Telling It Like It Is

Today, unfathomable as it is, Donald Trump will become President of the United States. How could this happen?

Granted, Trump lost the popular vote overwhelmingly, but despite being manifestly unfit for the office, he mustered enough support from millions of Americans to win the Electoral College. The Chattering Classes have offered a number of explanations, almost all of them centering on Democratic failures: the “liberal elites” were unable to “connect” with middle America; Clinton paid too little attention to Michigan, or to the economic distress of rural voters; Democrats didn’t show enough respect for the values of small-town America. Etc.

Trump’s voters often said that what attracted them was that “he tells it like it is.” At risk of being very politically incorrect, let me tell you what I think they heard. Let me tell it like I think it is.

Post-election analyses showed that most Trump voters were not poor. As Myriam  Renaud recently reminded us, however, there’s a difference between “psychic” and fiscal poverty, and she shared a trenchant Eric Hoffer observation.

[Hoffer] found that the intensity of the discontent found among the new poor is not necessarily tied to economic hardship. Indeed, individuals born into misery do not usually revolt against the status quo—their lot is bearable because it is familiar and predictable. Discontent, the emotion Trump tapped into so adeptly, is more likely to afflict people who have experienced prosperity. When their comfortable life is diminished in some way, the result is intolerable. According to Hoffer, it is usually “those whose poverty is relatively recent, the ‘new poor,’ who throb with the ferment of frustration. The memory of better things is as fire in their veins.”

Economic uncertainty, not deprivation, and the loss of white male privilege explain a lot more than fiscal distress. Trump won because he gave people who were experiencing a perceived loss of status or privilege someone to blame for that loss.

It is impossible to argue that a vote for Trump was a vote for his “policy agenda.” He didn’t have one, unless, of course, you think that building a wall to keep Mexicans out, ejecting Muslims (or in the alternative, creating a registry), demeaning women, threatening (brown) immigrants, cozying up to the KKK and the neo-Nazis, and insisting that our first black President was illegitimate are “policies.”

In the wake of the election, Trump has backed off other campaign promises, but his overt racism and misogyny have continued. As an article in the American Prospect put it,

President-elect Donald Trump wasted no time in establishing a hideous double standard of racist privilege in the White House. His appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and his picks of Jeff Sessions for attorney general and retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security adviser have been praised without qualification by Klansmen, neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and other white supremacist groups.

While “nice” liberals offer economic explanations of the election and counsel “kinder, gentler” attitudes toward Trump voters (who were predominantly, albeit certainly not exclusively, less-educated white rural males), scholars who have analyzed the data have reached different conclusions. There is an emerging consensus among those political scientists that although economic dissatisfaction was part of the story, racism and sexism were much more important.

As an article in the Washington Post explained,

Donald Trump repeatedly went where prior Republican presidential candidates were unwilling to go: making explicit appeals to racial resentment, religious intolerance, and white identity. ..racial attitudes were stronger predictors of whites’ preferences for Trump or Clinton than they were in hypothetical matchups between Clinton and Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio..

Other research confirms, as FiveThirtyEight reported, that prejudice was one of the “distinguishing attitudes” of Trump voters in the 2016 primaries.

The Economist tested Clinton’s “deplorables” percentage:

At first glance, Mrs Clinton’s 50% estimate looks impressively accurate: 58% of respondents who said they backed Mr Trump resided in the poll’s highest quartile for combined racial-resentment scores. And at a lower threshold of offensiveness—merely distasteful rather than outright deplorable, say—91% of Mr Trump’s voters scored above the national average.

What about the argument that Trump voters “overlooked” Trump’s narcissism, sexism and racism because they thought he would be more effective at job creation? Salon reported on the results of an American National Election (NES) study probing that possibility.

Eighty-four percent of whites who believe it is “extremely likely” that whites can’t find a job because employers are hiring people of color instead support Trump, compared with 23 percent of those who think it is “not at all” likely. Among white Democrats, 58 percent who believe people of color are taking jobs support Trump over Clinton, compared with less than 1 percent of those who believe it is not at all likely. Eighty-one percent of white women who think it is “extremely likely” people of color are taking jobs supported Trump, compared with 26 percent who don’t think that.

