At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.
This month we had a cultural and political upset in my country, and it left most of us wondering about the way forward. So this month all of these are about understanding that.
Understanding the Outcome
“In short, it appears as though educational levels are the critical factor in predicting shifts in the vote between 2012 and 2016. You can come to that conclusion with a relatively simple analysis, like the one I’ve conducted above, or by using fancier methods. In a regression analysis at the county level, for instance, lower-income counties were no more likely to shift to Trump once you control for education levels.11 And although there’s more work to be done, these conclusions also appear to hold if you examine the data at a more granular level, like by precinct or among individual voters in panel surveys.
But although this finding is clear in a statistical sense, that doesn’t mean the interpretation of it is straightforward. It seems to me that there a number of competing hypotheses that are compatible with this evidence, some of which will be favored by conservatives and some by liberals.”
“For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap. One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.
Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.”
“Research suggests that right-wing views are strongly correlated with negative feelings towards groups considered as “others.” Trump clearly draws on these attitudes: his supporters have negative feelings towards most of the groups we examined, with the exception of the police and whites. We also find that white identity leads Trump supporters to have more negative feelings about Latinos and Muslims, and this effect isn’t true among whites who support other Republican candidates. The fact that Trump supporters hold racist views obviously doesn’t mean they deserve to suffer economically, far from it. Rather, it suggests that a powerful plutocratic class has exploited racial animus to divide the working class and push forward its agenda. Progressives must be aware that this, not nebulous feelings of “economic anxiety” is animating Trump support. As Marc Hetherington and Drew Engelhardt have shown, the parties have increasingly polarized across racial lines (with more racially conservative whites joining the Republicans, and racially sympathetic whites joining in the Democrats). This is due to an intentional strategy on the right to manipulate racial animus for political gains.”
“They are a window into the soul of the Democratic party and into the dreams and thoughts of the class to whom the party answers.
The class to which I refer is not rising in angry protest; they are by and large pretty satisfied, pretty contented. Nobody takes road trips to exotic West Virginia to see what the members of this class looks like or how they live; on the contrary, they are the ones for whom such stories are written. This bunch doesn’t have to make do with a comb-over TV mountebank for a leader; for this class, the choices are always pretty good, and this year they happen to be excellent.
They are the comfortable and well-educated mainstay of our modern Democratic party. They are also the grandees of our national media; the architects of our software; the designers of our streets; the high officials of our banking system; the authors of just about every plan to fix social security or fine-tune the Middle East with precision droning. They are, they think, not a class at all but rather the enlightened ones, the people who must be answered to but who need never explain themselves.”
“We shouldn’t be surprised by our fellow citizens. That is what the human animal is really like: very sweet at points from close up, usually generous to small children and the elderly, hard-working, but highly prone to delusion, tribal, offended by strangers, disinclined to rational analysis and with a fondness for slaughter and reckless messianic plans. The elite are not “out of touch” because they forget what a gallon of milk costs, but because they forget how dark and broken human nature is.”
Understanding the Consequences
“I want to let you know that I have taken this in. I am perfectly clear that you did not set out to vote in some mean homophobic, racist way. However, I need to be clear about something else: Donald Trump spent his entire run campaigning on racist and homophobic platforms. Promising to appoint judges to dismantle my family. He chose a VP who is actively one of the most anti-LGBT politicians around: that is not hyperbole. He admitted to sexual assault casually. He called Mexicans rapists. He wants to register Muslims. He is endorsed by the KKK. These are not the reasons you voted for him, but these reasons did not stop you.
A man actively promised to dismantle and harm my family. To destabilize the security of my child. To harm relatives and friends and you still voted for him. Those other reasons matter more to you than my life and my family. It was on the line and you chose. That is the reality.”
“The stark reality is that most white Christians, including more than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians, supported Donald Trump for president, despite his evident immorality, bigotry, and disregard for the dignity of women, (not to mention complete lack of qualification or competency). We’re about to witness firsthand what happens when the established Church compromises its moral authority for the promise of power, and it won’t be pretty. I predict millennials in particular will continue to drop out of religious life, and the ethnic divides within American Christianity, which many sought to heal with a quick-fix approach to “racial reconciliation” that bypassed repentance and justice, will only widen.
