Tag Archives: identity politics

Bing bing bong: The identity politics of Donald Trump supporters and the security of the free world

“Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interest and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.” – David Brooks, New York Times

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Donald Trump had a great week. Ted Cruz dropped out Tuesday night. Jon Kasich dropped out Wednesday morning. And a +184K romp in Indiana punctuated a 15-day, seven-state streak of winning majorities of the popular vote1 Within the span of 24 hours, Trump became the head of the Grand Old Party.

This is the natural point of a presidential cycle when new-found coalitions are forged, overtures of party unity are made, and a certain strain of politics that respects and desires to preserve the polity are called upon.

Naturally, it being 2016 and all, reactions were mixed. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus did everything he could to seem conciliatory, delaying the moment he sets himself on fire:


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems kerfuffled by the whole affair. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan still refuses to hump Trump.

And defacto Maester Aemon of the Republican Party, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is chugging 40s, hurling molotovs, and riding the wrecking ball from the Miley Cyrus music video while flipping off the whole world:

23 candidates. 1 and half years of campaigning. Hundreds of Best Westerns and Quality Inns. 10 months of conservative self-loathing. 8 months of fighting for the soul of the Democratic primary. Thousands of cans of Red Bull. 79 primaries and caucii. The table is set for the matchup we’ve been waiting for our whole lives: Trump v. Hillary Clinton.

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Now that we’ve completed the race for who gets to be in the race for president, who’s excited for more race stuff?

Donald Trump becoming the second most likely person in the world to be president is the type of shit that happens when you let evil in. As David Brooks of the New York Times writes, “Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.”

That broiling intransigence/machismo/xenophobia bubbling beneath the surface broke through in 2008 when America elected its first Black president during the toughest economic hardship of the modern era. White Americans—mostly blue collar conservatives in manufacturing and energy—felt economic pain in muscles they didn’t even know they had. The transgression of economic frustration into hateful rhetoric and bigotry is not a new idea. Politicians have been using it for centuries to win elections, however, a concurrently shrinking White citizenry contributed to the unprecedented levels of steaming vitriol hurled at President Barack Hussein Obama.2

Of course Obama being America’s first black president, it’s all unprecedented.

The Obama White House was seen as an immediate and direct threat to the way of life that had built the socioeconomic landscape and set of values we call America today. That’s because it was—and remains—a direct threat to the white-heterosexual-middle-class-nuclear family that has been the main body in that interminable national ideal of ours—the American Dream.

If Obama is the changing complexion of the American body politic, Trump is the bile we vomit as we overcome the infection of hate.

In 2010, with the help of major donors, ordinary people suddenly had a way to turn their very real frustration into action against the specter of the “hopey changey stuff”—the tea party movement. That rhetoric, agitation, and social movement gave way to a real political entity, the Freedom Caucus, hell bent on slowing the advance of the federal government, thereby feeding the dissatisfaction of the federal government and the man at the head of it.3

And as the Republican Party fed the Tea Party beast—accentuating Obama’s blackness, stripping him of his citizenship, making him other—it was inevitable that a vapid figure like Trump would emerge as its leader. If you actively characterize of the leader of the free world, then of course it’s conceivable to elect a caricature as the leader of your party. If you make people believe the president is a fool, then every fool begins to look like a candidate for president, and when it’s time to pick the next one, people won’t have to look all that hard.

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We are in the midst of a perpetual culture shift. The plurality promised in the melting pot of America is only becoming more apparent because melanin is involved. Before, it was Irish and Italian and Polish immigrants, and communities of color were more easily segregated. Now, the browning of America has become obvious. It’s even harder to ignore when the President is an example of it.

If Obama is the changing complexion of the American body politic, Trump is the bile we vomit as we overcome the infection of hate.

Does this mean America is racist? Yes. But being a racist is a losing proposition. We have a biracial president. And for the first time ever, White Americans will make up less than 70 percent of the American electorate. Soon, White Americans will make up less than 60 percent, and eventually, less than 50 percent. Something about the moral arc of the universe being long and bending towards justice.