I have colleagues who privately admit that the evidence points to the importance of racial resentment and the appeal of White Nationalism in motivating Trump voters, but who shrink from making that claim publicly.

The problem is, if we refuse to face facts–if we refuse to acknowledge the deep wells of tribalism, racism and sexism that persist despite America’s constitutional and legal commitments to equality–we will never eradicate it. We will never have honest conversations about the fears and resentments to which people like Trump so skillfully appeaI. (That actually may be the only real skill Trump has.)

When Trump promised to “make America great again,” his voters heard “I’ll make America White again.”

I understand that it isn’t pretty. I understand that confronting it is uncomfortable. But ignoring the elephant in the room is no longer an option.

There are numerous “resistance” movements springing up in the wake of the election. They are all important, some critically so. But nothing is more important than resisting Trump’s efforts to take politics back to an “us versus them” power struggle, where “us” means white Protestant straight males and “them” is everyone else.


  1. Back when Bill Clinton was elected president the watch words of his campaign were, “it’s the economy, stupid.” This year’s election watch words were, and remain, “it’s racism, stupid.”

    Those who voted for Trump are either racists to the core like Trump, or the fact that he is a racist does not bother them. Either way, the divide in the country is not going to go away anytime soon as liberals no longer are willing to “make nice, be polite, compromise, and roll over”.

  2. Theresa; the racism is so blatant it is frightening, and has been for most of the country throughout the entire election fiasco the past 18 months. The reasons for the outcome of this election are many and varied; all negative, it is as if he unleashed the lions on the Christians…the true Christians and all other true religions. I know two Trump voters who admittedly did not watch the news or his rallies and have no idea of his level of racism, out right hatred and lack of rational thought. One is a Republican religious fanatic who believes we will now have Christian leadership; both have biracial and Black family members, one has four gay family members..but they trotted to the polls and voted for Trump. One stated outright she does NOT want to be enlightened; the other now has deep regrets…as if those regrets will undo what is coming at noon today. And those who voted for Johnson and Stein and wrote in Bernie’s name, still do not understand that they elected Donald Trump.

    Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” stated near the end of his program last night, “We face ‘The Green Mile’ tomorrow.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with Stephen King’s books, “The Green Mile” is death row; an apt description of our future. Rachel Maddow’s program was a fitting and touching farewell to President Obama and his administration. During the past eight years, both of these journalists have not hesitated to jump on President Obama over his failures; due primarily to the stoppage by the Republican Congress, yet they recognized his many advances and progress as a humanitarian president and American.

    Today at noon, due to the many and varied reasons for the national loss of rational thought, we will hit bottom. Can we as a nation rebound and rebuild democracy, or will we lay like a deflated balloon and let the fascist government trample us into the ground?

  3. I completely agree with Eric Hoffer’s observation that Trump voters were angry about losing their former prosperity.

    On last night’s news, which I rarely watch, there was a snippet of Trump speaking at a reception and he again said “I am going to bring jobs back”. I am so tired of hearing about this. He is not going to bring jobs back. He needs to create new jobs here that are connected to the future.

    Trump’s supporters don’t seem to care at all about his lame cabinet picks. The ignorance of his voters is appalling.

    I also agree with AgingLGrl’s comment yesterday or Wednesday that it is going to take a major meltdown of our economy to make people recognize what really needs to take place to improve our economy. I have had the same thought – that we need to really hit rock bottom before we start to climb back. We have not hit rock bottom yet. And, I still envision a revolution taking place to accomplish a turnaround.

    On a separate note – this morning’s news announced that the Clinton Foundation has closed its doors. Apparently the foreign money stopped flowing in when donors realized they would not be getting access to the Presidency through Hillary.

  4. JoAnn, I don’t believe trump would have won without pence. Some advisor in his camp recognized that they could use pence to appeal to the evangelical nutcases. It worked. And pence was more than willing to sell his soul for the new power. Wait, I am not sure he ever had a soul in the first place.

  5. It’s scary stuff for sure. We’ve never been in this situation before and I hope never again. The good ol’ boys in the MAGA ball caps thought that DT was the answer to all their woes. Today at noon Eastern, they will begin to know those woes and many more. A few of the more astute one have already begun to see their mistakes. We can hope for a big shakeup in 2018, but for now prepare to duck because the sh*t is about to hit the fan in a big way. President Obama couldn’t come right out and say it, but he is grieving for the country because of what lies ahead.

