Let’s be careful not to fall into hermeneutic interpretation of simple facts. Or, to put it another way…. let’s not B.S. ourselves. Donald Trump is a bigot. Moreover, and perhaps worse, Mike Pence is a mega-Mega-MEGA bigot.
Given Trump’s vagary, Pence may be the ‘power behind the throne’ like Cheney. Some people have wishfully said, ‘Maybe Trump will get bored and quit?’ That might not be an improvement. In the new congressional majority too there are many people who are, let us say, not so nice.
MANY people looked at Trump and saw a chance to take back their country… to the fifties. That is why so many people, including myself, are deeply frightened at Trump’s win. We have suddenly realized that this particular problem was much bigger than we thought (or, returning to the fist post in this series that it is as big as we disavowed knowing but to some degree knew nonetheless.)
When people chant “Jew-S-A” at Trump rallies and when the KKK and other white-supremacist organizations can hardly contain their glee at his ascension, in these cases no further analysis is necessary or possible.
Again, let’s not B.S. ourselves or try to say things like “they don’t know what they’re saying” or “they’re just burning off steam.” That’s crap. Take them at their revanchist word.
However in other cases there is a reason to be nuanced. I think that there are three basic types of Trump voter. In addition to those ‘a priori’ bigots there are the desperate and the ‘adjunctive’ racists.
Many people said “My and my friends’ standard of living has cratered. Our children’s will surely be lower still or they might drown in a sea of heroin and fentanyl. Our town/city will never recover. I am desperate and I’ve had it with trickle-down economics, political correctness and arrogant elites. How do these things help anyone, let alone our children?”
Also for these people do not miss the importance of Clinton’s closeness to Wall Street.
Another important fact is that in the key “flip” states many of them are actually lifelong Democrats. They voted for Trump, not with malice but out of reckless desperation. “This,”—I am sure many thought—”is our one and only chance.”
In voting for Trump on this basis (or by refraining from voting or by voting third-party which is basically the same thing) did these people act with lack of empathy for and perhaps disregard for minorities? Yes. Is this the U.S.A at its finest? No.
However, in two years there is a midterm and it is of paramount importance that we zero in on the parts of that logic we can work with and ignore the parts we can’t, for now anyway. We must be able to credibly say “We can help you and your children.” We must make the case (and then we must actually do it, ‘natch.) They did not believe that Clinton could help them or would. And I think that they were right. They are wrong that Trump can help them but that must be a part of our case.
Here is a quotation from a November 10 Reuters piece by Peter Eisler. The dateline is Bethlehem, PA.
[Jim] McAndrew, 69, a retired steel worker, voted Democrat in every presidential election for half a century. This year he stayed home… [He] was intrigued by Trump, but decided eventually that “all he does is insult everybody … women, black people, white people, rich, poor. He’s an idiot.” He considered Clinton, but was concerned by the scandal over her handling of classified material on a private email server as secretary of state. “I hated both of them, so I just said, ‘the hell with it,’” McAndrew said. His wife, also a life- long Democrat, went to the polls without him—and voted Republican. “First time ever,” he said.
The title of the article? “How Hillary Clinton’s white voters melted away.” Notice how this man specifically identified disparagement of black people and women as a reason to not vote for Trump. His response to this situation was not perfect, but there is reason for hope. To denounce these people and shout “bigot!” is counterproductive.
The third group voted for Trump because of adjunctive racism. The difference between this and a priori racism is that this racism emanates from something identifiable. It’s basically superstition, an incorrect explanation for something which is real. “Mexicans took my job.” “Blacks come into my town and deal drugs.” You know the drill.
They lashed out in anger because they perceived themselves as victims (and they may have a point about that) but blamed the wrong victimizers. This can be dealt with in basically the same way. If we point to the real facts and make credible promises to ameliorate the social ills, the racism will be abandoned as it will no longer seem attractive.
Deprive racism of an argument and it won’t give even false explanations for anything. We need well-founded, unhostile counter-arguments that focus on the factual inaccuracy of the logical linkage and which leave the valence of the racial disparagement for later.
I use the term “adjunctive racism” not “adjunctive bigotry” because 99% of this is wrapped up in nativism. However to the extent that it applies to other categories of bias then mutatis mutandis the same solution may also apply.
(But obviously, some of Trump’s supporters are dangerous. Violence has entered into our public discourse in a way that is quite scary. Emotions have exploded out of control. So be smart about who you talk to and how.)