The Double Bubble
Posted on March 16, 2017 Posted by John Scalzi 85 Comments
For those of you thinking to yourself “Huh, I wonder if Scalzi is going to talk politics ever again,” today is your lucky day, because over at the Los Angeles Times site I talk politics! Namely, about the fact that I simultaneously live in rural conservative America and liberal cosmopolitan America, and what that fact means for what I think about both, and how I approach my neighbors in both communities.
This was a difficult piece for me to write, one, because it’s a complicated subject, and two, because one thing I really wanted to avoid was that “hey, both sides are equally correct here” fence-sitting nonsense that so many pieces like this have. I’m really not on a fence — Trump and his administration are terrible for the US, certainly for people who are not white and straight, but even for them, too. I mean, shit, look at Trump’s proposed budget today, and the “replacement” health plan. There’s little there that’s not going to be terrible for everyone except defense contractors. For all that, I know my neighbors pretty well and I have empathy for them, even as I disagree with them politically and feel like they really screwed themselves as much as if not more than Trump is going to screw with liberals.
Did I manage to convey what I was hoping to convey? Maybe? I think this piece has a lot of places where I can be criticized, including for omissions and elisions — it’s a piece to be published in a print outlet, so it has a hard limit in terms of words — and I think it’ll be fair to point them out. Over on Twitter, someone’s already noted I might have pointed out that my ability to more-or-less-comfortable live in both bubbles is in no small part due to the fact I’m a straight white cis male, which I think is perfectly correct (I’m well-off, too, which doesn’t hurt). There will be other places to pick at the piece. This is fine. Pick away! In the comments! Er, politely, please. Standard Malleting protocols apply.
Moving aside slightly to the subject of frequency of political posts here at Whatever in the immediate past and the near future, I’ll note a) I was on vacation, b) have been prepping for a book release and long book tour, c) start said long book tour on Tuesday, at which time my focus will be on touring, and less on politics. So expect probably fewer political posts than usual through April, simply because my attention will be elsewhere.
Also, I mean, frankly? There’s only so many ways I can say “Jesus, but Trump’s an ignorant bigot” without getting exasperated with myself. The snarky bits are better formatted for Twitter; here at Whatever is where I will do deeper dives from time to time, when time and scheduling allow. Here or on at the LA Times, which has, delightfully, given me a fine mainstream venue to discourse at, a fact which I appreciate immensely.
In any event, I think the LA Times piece I’ve written is a good one and I hope you find it thought provoking. Enjoy.
1. Yes, the LA Times site is paywalled. Please don’t leave a note talking about how you won’t read stuff at a paywalled site. I get it. That said, unless you habitually visit the LA Times site, you probably haven’t maxed out your monthly free visits, so you should be fine. A discussion on the merits of paywalls, etc, is aside the point.
2. Otherwise, again, political post, so please be polite with each other when you post, lest I get out the Mallet and start swinging it. Most of you have been here before. You know the drill. Thanks.
3. I make mention of the upcoming book and book tour, but this thread should be more focused on the content of the LA Times piece, please. I’ll do a book-and-tour-centered piece soon. Thanks.
Where I have the problem with trump supporters is that I know that I will likely lose insurance, and so will one of my kids, and people I love just shrug that off like it doesn’t matter. People who love my child shrug it off like they don’t give a shit. He will likely not be able to get health insurance for the rest of his life, but you know, tough shit, trump 2020.
All the racist/nazi bullshit can be fought. But those who are dismantling healthcare can’t be stopped until 4 years from now. The GOP might have members who will give some sort of critical view of the new health-don’t-care plan but they’ll lockstep straight in line when the vote comes. Just look at the DeVoss vote, and all the others that were far from close.
Good piece! It’s interesting to read a perspective from someone who inhabits two spheres. I live in San Diego, which while one of those coastal cities, is pretty evenly split between conservatives and liberals. Moving here from Boston 10 years ago was a bit of a political culture shock because of it, but I like the admixture; I think the close proximity of various strains of human tempers our worst impulses. Maybe that’s why our fair city fronts a general vibe of “chill.”
My workplace, which is a scientific research facility, employs a few 100 people, fairly split between the people gloating and people glum on November 9th. Again, the day-to-day rubbing shoulders works–we all generally exercise care and kindness around political topics and the continuous exposure to opposing viewpoints, and the non-monstrous humans who hold them, moderates–not my ideology–but how I present my ideology. I try to be respectful and kind and not dismissive. It takes effort to understand someone whose views I vehemently oppose, but it’s a worthwhile effort.
Thanks for writing a great piece that must have felt like a high-wire act. Well done.
I am not sure what exactly you were hoping to convey.
“A full 78% of Darke County voters pulled the lever for Donald Trump….and you know what? It’s a nice place to live.”
Yeah, so i grew up in a midwest farm town smaller than your midwest farm town. I also live in a large urban environment now.
Where I grew up was also a nice place for me to live, but I am straight, white, male, and not Muslim.
In the last year, specifically since Trump started getting attention in the presidential campaign, I have read or heard a lot of people I know from my home town saying racist, sexist, islamophobic, homophobic, things.
Are they *nice* people? Sure. Odds are, if a gay person had a flat tire, someone from my hometown would stop and help them. If a black person had a flat tire? Maybe, maybe not. If a muslim wearing a robe, long beard, and a woman passenger in a hajib? In the middle of the night? On some empty road? No. Absolutely not.
They can be *polite*, meaning they can say please and thank you and they avoid saying the N word in general company, but the level of low level bigotry that is going on is something I found shocking at first and depressing when I saw that it was never going to change. They celebrate freedom on the fourth of July, because its *their* freedom, while at the same time supporting slavery, internment camps, religious tests, and witchhunts.
They are polite but through fear whipped up by politicians and bigotry that remains unchallenged living in an insular rural area, they have the potential to be extremely *dangerous* to people they declare as “other”.
And YOU are not “other” to them, so you will never experience that danger from them. So, if your point was that they arent potentially dangerous, then I think you are talking about something outside your visible spectrum.
Are they human? Sure. Do they have feelings? Yes. Would I recommend my gay, black, muslim friend buy a house there? Hell no. Because the level of bigotry there is high and nothing challenges it.
Nice piece, John.
Living in a purple state that includes large swathes of territory that aren’t just “rural” but officially designated “frontier” and/or “remote areas”, these thoughts are familiar to me, too.
And I often find my liberal white middle-class self thinking, “If they suddenly made me Absolute Ruler, what would I do about this? Given the other realities and constraints of our culture, politics, and economy?”
And being a fairly well-trained liberal white middle-class self, of course the first thing that pops into my mind is “Well, YOUR solutions aren’t necessarily going to be welcomed with rejoicing by people who have so little in common with you, so why don’t you ask THEM?”
And you know what? This ain’t my first rodeo in this geography-specific ring– I lived through urban renewal and neighborhood destruction in a big, racially ghettoed city, the farm crisis in the upper Midwest in the 1980s, and decades of awareness and engagement with the struggle of First Nations to enforce treaties, sovereignty, and economic and cultural self-actualization.
Every one of those situations has/had its own realities and very different priorities and points of view, because the people involved had their own cultural geography. I can’t assume that the people in 2017 small town and rural America will have any of the same answers to “What is the solution YOU want to this problem?”
Except… there IS some similarity between the disaffection of today’s “forgotten/left behind” small and rural communities, and the experiences of the families who lost farms and communities back in the Midwest in the 1980s. They’re largely white. Somewhat older than the national population mean. Christian. Fairly conservative philosophically as well as politically. The ol’ self-reliance but interdependence frontier mentality.
So perhaps some of what I learned back then would be relevant. Back then, when the state Democratic Party and various other liberal entities wanted to engage with the angry, frightened rural voters who felt shat-on and abandoned by an elite-dominated, urban-centric government, we asked, “What can we do to help? Is there a strategy you think would be useful?”
Among the thousands of people who spoke at town halls, met on their front porches with activists and candidates, attended meetings, answered surveys, talked to phone bankers, wrote letters, showed up at rallies, attended foreclosure auctions, etc., we heard lots and lots of ideas for how the government could help them.
And the overwhelmingly vast majority of those ideas were tropes on one uber-strategy: “Put it back the way it was in the past when Things Were Better.”
We couldn’t turn back the clock for them. And the solutions that were proposed were (at best) half-measures, and most of them were strongly opposed. Attempts to find middle ground suffered from what was, even back then, an overwhelming “noise level” in the media and in partisan debate.
