trump, if he’s anything, it’s a comic-book character.

              2. Great trip down memory lane (& analysis!). 🙂

                Yep, & back in the day some senators were larger than life, too. Tip O’Neill, Wayne Morse, Hubert Humphrey (though of course I was clean for Gene [tho I couldn’t vote till ’72]) (Humphrey & Everett Dirksen sorta paralleling LBJ on the Civil Rights/Vietnam issues), Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the other Kennedys…all this stuff I remember and I was practically still a kid during some of it. I can hardly remember my own senators, these days…

                Now, you & I get together & sing the “All in the Family” theme song…

                (I think one reason politicians lost their luster was the change in the tone of press coverage over the years–from deferential to gotcha. Think Gary Hart.)

              3. Boy the way Glen Miller played,
                Songs that made the Hit Parade,
                Guys like us we had it made,
                Those were the days.

              4. Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.

                (Compared to what we ended up with in this election, anyway.)

  2. One problem I see with blaming this or that group for trump’s election is that it can underestimate the power and ruthlessness of trump’s backers. (I can’t bring myself to call him powerful — he is a weak idiot in a position of power, but his backers are way smarter than him and not so easily distracted.)

    It’s a bit like the RL belief that neo-colonialism is the cause of Islamic extremism — the cozy illusion that “we” are really in control and made a mistake, and if we get it right next time, everything will good again.

    (I don’t think Cohen is doing this, and I don’t mean to imply that criticizing mistakes is wrong.)

  3. “It’s also true that many Americans who voted for Trump previously voted for Obama,”

    I find it hard to believe that a lot of voters switched from Obama to Trump — some, maybe no doubt, but IDT enough to make a difference. I’ve been doing some study of county level numbers and it looks more like a failure to turn out Obama black voters in rural areas combined with some increase in the redneck vote for Trump. These combined to overwhelm her advantage in urban areas.

    Regardless, it’s going to be some time yet before the full story will be known but, I think it will be a story more of turnout than voters switching parties.

    1. I agree. It’s turnout that seems to be the problem.

      So then you have to look at why people didn’t turn out, and I think the FBI/Comey announcement did a lot to suppress Democratic turnout.

      1. I think that it was a combination of the Coney letter, Hillary’s high negatives, and the lower turnout of Afro-American voters that did her in. However, she and her handlers made a fundamental mistake in trying for a big win and going into states where her chances were considerably less then 50%, such as Arizona and North Carolina and not taking care of business in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, taking them for granted until it was too late. As was often stated, if it was possible, Hillary would find a way to lose, just as she did in 2008.

        IMHO, the Democrats would have been far better off if she had pleaded health concerns last August and dropped out in favor of Vice-Presidential running mate Tim Kaine, whose negatives were far lower then hers.

      2. Not just turnout, but fraud too.
        What is a ‘provisional’ vote?
        Why were the exit polls so different from the actual votes counted (unlike what we see in any other civilised democracy)?
        What about voter suppression?
        I agree with the OP, the RL with it’s uncompromising identity policy stance, extreme PC-ness and apologising Islam almost certainly played a role, but I think the fraud -as illustrated by the exit polls- clinched it.

        1. “What is a ‘provisional’ vote?”

          I can answer this one for you, at least for Wisconsin where I work as an election official at the polls.

          If a person shows up to vote and doesn’t have their photo ID but otherwise is registered they can fill out a ballot which is set aside and not included in the evening’s count. If they go down to City Hall within five days and provide the missing ID then the ballot will be counted. By then, of course, the election will have been called for a winner and so it is unlikely that any but the most stalwart of voters would bother going downtown to finish the process.

          1. (I simplified there, going from memory. There two other reasons for doing a provisional ballot, having to do with missing proof of residence if you aren’t already registered. And the rule isn’t “5 days”, it is until the end of Friday of the week of the election. But you get the gist.)

        2. The difference between exit polls and the actual results is extremely concerning and this should be investigated. When it happens in Russia, Zimbabwe, etc, it’s pointed to by the international community as evidence of fraud. As you say, it doesn’t happen in any other genuine democracy.

          I see part of the problem as the number of officials who are elected. Too many people’s jobs depend on the correct election result. I cannot see the logic of jobs like county clerk or sheriff being elected. To me that creates the potential for corruption. A sheriff or police chief or prosecutor should be independent and not dependent on political favour. They should get their jobs solely based on their ability to carry them out.

          1. Yes I find that weird and very suspect too, particularly where the administration of justice is involved.


  4. “but the real solution involves in running liberals who have a solid program to help the working class.”

    C’mon. Obama did have a platform to help the working class, as did the democratic party, it was never realized because of republican obstruction. This single fact seems to be lost. The trope that the working class was pissed because they weren’t listened to is bunk. They were heard, but republican congress couldn’t give a shit. This is why liberals lost. Republican obstruction worked because the American electorate is too dumbed down to realize what the obstruction did. The sequester added to the frustration and that also seems lost in the media.

    If republicans didn’t obstruct, they would have never won. It was a pathetic, yet winning strategy. The only question now is will the democrats have the backbone to do the same.

    1. C’mon. Obama did have a platform to help the working class, as did the democratic party, it was never realized because of republican obstruction

      Nevertheless, the pledge was part of a platform that got him elected.

      Clinton didn’t even have aspirations that would have benefited the working classes, even if the Republicans would have frustrated them in the long run.