There’s an op-ed out every minute urging the bewildered to get out of their bubbles and get to know some Trump supporters, but you don’t need to do that, do you? These are the people you worship with each week, the people whose kids hang out with your kids, the people who brought you a chicken casserole when you had surgery, the people you call with good news, the people you’re now wishing you’d spoken with more bluntly, more honestly. They aren’t strangers to you, are they? But suddenly, you are a stranger among them. ”
“I have learned as much about whiteness as I have because it was critical to my survival and my personal, intellectual, and professional development. The question I have now is whether white Americans feel they have a stake in understanding whiteness as well. For this call is being made in all white Americans’ names, and to claim you are a bystander is a dangerous thing to do. This is a culture war, and as in all wars, bystanders are likely to be bloodied in the melee.
American whiteness, when activated in this particularly aggressive nationalistic way, will be worse for me and my family than it will be for many white Americans. On the other hand, I am well prepared for this moment in time. Based on my upbringing and my field studies on the world, I never presumed America was a safe place for me, although I love this nation dearly.
I have studied the geography and culture of America as intently as I have studied whiteness. I am going in December to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and on that trip I intend to visit both North and South Dakota, which will complete me having visited all 50 of the U.S. states. I have family by marriage in South Dakota, and if the fates are willing I will see them on this trip. As I remain in the adoption pipeline, and my life will change dramatically once I have a child, I hear the everything-ness of America calling me to an adventure, perhaps the last one of its kind for a while.
This is my land, and no white nationalist will tell me otherwise. However, I do believe in their ability to harm me and my nation. If establishment white Americans do not recognize the challenge that the call-to-whiteness presents to their lives as well as to mine, my struggles and our nation’s struggles will be materially more difficult. But I can’t determine anyone else’s actions, only my own.”
“Nine out of 10 educators who responded have seen a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election; most of them worry about the continuing impact for the remainder of the school year.
Eight in 10 report heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students.
Four in 10 have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.
Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.
Although two-thirds report that administrators have been “responsive,” four out of 10 don’t think their schools have action plans to respond to incidents of hate and bias.
Over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric. These incidents include graffiti (including swastikas), assaults on students and teachers, property damage, fights and threats of violence.”
“With Trump, the United States has elected a president who has shown a complete disregard for free speech, arguing that his detractors do not have a “right” to criticize him. He believes the First Amendment’s protections for the press are too strong. He has a thirst for vengeance against those whom he perceives as having wronged him, and now he has the power of the federal government to pursue his vendettas. The Bush administration’s ability to manipulate the press, and the media’s willing acquiescence in the name of relating to its audience, led to catastrophe.
I want to emphasize that all administrations lie. The Lyndon Johnson administration successfully snowed the press on Vietnam. The Obama administration continually underestimated the strength of ISIS. With Trump, however, we are entering an era in which a president, prior to taking office, has already shown an ability to be entirely unbound by facts, with no political consequences.”
Developing the Next Steps
“I can’t just sit and wait for the next midterm or the next presidential campaign so we can all fight tooth and nail to stall the other side for a little while. Nothing better will get built if I do that. Too many people will be hurt if I do that. I also know people were being hurt already. We drew a line and we said whose voices we would hear and whose we wouldn’t. We said we would not consider the racist, sexist, prejudiced voices, and that was important. Those voices must be countered. But we were sloppy. We ignored some voices that were hurting and in need. We ignored some voices we just didn’t agree with. We gave those people no way to be heard, and Trump benefited from that.
This problem would have been here no matter who won this election. This need would have been unmet no matter the outcome, because the seeds of it were planted decades ago, and this is just the blossoming of our division. But if the outcome had been different, many of us would have ignored this need, and now we have the opportunity not to.”