And so a few liberals, a few Democrats, just kept working away at it. They kept attending meetings and listening, even when they had no answers and no power to help. They attended foreclosure auctions. They worked and raised funds at “buyout parties” helping people raise money to bid on their own property taken by banks. They drove people to state capitols to testify at hearings.
It was hard, heart-wrenching work. It got little or no publicity and few kudos except from those who finally began to see a few “elitist city liberals” walking their talk “for a change.”
It happened on a small scale, in only a few places. But where it did happen, it was powerful. It got Paul Wellstone elected to the U.S. Senate, among other things.
I don’t know if there’s an analog to this process now. But I know that until we find or make one, we will always face the terrible drag of fear and despair, like a millstone around the neck of those who would see progress.
I would really like to read this piece, but it just won’t let me. It insists on ad-blocking off, fine, I understand and did so. But between the papers own hard-core subscription pop-ups and the toxic ads currently running, the text was jumping all over the place and and I had to give up. I’ll try again tonight, maybe they’ll have it stabilized by then.
[Deleted because of point one in the comments — JS]
Uleaguehub — the whole “put it back the way it was” bit is what is driving lots and lots of Trump voters. Sadly, I don’t think it ever WAS what they remember. Because the way I remember it, in 1972 I could make enough money at a part time minimum wage job to pay for a lot of my college tuition. Because business hadn’t yet fallen into the fallacy that the stockholders were the only ones that counted. I remember when ‘stakeholders’ included employees, the communities the corporations did business in, and the environment. I remember when increasing productivity meant that workers actually shared in that largesse by getting raises.
That all changed during the Reagan administration and we see the logical conclusion now. All the money goes to the top 1/10 of 1% and the rest of us are serfs.
I don’t have any answers except to encourage people to vote. To vote for people who are not Republicans, because the GOP has sold its soul to the god Mammon and there is no going back for them.
Speaking as one of those “other” I’ve found it is very easy to “get along” and be “tolerant” of such vile viewpoints, when you’re a straight white man, navigating that type of thing.
Its impossible for me to be “get along” with someone who has so little disregard for my life and the lives of my family, and friends. Our viewpoints are diametrically opposed. I believe my life is worth something. They don’t. There’s no middle ground to be had. And I can’t forgive such people for being willing to throw people like me and my family under the bus for some imaginary monetary gain.
So yeah, I’m sure they’re very nice people. To people who look just like them.
[Rant that goes off on tangents deleted — JS]
Your need to soapbox is making you assert I’m making an argument that you want me to make in order for you to yell at me for it. Please do better when making your arguments.
Bluntly, Greg, your need to be angry and argumentative at everything and everyone has been a problematic issue for years and I’m sort of tired of it. My asshole tolerance is really low these days and you’re kind of an asshole as often as not. Do better or I may decide to put you in the moderation queue.
In fact, sit out the rest of the thread. I’m done with you today.
I think that your piece gets at the heart of why I can’t ever live in rural Trump country. You are able to separate what you see as good in your neighbors from the bad. You see good people who made a bad choice. I think that’s a reasonable (and probably healthy, in many ways) view to hold, but I just can’t sustain it. I look at a Trump supporter, and whatever other merits they may have as a person, I can’t see past that. All I see is someone who is so foolish or so angry or so hateful that they would endorse someone so nightmarishly incompetent, unqualified, and racist as the leader of our country. I see someone who has knowingly and explicitly endorsed evil. If I found out that a neighbor who had greeted me pleasantly every day, plowed my driveway on snowy days, and hand-carried misdirected mail to my door used their spare time to torture small animals to death, the latter would completely override the former in all interactions. To me, supporting Trump’s hideous vision of America is just such a thing, something that completely negates any small-scale good that they do. I can’t live among monsters, and, no matter how many times they are pleasant to me personally, it’s really hard for me to view Trumpists as anything but.
I’m not a US citizen, which naturally means I’m in a completely different bubble, but it seems to me that there is a common ground here. Both bubbles are angry about inequality (even if that might be unwarranted). And face it, there is a lot of inequality in the US and the social mobility is low and falling – see Google for a slew of reports.
If there is one thing to fight together, it’s that inequality. Of course, Trump is mostly just busy enriching the 1% he’s a part of, pushing everybody further into the swamp.
In the Netherlands, inequality is a lot less and social mobility is higher. We just had elections here yesterday, and the populist right (a.k.a. the Dutch Trump) was _not_ the big winner.
Maybe something to think about.
As one whom you several times called an “idiot” for disagreeing with you (and I probably have been guilty of trying to pick arguments with you in the past, so no hard feelings) I found your LA Times piece to be remarkably balanced. I would like to see more conciliatory pieces like that from both sides.
Many conservatives (like myself) don’t march in lockstep with the alt-right, and we don’t really have a political “home” at present. Many of us wanted to vote for a John Kasich. Instead what we got was a choice between Hillary and Trump. I’m sure a lot of your neighbors would express similar sentiments.
One big point I think you did leave out, though, is the role of Islamic terrorism in the Trumpist/populist wave. There were plenty of Americans in places like Bradford who would have welcomed Muslim neighbors before the recent troubles. And while Trump’s travel ban may not be the best answer, there is a perception that the Obama administration most often addressed Islamic terrorism by lecturing Americans about Islamophobia. (Case in point: Loretta Lynch after the San Bernardino bombings.)
One big point I think you did leave out, though, is the role of Islamic terrorism in the Trumpist/populist wave.
The perceived role vs. the actual role?
Popping to note that I’m watching the “Islamic terrorism” line of discussion very carefully since I have a very strong feeling it can be derail-y, and quickly. Avoid going into a general discussion of it, please. Make it relate to the topic at hand.
I have friends in the boonies of Maine who say that, at least there, Trump’s support is really waning as the Trump Budget would involve closing their local hospital, making any ambulance ride take an extra two hours (at best). The best thing that those of us on the anti-Trump side can do for those who are realizing they were sold a bill of goods is to resist the “I told you so” impulse.
Also, man, the LA Times website is horrible. When the ads start interfering with your scrolling and that one page is taking up over 10% of your CPU…. oy.
@gwanggung: “The perceived role vs. the actual role?”
I think it’s an *actual* role. And Islamic terrorism is definitely driving the populist wave in Europe. I’m sure you noticed that Geert Wilders almost won an election in the Netherlands yesterday, which would have been unthinkable even five years ago.
One correction, though: I meant “San Bernardino *shootings*”
@John: “Popping to note that I’m watching the “Islamic terrorism” line of discussion very carefully since I have a very strong feeling it can be derail-y, and quickly. Avoid going into a general discussion of it, please. Make it relate to the topic at hand.”
Fair enough, John. I thought it was a relevant topic in the context of the Trump phenomenon. Other than that, I’ll drop the subject henceforth in this thread. Your site, your rules.
Once again: I enjoyed your essay in the LA Times.
“Geert Wilders almost won an election in the Netherlands yesterday”
Well, no. In fact his party did more poorly than initially expected; a few weeks ago it was predicted to win on the line of 40 seats and instead came in well below that (it gained seats overall, but still trailed the leading party substantially, and none of them have a majority in the legislature).
Again, let’s stay on target, please.
I make the comment in that I think in one sphere, the perceived threat is seen as much greater as the actual threat, and in the other the perceived threat is seen as approximating the actual threat. And that explaining why one sphere sees the two as different is often seen as lecturing.
Regarding your big point, when Islamic terrorism changes conservatives’ view of Muslims in a way that white (or Christian, or male) terrorism does not change their view of whites (or Christians, or men), there might be a reason for that. And that reason might be the tendency among conservatives to see whites as normal, the default state, each one different from the others and none to blame for what some other white does–and to not extend that reasoning to Muslims.
Which works out to be prejudice.
More generally, and about the article itself, a couple of sentences caught my eye:
think that they’ve been sold a bill of goods in this last election and that they will suffer for it. But I can’t and don’t hate them (without specific, personal reason).
This is fine. As long as you don’t see a problem with someone more seriously harmed or at risk than you are hating them. Because they did a hell of a lot of harm. And as far as I can tell they were mostly motivated by racial resentment and groundless fears.
Nor when the hammer I fear is coming falls on them, will I be able just to say, “Well, that’s what you voted for,” and turn away. They are my neighbors.