      Obama’s presidency fell short of his aspirations because he was obstructed at every turn; Clinton was offering nothing to obstruct.

      As to The only question now is will the democrats have the backbone to do the same, you, yourself call that a ‘petty’ strategy – and it’s not even winnable in their case because – unlike the Republicans during Obama’s administration – the Democrats control jack-shit.

      1. I am not quite sure what you mean by “aspirations,” so I may be missing your point, but Clinton most certainly did have detailed policies aimed directly at benefiting the working class. And she talked about them frequently. She had them posted on her website and frequently directed people there for more information on them. She had TV commercials about them. She may not have been able to implement her policies even if she had won since the Republicans control the House and the Senate, but she certainly had such policies and made it known that she did.

    2. I agree on the “dumbed down”. I’m sure I’d be dismissed as an “elitist” but I suspect (I have no stats to back me up so I could be wrong) that there are a couple of “dumb” things at play: 1) education — the working class just don’t seem as educated as the working class of yore. Perhaps the high school education system is sucking or there are too many home schooled people who only learn about Jesus but something smells rotten. 2) The inter webs – lots of false information that people affected by my first point seem to be victimized by.

      If you want to win – the long game means educating the masses (hard to do when the masses keep voting in dumb-asses that want to keep them dumb) – the short game will mean beating the other guys at their own game (don’t ask me how – I’m really a long game kinda gal).

      1. It’s not just that people are poorly educated. There is an entire segment of the population who sees a lack of education as a positive part of their identity. They are actually PROUD of their ignorance.

        For many, it’s a natural response to their lack of success in life. It’s easier to just pretend one’s faults are assets than to do the difficult work required to better ones position.

        The only way to fix this is to make sure everyone has an opportunity to succeed and more importantly that they know it. Otherwise an education will remain an unnecessary luxury for many. Neither party has put forward plans that would accomplish this but at least Trump talked about it. Hence his appeal with the “working class”.

    3. I have a lot of policy issues with Obama, but you’re absolutely correct. The GOP strategy during the last 8 years has been shrewd, and relies on both a passive public, and a media with the collective long-term memory of a goldfish:

      Obstruct the normal function of the government at every turn, and then point at the resulting gridlock as proof that government can’t do anything.

      Even the large-scale things Obama did early in his first term, like the ACA and the stimulus bill, had their potential effectiveness comprehensively neutered in order to get them through Congress.

      It’s akin to how Republicans constantly bray about the absurd complexity of the tax code, ignoring that the reason the tax code is so complex, is because of the labyrinthine loopholes and disguised exemptions put in there by people like them.

      Not being conned by stuff like this, requires a level of political awareness that the average person simply does not have. And the media will never drive home these facts, because they are terrified of being accused of bias.

      And all of this allows the Democratic Party to be much more disappointing than they should be, because all they have to do to pacify their base, is remind them that they are a bulwark against something far worse.

    4. Something that needs to be said repeatedly–thanks, Mark!

      Typical of Democrats to self-flagellate and for Republicans to shift the blame. During the campaign we heard a whole lot about Obama’s “failed policies,” but very few reminders as to just why they failed.

  5. Clinton was a candidate that didn’t appeal, but she would have been an excellent president. Imo it’s also incorrect to say she didn’t have policies to appeal to those men in the rust belt, mining areas etc. She had some excellent policies including a $20 billion/ten year recovery plan for getting miners back to work. The problem was she didn’t communicate it well. So when a fu*kwit comes in and announces he’s going to reopen the mines they believe him. That’s a load of rubbish. How exactly is he going to do that? Force companies to reopen failing businesses? Get rid of regulations that make coal cheaper to mine but also result in miners constantly being hurt and killed? They would be a lot better off with a Clinton presidency.

    Clinton had a strong policy platform designed to help, and most of it was very good. Trump ran on hope and there’s nothing behind it. His tax policy will destroy the economic stability of the country. They rely on a minimum of 4% consistent annual growth which the US hasn’t achieved in decades. He’s even stopped claiming himself that he’ll get that 4%. They’re only talking about 3.5% now because even their own economists have said 4% is unachievable. 0.5% is huge in this context.

    And I read one of the links about white male privilege. It was badly written, but I didn’t have much of a problem with it. In fact she explained fairly well that privilege and power are not the same thing. If you’re a straight white male ex-miner coughing up your lungs in a council flat of course you don’t feel privileged. Reality check – nor does anyone else in your situation. But you’re still more likely to be able to walk down the street without the police picking on you than anyone else. You are confusing your lack of power with privilege. They are not the same thing.

    1. I would agree with most of your comment and also with Mark R. above. It is all part of the reality of what happened. Trump is no good for America and that will play out in spades as we go forward. He has always been one large con job who should not have had a chance in hell. But in this new America, he did.

      These folks were sick of politicians and sick of DC. But Clinton made a poor run and carried too much baggage that the other side could make hay with. The Democrats must think about more than give away Bernie programs as an alternative to being poor. They must have the complete package of ideas to get everyone back to work with better jobs. Let government go after the things that government does best and stay away from other things they do not. They must also get some new and younger blood in this game. 50 or younger should be the goal.

      The U.S. must raise taxes fairly on everyone and reduce government where it is too big and too fat. That includes the military industrial complex. I don’t think these things can be done without public financing of our elections and total removal of private money.