Averting a Great Depression. 14M new jobs over a 74-month streak of job growth. Healthcare for 15M more Americans. Repositioning America as global leaders on energy. Strengthening the force of diplomacy through focused relationship-building. A federal government equipped for the digital age. Government and policy victories aside, this video illustrates the most important part of the Obama presidency—his impact on an American psyche undergoing a violent demographic shift.

Demographically, he’s literally the perfect man for the perfect time.

America is squarely in the midst of a cultural identity change. Identity politics are violent acts, constantly breaking lines and redrawing them.

  Welcome to the world of identity politics my white friends. This stuff is hard, but good news: America is browner and more educated than we ever have been, so I like our chances.

The heterosexual nuclear white middle class family 4 has long been the symbol upon which we hang our aspirations of socioeconomic opportunity. As either a destination or a step on the way to becoming a self-made Rockeffeler, Morgan, or Carnegie, it has come to be the most powerful political evocation.

The power of that symbol persists, but it’s waning. And we are seeing the very last throes of it.

For the first time ever, white voters make up less than 70% of the electorate. Romney won 59 percent of the white vote and still got whacked 332-206 in the Electoral College. For comparison, Reagan won a similar 60 percent of the white vote in 1980 and went on to claim the one of the largest Electoral College victories in history.

If Trump should barely win the white vote at 59%, he will win no states. If he meets the eternal conservative threshold that is Ronald Reagan and hits the 60% mark of all white voters, Trump wins the 16 whitest states in the union5 for a total of 88 electors, coming up short by 182.The only way Trump hits the magic 270, is if he wins an unimaginable 75% of white voters. If he somehow managed to do that, suddenly 36 states are on the table along with their 295 electors, and this country ceases to be the country my parents thought they’d moved their family across the world for.6

Trump and the exclusionary politics he forebears have to find a path to the presidency despite a shrinking white voter share. On top of that, the coalition he has managed to cobble together is an over-performing bunch.

In the Republican primaries, Trump has 11M supporters. If you bore out Hispanic favorable/unfavorable across the whole demographic population, for comparison though, you’d find 44M Hispanics opposed. That’s the type of sentence that leads you to post something so stupid as:7

This is the face of a Republican Party who has realized they’ve been cow-towing to a shrinking demographic in the basest way possible, that white people will never again, alone, deliver them the White House, that exclusion and self-preservation doesn’t work.

Donald Trump won’t be the next President of the United States. Trump may be the first presidential candidate to lose all 50 states. We will have to continue to have the long, difficult discussion about who we are and where we’re headed. Welcome to the world of identity politics my white friends. This stuff is hard, but good news: America is browner and more educated than we ever have been, so I like our chances.

I still believe in a politics of optimism and inclusion—the kind a younger, more naïve Junior Senator from Illinois promised, begged for us to hope for, and leaves for us to carry forward.

There can be no other way.

 

Your Candidate is a bad person and so are you!

I saw The Big Short and Hillary likes banks and I am really mad about it

“All Hillary supporters are capitalist sell-outs who would happily close their eyes and mortgage 1 the future of our country to investment bankers and their lobbyists in exchange for the promise of incremental improvement and a bulwark against the Trumpocalypse. They lack agency and support Hillary because they have been conditioned to do so.”

First, Candidates have been sponsored by corporate interests for all of our adult lives unless you are about 120 years old. The fact that people are paying attention and reacting to the means by which corporate interests are represented in politics is less a symptom of some new illness and more people learning that waking up and puking every morning isn’t actually normal. Hillary is an exceptional politician with decades of experience functioning within a political system that has always demanded compromises. She is taking money from the same people Obama took money from. Everyone does it and always has. To think that electing Clinton will be somehow cataclysmic because she will work, in part, for the interests of the same banks who the last 10 presidents worked for doesn’t make sense. 2