You are of course entitled to make your own choices and it is human to care first about people you know personally.
For me, if I can’t save everyone, I’ll make innocent people (meaning people who either weren’t allowed to vote at all, or who voted for Clinton) my first priority. It doesn’t seem fair to leave an innocent person unhelped to help someone who was responsible for Trump. I suspect we are all going to face that choice.
Sorry Scalzi; your request to drop Trimnell’s line of argument popped up after I hit “post comment”. I won’t bring it up again.
To make a claim for what Liberals should say, before demanding that society allow them a voice, is putting the cart before the horse. It is grotesque to call for conversation when one side is passing laws to make the other mute.
Republicans have been moving towards disenfranchisement of their opposition, while the opposite is not true.
Liberals aren’t passing gag laws on people are they?
Liberals right now are fighting just to have a voice in America, let alone fighting about what any other topic of conversation might be about.
I have not heard liberals work towards laws that make it harder for conservatives to vote. I have not heard liberals call for gerrymandering in an attempt to limit the power of those conservative communities. They might complain, rightly, that liberal votes, are not worth as much as conservative ones in our country. It is not the far left that is happy about the disenfranchisement of black men by jailing them, the way the far right does.
Likewise, I have no heard any call for people to be deported out of the communities in which they live and often the ones in which they were raised from a very young, but not young enough age. Or, for that matter, call for the deportation of their parents.
I have not heard generally heard Liberals claim that one’s religion, or lack there of, generally be not only a disqualification for political office, but have one’s religion be a statement of either ill intent or amorality.
Not to say that white CIS democrats might often make claims that “those people” need to watch their communities in a “special” way that we don’t demand of white CIS christian communities. (Clinton, for instance, did this during the debate too.)
We don’t deem their sexuality to be prosecutable, as Scalia believed. We don’t need Gays and Transexuals to be considered in need of conversion.
I have not heard of Democrats calling for people not to have access to public accommodation in the market realm. I have not heard Liberals call for people not to be served. Yes, not to buy from is quite different. Personal choice is quite different from public accommodation.
Bluntly, Liberals might disagree, they might disparage and mock, but they do tolerate the other side as part of the political process. That their right to vote is sacred, that their inclusion within society in unquestioned. The opposite is not true.
Liberals aren’t calling for extra judicial jailing of our political opponents. To shall I say lock them up. Without process on Trumped up charges.
Conservatives might talk to John Scalzi, as a representative of his own interests, with a vote equal to their own. He is a CIS white male. It is his privilege.
But the same is not true of these other communities. It is not fair to claim a “double bubble” when one of those bubbles does not believe that the other has a right to be an equal part of the political process.
I do think that there is a high probability that people in your county might be puzzled by visually non-white christian people in their community but would at least be polite about it. Mostly. Some might even feel downright metropolitan. I (white American woman) once stopped at a diner in very very rural white Appalachia in the company of two Asian graduate students and another white female graduate student and that waitress was tickled pink by our visit.
Because even if they are vocally hateful about the “other” among their fellow low key white nationalists, most people have been socialized to not be a dick. I mean, look at that story from Illinois about the man grabbed by ICE who had lived and worked in their predominately white community illegally for many years and was basically a pillar of the community. Those people were willing to go on record pretty much saying, “Well, the law is the law but … we love that guy and he’s got an American(ized) family so if we could please have him back.”
What I think is even more interesting is how the last 7 weeks have shown everybody just who Donald Trump is. Is he someone who cares about the welfare of the common American? Well, his cabinet appointments, budget priorities and policies would say no. Is he someone who was pretty sincere about his xenophobia? Quite possibly. Is he gambling on xenophobia and war lust being more important to the working America that elected him than their economic and physical well being? That may also be true.
But I’m puzzled as to why when faced slowly growing evidence that the man they elected president may be a patsy of a foreign nation many of your neighbors are probably (if they are anything like mine in Indiana) still shrugging it off. I mean, if they really were fond of their xenophobia they wouldn’t want their country to be a patsy of a foreign nation would they? Maybe they think it’s all a liberal plot? It’d be a somewhat reasonable conclusion to reach given the disinformation campaign strategies the political right has deployed with increasing vigor.
Edward, but that’s just it. The “Islamist terrorism” is relevant BECAUSE Muslims are “other”. White guys shoot up schools and night clubs and churches, but they aren’t labeled “terrorists”, because they are white males and therefore familiar to the people of Darke county Ohio. Also, Wilder definitely did NOT “almost” win yesterday, although his party gained some seats, but I don’t want to derail too much here, sorry John,
An interesting article; humans are human up close, but when you step back and look at their parts they get ugly. This isn’t a criticism of individuals, but instead a statement of how people tend to identify each other through similarity and difference.
Or, to put it more personally, I’m continually startled at how people I imagine to be relatively intelligent and open-minded turn out to be mean-spirited and petty. I imagine they feel the same about many things that are equally important to them
Great Atlantic article on how most of America has been economically left behind: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/cities-economic-fates-diverge/417372/
“As Senator Hubert Humphrey put it in a debate on the Senate floor in 1952, “We are talking about the kind of America we want. … Do we want an America where the economic marketplace is filled with a few Frankensteins and giants? Or do we want an America where there are thousands upon thousands of small entrepreneurs, independent businessmen, and landholders who can stand on their own feet and talk back to their government or to anyone else?”
The first turning point in this realm came in 1976 when Congress repealed the Miller-Tydings Act. This, combined with the repeal or rollback of other “fair trade” laws that had been in place since the 1920s and ’30s, created an opening for the emergence of large chains such as Walmart and, later, vertically integrated retail “platforms” like Amazon. The dominance of these retail goliaths has, in turn, devastated (to some, the preferred term is “disrupted”) locally owned retailers and led to large flows of money out of local economies and into the hands of distant owners.”
As a liberal who lives in a solidly blue state, I don’t object to the notion that the rural white working class has had a hard time of it these past few years, only the implication that this is somehow unique to their demographic. As you point out, the urban black working class has gotten it pretty hard these past few decades, and they’ve managed to endure that without nominating their own bigoted demagogue. So it’s important that we acknowledge the humanity of both sides without drawing false equivalencies. I know folks who voted for Jill Stein or sat this election out entirely (as I said, I live in a pretty blue area), and I don’t think they’re evil or stupid, but I think they might be a touch misguided. Barack Obama wasn’t just fear-mongering when he said that a vote for anyone other than Hillary is a vote for Trump.
What I and so many others are against is not Trump, but Trumpism. We are fed up with American exceptionalism, and the us vs. them mentality that infrastructure, education, and the environment will fix themselves if we just get rid of all the undesirables. It’s not the first time well-meaning folks have been sold that message, and it won’t be the last. Will they ever wake up to it? Only time will tell.
Yeeaaaah, let’s go ahead and wrap up the Islamic terrorist bits for good now, please. I think we’ve gone as far as we’re going to usefully go with it. Thanks!
I just read the LATimes piece. Currently, I am a liberal in Trumplandia – just off to Ohio’s left as you look at a map. Central Indiana. I grew up here, hated it, left for many years, returned for family matters and haven’t left yet. That’s in the works though. I don’t hate conservatives; I just prefer a more even mix. I’m seriously outnumbered here.
Anyway, with regard to the article there are two things I want to address. You wrote “…(there’s a reason he and his crew leaned hard into bigotry and nationalism; because it worked).” I don’t think they leaned hard into it just because it worked. I think they used what they believe. The evidence is in our faces. Research any of them – trump, bannon, pence, gorka, miller…etc. I think you might be cutting them a break here that isn’t deserved.
Two, you wrote “…conservatives are not wrong to fear that rural (and yes, white) America is being left behind.”. I do understand that that is exactly what is feared but I am so tired of hearing the “white” part. Will humans ever move beyond seeing and using the color of our skin to dictate how we treat each other? I hear that day in and day out around here – the whole “white is better” bullshit. Color just shouldn’t be part of the picture. Yeah, yeah, I get it. It is and it likely always will be. Sigh. I realize I’m venting here. At racism, not you. (Perhaps too much Star Trek as a child.)
Three, you wrote “I think that they’ve been sold a bill of goods in this last election and they will suffer for it.”. I agree wholeheartedly but I would make one small but significant change to that sentence. We ALL are going to suffer for it, if not already. (With respect to you specifically, even if it doesn’t touch your life with regard to you being white, cis and wealthy, it will affect those you know and care about and therefore, you as well.)
