The Anger Games

Wonder why we keep seeing reports like this one from Talking Points Memo?

Bennett Bressman has “more compassion for small dogs than illegals” and claims his “whole political ideology revolves around harming journalists.” He uses the n-word freely and cracks jokes about the Holocaust.

Bressman also happens to have served as statewide field director for Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ successful 2018 reelection campaign.

A shocking trove of leaked private messages Bressman sent over Discord, a gaming platform popular with white nationalists, were surfaced Sunday by Anti-Fascist Action Nebraska. Under the handle “bress222,” Bressman made over 3,000 comments on the page for white nationalist YouTuber Nicholas Fuentes’ show America First. The chats were made public by Unicorn Riot, a volunteer nonprofit media outlet devoted to exposing the internal communications of white nationalists.

The Nebraska GOP declared itself “horrified” by the disclosures, and if this were a “one-off,” I’d be inclined to give the party a pass. But it comes on the heels of too many similar revelations and the constant stream of “dog whistles” and worse from Trump and numerous other Republican candidates and officeholders.

A recent sociological study confirms what many of us have suspected: these sentiments are widely shared in the GOP.  Far from “horrifying” good people who inexplicably voted for Trump, these attitudes are actually the reason they cast those not-so-inexplicable-after-all ballots.

New research by University of Kansas sociologists David Smith and Eric Hanley demonstrates how a socially combustible mix of racism and sexism, in combination with anger and bullying, put the United States on a path to authoritarianism.

 Writing in “The Anger Games: Who Voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, and Why?”, which appeared in a recent issue of the journal Critical Sociology, Smith and Hanley summarize their new research:

We find that Trump’s supporters voted for him mainly because they share his prejudices, not because they’re financially stressed. It’s true, as exit polls showed, that voters without four-year college degrees were likelier than average to support Trump. But millions of these voters — who are often stereotyped as “the white working class” — opposed Trump because they oppose his prejudices. These prejudices, meanwhile, have a definite structure, which we argue should be called authoritarian: negatively, they target minorities and women; and positively, they favor domineering and intolerant leaders who are uninhibited about their biases.

Furthermore, the authors report, what unified Trump’s voters was not “economic anxiety” but prejudice and intolerance. What they define as authoritarian views were “strongly associated with support for Donald Trump.” Political polarization, although it definitely exists, is not strictly a “class phenomenon,” in their view. Trump voters came “from many strata and milieus” and “the effects of class are mediated … through biases and other attitudes.”

Smith and Hanley’s research identified eight attitudes that reinforced each other and predicted support for Trump: self- identifying as conservative; a desire for a “domineering” leader; Christian fundamentalism, animus against immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims and women; and “pessimism about the economy.”

The research concluded what many of us suspected: people didn’t vote for Trump “despite” his obvious prejudices; they voted for him because they shared those prejudices. It was the basis upon which they identified with him.

Assuming the accuracy of this research (and I do), the rest of us will have to come to terms with two very unpalatable facts: (1)some 35% of our country’s citizens are racist, and (2) they are not going to desert Trump. They aren’t going to recoil as his administration and cabinet wreak havoc on the economy, the environment, and the social fabric. So long as he hates the same people they hate, they will continue to support him.

For that (disconcertingly large) minority of the population, he really could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue without losing their allegiance. And that is terrifying.


  1. Richard Nixon implemented his Southern Strategy. Ronald Reagan opened his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Ol’ man Bush introduced us to Willy Horton. Today’s Republican governors drug-test welfare recipients despite evidence showing its ineffectiveness. Donald Trump’s racist and intellectually bankrupt message is embraced by the Republican Party. Anyone other than me see a connection here?

  2. Christian fundamentalism is listed second; if that ranking is by strength, it is a sad commentary on America’s religious history and culture. I chuckle and shake my head when I read Billy Graham (on the funnies page) but his kind of religion contributes to a perversion of the Bible and historic Christianity.

  3. This new research also explains why so few Republicans have stopped supporting Trump. Sadly, it is what they are as people.

    Maybe this is good news as it reveals the truth about our society, thus allowing us to know what it is that we are really fighting.

