Very Few Sociological Phenomena Are Yes Or No: The Progressive Deplorables Edition

There are very few instances where we can say something is truly yes or no. One exception might be ‘the residents of the District of Columbia do not support Bush‘ (only four percent of the city voted for him, and only four precincts had higher than ten percent support). But in most cases, there are plenty of exceptions, with twenty, thirty, forty percent who disprove the rule–a point I’ve been making since the 2016 election regarding the ‘progressive deplorables‘:

But this figure also contains an inconvenient truth (to use a phrase). The most optimistic reading of this is that at least one out of five Democrats are racist–and that estimate includes black people (I’m assuming most don’t believe these things; i.e., the denominator should be smaller). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that one in four Democrats is racist–which admittedly is better than Republicans, especially once the Trumpists are factored in. We, too, have our deplorables.


It is naive, not to mention plain wrong, to think that Democrats ‘don’t appeal to racists’: we already do. But we do so in spite of and in opposition to their racism. Figure out how to do that better and we can take back not just the White House but state and local governments too.

Which brings us to Eduardo Porter (boldface mine):

What’s more, the white voters who subscribed to Mr. Trump’s indictment of trade policies are also cold to the idea of building a safety net that might protect them from the ravages of globalization. Research by Ruy Teixeira and Robert Griffin found that 83 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters — compared with 29 percent of Hillary Clinton’s — argued that in a minority-majority nation, nonwhite groups would demand too many public services

Mr. Greenberg’s pollsters visited Macomb County in 2008, too. Race and immigration didn’t come up nearly as stridently then. Voters’ anger was directed primarily at corporations, so willing to send jobs offshore, rather than at minorities.

Had I administered a test on racism, they would have scored badly,” Mr. Greenberg told me. “I’m sure their racial identity was just as strong in 2008 and 2012, but despite those attitudes they voted for Obama twice.”

To flip around Teixeira and Griffin, 26 percent of people who are pretty racist (those people will take all the money) vote Democratic. They do so, because while they might be bigoted, racism is not enough of an organizing principle for their lives such that they are unwilling to accept other explanations. Democrats need to figure out what motivates them–and “Voters’ anger was directed primarily at corporations, so willing to send jobs offshore, rather than at minorities” seems like a good start–and do more of that if we want to win in places that are heavily white. While most Trump supporters won’t change, a few might. More importantly, there are plenty of people who stayed at home that could be tempted to turn out and vote Democratic. Like it or not, thanks to our archaic system of government, we do have to reach enough of these voters to win elections.

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1 Response to Very Few Sociological Phenomena Are Yes Or No: The Progressive Deplorables Edition

  1. kernel says:

    I agree with your prescription (target [non-racist] appeals to racists), but…

    It’s quite possible that many whites’ attitudes toward race changed between 2008-2016. The GOP has been dog-whistling on race for decades, but publicly, they at least pretended that they agreed that racism is bad. But Confederates run the GOP now; Obama was a very visible target; Fox stoked fear of demographic shift; and alt-right propaganda exploded. Racism arose from the sewer where we thought we had drowned it. More dangerously, racialism (a mental framework where “race” is imagined to be a meaningful distinction, not merely a social construct) has regained a foothold in public consciousness.

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