That seques into my final point. I have been trying to come to terms with the fact that my country, a country I served for twelve years (US Army), has so many people in it that willingly and quite deliberately voted for a racist, misogynistic, hateful, vindictive, white supremacist who quite clearly told everyone exactly what they wanted to hear. Given that I was raised in a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, fundamentalist household I certainly knew those attitudes existed. That was not a surprise. What was, was how many people either voted specifically for those reasons and how many decided they didn’t matter. I have tried to understand. I have read articles, talked to people who voted for him & his ilk, pondered it quite a lot. I’m not stunned anymore but I am angry. Nick said it best in his comment (at 3:50 pm). That is also how I see trump voters. I wouldn’t use the word “monsters” but I can’t separate that they voted for all that hate and ugliness from the decent things they may do or the politeness they show in public. I’m working on it but I’m nowhere near as gracious about it as you are Scalzi. Maybe I’ll get there.
I too live used to live in fly over country and know what it is like to feel this way. I too know what it’s like to live in a white world and to change my views to conform to the white viewpoint.
It is now time to make a stand, and declare which side you are on.
I too live in ‘rural America’ – a county in Indiana – home of Mike Pence (we hated him before he was cool!). I’m surrounded by gun toting Trump lovers and bigots. They’re all perfectly nice people to your face but under the surface, they’re all very ugly people (while joking they’ll come to our defense in the apocalypse since we don’t have guns). It’s certainly a nice place to live if you’re white (like me). In my professional life, I’m very involved in the United Kingdom and spend a chunk of the year there (I’d move there if it were possible, it’s not right now). It’s so weird to inhabit two places. My friends in the UK are exactly the kind of people I imagine Americans could be. I’ve just come back from a trip, and it’s very difficult to slot back into life here after being in a liberal democracy where things work and government functions (that admittedly has it’s own problems right now). So, it’s a roundabout way of saying that you’re perfectly right and make your point well. I understand. Eventually, I’d like to choose one life over the other and be content. Until I can move to the UK, I don’t think I’ll ever be truly happy.
Geez, no matter how many times I proofread I miss something. Obviously, it was three things I wanted to comment on, not two. Thanks for the article Scalzi. Good food for thought.
I live in an area so rural that some people refer to it as “frontier”. I worked with my county government and with my state’s economic development department until I finally got burned out. I learned the hard way that if a county doesn’t have the population to have voting whammy, then that county will be marginalized and has been from day one. Mr. Obama was just a late-comer to that party and I can’t believe Mr. Trump will care one whit about rural America, either.
Truly rural folks do seem to have one thing in common, and that is knowing that however things shake out, our voices don’t count.
John, I think that you have a right to form your own opinions about your neighbors, who are actual human beings who act like neighbors toward you. And I understand why you have formed amiable connections in your local community; people have treated you gently and helped you out from time to time, and I’m sure you’ve returned the favor.
In my own state of residence, a bill came up before the state house recently which would have defined “transgender” and added trans people to the state’s nondiscrimination law. I held signs and politely greeted the legislators walking into the state house, thanking them for voting in favor of nondiscrimination. Then I went inside and I watched the proceedings. The legislators were polite to each other, and collegial, and cracked jokes sometimes, even as they debated bills they had strong opinions on. Probably they were a lot like your neighbors.
And then they voted to table the bill, and explained that it wasn’t because of people like me, it was because they feared people who might PRETEND to be people like me in order to commit crimes, a thing which has never actually happened.
In other words, they pissed on me and told me it was raining.
From your perspective, they pissed on someone you don’t know and told her it was raining. But from my perspective, I felt and smelled the piss and had to wash up. I’m actually still chewing on the experience of having my second-class citizenship driven home by my elected representatives. It’s not going down easy.
There is always the tension between principle and having to get along with the people who buy your services and sell you groceries. We all draw that line where it seems appropriate. And it’s perfectly human to draw it closer to “getting along with the nice neighbors” when the neighbors aren’t pissing on you personally.
I know that you actually get this more than most straight cis white men. After all, you’re the author of “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is”, a fantastically explanatory text which I have put in front of a lot of people.
I think that in this article, your difficulty setting is showing.
In the WP there was an article last week about “Poor, Sick and Voted for Trump” and one guy in particular stood out for me: he recognized that he needed Ocare but he voted for Trump since Trump would bring back the coal mines and he’d have a great job again with full health benefits so he wouldn’t need Ocare any more.
I mean, where can you begin to deal with this mentality? Apparently Trump (or any president, presumably) can just magic up good union jobs with a snap of his fingers and everything will be fine again. There’s a level of economic illiteracy here that is just not open to rational discussion of the decline of the coal industry and possible options to deal with it. This guy doesn’t know about any of that and he’d probably dismiss it as liberal lies if you tried to tell him.
What he does know is that he’s a good person and that jobs are like cookies in a cookie jar: there are only so many and they’re doled out to good people who deserve them for their upstanding moral worth. Nothing to do with an economic need for changing skills or anything like that. And this guy was one of the more thoughtful people in the article: he at least suspected that he’d made a mistake.
I disagree with claims that he and his fellow Trump voters were some kind of neglected cohort. In the ’80’s they were Reagan Democrats and for almost 30 years they fell for the Republicans holding out shiny objects like flag lapel pins or the pledge of allegiance or flag-burning to get their votes. Even now we keep hearing that political correctness is the biggest problem these people face.
Maybe the next four years really will wake them up – if they survive that long.
I think that a lot of those labelled as “conservatives” really only saw a short-sighted way to stand against things they didn’t like. Part of it is how economically deprived much of the rural part of this country is. That deprivation is a real thing and the “liberals” really have been looking the other way.
There are sound reasons to do that looking the other way. There is no easy fix for those displaced by technological advances that started at the end of world war 2. Sam Walton’s business plan for Wal-mart put the finishing touches to the death of many towns.
A lot of those that I talked and who voted “conservative” are beginning to get cold feet and second thoughts by the smoke and mirrors being used where political discussion used to be. The budget is the same way. It is throwing money away and will be hard to defeat because Trump is so delusional and has a whole nest of modern day Rasputins whispering in his ear.
We really need work on immigration but not how it is being handled now. Cyclical immigration would make the southwestern border a different place. People looking for work would not have to pay for a coyote to bring them in with a load of brown heroin. They would be safer, be able to keep more money and we could tax them, always a good thing.
The assault on the EPA scares many rural people. They are outdoors people who wish to see it preserved. The best hope, regretfully, is for it to keep working, or not working, for two years and that the midterm elections can make a change.
Great food for thought, and no, John, I didn’t get the immediate recoil I typically experience from “Bothsiderism”. Your article was, rather, a balanced portrayal of coming to terms with yours and others’ political beliefs in relation to lived reality.
Like some above, I’m struggling very hard with accepting people in my own family who voted for Trump. They haven’t been “left behind economically”. Most of them are retired with nice pensions, paid-for homes, and kids and grandkids in good shape with solid middle-class jobs (mostly in government – (!)). They voted for Trump because, as I see it from conversations with them, they were A-OK with his racism, misogyny, and unpreparedness. They thought he was “a good businessman”. They wanted to “stick it to the liberals” in some form or another, and they hate Obama beyond reason. (I mean that literally – their reasons are totally incoherent when probed.) Yet these are not openly bigoted people, which is where I’m struggling. These are people I’ve known for 25 years who have never once made an offcolor or racist joke or aside to me, never made me uncomfortable, never given me a hint that they had these ideas, beyond the usual “Fox News” garbage that is so common in our discourse and has been fodder for good, polite conversations.
It’s very hard to reconcile. My husband has not – he cut off his family due their support of Trump, even though their votes didn’t make any difference because of where they live. His rationale (and he is far from the most political one in our home) is that anyone who could vote for Trump is an obvious idiot and doesn’t deserve a second thought.
Currently my main problem is the Trump enthusiasm they seem to display on social media. This tells me they weren’t just A-OK, they were all in. And I find that difficult to accept. It’s impossible in many ways to have a conversation about this, but I’m trying to, now and again.
I blame RW media for brainwashing people. I really do, even though I know it seems like a cop out. It’s where so many pernicious ideas come from, and I won’t repeat them because I’m sure everyone here knows them.
Thinking about this makes me feel like a stranger in America. From your piece, it doesn’t appear that you have the same feeling, that you are able to move between worlds.