  4. This research hits the nail on the head. I have long felt that Trump’s supporters mirror him psychologically and ideologically. It explains their general crudity, belligerence, and thoughtlessness. Look for parallels in the ideology and political strategies of the National Socialists of the 1930s. Voting Trump out may not solve the problem, because the willingness of his supporters to use violence to maintain power could pose the biggest danger to the republic. Michael Cohen may be a liar, but I don’t think he’s lying about this.

  5. As someone once said, maybe here, there are a lot of Archie Bunkers in this country. I’ll add, “And they vote.”

  6. Comment #1 is dead on. This has been the core of the Republican party for 60 years.
    AND Trump is not the first to collude with our enemies.
    Nixon conspired with N VietNam to keep the war going
    Reagan/Daddy Bush conspired with Iran to KEEP our hostages until THEY were in office
    Both incidents seem traitorous to me.
    Trump is nothing new
    He is just cruder and more disgusting to watch in action

  7. Interestingly, that 35% also make up 85% of Republican voters. I read a plea this morning for Florida to join the National Popular Voting Interstate Compact. There is one thing Republicans never do and that’s vote against their own self-interest. Every President who has lost the popular vote and won the Presidency has been a Republican (Hayes, Bush II, and Trump). If this country becomes more democratic and less republic, it doesn’t bode well for the Republicans.

  8. Don’t say we weren’t warned…reported yesterday:

    In an interview with Breitbart News, President Trump said he has the support of the police, military and “Bikers for Trump” and warns that “it would be very bad” if they have to get tough on his opponents.
    Source: CNN

  9. Ian Haney Lopez tagged the phrase “dog whistle politics” and then used the GOP presidents as an example. Nixon was more apparent a racist than Reagan. Trump isn’t a polished liar and doesn’t use a dog whistle–he uses a megaphone.

    Many of us pointed out the racism within the former Tea Party both locally, state and national members. It’s the same people who aren’t intelligent to see that elites are robbing us blind because they’re too focused on the color of people’s skin. They still believe the people on welfare have caused the demise of the American Dream.


    When a Trumpster brags about his lack of political correctness, they mean he talks to them directly versus through coded language (dog whistles).

    The good news–it’s out in the open now. The GOP can’t stuff their racism back in the box. They cannot undo what they’ve become.

    As for the GOP appealing to “conservatives”, if that means budget minded or fiscal conservatives, I certainly don’t see how. They’ve been anything but for decades. They might be fiscally conservative with the poor, elderly, and essential government services like education and infrastructure, but that’s where it ends. Notice the austerity is aimed at Main Street–NOT Wall Street.


  10. You don’t suppose that the lunatics who shot up the mosques in Christchurch who say they were inspired by American right-wing extremism know this damn fool Bressman, do you?

  11. Forty-nine people have been shot dead and 48 injured in attacks targeting Muslims at two mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch, in the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history.

    New Zealand’s entire police arsenal and personnel were deployed throughout the country and en masse in Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, which is known to have an active white-supremacist subculture.

    A “manifesto” was posted online before the attacks, in which the suspected gunman espoused far-right and anti-immigrant ideology.

  12. There is no way to change the 35% of Americans who are so blinded by their hate reinforced by fake news. We can be disgusted about it, but it is what it is.

    What we can do is render them impotent by two actions.

    1) Chose unifying Democratic candidates this year and promote them as the only alternative to Trump (if he runs).

    2) Emphasize how essential turnout is in 2020.

    Republicans have to learn that to not change is to not be a successful politician.

  13. Trump with his recent threats of civil commotion has reintroduced fear as a weapon to assure that his wannabe dictatorship becomes reality. However, as with any extreme position, it invites backlash, and we are beginning to see it take form with the vote in the Senate yesterday, where several Republican senators decided to vote for democracy and Separation of Powers over the threat of primary opposition, early morning tweets, etc. I think an override of his promised veto is possible since such veto has next to no public support and it is the public who votes for senators, not Trump.

    Trump is acting like the cornered rat that he is with multiple jurisdictions looking into his business (aka criminal) activities. Fear of violence is the ultimate threat he can make and it, like his other threats, will not work, whatever the 35% would like to see with their parroting of his various prejudices per Sheila’s research note. We are headed for a multicultural society and there is in the long run nothing Trump and his 35% can do about it. Our task is to accommodate the change within democratic norms and values.