      1. Ironically it was a Republican, Eisenhower, who first warned about the ‘military industrial complex’, he coined the term.

    2. As well, Ms Hastie, I read Ms Penny’s piece on privileges versus powers of white men.

      On 11 October 2016, Ms Gloria spoke to a quite sparsely attended auditorium at Iowa State University and, there during its q&a after, stopped some re this very dichotomy up short with her reply to a query about “the problem of brown and black women” moving in on “our jobs” — — with her extremely stat and Ms Steinem’s signature calm to the stage’s thin air re affirmative action of, “Whatever, Sir, made that job … … yours ?“


    3. ‘Power’ seems to have the non-transitive property so that it can detach itself from ‘privilege’ when the need comes to denounce the ‘white male privilege’ of even the most powerless, yet it can magically attach itself to ‘prejudice’ transforming it into ‘racism’ or ‘sexism’ (since ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ are prejudice + power) when denouncing the racism and sexism of those very same people.

      1. No. And that’s not what I think, and not what I said, and I resent those words being put into my mouth. I am a liberal. I am not part of the authoritarian left. There are some on the far left who do react the way you suggest I admit. I do not.

        I do not resent men and I don’t think women should get back at men for what was done to us. I think men and women should have equal opportunities.

        Power only comes into it when you take advantage of white male privilege – that’s when it becomes prejudice. There’s no magic about it – taking advantage of a position of privilege to assert yourself over another person in some way is a conscious decision.

          1. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Whatever the situation, all else being equal, the straight white man has an advantage.

        1. The reason why you are tying yourself in knots is that you are making an ecological fallacy in applying sociological abstractions to individuals.

          White men may, statistically, possess some nebulous quality we can call ‘privilege’. Certainly white men occupy most of the most privileged positions in society.

          But that doesn’t mean each white man is privileged.

          Men are statistically taller than women. This doesn’t mean all men are taller than all women, nor does it mean short men benefit in any way from the excessive tallness of a tiny minority of very tall men.

          1. I think that if you want to speak to animals who have a modicum of nous, you might stop throwing around such terms of art as the ‘ecological fallacy’ and explain in what way your example of tall men, women and short men is relevant to what Heather Hastie was talking about. You might well be a retired Kentucky coal miner coughing your guts up in whatever places Kentucky coal miners cough their guts up,but you nevertheless, when you are out driving, do not, statistically, get stopped more by the cops for no reason at all or for some perfectly trivial reason, and you are rather less likely to get shot in the process – at least in the great US of A.

            1. Well that’s all true, but its still an abstraction and irrelevant if you are trying to understand or influence the voting intentions of poor white men.

              Do you think unemployed miners coughing their guts up care about the abstract possibility of getting shot by a police officer? Do you think they go round saying “my life expectancy is half what it should be and I can’t afford the treatment I need, but at least I won’t get shot”?

              They might, however, say “look at Tim Harris telling me how privileged I am. I certainly don’t feel privileged, so I think I’ll vote for somebody he hates”.

          2. Given that reasoning, I assume you are also of the opinion that the election of a black president means racism no longer exists in the US.

              1. If so, we’ve had our wires crossed from the start and I apologize.

                It seems to me though that the concept of privilege isn’t well understood. Of course, many on the authoritarian left use it to attack white men, so I can understand why there’s an automatic bristling when it’s heard.

      1. Yes! How dare she do such a thing! And she couldn’t even manage to put on a nice feminine voice while she did it! 🙂

      2. Emotion and lies also won the EU referendum for the pro-Brexit camp in June. The Remain campaign tried to counter with facts, and the response from the Brexit side (in the person of the execrable Michael Gove) was that people had had enough of experts.

        1. David Harper wrote: “Emotion and lies also won the EU referendum for the pro-Brexit camp in June. The Remain campaign tried to counter with facts, and the response from the Brexit side (in the person of the execrable Michael Gove) was that people had had enough of experts.”

          I was in Europe when Brexit passed, and I immediately had a horrible sinking feeling that Trump could win on a similar wave of propaganda and feelings of disenfranchisement. With every ensuing pundit’s and pollster’s prediction of Hillary’s certain victory and Trump’s immanent descent into deserved doom, I felt worse. The pro-Brexiteers had taken great joy in doing the opposite of what the leaders and intellectuals repeatedly said that intelligent people will do.

          It was then, and is again, the triumph of the the gleefully ignorant, cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

          A propaganda principle –
          PANDER: Ignore intellectuals and reasonable arguments; target unthinking masses with powerful emotional pitches.

          That’s from the well-known successful propagandist, Adolf Hitler.

          Unfortunately, it is currently Politically Incorrect to suggest that such a body as “unthinking masses” actually exists. As Historian quoted to my earlier comment:

          “Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will,” Goebbels said.

          Goebbels knew what he was talking about.

          When we now listen closely to the reasons which the successfully propagandized people offer for their behavior, we are blinded to the fact that those reasons were implanted by the propaganda.

  6. “…some blame on liberals for Trump’s election on the Regressive Left”?? Diction doesn’t make sense to me??