  6. Let’s get personal. There are statistical blips played out in every count of population samples. For instance, and as described in Sheila’s blog today, I am a straight WASP but a liberal Democrat who works for and has marched for gay rights, people of every racial and religious description, including atheists and agnostics, and for every other social and economic subset of society, especially the working class. I have stood on street corners during the Occupy movement with anti-Wall Street signs, marched with Democrats last Saturday, and will be marching for and with women tomorrow.

    That doesn’t make me a hero of the left, right, center, or any other arbitrary grouping by those who want to frame the debate; it only suggests that I am a concerned citizen who knows the difference between church and state, relatively unjudgmental except where loss of our democracy is threatened (as it is by the charade and pretense of today’s coronation of the Orange One, a fascist in waiting, even if he doesn’t know it) and the threat to our economy occasioned by wage inequality and austerity policies that enrich the already rich and make the poor poorer with the unfair distribution of our economy’s income and wealth.

    I believe in old fashioned Athenian democracy where both rich and poor citizens gathered at the agora (excluding women and slaves) and discussed their problems and came us with solutions to their problems in truly democratic fashion. That avenue is not available to you and me in this day and age of representative democracy where those who “represent” us have sold out to monied interests, hence my resort to old fashioned Greek democracy as played out today with marches, blogs and the like in the hope that all can enjoy the fruits of democracy.

    As for today, history will record that this will be our second “day of infamy” following the first some 75 years ago. My advice? Keep marching and resisting. A continuation of our most precious national asset, our democracy, depends upon it, and nothing is more important than our democracy, or what is left of it.

  7. Enough whining and political autopsy. As much as I dislike it, it is what it is. Today marks the start of a new political engagement for me. For the sake of my children and grandchildren I pledge to do whatever I can to return reasonable governing to my country.

  8. It is like a none too bright teen who taunts his adversaries. Some nations will be pushing the envelope to check him out. It is a given that China will be manipulating the markets in some capacity. Difficult to not be frightened–one can’t live like that–but hard to see beyond his saber rattling.

  9. My spouse is a thoughtful man, Nancy and I hope it doesn’t come true because of the suffering that could occur. I am in a state of mourning for my childhood friend’s Mother that passed away yesterday and the death of our country at noon (your time) today. I’ve asked the spouse to be home early so that we can have dinner dishes done to watch this mess happen live. I know the rest of the world is watching and I can’t help but need to know and see it as it happens live. I won’t be watching CNN Int’l but BBC instead. They won’t have nonsense commentary throughout. I’ll be glued to the tv and I’ve already seen a few videos honoring the Obamas today that have made me weep. I weep for our country, I weep for the uncertainty of the future and wondering how much hate I’m going to experience when I go back to AZ (because I’m a liberal).

    And as I mentioned before, Europe’s extreme right wing is embolden by this orange one’s presidency too. Just today, an American friend of mine posted a photo of an anti-immigration poster showing up at all of the trains stations between here and Zurich. It shows a woman in full burka with the words, “No to facilitated naturalization”. There’s another referendum scheduled about immigration coming up. Here’s a link (in English) to the site.

    “The overpopulation of foreigners and the massive increase in the number of Muslims would change the very essence of Switzerland as well as our society and its values,” it said. Several of the posters on facebook that are from the UK are embarrassed and appalled like us.

    This is what we ALL must fight against. The number of women marches scheduled for tomorrow is impressive. I won’t be able to attend because I’m buried in boxes and time is running out for the movers to come and pack this stuff up. I’ll be there in spirit.

  10. All the issues disaffected voters claimed were reasons to vote for Drumpf have been pounded into these dimdot’s heads forever. Blame Rust Limpaw, Breitbart, Fake Noize and anyone else who pushed the lies about race and wealth and everything else. In fact, blame the whole wingnut party. Winning is their only goal. How they do it doesn’t matter.

    It amuses me that these poor folk ignored HRC’s policies addressing every one of their major gripes for stoopid jingoism from the right. These people are soon to find their lives are getting worse and, of course, Obama and HRC will get the blame. To paraphrase dumbass dubya, it is getting harder for people to put food on their families.