    Lincoln observed that a president cannot succeed if he doesn’t have public support, and Trump with his noisy minority (and especially with indictments yet to be served) does not meet Lincoln’s yardstick. Our further task is to be resolute in the defense of our democracy since we are in a decided majority and, finally, understand that it is not us but Trump who should be fearful of the coming course correction in American politics.

  14. In my interactions with Trumpers both one-on-one and online have taught me one thing. They are driven by hate and fear of “others,” not logic. If one looks at there actions “logically” one would think they are simply ignorant and they might be educable. Not so! They hate, and they are overjoyed that Trump has given them license to do so openly and violently. We are in for a rough ride because now unleashed they will not be restrained–especially with Trump and his ilk driving them on. I fear for our country.

  15. Gerald – with all due respect, you are idealistic. The more fearful and confused (about the truth) people become, the more they focus on their own lives and don’t vote. The extremists vote on both sides. The % of DEMs that are AOC/Bernie/Liz “progressives” is likely only about 20% at best…assuming they vote as well as scream and march, they won’t have enough…

  16. Mea culpa!

    Please read “In my MANY interactions . . . ”
    “their” rather than “there’


  17. Rather ironic that the Party of Lincoln has morphed into the Party of Jefferson Davis. The Republican Party largely ignored Jim Crow in the early 20 th Century. It was as has been already pointed out here today Nixon in effect with his Southern Strategy welcomed Jim Crow into the Republican Party. Raygun welcomed the Bible Thumper’s in and the rest is history.

    The dog whistles are now loud sirens. The Reactionary Rabid Right Wing Evangelicals have taken over the Republican Party Base and an elected Republican cannot stray far from the base. In essence they have grabbed a Wolf by the Ears and dare not let Go, which is why the Elected Republicans will not buck President Agent Orange or Pastor Pence.

  18. Here’s something more about the shooters and their motivations:
    How language in the attacker’s purported manifesto mimics the words of ISIS and al Qaeda
    Analysis from CNN’s Clarissa Ward
    The language used in the 87-page manifesto, linked out in a social media post from an account that is believed to belong to one of the attackers, was similar to that used by ISIS and al Qaeda.

    The manifesto is essentially a self-interview. Police believe this is the work of the primary suspect in this attack.

    He talks about the attack being carried out with the blessing of the Reborn Knights of Templar, which is a reference to the Crusades, in the same way as we hear ISIS constantly referring to people from the west as the Crusaders. The idea of a leaderless network to inspire individual cells. That is textbook ISIS.

    The language in the manifesto is deliberately almost playful at times, in a very provocative and incendiary way, and is clearly designed to provoke a horrific retaliation with the end goal being creating friction and all-out conflict between different populations in various western liberal democracies.

    He also talks about wanting to precipitate civil war and this is exactly what we hear in al Qaeda’s manual, “The Management of Savagery,” or with ISIS’s idea of eliminating the so-called “gray zone” of co-existence between Muslims and the West. The idea being that you use wanton acts of vicious savagery with the objective of causing retaliation, escalating violence and conflict in countries that have Muslim minorities. He’s trying to stoke tensions, to create a clash of civilizations.

    To me, there’s almost a symbiotic relationship happening right now between extreme terrorists on the far-right and between some of these other terrorist organizations that we’re more familiar with.

    The other thing that’s interesting, and disconcerting, frankly, is how much of the language and ideas he talks about have also seeped into mainstream political rhetoric.

    He talks a lot about the idea of invasion, that Muslim migrants are invading white Western countries. He talks about the birth rate, the idea of replacement, that white culture is being replaced. We’ve heard such words coming from the President of the United States. We’ve heard them coming from far-right governments in Europe, whether it be Italy, whether it be Hungary.

    Based on conversations I’ve been having with Muslims throughout the day, this is something that’s deeply concerning, the idea that the kind of hate speech that belonged in far-right ideology has permeated into more mainstream public discourse.

    When you look at the zeitgeist and the rise of the far right in Europe and the US, ideas that were once considered as taboo to talk about are now being flaunted and public discourse invariably sets a tone.

    There’s not necessarily a clear linkage in terms of causality — not everyone who hears this sort of rhetoric picks up a gun and goes and kills 49 people in a mosque — but you can’t look at one without looking at the broader environment in which it’s thriving.

