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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On being a blue monster

by John MacBeath Watkins

Among the autopsies of the recent election, the largest group blamed the result on people who didn't vote for Donald Judas Trump: Liberals.

Apparently, if you live in a city near salt water (and not in the Southeast) you are part of a blue bubble whose occupants, through their smug condescension, "created" Trump. Politico outlines the process (dare I say it, with smug condescension) in this article.

The prism of history changes the meaning of events, and nothing could show this more clearly than the Politico article. It begins:
Well before Donald Trump declared he was running—to the amusement of the liberal media and Washington establishment, who didn’t stop laughing until Nov. 8—and long before Hillary Clinton dismissed half of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables,” the right had gotten used to being looked down upon by liberals. The general attitude of the left was: Disagree with us? You’re probably racist, xenophobic, sexist, bigoted or all of the above. Indeed, for many liberal Americans, these prejudices have come to be seen as inseparable from identity of the Republican Party itself.
Now, perhaps Politico has a different view of David Duke and other "alt-right" characters, but I think they are deplorable. And while the right seems never to pay a price for stereotyping their opponents, liberals never seem to stop apologizing when they do it.

So, by hurting the feelings of "real Americans," the headline on the story tells us, "the left created Trump.".

What kind of monster would create Donald Trump? Apparently, a blue monster, one who lives in an area where Trump got few votes. The New York Times went so far as to quote from a 1998 book that supported the the blue-blaming theme. That book, Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, published in 1998, said the following:
Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else. 
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …
I've known postmodern professors.  They did not call the shots, and most taught as adjunct faculty, the temp workers of the academic world. As we move on to whatever is post- postmodernist, they will become ciphers even more than they are now. Smug bureaucrats? Rorty wrote that description in a book published only three years after a right-wing nut killed 168 people by setting off a truck-sized bomb outside the Oklahoma City Federal Building. It was a bit of a clanger to have written, at about the time the jury was sentencing Timothy McVeigh to death for the bombing, that the real problem was smug bureaucrats.

I know exactly why I hadn't heard of Rorty's book before. It came out claiming there was an economic crisis at one of the few times in recent decades when we had full employment and real wages were rising, in those sunny days near the end of the Clinton Administration. It was only the application of the right's favored formula for economic success, banking deregulation and tax cuts that favored the rich, that things got worse, bringing on the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the election of our first African-American president. After eight years of liberal policy, unemployment got down to below 5%, and real wages started to rise again. So, obviously, they needed to get someone to push the old snake oil again.

But the problem isn't that the right sometimes does something wrong. It's always the fault of the left, for having made them do something wrong. How dare they connect the Republican party to racists, just because the Republican Party nominee for president was re-tweeting stuff from white supremacists on a regular basis?

And how could the left think conservatives were in any way connected to racism? Was it just because the Republican Party pursued a Southern strategy, going after the voters and politicians who felt their racism was better accepted in the Republican Party after Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act?

After all, conservatives did what the left would not. They made people feel comfortable and accepted for their attitudes about race and gender preference. The party has been doing that since about 1964, when Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act.

And Trump won by doing what the Republican Party has been doing for more than 50 years. He made it feel okay to be racist, and fight against being oppressed by smug postmodernists who we all know wield much more power in our society than people like the Koch brothers.

Did Republicans "have" to do this? Well, if they'd managed to nominate a more normal candidate, along the lines of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, they'd have likely been well ahead in the polls as the election resulted. It's quite normal when a party has held the presidency for eight years for them to lose it.

Allan Lichtman, whose model had correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote for president from its invention prior to the 1984 election through the 2012 election, faced a model that said Donald Trump would win in 2016. This time, he hedged his bets.

Why did Lichtman, who teaches history at American University in Washington, D.C., feel a need to hedge?

His model is based on 13 key facts, and he figures if six of the keys are met, the party in power will lose. One of those keys was whether people were sufficiently disenchanted with the major parties that someone else would get 5%. While the polls prior to the election showed Libertarian Gary Johnson getting more than 5%, Lichtman recognized that this could flip. And, Lichtman told the Washington Post:
The second qualification is Donald Trump. We have never seen someone who is broadly regarded as a history-shattering, precedent-making, dangerous candidate who could change the patterns of history that have prevailed since the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
Those keys are linked, because of the possibility that many people would see Trump as too dangerous to take a chance on and vote for Clinton rather than cast a protest vote.

As it happened, it looks like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein together will finish with less than 5% of the vote. Therefore, the model would say that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote, as she did. But to predict the election, Lichtman would have had to make that assumption before the election, which he does not seem to have done.

But in the end, Trump has been elected, and we'll have to live with that, whether we are the sort of blue monsters that hurt the feelings of the people who voted for him or the sort of people who actually voted for him. His administration has the potential to change the patterns of history that have defined our country for more than 150 years, and it's easy to see why, for example, a publication like Politico might want to shift the blame from their own failure to vet Trump the candidate.














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