  11. Camile; when considering possibilities involving negotiations with China, we must always think of Tianamin Square!

  12. You can’t eradicate it. Instinct is inborn. You have to encourage each generation to transcend it, and that requires education. But some portion of the population will not be capable of learning. From WWII that part of the population was gifted with prosperity, and in 1980 it was taken away. So they are frustrated for the reasons Sheila stated and easily manipulated to follow their instincts.

  13. I once worked for a Jew who would drive twenty miles out of his way to buy from another Jew. Economics ARE tribal. We don’t talk about that because it offends our PC sensibilities. But consider that the average person does equate his economic state with his status relative to the groups to which he perceives to belong, and Trump’s message makes more sense. Perhaps the complexities of weaving his way through the many ethnic and religious tribes of New York prepared him to have the insight that THIS was the lever he needed to win. Democrats need to wise up.

  14. An article from the Intercept – The Indiana Society’s ball, co-chaired by Karen Pence, the vice president-elect’s wife, plans to party Thursday night at the Grand Hyatt Washington. The top sponsor is Anthem, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, which is closely monitoring the Affordable Care Act repeal effort. Other sponsors include BP America, Coca-Cola, Duke Energy, Ford, Honda, Honeywell, and Peabody Energy, the major coal firm that is preparing to emerge out of bankruptcy. The sponsors of the event are offered a chance to mingle with the gala’s VIPs, expected to include people close to the incoming administration.

    Special interests underwrote parties for the inauguration festivities for Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama. But for the incoming administration of Donald Trump — who ostensibly based much of his campaign on draining the swamp and tackling the political establishment — little seems to have changed.

    One of the many things I liked about Bernie Sanders was his message that the 99% are all in the same boat. This triangulation, manipulation and hyphenating of Americans by both political parties has exacerbated us vs them. The 1% enjoys watching us fight each other.

  15. Our basic instinct is for self preservation. I’ll refer everyone to Rogers and Hammerstein for the truth about racism. Sit down and take a listen to “South Pacific” as John Cable sings, “You’ve got to be taught.” Children are not racists until their families get hold of them.

    Once we do have a good racist base laid down, we deny it. I’ve seldom spoken to a white person who didn’t claim he or she wasn’t prejudiced. I learned early from my African American friends that I am prejudiced. I’m not as bad as most of the Trump voters, but it is there. We can’t fix it until we admit there is a problem. We’re not there yet.

  16. I was born white, male, Christian, straight, Republican and raised in a way that assumed college education.

    Did any of those attributes that I can claim no choice in advantage me? There are a couple of ways to consider that but the most indisputable one is that I was never disadvantaged.

    My life unfolded as it did and now I have what I want and need and no longer need to compete with anyone for anything.

    How adaptable would I be if along the way I had had to compete meaningfully and lost to someone else, either really or in my imagination, because one of the traits that never disadvantaged me turned out to. Or perhaps I had reached the limits of my capabilities before I reached the limits of my ego. I would have become a self regarded loser because I perceived my place as not disadvantaged had been unfairly stolen by others and that’s what limited my satisfaction with my life.

    My impression is under those conditions I would feel as in fact I do now on the eve of Trump’s coronation. Easy to anger. My place in life has been stolen by others not as “qualified”, either considering the choices that I made or what I was born with and into, and my “prospects” are threatened as a result.

    Fixing racism, or sexism or any “ism” is as hard as making me accept the Trump Dynasty.

    I’m going to conclude that is impossible.

  17. Pete,

    Civil engineering can design, construct, and maintain a bridge; however, I’m unsure if social engineering can plan, manage, and regulate societal behaviors.

    Your last sentence may be correct.

  18. Interesting comment from a Chinese Businessman at the Davos gathering of the Rich and Famous:

    Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Wednesday, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma accused the United States of spending too much money on foreign wars and risky financial speculation and not enough money “on your own people.” Ma said the U.S. should stop blaming other countries and look at its own spending priorities:

    “It’s not that other countries steal jobs from you guys,” Ma said. “It’s your strategy. You did not distribute the money and things in a proper way.”