It’s worth noting that whatever one might think about its religious origins, the old advice to “love the sinner, hate the sin” is perfectly germane here. I have a buddy (one of my oldest friends) who is way over on the conservative side of the spectrum, but he’s an exceptionally bright, educated, honorable, gentle, and generous man. Since I’m way over on the liberal side of the spectrum, we’ve agreed that we don’t talk politics unless we’re very tired or very drunk, and as a result, we like each other just fine after closing on 40 years of agreeing to disagree.
A note to Magda (comment at 6:36 p.m.). I read that WP article too. The fellow you mentioned stood out to me too. He obviously thought (still thinks so maybe) that the coal jobs were really coming back. But what struck me about him was the long list of medical issues he has. I seriously doubt he could get hired for a coal job. I think a lot of people who voted for trump had some serious wishful thinking going on with every other reason. It made me sad that he was willing to gamble his future – possibly literally given his medical issues – on a job “maybe” coming back that “should have” even better medical insurance than he currently has. Especially since the care he currently has seems pretty good.
A note to Geoff Hart (comment at 7:22 p.m.). I will noodle on that idea. Maybe it will help me move past my anger. Thanks for posting it.
I think the salient point here is that many of the gains of the past years did not go to (white) rural areas as a specific result of the policies the poor dears voted for. I am finding it difficult to feel bad for people who’ve gotten everything they wanted and have frankly had their every whim catered to. That their every whim has turned out very badly for them indeed is a teachable moment that they’ve declined to embrace. My sympathy is reserved for the people who have, genuinely through no fault of their own, suffered from a misallocation of social resources.
In short, I simply can’t muster it up to feel badly for them. It may be a failing, but there it is.
I live in Massachusetts, which is unarguably the most Democratic state in the nation. (Remember McGovern?) Yet, my town is overwhelmingly Republican–part of the original “gerrymander” district–and it boggles my mind that a third of my fellow Bay Staters voted for Trump. Here, where being a Republican is a proud and lonely thing, they are loud & proud, sporting (still) large, often home-made banners. Yet even my son at 15 knew that Trump was the worst sort of demagogue.
And yet, I have made an effort to understand why people would choose Evil over Good. Many of the arguments made for voting for Hillary Clinton are the reasons why people voted for Trump: they wanted someone with no political experience, who was not a woman, who would dismantle the programs that benefit the public and reduce the government to ashes. They wanted someone who would tear it all down…looks like they got him. Every Trump supporter I talked to was unhappy: they see their life as they’ve known it slipping away, and want it back. Change is scary.
From the article: Nor when the hammer I fear is coming falls on them, will I be able just to say, “Well, that’s what you voted for,” and turn away. They are my neighbors.
I can understand your unwillingness to turn away from your neighbors. But sooner or later, don’t Trump voters have to be confronted with the fact that, indeed, this is what they voted for? How do things ever get better if they are not? Or do we just pray that they have an epiphany before they vote for the next charlatan?
And when I ask this, I’m pointing the finger at myself, too. I have friends and relatives who voted for Trump, and I keep asking myself: when do you risk alienating them by pointing out how ruinous their decision was?
I don’t run ad-blockers per se, but I do run a script-blocker (NoScript on Firefox). It ends up blocking a fair number of ads from more intrusive web platforms, but that’s a side effect– I’m happy to get ads on sites that aren’t obnoxious about pushing them in my face, or loading code of dubious provenance onto my computer.
I can read the LA Times article fine with scripts allowed to run from latimes.com and cloudfront (the Amazon web service content-delivery platform), and with other domains that the page invokes disallowed. (I think I was also letting ensighten through, but I don’t think that was necessary to load the article.) Y’all who want to read it might want to give that combination a try, and see if your browser and their server (like your liberal and conservative neighbors :-) can meet in the middle.
I live in the reddest of red states, albeit in the the county with the highest level of education and median income. My job is a healthcare provider to a largely geriatric population and these folks are worried. They pretty much all voted for Trump but they fear the changes that now seem inevitable. Do I blame them for being so damned short-sighted? Yes, a little, but I have compassion as well.
It’s great that you can be a blue-stater in a red-state (or red area); but take it from me (a red-stater, classical liberal [TRUE liberal] living in a solid blue state is completely different). Your neighbors probably like you, put up with your occasional political jokes or comments, and treat you well; blue states (solid blue, middle class, educated types) are horrifyingly hostile to any dissent in their ranks these days. In my time here I’ve been called a “nazi” hundreds of times (even though I’m anti-socialist), attacked and beaten for making an honest and polite argument for Bush, had my home and car vandalized, lost friends, been stabbed in the back in jobs, been almost killed when a heavy metal plate was flung at my head and embedded itself in a wall all for saying calmly to a coworker “I’m a little tired of your constant ‘Bush-is-a-Nazi’ comments”.
But violence is a way of life for the left. From the Days of Rage, the (excused) murderous terrorism of BIll Ayers and the Weathermen, the 100s of left-wing terrorist attacks in the 70s, the “Black Bloc”, the assassination attempt on Trump, the San Diego and Chicago attacks on his supporters, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.
But that’s the left for you; violent and angry as hell. Always has been; always will be.
Consider yourself lucky you have the honor to live among Conservatives/Classical Liberals who are almost completely polite, tolerant of diversity of thought, and humane.
I thank the Founders for the Second allowing me some defense since I live in a Solid-Blue state.
he recognized that he needed Ocare but he voted for Trump since Trump would bring back the coal mines and he’d have a great job again with full health benefits so he wouldn’t need Ocare any more.
If there was ever a time when coal miners got good health benefits, it was UNIONIZED coal miners — the unions every Republican since Reagan (at least) has been committed to destroying.
But maybe under Trump he will have a chance to become an independent contractor paid by the ton and find his own health insurance on the free market! I’m sure the mining company will be happy to loan him the money to buy all his own equipment from the company store, just as soon as he agrees of his own free will that he is solely responsible for his own training, working conditions and safety. What could possibly go wrong? (He’d damn well better hope it doesn’t, because there will be none of that liberal red tape known as worker’s comp. Independent contractor.)
I think there are some people that can’t admit that in an unregulated, unsafe system where losers and unlucky people can be horribly immiserated, *they might be one of those losers*. So a system intended to protect the most vulnerable, or people who get suckered into a bad deal, doesn’t appeal to them because they’re never going to benefit from it (in their own minds). The same way they don’t need any FDA bureaucrat telling them which medicines are snake oil and which tomatoes are safe to eat.
And those are the relatively benign Trump voters, the ones not actively motivated by a desire to harm, mistreat, jeer at, or at least exclude some Other.
Folks: I straight up deleted a stack of comments kvetching about the LA Times paywall because of point one in the first comment.
Also, about to turn of comments for the night; they’ll be back up in the morning. Sleep well!
Update: Comments back on.
Details are infinite, and space (especially in an online article) is always limited, so this is not a criticism but just another one of the details that could not make it in:
I’m from a rural white community (though escaped, thank goodness), and my family is white, but we were also poor. That does make a difference, I think, in the way you’re treated. A well-off, clearly successful white guy (even if he’s liberal) will be treated with courtesy and respect, but I’ve never met nastier, more impolite people than rural whites when they find out you don’t live the way they think you ought to be. For them, Trump is the scourge of all this trash (white, black, Muslim, gay, whatever) they see piling up in “their” backyards, making their lives uncomfortable. It’s absurd, of course, because they won’t be any more insulated from the fallout of the man’s incompetence and criminality than anyone else who isn’t rich, but they don’t see it that way. I agree with you that I won’t have it in me to me to mock them when they start to suffer, but I know what they really wanted. And I always will.
This was a great piece. One criticism I have is with your statement “…conservatives are not wrong to fear that rural (and yes, white) America is being left behind.” I don’t think White America is being “left behind” in any way, unless you equate “other people being slightly less oppressed” to “left behind.”
This discussion about how to react to people who voted for something horrible reminds me of the discussion that took place in Finland in 2011 when our xenophobic racist party (that claimed to represent the forgotten real people as opposed to the elite) suddenly got more than 20% of the vote (when they used to hang around 4 or 5%). Here then, as there now, many people seemed ready to think of those who voted for them as something fundamentally other; something you should treat as evil, if not exactly monsters. When they – most of them – are, in fact, all too human in their longing for something better, willing to overlook obviously horrible things about those candidates who promise to bring something better for them.
