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Thursday, May 04, 2017

As long as he hates us so well, they will love him

by digby

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times spoke with some analysts about Trump's appeal:

Trump's goal [at his Pennsylvania rally], of course, was not only to ally himself with the crowd against the black-tie-wearing media celebrating at the Washington Hilton, but to goad and troll his opponents.

Many liberal Democrats think that Trump’s taunting rhetoric will soon wear thin. According to this view, as decent jobs increasingly demand college degrees, as automation continues to decimate manufacturing employment and as voters lose key benefits of the liberal welfare state (pared down health coverage under a new Republican program, for example), support for Trump will fade away.

“Trump campaigned as a champion of rural America and small and midsize Rust Belt cities, but — much like his proposed Obamacare repeal — his budget brings the hammer down on the very people who put him in office,” Tim Murphy wrote on March 16 in Mother Jones.

Murphy may be proven prescient. But there are a number of ways for Trump to maintain support among his voters without delivering the tangible economic or social benefits he promised.

First of all, the bulk of Trump’s supporters have nowhere else to go, nor do they want to go anywhere. They experience themselves as living in a different world from liberals and Democrats.

Their animosity toward the left, and the left’s animosity toward them, is entrenched.

Trump’s basic approach — speaking the unspeakable — is expressive, not substantive. His inflammatory, aggressive language captures and channels the grievances of red America, but the specific grievances often feel less important than the primordial, mocking incivility with which they are expressed. In this way, Trump does not necessarily need to deliver concrete goods because he is saying with electric intensity what his supporters have long wanted to say themselves...

“President Trump reminds distrustful citizens of liberal institutions’ disinterest in, and disrespect for, challenges in their own lives,” Arthur Lupia, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, wrote in response to my inquiry about Trump’s appeal.

In a paper that was published last month, Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster, political scientists at Emory, describe just how much ideological enmity is driving the mutual dislike of Republicans and Democrats for each other.

Instead of the type of conflict “largely based off of tribal affiliations,” Abramowitz and Webster find that

The rise of negative affect and incivility in American politics is closely connected with the rise of ideological polarization among the public as well as among political elites. Democrats and Republicans dislike each other today because they disagree with each other about many issues and especially about the fundamental question of the role of government in American society. It is very hard to disagree without being disagreeable when there are so many issues on which we disagree and the disagreements on many of these issues are so deep.
More succinctly, they write,

Rational dislike of the other party may be more difficult to overcome than irrational dislike.
In a recent paper, “Voter Decision-Making with Polarized Choices,” Jon C. Rogowski, a political scientist at Harvard, found that the extremity of Trump’s language and stances effectively helps insure continued support from Republican voters.
When the candidates are relatively divergent, there is virtually no chance that partisans will cross party lines and vote for the candidate of the opposite party.
The near certainty that partisans will not switch to the opposition gives Trump an unexpected level of freedom in his policy choices. As Rogowski put it:

High levels of ideological conflict lead partisan voters to make decisions that place increased emphasis on their partisan ties, and less emphasis on the relative degree of congruence between their policy views and the candidates’ platforms.
In an email, Rogowski elaborated:

Most Americans are sorted into one of the two major-party camps, and their party membership is an important part of their identities. For Americans who identify as Republicans, voting for a Democratic candidate would be inconsistent with their identity — and the same goes for Democratic-identifiers considering a vote for a Republican candidate.
In this environment, Rogowski continued,
Trump can more or less count on continued support from Republican identifiers and has some freedom of choice on policy issues.
In other words, Trump can go either left or right as he betrays his campaign promises — as long as his followers believe that he is standing with them and is against what they’re against.

Voting for Democratic presidential candidates, Lesthaeghe and Neidert found, correlates with a number of key demographic variables: an increase in the percentage of white, non-Hispanic women between the ages of 25 to 34 who have never married; abortions per 1000 live births; older mothers (age at first birth of 28 or over); and the percentage of households with same or different sex cohabitants.
Democratic states and counties are farther along in the “second demographic transition (SDT)” described in an earlier paper by Lesthaeghe, which I have cited before.

The SDT starts in the 1960s with a series of multifaceted revolutions. First, there was the contraceptive revolution, with the introduction of hormonal contraception and far more efficient IUDs; second, there was the sexual revolution, with declining ages at first sexual intercourse; and third, there was the sex revolution, questioning the sole breadwinner household model and the gendered division of labor that accompanied it. These three "revolutions" fit within the framework of an overall rejection of authority, the assertion of individual freedom of choice (autonomy), and an overhaul of the normative structure. The overall outcome of these shifts with respect to fertility was the postponement of childbearing: mean ages at first parenthood rise again, opportunities for childbearing are lost due to higher divorce rates, the share of childless ever-partnered women increases, and higher parity births (four or more) become rare.

The demographic constituency described by Lesthaeghe is the liberal, urban, cosmopolitan, well-educated elite, embodied, in many respects, not only by Hillary Clinton but by much of official Washington — the attendees at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner so conspicuously shunned by Trump.

Over the past 50 years, overarching and underlying conflicts about morality, family, autonomy, religious conviction, fairness and even patriotism have been forced into two relatively weak vessels, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The political system is not equipped to resolve these social and cultural conflicts, which produce a gamut of emotions, often outside our conscious awareness. Threatening issues — conflicts over race, immigration, sexuality and many other questions that cut to the core of how we see ourselves and the people around us — cannot be contained in ordinary political speech, even as these issues dominate our political decision-making.

It is Trump’s willingness to violate the boundaries of conventional discourse that has granted him immunity to mainstream criticism. Pretty much everything he does that goes overboard helps him. He is given a free hand by those who feel in their gut that he is fighting their fight — that he is their leader and their defender. As the enemy of their enemies, President Trump is their friend.

And here I thought it was all about economic anxiety. Who knew?And it looks like the uppity women seem to bother these people quite a bit.

He doesn't discuss the perennial "but what about those people who voted for Obama and switched?!!" riposte but I would guess that when the economy is blowing up even these people who hate African Americans, immigrants, liberals, feminists and well --- everyone who isn't exactly like them --- are willing to jettison their "beliefs" in order to survive. After all, they are wiling to jettison their "beliefs" about morality and government spending and debt easily enough. They voted for a three time married con-man who routinely assaults women and brags about it.

As long as he hates who they hate they will stick with him.

This has seemed obvious to me from the beginning and it fuels my frustration with the notion that we can "win back" these people with economic policies. It's not that I'm against those economic policies. The opposite, in fact. I've always been for redistributionist government, public services, and a strong welfare state. But the idea that this is the key to appealing to these voters seems ... wrong.

On the other hand, I'm fairly sure that abandoning the commitment to social justice, women's rights and racial equality, while clearly tempting to many people these days from all sides of the political spectrum, ignores the fact that this is a numbers game and these are constituencies that are easily disillusioned and demobilized when they are used as scapegoats in order to appease the people who hate them. For every Republican who votes Democratic because of a crackdown on immigrants or a retreat on abortion rights or renewal of the drug war there will be two Democrats who will feel betrayed and decide not to vote. It's not identity politics that's making all these Real Americans hate us. It's our identities.

Blessed be the fruit ...