Bigotry Is A Force That Gives (Some Of) Us Meaning

One of the flaws of the analysis of the 2016 election–which is necessary to determine how to win future elections–is how the left, construed very broadly, misunderstands the role of racism. As some asshole with a blog put it (boldface added):

Turns out new data support this finding (boldface mine):

The biggest yawning gap between Democrats and Republicans is on the issue of motivation and will power. The GSS asks whether African Americans are worse off economically “because most just don’t have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?”

A majority — 55 percent — of white Republicans agreed with this statement, compared to 26 percent of white Democrats. That’s the biggest gap since the question was first asked in 1977 — though the gap was similar (60-32) in 2010.

This isn’t some sort of hidden bias, it’s just pretty fucking racist. And then:

The survey also asks people to rate the races on how hard-working or lazy they are, which allows us to compare whether people rate some higher than others.

In this case, 42 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as being lazier than whites, versus 24 percent of white Democrats.

Pretty racist. Finally:

In this case, 26 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as less intelligent, compared to 18 percent of white Democrats.

Pretty much defines racist.

If you haven’t already blown a gasket, I’m not going Full Metal Ron Fournier and claiming ‘both sides do it’: clearly, one side does it much more than the other. Moreover, the Republican Party is dog whistling, not to mention air-raid sirening, to racists, while the Democratic Party openly espouses anti-racist policies (always could do more, but there is a difference in kind here).

If the Democratic racists stayed home, Democrats would be hard pressed to win 100 House seats (out of 435), and maybe control governorships in five states (no way Democrats reach ten). Of course, if all racists stayed home, Democrats would run the table on Republicans. The point is not to pander to the racists, but figure out why they are voting Democratic in spite of their racism

To win back states and thereby help Democratic strongholds, Democrats have no choice but to convince these voters to show up (or at least not vote Republican).

Finally, one more point: often the argument is phrased as ‘appealing to racists’, as if this doesn’t happen. Democrats already do appeal to some racists, in spite of their racism. Yes, I would like the scourge of racism to be eradicated, but that’s kind of a long-term project–think pulpits, not politics, for that. In the meantime, the question is do we want racists to vote for or against their racism?

The question pretty much answers itself.

Which brings us to a very good op-ed by Andrew J. Cherlin (boldface mine):

Why did white working-class voters shift toward Donald Trump in the 2016 election? Was it about money or culture — their struggles in the new economy or their prejudices?

…These conclusions, faithful as they may be to the survey data that underlie them, exemplify a misguided debate about whether culture or economics was the driving force in Mr. Trump’s win. To be sure, racism is a corrosive part of American culture and politics. Nevertheless, those who try to distinguish between the explanatory power of stagnant wages and a declining industrial base on the one hand, and anxieties about the ascent of minority groups on the other, miss the point: These are not two different factors but two sides of the same coin.

…the people who are experiencing these adverse economic trends express themselves differently, using a moral language that is often rooted in attitudes about work and race.

This was first noted by the sociologist Michèle Lamont in her book “The Dignity of Working Men.” She found that white working-class men often define their self-worth through their ability to lead disciplined, responsible lives. They take pride in going to work every day to support their families. Many of them view African-Americans as not wanting to work hard. They rarely consider that their own advantages rest on the privileged position of whites in the labor market.

In this way, they construct a positive sense of self despite the limits of their economic class. Perched precariously above the poor, they talk not about their modest incomes but rather about their superior work discipline. In prosperous times, they can take pride in their success compared with minorities.

But when that prosperity is threatened, they complain about blacks or immigrants who are, in their minds, usurping their place in the economy. In a 2017 survey, 24 percent of whites without college degrees responded that they had been personally discriminated against in applying for jobs because they were white — although strong evidence exists that it is actually blacks who are discriminated against…

What was new in 2016 was a candidate, Mr. Trump, who spoke about that distress not in the language of a college graduate but as a working-class person might. He exploited voters’ feeling that they were being left behind by a Democratic Party that seemingly favored blacks and immigrants

Today, however, astute scholars do not see a wall between economics and culture. They acknowledge that financial hardship affects the daily lives of working-class Americans, but they add that how they respond is based on cultural beliefs that may lead them to scapegoat minority groups.

People with unstable or insufficient incomes may express their fears by talking about race because that is the way they have learned to interpret the world. People who are frustrated by their lack of progress may still try to defend the dignity of their work. It is a mistake to see economics and culture as distinct forces. Both propelled Mr. Trump to victory.

For a lot of white people, racism is a powerful organizing principle through which they organize how they think about the world (that makes it no less reprehensible). But there are racists who overcome that perspective–the progressive deplorables. I think they do so because they use a different framework, one that places the blame on other economic actors, such as corporations. As the polling data I raised earlier indicates, there are a lot of bigots who vote in opposition to and in spite of their bigotry.

Providing an alternative narrative beyond ‘those people are taking it from you’ seems to work with some of them.

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