Yes, they did something horrible. No, labeling them as monsters or idiots won’t help anything. Most of us are capable of doing horrible things, of overlooking inconvenient facts even when they’re blasted at us at full volume. People are social animals; if everybody around you believes something to be true or normal or acceptable, it becomes very hard to oppose it. Which is one more reason not to stop interacting with people who vote for horrible things, if it’s safe to do so.
The only way forward, said a peace negotiator once, is to gather everybody around the same table, and work from there. Yes, even that militia leader who – um, maybe I’ll skip that part of what he said.
I think there’s a tendency for the progressive elements in the country to aim high – that is, they tend to focus on national politics with the idea that real change is going to be top-down process. However, the conservative elements, while they always had their eye on the top chair, started locally. School boards, country commissioners, judges, state legislatures. With those in hand, they had a much smoother ride to the top.
We’re not going to get very far just trying to take things in the Beltway. Sure, we might the White House (and if we’re extraordinarily lucky, maybe the Senate) ever so often. But if we only concentrate on that, Democrats will be a permanent minority party. It’s time to think locally.
It was a reasonable piece. By your normal standards, John, I would consider a little…toothless, perhaps? Less forceful, let’s say. I don’t think it was wishy-washy and is consistent with some of the stuff you’ve written before.
I understand intellectually why some people voted for Trump. Opposition to Hillary? Certainly. A desire to upend the applecart? Definitely. Anger and resentment at the system that they felt had put them in a bad place? Understood. Fear of Immigrants and terrorists? Yes. Conveniently-deniable racism? For some, I have no doubt. And YET.
I don’t really see any wide-scale ‘buyer’s remorse’ from many people who DID vote for him. His violations of protocols, his continual flirtation with Consitutional crisis, his flagrant and easily-disprovable LIES, his open contempt for anyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with him are all issues that seem to have no effect on his followers. That his words are accepted so uncritically baffles me. I get that many people who voted for him weren’t entirely on-board for him….I know my sister-in-law and her family didn’t consider him their first choice. But like many who effectively abdicate their role in the process until the end (when most decisions but the final one have already been made), they willingly made a choice that he was acceptable. Again, I understand that. But now, two months in, it should be clear Trump is exactly who we worried he’d be…he has not become ‘presidential’ except in the most literal terms.
That so many are still utterly convinced that he will somehow work magic and that those who oppose him, particularly within the judiciary, are traitors is legitimately frightening to me. I keep trying to figure out if I’ve been wrong about the America I live in all these years or things have changed that much that quickly. Neither answer leaves me feeling anything other than tired. How much worse must it be for people who are actually under threat, like my non-white, non-CIS and/or non-male friends? I can scarce imagine.
Trump is a man who:
1. Has bragged about trying to sleep with married women: “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
2. Has bragged about his other crass sexual habits: “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
3. He has a private jet with a 24-caret gold-plated sink. (But not a gold-plated toilet—Snopes says that rumor’s false.)
4. He’s involved with more dubious Russian oligarchs than I can keep track of.
Fine. OK. This is who the rural right-wing voters of American chose to represent them. They own this. They can call me a liberal coastal elite all they want and talk about my bad moral values, and accuse me of living in a bubble.
Looking at the maps, I think the Republicans will probably win again in 2018—they have an amazingly favorable map that year. In 2020, the Democrats might be able to beat Trump, and repair some of damage, just like we beat Bush in 2008. But in 2024 or 2028, I fear we’re going to have another right-wing demagogue in the White House, and we’re going to have to do this all over again. This seems like the new permanent state of things in America, and it scares me.
@lisahertel: I think relative blueness has changed–going by 2016 election results, Massachusetts was only the third most Democratic state, behind California and Hawaii (and Washington, DC, which is not a state).
The change in California over the past 30 years or so has been dramatic. California was once reliably Republican; before 1992, the only time they’d gone Democratic in many cycles was Johnson’s 1964 landslide. It’s also largely responsible for Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote while losing the electoral, because her margin there was large.
And, to support your point, California also has deep-red areas.
(presidential cycles, that is)
What I would say in addition if I had unlimited space would be to discuss your point that the rural conservatives are not wrong to say that they’ve been left behind. True enough, but so have a lot of other people – notably urban African-Americans – and what I don’t get is what made them think that Trump would be a solution to this problem. Did they really believe his rhetoric? Maybe so, on the same grounds that Trump was a popular celebrity before he ran for president, an appeal I never got either. But when I looked at the candidates last year, it was obvious that if anyone was really going to do anything for the disadvantaged, it was Clinton, who at least cares about people not herself. Applies even more for Obama, and if Obama did little, it’s because little can be done, either because of the nature of the problem or because of Congressional resistance. Surely nobody thought McCain or Romney would do more?
The thinky types all said after the election that trump won because the left had not listened to the disaffected people in the flyovers, so those people turned to trump and the GOP.
What those people failed to realize is that trump and the GOP are the VERY PEOPLE WHO FUCKED THEM OVER. Destroying union jobs, slashing benefits, slashing pensions, keeping wages low.
The GOP has done an amazing job convincing the ignorant that they aren’t screwing them over every chance they get. They make “regulations” look like that is what is keeping food out of their mouths where those regulations are actually keeping that food from killing them. They claim that regulations are killing business when those regulations are forcing their employer to provide health insurance.
Yes, the dems need to seize the economic issues, but it is sooooo hard to overcome stupid.
As I write this I’m in Montana, which is about as rural a state as there is. Yet somehow Montana has as many voices in the Senate as California does, and more Representatives per capita. My home is in New Mexico, which is only kept from being the poorest state in the country by Mississippi. Mississippi just tries harder. My county has a population density of 2.6 people per square mile. I hope that qualifies in your book as “rural,” but I can’t say I’ve ever heard my neighbors complain that our votes don’t count despite being in a “blue dot” in New Mexico’s only red district.
Time was, rural America was where the majority of the population lived and thanks to a quirk or two in the Constitution they had far more votes in congress than their voting population would otherwise have given them. Politicians neglected rural white Americans at their peril. They ruled the roost and life was good.
Life lS good when you’re privileged.
FWIW: my grandparents were all small farmers. My paternal grandfather was a sharecropper in Arkansas until the Dust Bowl, after whichThe Grapes of Wrath is family history. I still have poor, uneducated cousins in Bakersfield so this ain’t exactly some “coastal elite.”
But… The Party of Personal Responsibility sure ain’t the place for answers unless you can get by on self-pity.
I’ll note quite a few comments meant for this thread got stuck in spam for some reason; I’ve liberated them. Sorry about that.
It might be worthwhile to tell your compatriots at the LA Times that they have screwed up one facet of their adblocking message and methods. I have no problem with whitelisting them, but their anti-adblock message makes it impossible to remove adblocking and does not recognize it when it’s done.
If you use Adblock Plus, the message pops up telling you to go to the ABP logo and choose “Enable”. That’s backward; the word “Enable” does not appear. It’s “Disable on” and then the name of the web site. No matter what you do, it blocks the page. If the person in charge of that part of site security has marked it only to accept the word “enable” (which blocks the ads), or if a state variable is read and told to do its function backward, there’s no way to get past it.
And, of course, when you try to go to the “About Us” page to contact them about the problem, the adblock message pops up and keeps you from contacting them through that channel.
This doesn’t need to be posted, it’s simply a FYI. Thanks.
This rings very true to me. I live in a rural NC county (which tends to skew conservative) with a large community of people who’ve retired here from other places (which skews much more liberal) flavored with a sizeable dollop of folks from the nearby military bases. My husband is a freelancer, and we’re active in the local small business community – whose interests and needs are very different from those of big business, and which I don’t think either political party addresses adequately. Though our church is politically neutral, the congregation skews heavily liberal. Our online communities are similarly mixed, his leaning conservative and mine liberal, with considerable overlap.
It’s not a double bubble so much as a mass of little bubbles, each trying to wall itself off from the opposing viewpoint. I think this divisiveness is far and away the worst thing to result from last year’s election and the campaigning that led up to it.
I can’t quite forgive those who voted our current president into office, but I can understand their concerns and their feeling of voicelessness. Who was it that compared Trump’s election to a rock thrown through the Democrats’ window?