    “The past 30 years, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, they’ve made tens of millions—the profits they’ve made are much more than the four Chinese banks put together,” he continued. “But where did the money go?”

    “The money goes to Wall Street. Then what happened? Year 2008 wiped out $19.2 trillion in U.S. income,” he said. What’s more, he added, “In the past 30 years, America had 13 wars spending $14.2 trillion…no matter how good your strategy is you’re supposed to spend money on your own people.”

    “What if the money was spent on the Midwest of the United States?” he asked. “What if they had spent part of that money on building up their infrastructure, helping white-collar and blue-collar workers? You’re supposed to spend money on your own people.”

    “It’s so easy to launch a war. It’s so difficult, almost impossible sometimes, to terminate that war,” he said. “The Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, are those finished?”
    Our McMega-Media would not want to give Ma’s comments about the USA, it’s companies, foreign policies and domestic priorities much of an airing. Crony-Capitalism and the McMega-Media does not permit an honest assessment.

  19. Government can change laws but not culture. Progress in America starts with new laws that create consequences for blatant behaviour that in essence compromises Constitutionally guaranteed rights for classes of citizens.

    The law can start a change in behaviour but belief only very slowly.

  20. You said it well, and that is why Trump will never be legitimate. That is why he does not deserve to be treated like a President. That is why those who speak of “coming together as a nation and uniting to support our new President” are wrong. Trump is wrong. What he stands for is not only wrong, but un-American. He craves adulation and praise. Deny him that. Never fail to say that he is unfit and unqualified for the job, and most of his nominees are also unfit, unqualified, and have serious conflicts with the missions of the agencies they propose to head. This isn’t right. This isn’t America. Never stop objecting. To do so would be unpatriotic.

  21. Liberating experience today! Off with the usual channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS) and off with the talking heads of CNN and MSNBC. Fox counts for nothing! On with National Geographic Channel, Discovery, NatGeo Wild, even the NASA channel from space at 17,500 MPH, with its nice tribute to Gene Cernan (RIP), and anything informational…avoiding the coronation altogether!

    Have watched Old Faithful erupt about every 90 minutes. Have worked through some old mail that needed tending to, have napped a bit, and will join friends for ‘live music later on, then do my nails.

    I suppose DT (who gives me the DT’s) will hit a prom or two and then knock off for the weekend. Seems DT doesn’t “do presidential” on the weekends. Really? What could possibly go wrong there? MP, I guess. Plenty wrong there. Want him back, Hoosiers?

    Four will seem like eight! Yet…2018 is just around the corner and 2020 is just around the corner from that, so remember and hop to it. Right, Marv?

  22. JoAnn, Thanks for the suggestion about staying off the channels covering that…ummm…event today! The ratings guys didn’t find me there!

  23. Betty,

    “Four will seem like eight! Yet…2018 is just around the corner and 2020 is just around the corner from that, so remember and hop to it. Right, Marv?”

    Right. Enjoy the weekend. I’ve avoided the coronation also. Saving on my electricity bill for more worthwhile uses. Although someday, I might want to read about it.

  24. God one, Marv! You’ll find it in the funny papers if not the wand ads, or the obituaries. Have a good weekend, y’all…as we say down heah!

  25. Oops! “Good” one, Marv! Or maybe He’s already trying to intervene to save us from ourselves.

  26. Oops-2: “Want” ads. Wear your glasses, Betty, or turn on some light! I’m like Marv…trying to save everywhere I can!

  27. Betty,

    Trump/Pence are a bad, bad, Joke. You can’t take them too seriously. Am I hallucinating? I’m starting to have this strange vision all the time. Remember the hook in the old vaudeville shows where they would remove an entertainer from the stage with a hook connected to a long stick? I keep seeing this same event over and over, but I can’t make out the face of the comedians on the stage. It’s too of them like Burns and Allen. It must be my age finally catching up with me. Something must have gone wrong with my recent cataract surgery.

  28. The crowd just smiled and applauded for the new king and vice king. It’s going to be a terrible two years for the king’s voters. And republicans can’t get enough of defending the king from any disagreement or intelligent questioning. He’s going to be the first US president who has never answered a question directly. I won’t even mention vice king who, when questioned, seems only capable of repeating the approved talking points even if they have no relevance to the question.
    This is a disaster.

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