  7. Nick Cohen’s analysis of why Hillary lost is one of a thousand you can read on the internet. But, one thing is clear: Hillary lost because of the Electoral College. She had a clear plurality of the popular vote. Off the top of my head, here are several of the reasons brought forth for the Democrats losing key states in the “rust belt”:

    1. The failure of Hillary’s team to realize that the swing states were in jeopardy (complacency);
    2. White racism and xenophobia (fear that minorities were getting special breaks at the expense of whites);
    3. Male misogyny;
    4. White working class economic anxiety;
    5. White working class social anxiety (fear of declining socially compared to other groups);
    6. The appeal of a demagogue to the ignorant, who was a sociopathic liar and made impossible promises that duped the desperate;
    7. A Democratic candidate who had 30 years of “baggage” that could be used against her;
    8. Resentment against those who looked down upon the white working class (the elites);
    9. The turnout of African-Americans and Latinos was less than the Clinton camp hoped for;
    10. A yearning by many Trump supporters to return to a mythical golden age (“Make America Great Again”). They failed to understand that the world is changing due to globalization and other factors, meaning there is no going back.

    I’ve most likely forgotten a few things. Probably all these elements played a role and it will be impossible to tease out one factor over the other since most likely Trump supporters believed in several of things on the list.

    So, yes, the Democrats made lots of mistakes and everything broke Trump’s way on election day. Hillary could have easily won if things happened slightly differently. If that happened, the post-election conversation would be very different.

    But, now we wait for Trump and each day my fears grow greater. I have this terrible thought in my head. I imagine myself holding on by my fingertips to the edge of a cliff. I know I cannot hold on much longer and inevitably I will plunge into the abyss. Such is my view of the country.

    Charles Simic is a renowned poet and has published an opinion piece on the New York Review of Books site called “Expendable America.” I highly recommend it. This one paragraph sums up the sorry state of this country.

    “It took years of deliberate effort by vested interests to create this “proudly ignorant populism,” as someone called it, know-nothing voters who are easily led by the nose, incapable of distinguishing lies from truth, or an honest person from a crook. Easily duped, they can be depended on to act against their own self-interest again and again. Throw into the mix racism, misogyny, hatred of immigrants, gays, and other minorities, the dumbing down of the population by inadequate education, suspicion of learning, rejection of science and history, and dozens of other things like guns and violence, and you have the kind of environment in which people chose their next president.”

    1. That last paragraph says more about the poet – and the political class to which he belongs – than the people he is describing.

      Proudly ingnorant… know-nothing… easily led by the nose [just to make the cattle analogy complete]… incapable… Easily duped… against their own self-interest… racism, misogyny, hatred… dumbing down…’

      It’s just dripping with contempt.

            1. “If you think you can hate people into voting your way, carry on.”

              Depends on what you consider hate. Ridicule, and mockery had much to do with my no longer being a theist, and changed how I likely would have voted on a number of issues. I think “hate” in that sense can change how intellectually honest people vote because it may cause them to wonder why they are “hated”.

              1. Ridicule and mockery are another thing; I agree that they have their place, when backed by arguments.
                I usually regard hate as the hostile feeling resulting from fear, but here I’d broaden the term to “the conviction that no matter how little your opponent has, it is too much”.

      1. This quotation from Charles Simic captures in a nutshell the sentiments a substantial percentage of American voters found extremely objectionable recently; enough to vote for Trump who may sell them a load of bullbleep but didn’t talk down to or denigrate them.

        Imo most Americans across the spectrum, red/blue, Rep/Dem, etc., are dissatisfied with our government and fellow Americans. The unemployed or underemployed bulk of Americans is no longer predominantly dark skinned. We seem to have evened out the playing field by reducing jobs, wealth and opportunities for ever more people. No wonder so many are disgruntled and turning on each other.

        1. This quotation from Charles Simic captures in a nutshell the sentiments a substantial percentage of American voters found extremely objectionable recently; enough to vote for Trump who may sell them a load of bullbleep but didn’t talk down to or denigrate them.

          It’s also badly written. He repeats the same points as many ways as possible. It’s like he’s quoting the thesaurus definition of ‘redneck’.

          I’m not convinced asking a poet his views on working class voters is the best way of demonstrating you aren’t elitist and out of touch – a bishop would have more credibility – but they could have employed one capable of expressing complex thoughts in few words rather than simplistic thoughts in many.

    2. “Hillary lost because of the Electoral College. She had a clear plurality of the popular vote.”

      While the second sentence is a fact, I am not sure. It assumes that with or without the Electoral College, the same people vote. I suppose, however, that under the current Electoral College system, many voters are perfectly aware that they are a minority in their state and their vote will go into the bucket, so they don’t bother to vote. A direct presidential election based on federal-level pooling of votes will mobilize these voters. I think it is impossible now to say confidently what the result would be.

    3. AND 11: fraud. Votes disappearing, ‘provisional votes, voter suppression.
      My apologies if I repeat myself, but the case for fraud is not weak (c.f. that ‘truthdig’ article by Greg Palast I referred to in a previous thread), but it does not appear to register. I can only speculate as to why. Fear of being considered a sore (sour?) loser?

      1. I’m with you, this seems to be being swept under the carpet when it should be opening up investigations at the highest level.

        1. Meant to add, “…so I’m glad you’re keeping the issue alive.”

          Can the Dems in congress demand an investigation?

  8. Nick Cohen makes a very strong, and well crafted argument about the RL influence on voting by the disenfranchised white working class, but I am in agreement with you that that voting block was probably not equating Hillary with the RL. Those voters mainly heard Trumps’ message of change of the status quo politics, and Hillary was definitely status quo.
    They voted for their interests, and too many of the various liberals did not vote. We earned this loss.