Well, done is done. All we can do now is hold the current administration’s feet to the fire and try to curb the worst of their antics and excesses. In the meantime, we need to remember that there are good, decent folks on both sides of the political divide, and we need to find ways to reach out to each other and bridge the gap. There has to be common ground somewhere, and that’s the only thing that’s going to get us past this mess.
The whole plea for consideration of where the Trump voters’ motivation comes from ignores one crucial point: these people are in the position they are in for reasons that have lots to do with they way they’e been voting for the *last 40 years.*
It’s not like they woke up one morning in 2016 and said “Gee things suck, we should elect a Republican to fix them.”
Someone at Balloon Juice once observed that the problem with progressive politics in the US is that 30% of our voters would happily vote to make themselves live in a cardboard box under an overpass, subsisting on sparrows roasted over tire fires on curtain rods, if only they could be sure the brown people under the overpass down the road didn’t have a cardboard box, or a tire fire, or any sparrows or curtain rods.
The only hope is too get very serious about registering Democratic voters and getting them to the polls with all the legal firepower it takes to let them actually vote.
And to show you what we’re up against: here’s a woman (a former teacher, no less) who credits Trumpcare with her reduced premiums for her family’s healthcare. Trumpcare which has not even been passed yet and won’t be. What she means is Ocare, of course, but good luck telling her that.
With the best intentions in the world, winning people like this over is just not something doable without divine intervention.
@Edward Brennan. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, looking at comments on TheHIll.com and twitter. Conservatives seem to resent liberals and support policies that will hurt them in a way I do not see on the left. Much of the support of the new budget I saw online yesterday centered around the fact that it was hurting “Hillary voters.” It’s sort of like setting your apartment complex on fire to piss off your noisy neighbor. It’s so vindictive, and I think it is driven by right-wing media’s constant harping on “liberals” as the problem, vs. liberal policies or liberal politicians. Liberals have been demonized by talk radio and fox commentators to the point where liberals are seen as big an enemy as ISIS to their audience. That is so toxic. And more often than not it is a caricature of liberals that doesn’t reflect anyone I know, and I live near Berkeley, which has some of the kookiest liberals you’ll ever meet.
Doc Stat, I disagree strongly with this idea that violence is a way of life for the left. The left isn’t walking around with AR-15s or advocating guns in schools or guns for the mentally disabled. The people who abused you for expressing your opinions were assholes, which is a breed found in both political camps. I’m also guessing that maybe, just maybe, you were being offensive in how you expressed your views. You aren’t wrong that there is a small but destructive wing of anarchists who love to wreak havoc at protests. The left is hardly the only source of mob violence, though, and most of my ultra liberal friends are do not support the use of violence.
I grew up in an environment very similar to where you live now. (900 people in my home town and surrounded by cornfields)
I know these people too. I know they would give you the shirt of their back. In fact, in the 90s during the recession, people left baskets of food on our doorstep when my dad was out of work. I wore donated clothes and got lunch at reduced price. (Not quite poor enough for free)
These experiences helped shape who I am. You are supposed to help everyone, no exceptions. People were a little wary of us as we were Catholic in heavily Protestant area, but they still fed us. (I’m not kidding. Being Catholic was a “thing”) I am having trouble reconciling the community I grew up in with the idea that these people voted for Trump. They helped me. But what I’m hearing now, in their anger is this, “Only me and mine. Everyone else can go to hell.”
Civil rights, education, and health care are not pieces of pie that need to be sliced up. There is enough for everyone if we do it right. And of course Clinton wasn’t perfect – she was a human being. We’re all imperfect. But she was trying to get it right for more people than Trump. I just don’t get it.
The people who live in rural communities are smart enough to know that the factory jobs that you can raise a family on aren’t coming back. Trump conned them and I don’t understand how.
I’m pretty sure Doct Stat’s is a parody comment, uber-heavy on the sarcasm. The second-last paragraph kind of gives the game away.
I enjoyed the piece and like that you are purposely trying to publish pieces like this outside of Whatever. I’d like to see it reprinted in your neck of the woods, at least by the Columbus Dispatch or somewhere. Thanks!
I found the article excellent and well thought out. Shared on my FB page as I think it’s worth a read for both ‘sides’.
One thing that I have found helpful in these attempts to create common ground. One thing that people forget all too often is that people from both sides really do ‘want the same thing’ when that ‘same thing’ is defined fairly generally.
What is that?
A nice, safe place to live. A good place for their children to grow up. Good care for those they love and those in their community. Decent schools. A decent lifestyle (generally connected to the ability to acquire this – often through meaningful employment).
How to ‘get to’ this place often differs quite widely – but in general that’s where everyone, liberal or conservative, wants to end up. Some of the specifics might be a bit different but those specifics are often small potatoes next to the ‘big rocks’.
Remembering this can be very helpful when trying to connect with those of different values. I’m sure it’s a big reason why Mr. Scalzi can (and does) get on so well with his neighbours despite them being mostly Trump folks.
Re: the question of why a substantial fraction of Trump supporters remain so despite his policies being manifestly not-in-their-best-interests. Public radio has been going out in the field and interviewing people on this matter, and my executive summary is as follows:
Monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey.
(Trans.: It’s the primate disease.)
There’s also the verse to Randy Newman’s “Rednecks,” not so much the racial angle as the line “Well he may be a fool but he’s our fool.”
Reasoned discussion don’t come into it.
I read what you said here:
and I realized something a bit ugly about myself … namely, that I didn’t believe that until last November…. but now I do. I believe they deserve what they’re going to get.
… but I need to add. Once they’ve gotten it good and hard, I am absolutely willing to work harder to help them recover from it, once it’s possible for my vote to matter in getting them there.
I always think it’s funny when people talk about the behind the scenes racism and bigotry of rural America when someone brings up the fact that, in general, people in rural America are polite and helpful. These people have never lived in New York City and heard the virulent passive aggressive racism of liberal white elites. The transphobia is incredibly strong in that group as well. When Bill Clinton first announced he was moving his office to Harlem after he left office, he got as much crap from his white supporters as from the Harlem community.
Humans, as a species, are complicated. Most of us are kind to those we know and love, neutral to most others, and harbor prejudices of varying degrees that we may or may not try to deal with.
I very much appreciated this piece, as a liberal with friends on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s especially apropos as a local blog has been having an argument over kids at the local high school who were Trump supporters being called names – and I’ve been appalled at the so-called adults who have defended the bullying and see nothing wrong with them being called Nazis (but they do agree it’s terrible that they were called homophobic slurs). People who argue that it’s important to teach our children how to have respectful debate with people they disagree with have been told they’re being naive, unrealistic, political debate is never respectful so why do you think these kids should be, and so forth.
I grew up listening to my liberal parents have knock-down arguments with their good friend who was pro-Nixon and for the Vietnam war. Lots of loud voices, but no name calling, and the friendship was never in danger. It makes me despair to see the inability of so many people to be friends with people who have different opinions, and who think it’s fine to call names and cast aspersions. Too many of the people who claim to champion diversity are firmly against diversity of thought.
I live in a small, rural mid-western town. Not 900 people small, but I was born in a city with around a million people, counting suburbs. That city is one of the bastions of blue in a red sea.
People are super nice and polite to me, and to most everyone, really, that they meet in person. The old white guys where I work are nice to the young black folk who work there. But then, when they aren’t around, nobody blinks at someone saying things like “that little colored girl” about a 30-year-old black woman working as a reporter. In the neighborhood where I grew up, that kind of comment might have gotten you jumped after school. There’s not so much blatant, explicit racism behind the politeness for many folks around here so much as the patronizing “I’m not a racist, but” but kind.
Of course, we also have the stereotypical trucks covered in “confederate flags”, and the conservative politicians say things like “rape can’t get you pregnant” because “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. You wouldn’t believe the forest of yard signs around here advocating for this idiot. He was also fond of the Trump line of thought about lamestream media elites. Living here with the privileges afforded to me by my identity vs. hearing about and seeing the experiences of my less privileged friends and acquaintances, I have to say the whole “but they’re so nice and polite, they’re good people except for these political differences” doesn’t hold much water for me. Politics has real, everyday effects on people’s lives, whether that’s abstract economic policy or small vs. big government/regulation vs. deregulation/etc or women’s rights and fighting racism. Someone being nice and polite on the surface or two your face is meaningless as a way to judge character. You have to look at their actions and the actions of the people they knowingly and freely associate with. Whether that’s my friend who believes the guy that dragged a friend of mine into a bathroom at her job and sexually assaulted her “would never hurt anybody/treat a girl like that”, or whether it’s your second cousin in Kansas who wears a “Make America Great Again” hat everyday. Are they evil? No. Are they doing real harm to real people by advocating these views? Yes. And after the fifth time I’ve explained why doing so is harmful, I lose most of my sympathy for whatever their excuses for this behavior are. There comes a time when you have to ask yourself whether you should believe the public face or the private actions reflect someone’s true character, and while I’ve only been around 25 years or so, in that time I’ve learned that the private actions are almost always the true face, no matter what excuses or extenuating circumstances someone might try to excuse their behavior with.