Additionally, many ad hominem attacks on Hillary and her supporters are suffused with sexist rhetoric. The word “shrill” is maybe a bit on-the-nose but still a decent example for the kind of ostensibly “defensible” descriptors that an anti-Hillary blogger might use. Sure, that word and many others like it exist and can describe things, like say, an annoying bird. 3 But, we really shouldn’t need to prove that sexist rhetorical connotations for certain words and archetypes exist and we definitely shouldn’t have to do so via explicit means because that is sort of missing the entire point (words having connoted meanings and all…). Said anti-Hillary blogger can write a post about how Hillary is “calculating and efficient” and step away claiming they were being somehow complimentary, but they are still pretty much just saying she is sinister and/or a bitch and they probably know that.

Bernie Bros are white and I am white and I hate them because they are unrealistic and because we are white

“All Bernie Sanders supporters are unrealistic ideologues who hide a misogynist and possibly racist agenda behind thinly veiled claims to populism. Any policy Bernie promises on the campaign trail will be summarily voted down by a Republican congress with a Democratic Party minority that may not be in his corner either. Bernie supporters are all white people in their mid-20’s which automatically disqualifies them from having anything interesting to say – particularly in regard to the liberal agenda they try to defend but do not truly understand.” 4

First, has the current Republican Congress left anyone the illusion that ANYBODY would be able to get them to act in support of ANY agenda? No matter which liberal candidate is elected, that candidate will face complete and unilateral obstruction from a Republican Congress. Bernie is a liberal Jew who stands in direct opposition to the interests who got the majority of them elected and, himself, pretty much never compromises. Hillary is a slightly-less-but-still-liberal woman with the last name Clinton. Neither will be invited to many BBQs and both will likely hear the typical impeachment bullshit before they even step into office. 5

The Bernie bro narrative has also been a frustrating rhetorical condemnation. Essentially the narrative became centered around the idea that Bernie Sander’s supporters were white, male misogynists who were categorically abusive and sexist in their online behavior. While the initial article was pretty much just a playful jab and actually pretty funny, the narratives spinning out of that initial moniker -developing original have become increasingly condemning and try-hardy as the “I need to push this idea to the brink of sanity to get more clicks” machine got itself humming. 6 Bernie stands for a few uncompromising populist ideals that get pushed around the internet a lot. It is easy to write passionately about how things should be. Idealists like him and idealists are often young and vocal which means you end up having to read a lot of re-posted articles. I guess that is annoying enough to write and repost a bunch of other articles about how they post too many articles.

Fun with ad hominem attacks

What is represented in these admittedly lazy strawmen examples of the rhetoric on both sides is the emphasis on the supporter rather than the candidate. Debates  between liberals, people who by and large think of themselves as being compassionate and empathetic, should be about meeting in the middle. One of Hillary Clinton’s selling points is her ability to work within a system predicated on compromise. Why would somebody support a person like that with inflexible, antagonistic arguments? Bernie sells himself on being compassionate and progressive. Why would somebody support a person like that by condemning friends and family as corporate shills?

Why are policy debates that should be centered on compromise so antagonistic? 

Outrage is easy. It is the simplest thing in the world to dismiss a dissenting attitude by assuming that attitude is backstopped by a mind that is either critically misinformed or incapable of operating at your level.

Lashing out at a group of individuals in a condescending “I-can’t-believe-you-would-think-that” tone is the rhetorical equivalent of throwing your work papers up in the air – an exciting and seemingly-impressive gesture that’s essentially hollow and unconstructive.

It is an unfortunate side-effect of an outmoded two party system that people begin to relish the opportunity to identify as a “supporter” of a candidate or an ideal rather than as an individual who happens to be more partial to the ideas and policies espoused by one candidate or the other. The mono a mono competitive facets of the political system in the United States have become so perfected over time that the election cycle feels like a game, and people love to win games whether on the micro or macro scale. Dismissing another group’s opinion as insane, silly, or unfounded, particularly when among like-minded individuals, is comforting. It makes you feel superior, it makes you feel like you belong, like you are with the “in” crowd. 7

The part that gets left out is how we need to live with– not only the result of these political games, but — the violent versions of dissent this system fosters from friends and family on the day after Election Day. I have had family members send me angry, hateful emails prior to major elections since they expect me to vote for a Democrat. This isn’t healthy and this isn’t some symptom inherent to elected democracy. 