    1. I went to Nick Cohen’s links, and they hardly seem to be the kind of wicked feminist denouncement of white miners coughing their guts up in grotty council estates somewhere up north that is suggested, but are, rather, fairly and reasonably written and are about white middle-class boys at Oxbridge who have had the advantage of moneyed parents and a public, which is to say private, school education, and who are behaving a little like little Yiannopouloses. I have certainly admired, and agreed with, some of Cohen’s polemics, but I wonder if he is quite so estimable in everything as PCC thinks.

      1. Nick Cohen writes many fine things but… his attitudes are formed by his experiences and how he interprets them (not a surprise).

        He is writing from the viewpoint of a ‘liberal’ political consensus in the UK which has lasted for 40 years or so, held by both (in UK terms) Left and Right politicians. Now give politicians 40 years of time on their hands with nothing revolutionary to do and they start looking for new ways to extend the consensus. To the point that the ‘leading edge’ becomes too detached and not rooted in the daily lives of the electorate.

        So yes, the Regressive Left are involved, but merely of an indicator that the ‘liberal’ consensus is running out of steam. I’d argue that the Western Democracy is working well (political change without bloodshed), but there has been a slow change in direction against ‘liberal values’ that no longer appear to work.

        Funnily enough the political establishments are often the last to realise this, and people who have known nothing else are shocked by upending of attitudes they have lived with all their lives.

    2. “They voted for their interests, and too many of the various liberals did not vote.”

      I’m reminded of H.L. Mencken’s observation: Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

  9. To me this claim appears nonsensical. How would the goings-on in a little, mostly student-occupied ideological bubble throw a vote? As the OP said: does the ‘white working class’ even read Social Justice Tumblr accounts?

    More importantly perhaps, did somebody like that stand for election? No. This sounds a bit like the idea that African-Americans voted against Romney in 2012 because of the misogyny of the so-called Men’s Rights Movement.

    1. “To me this claim appears nonsensical. How would the goings-on in a little, mostly student-occupied ideological bubble throw a vote? As the OP said: does the ‘white working class’ even read Social Justice Tumblr accounts?”

      Yeah I have to say it’s more likely, if you want to blame the regressive sentiment, that it was the Milo Yiannopoulos/Breitbart type propaganda, in conjunction with well meaning liberal anti-regressives putting a spotlight on, and overemphasizing the sentiments expressed by the “little, mostly student-occupied ideological bubble” that had a far greater influence on the election.

      1. I think PCC’s take on Nick Cohen’s remarks is fair, but, with Mike Paps, I think the relentless right-wing noise machine – of which Breitbart/Yiannapolous are a late manifestation – has over the years so conditioned people (as Goebbels said propaganda does and should)that truth no longer matters. I saw on the internet recently a spread of popular British newspapers – the Daily Mail, Express, Sun – with constant screaming headlines about ‘immigrants’: this goes on day after day, week after week… A few days ago, after the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges ruled that Brexit could not be triggered without a vote by Parliament, the Mail had the headline calling them ‘Enemies of the people’. And it took some time and considerable pressure before Theresa May & her Lord Chancellor showed the,selves willing to step up and say that this was unacceptable.

        Ah, but I see that Chukar & Historian below have said this better than I have. I must say that I have grown rather fed up with not very responsible assaults on the whole of the ‘left’ and on ‘liberals’ because of extremists whose activities have small influence outside ivory towers, and the near complete ignoring of the definitely extremist stream of lies and propaganda that has been emanating from right-wing outlets for a great many years. There is a distinction between supporting the kind of social democracy that most of us have had the fortune to grow up in and being, as I was once accused of here, a supporter of Stalin – and by extension Bolshevism & Leninism; just as there is a distinction between responsible conservative thought and the terrorising tactics used by Breitbart and the Daily Mail.

  10. I am relatively well off, and greatly sympathize with the injustices minorities face, so I wasn’t too upset when a liberal Hillary supporter told me I was privileged because as a white I could roll through a stop sign and not get a ticket, whereas a black would get a ticket for the same action. [Yes, that really happened.] But if I had lost a well paying job, had been forced to take shit work, and was struggling to pay my mortgage, yes, I could see how that would make me vote for Trump.

      1. Not so much what voting for Trump would do as much as what voting for Clinton would continue to fail to do.

        It’s an emotional response, which Trump built on and Clinton couldn’t or wouldn’t.

    1. “But if I had lost a well paying job, had been forced to take shit work, and was struggling to pay my mortgage, yes, I could see how that would make me vote for Trump”

      How exactly would those things make you lose your ability to reason, and think you’d be better off with Trump as president?

    2. An honest question — how bad would a candidate like Trump have to be for you to say, “No, actually I can’t understand someone voting for that person”?

    3. Let me add a counter-anecdote. I am a white male and was doing quite well with a business that I and two others started with next to nothing. I was on track for being able to retire and do what I want by about right now, but lost everything but my house (very close call there) over the course of our recent “great recession.” I played by the rules, did everything legally and ethically, and now I’m starting from square one, again.

      I can not imagine a universe or any set of circumstances in which I would have voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton. People shouldn’t be voting based on a tsunami of self righteous indignation, or any other emotion.