“Someone’s got to tackle this. We can’t sustain a country that visits systematic rural deprivation on a large swath of its population. We can’t keep actively fostering the conditions for social and economic unrest. We can’t — you can’t, especially, if you’re middle class, white, and from an urban area — use your #woke credentials as an excuse to blind yourself to the ugly truths of unequal distribution. You don’t have to hug a Trump supporter, or even understand their racism, to do the simple work of fixing socio-economic despair that is the breeding ground for fascism. You can’t hide behind your POC friends to hide away from how you’re the only people with the power, safety, and privilege to ensure this doesn’t happen again. That the politicians you spend so long Facebook posting celebrity endorsements in enthusiastic support for actually give a shit about demographics that aren’t you, whether poor folk or people of color. You’re the only people who can get through to other white people, and the only ones who can push your politicians to care about more expansive communities.”
“Many of my devout conservative friends were remarkably quiet when their candidate trashed their personal values. And they were remarkably quiet when their candidate made inexcusable first hand remarks about minorities, women and disabled Americans. And they were remarkably quiet when the dark forces of white supremacists aligned themselves in support of their candidate. I understand why. You couldn’t live with the alternative. So you rationalized out of fear that speaking up would enable it. Well, that risk is gone now. You avoided the end you couldn’t live with. That excuse is gone. And now it’s fair to say that tolerance of that behavior from here on can only be seen as an endorsement of it. So when there’s a KKK rally in North Carolina to celebrate the election of the candidate you support, you no longer have any excuse not to condemn it with the same uncompromising vigor that you condemned Hillary. Let’s see the memes. Let’s see the Facebook posts. Let’s see the outrage.
Perhaps the rest of America can trust you to hold the leader of our government to the change you so uncompromisingly sought. But we won’t trust you to look out for our fellow Americans who are different. So get ready for four years of vocal, loud, peaceful I pray, dissent.”
“When and where are the next Democratic and Republican Party meetings in your neighborhood? You don’t know, because neither the Democrats nor Republicans are political parties in the historical sense. Mostly they just demand we send them money and then yell at us about voting every few years.
While it has almost passed out of Americans’ living memory, parties used to have regular, local meetings where everyone got together, yammered about politics for a while, and then drank beer. Elections were the culmination of what parties did, not the starting point. A healthy political party would foster community and provide people with concrete things to do between elections. Mike McCurry, one of Bill Clinton’s press secretaries, once suggested that Democrats should turn themselves into a pool of neighborhood volunteers “so that when people are trying to accomplish something, they would say: Call the Democrats, they always have people.” ”
“So I suppose my final answer to the question I opened with is that, for the most part, you cannot maintain your mental health without doing some amount of normalizing, or whatever else it takes to gradually reduce your stress response so that you can function rather than sobbing for days on end like I did right after the election.
But it matters how you normalize–what language you use, and what you do in response. “Trump’s not that bad I guess” combined with no action is disastrous if enough people adopt it; “It is currently normal in our country to advocate mass internment and I must act against it” would be a very beneficial attitude for people to take, even though it doesn’t necessarily involve getting your blood pressure up at each mention of mass internment.”
Learning the Tools
“People spoke about encounters in stores and restaurants, on streets and in schools. They spoke about family, friends, classmates and co-workers. They told us what they did or didn’t say — and what they wished they did or didn’t say. And no matter the location or relationship, the stories echo each other.”
“After the election, many of us talked about getting out of our echo chambers to talk to someone who supported another candidate. Not to convince, but to understand. If this sounds like you, sign up here or follow our newsletter. Once we find a match, we’ll shoot you two an email introducing you for a one-on-one conversation.”
“Conversations like this follow a broad pattern. We’ll summarize that pattern, then go into more details about it, and end with some more scripts and examples.
Start by evaluating your ability to influence others in this situation: Who respects you? Who wants something from you? What can you give or take? Who might retaliate against you if you act?
Identify whether you are likely to influence or persuade anyone (including the audience), and choose one of the following:
If you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind, just set a firm boundary about not doing that behavior in places you control, and enforce it. If you think someone might change their mind, state your position once, firmly but calmly, then set the boundary and enforce it. If you think someone is likely to change their mind – they are a potential ally – then follow the next steps to start a warm, compassionate, safe conversation with that person.”
Image Credit: joswr1ght