Is the old white guy I work with a monster? No. Does his obsession with how great Trump is suggest some unfortunate things about his character and views that aren’t likely to change any time soon no matter how much conciliatory hedging I do? Hell yes.
@mngwa: Diversity of thought is a red herring. If opinions were just opinions and couldn’t hurt anybody, then we wouldn’t need to have so many arguments about them. But politic is not separate from real-life consequences. Some sources have estimated the Trumpcare bill will put 24mil people off insurance, and that given general statistics on the health of the uninsured, that loss of insurance will lead to 24,000 deaths that could have been prevented just so a bunch of rich folks can get a tax cut. If your uncle is one of those 24,000 deaths you might have a harder time staying friends with the guy down the street who voted for the President championing the bill.
Freedom of speech/thought/expression is not an ideal to strive for. There is one or a small group of closely related policies/beliefs/philosophies that are objectively better for society and the individual. If we could prove which beliefs those were, we would be morally obligated to enforce them on everyone. The value of freedom of thought and expression is that in a world where we aren’t sure what that set of beliefs is, we have the ability to prevent possible candidates from being squashed by the misguided or the malicious.
For example, I am an atheist. I think all religions are fabrications, whatever the motivations behind them, and honestly I think we would be better of without them. However, I support freedom of religion instead of advocating for the dissolution of all religion. The reason being that atheists collectively lack the power to enforce functional atheism on society. However, by allying with other groups of religious minorities, we can achieve the stopgap measure of preventing the formation of a state religion which could be forced on everyone. Rather than directly confront a more powerful group and lose, it is advantageous to compromise with lesser groups who can prevent the more powerful group from doing great harm.
The same principle applies to freedom of expression and diversity of though. Diversity of thought only helps us as a society insofar as it prevents the correct beliefs from being squashed. Racist or sexist beliefs are objectively wrong and harmful, and there is no direct value to allowing them to continue to exist. However, there is an indirect value in creating a culture where all beliefs can exist, because it prevents a single faction supporting a specific set of incorrect beliefs from forcing them on everyone. If we have to pick between “diversity of thought” and a definitely bad thought-system from taking over completely, the correct choice is obvious.
Bullying is bad happens to be an objectively correct belief regardless of who the target is. However, if the difference of opinion is that me or my loved ones should be eliminated in one form or another, or are going to hell–despite the fact that hell is imaginary–then no, I don’t think it’s wrong to not want to be friends with the holder of that opinion. I can be friends with someone who thinks Eragon is an exemplar of fantasy literature despite the fact that it’s a horrible book, for example. Regardless of the fact that I’m right and they’re wrong, it’s largely irrelevant. The same cannot be said of someone who is anti-gay, or anti-choice, or racist, or who believes libertarian capitalism is the best thing for society. Those are not harmless opinions that can be put aside to focus on our mutual love of shitty pulp sci-fi or hack-and-slash adventure games, say.
I’m with Edward Brennan and Molly and several others of those who commented. (And thanks to everyone, even those I disagree with.) I must say that I was very disappointed in your original piece, John. You are doing exactly what you see from people like Mark Halperin every day – normalizing something that has to be fought every single day in every way, Because Trump can read a speech off a teleprompter without foaming at the mouth and mumbling, “You’re the puppet, you’re the puppet” does NOT mean he is “pivoting” to be a responsible President. He’s not.
It’s simple. As a friend put it so well, he’s a grifter and grifters gonna grift. This is a man who will say literally anything about anyone (John McCain, the Pope, ad infinitum) who either challenges him or says something he doesn’t like. Not ONE day has gone by since January 20 without some new outrage – I personally don’t think anyone can get lower than wanting to eliminate Meals on Wheels, for crying out loud – and the damage he and his Team of Incompetents and Bigots have already done tremendous damage to the country.
Let me give you a different perspective from most of yours. I’ve lived in New York all my life and have been aware of Trump for 40+ years. Go back and look at the inexcusable dumb@ss sh!t he’s been doing since forever. THIS IS NOT A SURPRISE. It’s who he is. Universal health care for all that’s better and cheaper with lower premiums? Who believed that? A BILLION dollar infrastructure plan? Sorry, put off until next year (meaning never, unless there is profit to be made).
My wife and I met a woman who used to be a next door neighbor last year at the doctor’s office. Not only were we shocked that she was a Trump supporter, but she spouted the most insane sh!t you have ever heard, picked up from Fox News, Breitbart, and God knows where. Like what? Hillary is deathly ill and they are just propping her up in her Last Days until the election. Hillary has NO people at her rallies. They are in fact done in a studio before a blue screen, and the crowds are added in later.
This is the Trump supporter mentality, and the country is getting uglier every day.
So please, believe what you want about your neighbors, but no more normalizing what isn’t normal and will never be. He is taking this country to the Dark Side and plenty of your neighbors can’t wait for the ride.
> These people have never lived in New York City and heard the virulent passive aggressive racism of liberal white elites
That’s quite an accusation. Got three links?
I’ll just go on to say that four of the people in my band are Trump supporters and three of them are the nicest people you could ever hope to meet–not just surface politeness but willing to really put themselves out to make you happier or more comfortable. (The fourth is nice too but I’ve had no opportunity to see if he’s the “give you the shirt off his back” sort.) But as far as I can tell they only feel this way about people they actually *know*.
I wonder if the main difference between Trump supporters and the resistance is that Trump supporters don’t care much about you if they can’t identify with you–if you are both not personally known to them and in a group they consider “other.”l
YMMV. What makes me despair is the chattering-class, I Got Mine Jack whitewashing of profound and serious rifts over basic principles as “different opinions”. Sure, Bob there thinks your elderly mother-in-law ought to be shipped back to El Salvador, but can’t you still be his buddy? Ellen thinks you’re an abomination and ought to have your marriage broken up by the law, but she’s such a nice person and she’d give her neighbors the shirt off her back, right?
When you reduce ‘this guy is actively trying to harm me’ and ‘this person is deliberately supporting terrible things’ to mere disagreements, you’re signaling that you’re so far removed from any risk that you have the luxury of treating everything as an interesting intellectual debate. And hey, if you’re in that category, good on you. But please think twice about the conflict-avoidant sadfeels and “why can’t you play nice in the sandbox with Jimmy even though he hit you and tried to steal your toys?” routine.
I just have two technical comments on your essay, which may be presumptuous since English isn’t my native language and you’re a professional in it, so feel free to delete if inappropriate.
<> For some reason having both “of which” and “its” doesn’t sound right to me.
<> Here you are actually using my native language, and you’re doing it wrong: the word you’re looking for is transitive, not commutative. A property (technically, a binary relation, i.e. a property of pairs) can be transitive; only an operation can be commutative. I’m all for mathematical metaphors in everyday language, but only when done right.
Uleague way above I think has it right: understanding comes slooooowly. It takes sustained conversations, multiple contacts, the patience of the mythical Job. And even with that, the successful “conversion” rate is damnably thin.
But to not try guarantees further vitriol and ignorance.
Also (and I’m getting soap-boxy here), Trump voters absolutely knew what they were voting for, what with his “grab them by the *****” sort of comments, baseless charges and accusations, and the company he was keeping.
I get some people finding HRC unpalatable. But she was a stale cracker compared to Trump’s toxic, bacteria-laden poop sandwich.
If you ordered the sandwich and don’t like it, shove it away. Denounce it. Demand better. But admit you ordered it.
Whoops, apparently I neglected the “preview” button, trusting that WordPress would allow me to edit. The missing quotes are, respectively:
It’s on the edge of Darke County, population 50,000, of which roughly 98% of its inhabitants are white.
The property of community isn’t necessarily commutative.
As I read it, bf, “of which” refers to the population; “its” refers to Darke County. To my eyes, John has it correct.