        1. Thank you Diane. I hesitated to post that because it really isn’t my intent to complain. But I get so tired of hearing how the group of people that I fit into can’t be faulted for voting for Trump. I really don’t get it. It smacks of the same little people mentality that religious accommodationists exhibit. Those less fortunate need their religion and can’t be expected to realize how ridiculous it is / those less fortunate need their Trump and can’t be expected to realize or care how much of a juvenile, uber-narcissistic liar, cheater & stealer he is.

  11. As with virtually every other political pundit in America, Cohen seems unaware of the powerful propaganda campaigns which were waged, and the power of a propaganda campaign to influence the target audience.

    Trump’s is the most obvious propaganda campaign. His unending use of the Big Lie, repetition, provoking emotional responses, ignoring reason and intellectual while targeting those paralyzed by economic fears and biased rage – all these are fundamental propaganda tools. His unrelenting use of them crushed, one by one, all his opponents.

    The second propaganda campaign was that waged against Hillary Clinton for more than 25 years. This campaign began with Bill Clinton’s presidential run and the resulting 8-year $60-million Special Prosecutor’s Whitewater Investigation, which turned up nothing pertaining to Whitewater, a real estate investment.

    However, those who began and ran that investigation learned that if you keep your target under a microscope, something important will eventually appear. In that case, it was Monica Lewinsky.

    Since then, Hillary has lived under a microscope, with unending innuendos, accusations, right-wing “news” attacks and continual lies directed at her. No one can survive that unscathed.

    She is widely distrusted and disliked because of this successful 25-year long propaganda campaign. But no one, including all the readers of this blog, can tolerate the thought that they can be swayed by a propaganda campaign. So people will continue to cite her “unlikeability”, as if that was a rational reason.

    Propaganda works on the irrational portions of the human mind, and the rational faculties are then enlisted to excuse that mind’s propaganda-created, emotionally-based decisions. It works wonderfully, and it got Trump elected.

    1. Yes, propaganda is quite a powerful tool to convince people to work against their best interests, especially if it is relentless for decades. Charles Simic, whom I cited in comment #9, has this to say about propaganda.


      “Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will,” Goebbels said. Everywhere one turns one hears people parroting lies as if they were their own carefully considered personal opinions. The upshot is that an alternate reality has been constructed for millions in this country over the last couple of decades thanks to TV, talk radio, and the Internet. Spreading falsehoods, of course, is very profitable, as con artists of every type from mealy-mouthed preachers addressing their mega churches to those touting loans that require no background check can tell you. Lies sell everything from fattening foods to “your computer is damaged and we’ll help you fix it” scams. The basic requirement for democratic governance—that the majority of the population agrees on the parameters of what is true and what is false—has been deliberately obfuscated in this country. The absence of accountability for repeated fraud by those in power, both in government and in the private sector, the proliferation of fake grass-root organizations, think tanks, and lobbyist firms funded by the wealthy to deceive their fellow citizens and turn them against one another, has become the most characteristic feature of our political life. A genuinely functioning democracy endangers powerful interests and those working so hard and making so much money to destroy it, since they may sooner or later end up in jail.


      You can say whatever you want about the right-wing, but it has been a master in conning non-college educated whites. Through divide-and-conquer tactics it has managed to turn the working class (consisting of all races and ethnicities) against itself. This has been accomplished without the use of physical repression and largely without even suppressing freedom-of-speech. Appeals to racism, bigotry, and prejudice almost always wins over appeals to reason. Perhaps to the chagrin of the right-wing elites, their 30 year campaign of unending lying and duplicity has been perhaps too successful. The logical end of their efforts has been reached: the election of a demagogue they all abhor.

  12. Has anyone read Tom Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas? It’s a bit old for a current affairs book — I think it came out around 2000-2001 — but still relevant. Frank writes about the abandonment of the working class by the Democratic Party (or at least the Clinton wing of the party)and what he calls “the Great Backlash” — a reaction by baby boomers against real or perceived cultural excesses of the 1960s. From Frank’s perspective, these two factors explain the difficult times faced by democrats. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the ascendancy of the right, especially the populist right.

    1. I just got Frank’s new book, Listen, Liberals, on kindle today. I haven’t read Kansas but have read some of his articles, in Harper’s, I believe.

    2. This comment is also to Historian’s #s 9 & 13.

      The original ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ was the question put by William Allen White, editor and publisher of the Emporia, Kansas, ‘Gazette.’ White (also a popular novelist) was bemoaning the political trials of a state that had become the focus of national attention for its Populist Party, headed by go-get-’em leaders like ‘Sockless’ Jerry Simpson and Mary Ellen (Elizabeth) Lease.

      These leaders were not demagogues, nor did they preach or publish propaganda. Rather they hewed to the line of genuine sociopolitical grievances, such as the monopolistic behavior of railroads, which charged extortionate rates to haul grain to urban markets; and banks, for both predatory lending and foreclosure tactics.

      The best of the Kansas populists were products of self-culture (primary schooling, the Grange, mail-order continuing education, public libraries)–plenty well-educated enough to be articulate rhetoricians of their cause and well-versed in CIVICS (when that really meant something).

      The Populist Party rocket went off brilliantly but soon fizzled. The revolution so passionately fought for never happened. But, as we know, the Republican party almost overnight became more progressive, and the first decade of the 20th century was one of far-reaching reform legislation in industry, finance and labor relations. William Allen White was one of that ‘new breed’ of progressive Republicans.