We are all personally responsible for feeding into an environment where people’s intelligence and integrity can be questioned on the basis of political preference.

If you have an issue with a Hillary supporter, talk to them and try to understand where they are coming from. Do the same with Cruz supporters. Dismissing a dissenting view as stupid is useless especially if the view is stupid. Even if you are dealing with somebody who violently offends every sensibility that you have, reacting with outrage and dismissal just allows that sentiment to fester in the margins of society, where a feedback loop of like-minded people allow any idea or belief to regress to its most self-certain iteration.

A person’s view doesn’t change if you embarrass them and dismiss their thoughts as misinformed, as stupid. When you conflate an opinion with the person who has the opinion, the person hardens their position until they identify with their opinion further. Their view of themselves becomes inseparable from the opinion they hold and any further appeal to alter that opinion comes through the wires as a personal attack, because that is how you have conditioned them to feel. They are no longer somebody who agrees with Hillary or Bernie or Trump – they are a Hillary or Bernie or Trump supporter. An attitude formerly reserved for die-hards becomes universal.

Sort of like Identity Politics but without the aspiration to usefulness

Individuals in underserved demographics have found that by sticking together and affirming their difference from mainstream culture, they could influence that culture and find a place beside it. 8 The politics surrounding the democratic primaries has piggybacked on the sentiment of identity politics while foregoing the underlying substance. The effect is a lot of wealthy white people online yelling at other wealthy white people for being too white9.

Whether you agree or disagree with the efficacy of affirming difference as means for inclusion into mainstream culture, you can at least respect that there is a reason to do something.

What makes the political rhetoric of 2016 so divisive10 is that the us-against-them attitude is meant to reaffirm difference when this, out of the last four, year feels like a good time to find common ground. Among current Republican voters, I can’t really blame them. When squaring off with a Trump supporter, I can imagine suppressing outrage and disbelief is challenging. Particularly given the dismissive and fact-averse attitude that works its way from the top-down and somehow seems to permeate about a third of the American south which is still important in deciding who runs the whole country 11

Being outraged is really easy . Coming to a discussion with an argumentative mindset is easy. Being open-minded is hard. Disagreeing amicably is almost impossible. The thesis of this rambling exercise is to be a little less hard on one another. Try to find out why people disagree with you. Be less of a “supporter” and more of a person. The second we subsume our ability to process facts and alter opinions under an ideology or a candidate’s opinions, we lose the ability to think critically. Don’t do that. I’ll try also.

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What a Super Tuesday it was! But what does it mean?

And the circus continues. The weeks following Super Tuesday,1 are when see the shape of the general election beginning to form. Smarter folks than I start drawing out narratives. Here are some stories.

The singular and inescapable takeaway of Super Tuesday is that the stage is set for a Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump general election. Both won seven out of 11 states and American Samoa. Both didn’t exactly surprise observers in the states won column, but the strength of the respective coalitions Clinton and Trump have coalesced is truly eye-opening.

It turns out both can win in the south—but that means dramatically different things on each side. It’s important to keep in mind when we talk about primary voters, especially in the south, that their demographics vary wildly.2 A tale of two electorate bodies, if you will.

More stark in the south than any other, Democratic primary voters don’t only have different values from their Republican counterparts, but they look very different too. In Georgia for example, the African American community makes up less than a third (31%) of eligible voters, however, they cast over a majority (51%) of 2008 ballots. Turnout numbers from that election cycle are by no means a good corollary for this year, 3 however, the numbers still point to the major racial chasm that underpins our parties’ polarization.