      Was this cause and effect or merely post-hoc ergo propter hoc? However this may be, I think it is illustrative of the fact that, while most populism in the U. S. is incorrigibly anti-intellectual, there are rare exceptions. And so when it comes to our new progressive challenge for 2017 and beyond, it is important to hope that we organize not around a ‘leader’ but a single crucial issue (such as immigration) or at most a small constellation of issues, one that has the bright first-magnitude star of ‘life, liberty and property’ at its center.

      1. I agree with you that the original populism and the Populist Party of the 1890s was quite different from how we define populism today. The Populist Party, although agrarian based, offered a challenge to industrial America by advocating sound reforms. Wikipedia says that about the party’s 1892 platform: “The party’s platform, commonly known as the Omaha Platform, called for the abolition of national banks, a graduated income tax, direct election of Senators, civil service reform, a working day of eight hours and Government control of all railroads, telegraphs, and telephones.” In fact, in 1896 it endorsed William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. Unfortunately, the term populism has now morphed into meaning a mindless anti-elitism. I think the original Populists were much more complex.

        Historians have long debated the true nature of the original Populists. Were they reactionary or progressive? Perhaps they were a little of both. See the Wikipedia article for a discussion of this issue. I do think that it is unfortunate that the term “populist” is now used to describe Trump’s most ardent supporters. But, it appears that we are stuck with the term.

      2. I agree that populism need not be anti-intellectual, though all too often it has been exactly that. I think a lot of this has to do with which “elites” populists take aim at. The Republicans for decades have railed against “liberal elites,” Hollywood elites,” academic elites,” and so on. But the elites that really matter with respect to public policy matters that actually pertain to the well-being of the working class are economic elites, such as Wall Street power brokers, Corporate magnates like the Koch brothers, and those like Trump who inherited great wealth and think their position is the result of their own virtue. I don’t know that the answer is to launch a campaign specifically targeting such people, or if the best approach is just to focus on economic issues such as the minimum wage, better pensions, increased funding for infrastructure and education, and so forth. Raising the minimum wage tends to be popular when it is on the ballot. If I am not mistaken, it won everywhere it did make it to the ballot even though Trump ended up winning (maybe it was only on the ballots in states Trump lost?).

        At any rate, I suspect achieving anything truly meaningful will take a long time. The Republicans have been pushing their propaganda for decades, and once ideas (memes we could say) get into the public consciousness, they are hard to overcome. They become sort of a default position for those who perhaps are not as reflective as we might hope. So we have our work cut out for us.

  13. Of course, if there was a president-elect Clinton right now and she settled a 25-million-dollar lawsuit after losing the popular vote, the editorials would be screaming “corruption” and demanding we recognize her ineligibility for office.

  14. Of course she beat Trump by almost 2 million votes. Perhaps we should do something about the RIDICULOUS electoral college which completely disenfranchises about half of the voting public and will consistently favor Republicans for that reason.

    1. The time to campaign for reform of the electoral college was before the election, not afterwards, when she had lost.

      Both sides knew the rules of the game before they started. Neither ran on a platform of electoral reform.

  15. I don’t blame the tepid left – but I’m not going to consider blameless the people who consistently shared outright lies about Hillary Clinton just because she wasn’t their first choice.

  16. It is really odd to read articles which lays out a map that doesn’t fit the territory: The US election was a democratic one, hence no one can be “running liberals who have a solid program to help the working class.”

    But it is nice to see that some US liberals have found someone to continue voice their disquiet on. I suppose that means there will be little change within US liberals, if they were the problem.

    In a way US liberals were at fault, because the stats say the election result had nothing at all with “working-class whites” and possibly nothing to do with Trump. The problem seems to be that Democrats didn’t vote as much as they did under Obama. They accepted to let the Republicans win.

    I suspect the, as Jerry like to say, “odious” (unwarranted) criticism of Clinton may have been the central problem. She was the most popular candidate, but also the most unpopular in a long while. Not unexpected, since women are still held to higher standards than men. (C.f. what Trump got away with.) But sad anyway.

    It has happened in Sweden too. Happily Merkel doesn’t seem to have the same problem.

    1. Trump won per the rules specified by the Constitution, i.e., the Electoral College. In this election, a candidate with fewer votes than his opponent won. To refer to this situation as democratic is open to debate.

  17. … many Americans who voted for Trump previously voted for Obama, probably because Obama offered hope for the working class …

    There’re a couple ironies here. One is that Hillary carried the white working-class against Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Indeed, it was her ability to win their votes in rust-belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan that kept her slogging away until the bitter end. (Recall that it was to explain his lack of support among these voters that Barack made his controversial accusation that “they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them[.]”)

    The white working-class was probably the most reliable component in the old FDR/Truman New Deal coalition, which held together for every presidential election from 1932 through 1964 (except for the pair won by a reluctantly Republican, grandfatherly war hero in the Fifties).

    American politics has long been a simmering brew of class and race (and religion, it used to be, inasmuch as the northern working class — the autoworkers and steelworkers and coal-miners — were disproportionately ethnic Catholics). The white working-class began peeling off the old coalition with its surprising support for George Wallace’s populism (partially accounted for by transplanted Southerns who came north to work in the auto industry during the redneck diaspora) and Richard Nixon’s law-and-order entreaties. These blue-collar voters went Republican in even greater numbers in the ’80s as “Reagan Democrats.”

    They migrated back to Bill Clinton in the ’90s, many of them did, due mainly to the lack of appeal of his opponents — the out-of-touch, patrician Bush I; and Bob Dole, who ran an uninspired campaign and had no base of support in the Rust Belt. But they never fit into the new Democratic coalition of minorities, single mothers, and grad-school-types.

    These are the same voters (and their children) who did Hillary in against Trump. The irony here is that she (unlike Trump) actually cares about the lot of people left behind by the modern economy — about their healthcare and childcare and wages, about their kids’ inability to afford college tuition. But she had a muddled message. (What the hell does “Together Again” mean, anyway?)

    And she suffered from self-inflicted perception wounds owing to her buck-raking speeches on Wall Street and to her and Bill’s hobnobbing with the international jet-set on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, as well as to her close association with the perceived economic hangover wrought by NAFTA. Indeed, her worst, most-dissembling, least-sincere, most-Hillary-like moments on the campaign trail 2016 came when she tried to explain away her flip-flopping on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and her refusal to make public the transcripts of her Wall-Street speeches.

    The white working-class may be shrinking fast enough that Democrats can win future elections without them. But if they want them back, the way forward will be to stress economic populism (which should unite the working-class with minorities and single moms) over purely social issues.

    1. I am not a great admirer of Jonathan Haidt, but I found this article in ‘The American Interest’ thought-provoking:

      When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism

  18. I’m dealing with so-called “SJW” all the time, and I believe they played some role, but aren’t the one reason, and I think few assert that.

    Economic detoriation and lack of perspective; disorientation due to all the rapid changes are probably more powerful candidates that filled up the potential for Trump. Different parties offer a perspective: do they share the same outlook? And do they offer a solution to the perceived problems? In other words, parties need to transform potential into vote.

    Trump’s bullshitting was effective, because he conveyed a shared perspective, and people know he didn’t literally meant what he said. Communication has many more functions, as frustrating it is for intellectuals, than just propositional statements. He travelled around and conveyed: I understand where’re coming from, and my idiotic statement even if untrue, captures it.

    The American Left meanwhile is largely composed of authoritarians that multiplied their ideologies and believers in the warmth of so-called “Left Academia” (Chomsky and others dispute their leftness, I do, too).

    Their Critical Race Theory offshoots, mutations and adaptions only sharing family resemblance, have through excessive “privilege” checking made white people aware of their human race — as conceived by those ideologues. This is the explicit aim of this family of ideologies, make normal people aware of their “whiteness” and make them see colour again (they see “colorblindness” as a failed project).

    In other words, the whole race and gender flavour was not only due to the candidates, or the Alt Right alone, but was also agenda on both sides! That’s identity politics and it feeds itself thanks to polarisation, social media etc.

    It certainly did have some effect. Even though the “social justice” side seems little more “diverse” than other groups, they still used the hegemony of interpretation to colour everything as one grand race- and gender war, famously even atheism or video games (i.e. especially places that were generally liberal-left).

    Once the discourse landscape was divided along such lines, and people sorted into categories, it was clear that this Faux Left hates “f*cking white males” and they could only be servant minion “allies” according to the rules of the “progressive stack”. This is not some fantasy, but also long tradition going back to the quarrels of Sokal and Bricmont, and even further back to the disputes around the Frankfurt School (don’t confuse it with the Right Wing conspiracy theory).

    There are some old, and deep trench lines running through this, which also partially explains many modern day quarrels over blank slates or evo psych, the role of science, regressive left politics (via cultural relativism plus post-colonial critiques) etc.

    I suspect that the fires set by the CTRL Left and their race-gender-warfare did at least divide and alienated many progressives who would have easily vote for Democrats, but stayed home. A few more likely migrated towards Alt Right to get back at the SJW. That’s perhaps childish, but also keep in mind that the Left’s neglect to report fairly has accustomed a new generation to Breitbart.

    The CTRL Left is always primarily concerned with people next to them, who they thought-police and berate all the time. A lot weren’t too eager to support this project. Many SJWs and supporters (believers-in-belief) still think their identitarian politics are just generic feminism or progressivism — a dangerous denial that now costs.

    1. TL;DR: divisive identity politics on the “left”, too, glued a portion of progressives to their couch on election day; but it is mostly opportunity costs: the Democrats occupied themselves too much with identity politics and thereby neglected (and in some cases alienated) potential voters in downtrodden areas.

  19. An unfortunate, and certainly unintended, side-effect of multicultural awareness is how the term “politically correct” became a convenient firewall for resisting the most basic levels of acknowledgment or cooperation by those who fear unorthodox intrusions on their God-given cultural heritage. Never mind the regressive left’s counterproductive efforts to foster sensitivity to the level of risible neurosis among college students; the average Trump rabble-rouser now thinks that *any* consideration of interpersonal decency is “just PC bullshit.” Being gracious has been decimated by all things contumacious.

    1. Exactly, if we follow the exit polls, and we have very good reasons to trust them more than the actual count, Clinton won the Electoral College vote too.
      PCC(Em) was *right* when he stated: “Hillary wins!”.
      Trump too was actually right (there are a few other times he was, into which I will not go here): ‘the elections are rigged’. Indeed, they were rigged, stronger, stolen.

  20. In my view the single most important thing was Trump’s recognizing real grievances in many working class Americans. (People ignore the bit about him not having any idea what to do about them, of course.)

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