Great Orange Porpoise (GOP)

Trump has a hefty delegate lead (316-226-106 according to RCP early Wednesday morning) but a lot critics are quick to point to the fact he didn’t win the majority of the vote or even a majority of the delegate count. The inevitable outcome of Trump’s inability to pull together a majority coalition is a brokered convention4—painted by critics as the last possible stand to stop the Great Orange Porpoise. An open convention doesn’t shut Trump out of the decision making process though. By virtue of numbers and representation an open convention is less populist for sure,5 but it’s not inconceivable that he offers John Kasich or even Ted Cruz a spot on the ticket or in his cabinet in exchange for their delegates.

An open convention would be good television—and, right in the weird vortex of 2016 presidential election cycle wheelhouse, an incredible opportunity for Trump to flex his deal-making skills. That’s right, his candidacy may very well rest on his ability to close a deal.6

In the meantime, Trump’s lack of a majority coalition and others’ inability to pull fundamentally alter the course of the campaign keeps the GOP field fractured and all the candidates in the race.7 So a plurality of ego will maintain the status quo, and Trump won’t ever need to win more than 40% of the primary vote to ride into the convention with proportionally the same lead he has now.

To celebrate his Super Tuesday victory, Trump’s campaign declined the typical rally and victory speech made by nearly every candidate since Hoover.8  Instead he opted for a brief statement and a press conference. It was strange. Trump was conciliatory but on fire. Reporters were on the attack. Chris Christie was silently trapped in a living nightmare. Cable news carried it for forty-plus minutes. Trump supporters were absent. On the whole, it was a magnificent piece of performance art.

My one gripe is that I wish Trump had gone longer. If he’d chosen to run a 90-minute to two-hour presser, CNN and MSNBC would have stuck with him. I cannot iterate enough how novel the choice was to hold a q and a with reporters on Super Tuesday night. Compared to the other candidates—who looked like candidates at a campaign trail rally—standing behind a podium backing off radical positions, weaseling a bit more to the center, and generally captivating the national conscious for nearly an hour was a feat that looked downright presidential.9

Dems the Yams

Hillary Clinton crushed the South, like bless-her-heart-and-these-stars-and-bars-by-the-good-grace-of-Dixie steamrolled to a 543-349 delegate lead (according to RCP early Wednesday morning). And where the republicans relied on older, conservative and evangelical white voters, Clinton won on the back of black and brown voters.

She absolutely dominated the African American vote, thumping Sanders routinely by 60-point margins and creeping into 90% territory for several states.

Clinton also dispelled any notion that Nevada augured trouble with the Hispanic vote.

Bernie wins 4! Is a semi-popular narrative pushed out by the Sanders’ campaign and its acolytes, but that still also points to a state-focused—not precint-, district-, and delegate-focused—campaign strategy. Whether by design or nature, the middle to upper-middle class white coalition that Sanders has such a firm hold on will not deliver him the Democratic Party nomination.

Without a retail politics approach applied at full-court press intensity in black churches and community organizations across the South, Sanders now relies on a Ray-Allen-corner-three-in-the-last-game-of-the-NBA-Finals-but-on-the-grace-of-a-fortunate-offensive-rebound-type wild finish.10

It almost certainly won’t happen.

Ironically, despite a stronger civil right record, the Jewish organizer from Brooklyn, New York just couldn’t break through. Sanders fundraised a whopping $42M in February though, all but ensuring that he’ll be around till the end, acting as the liberal conscience11 of the party.

Clinton is already using the message of togetherness12 to pit herself against Trump. Unity will be a word continues to use more and more as she positions herself as the elder stateswoman that is the only real choice in the general election.

As long as Sanders sticks around and progressives continue to rally, she’ll have to do some unifying of the Democratic party too. Looking forward, Clinton will have to tap Sanders or at least someone in the liberal flank of the party13 as her running mate.

For a guy who was polling at 3% a year ago, that’s a pretty significant impact to make on one of the craziest presidential election cycles ever.