  19. We’ve got nothing going for our side except our intelligence and our respect for the rule of law. Normally, that would constitute a win, but this is not normal. How does that match up with the gun-toting Trump supporters and the evangelicals who would love to go down in a hail of gunfire to support the ignoramus who supports their insanity. I don’t look to the military to save us since they most often go along with the guy who gives them their orders. Our current Acting Secretary of Defense is a lobbyist and beltway bandit, so don’t look to him to side with lovers of democracy or the Constitution. Trump can also count on the Supreme Court and the Senate to do his bidding. To quote George Clooney, “We’re in a tight spot.”

  20. Lester – I disagree with your analysis and note that it was public pressure (read voters who were not too scared to vote with their calls and emails) that got us several Republicans who voted against Trump and his phony emergency. Identifying voters is easier than identifying their motivations in choosing to vote or not to vote. Ah, there’s the rub.

  21. Gerald – thanks for the retort. Strongly symbolic gestures are still….gestures.

    Respectfully, that vote was DOA before it started as the thing is veto proof and also has a good chance of getting past SCOTUS. So, again, all that energy spent that could go to voting or getting others to do the same. Have a great weekend.

  22. Thanks for bringing this subject up. It has been going on for a long, long time. I became aware of these anger games” a very long time. Since 1947, when I left a quiet life of family, school. workingcl ass neighborhood, and church tp live on a quiet campus.

    There I met many nice people -nicer then myself, I thought. Everyone seemed nice. But when we got together in little groups of 2 or 3 or a dozen, I began to notice the dark side of these people. The niceness, I noticed, was directed toward everyone in public but to us and ours alone (the country club set, you might say) in private. (We called this attitude “lack of charity” and laughed about it. We were playing anger games as part of our recreation, part of our initiation into “the system.” We were really nice, we thought. We didn’t know that there was a difference between being nice and being good.

    Yes, I picked up this “nice” attitude. Some of our slurs, jokes, comments, derisions would never have been allowed in a larger, even private, setting, or in public, and everyone knew it.

    I was honestly shocked at the racism and classism, the strong aversion of any kind of social discourse. We (at least I) would have vehemently denied that we were classicists or racists. We admitted that we are prejudiced and thought we couldn’t avoid it. We defended our Republican political stance as a God-given right. (Thank goodness that I was under age and couldn’t vote!)

  23. “David Smith and Eric Hanley demonstrate how a socially combustible mix of racism and sexism, in combination with anger and bullying”, got Trump elected and provide one stop shopping for an explanation of why the deplorables continue to love him although he does nothing for them. To the point Sheila is making, they didn’t and don’t expect anything from him other than his deep commitment to the racism and sexism and atrocious behavior that explain nearly everything about who and what they are and he is. They aren’t looking for results at the wall as long as he remains pissed off enough to reflect their own bitterness.

    That leaves only the Trump supporters who are highly educated and not particularly angry. Explanation: They got what they wanted also – power. And they find it so intoxicating that they will sacrifice their own Constitution, and if necessary their own country, to keep it in their grasp. These people are the more condemnable of the two groups, because they are traitors to all this country believes, values, and stands for, and they know it. They understand how and to what extent their obsequiousness is harming this country and their children and yet they continue. Such depths of criminality are unforgivable and may yet win out. They and the outraged 35% will be with us long past Trump’s brief time in office. We must learn to cope better than we have so far. We must discover how to neuter them. They’ve already adapted to life as castratos. Let’s try to help them prolong the experience.

  24. If anyone out there watched the “Making of a Dictator” series on PBS you saw the clear message that Donald trump is using most of the tactics of the dictators profiled. His threat of violence is the last important piece in the development of a fascist take-over. The 35% Trumpers out there no doubt own 85% of the guns in this country. (I hope someone can find a statistic on that.) They aren’t just “noisy” – they are also armed. Most of us cannot imagine being compelled to fall in-line with a fascist leader but it seems that many everyday folks in counties such as Panama, Spain, Italy, Uganda, Germany, etc.. have done just that when looking down the barrel of a gun. We are not immune from a facing similar fate. Let’s hope our peace-loving voters out there get off their duffs and vote these haters out . . . and SOON!

  25. Regardless of exactly how this vile and horrendous mess shakes out, to use an expression used during the student demonstrations during the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago – “the whole world is watching”, and they most certainly are for good and for bad, the latter unfortunately typified by the total white supremacist fool and mass murderer in Christchurch, NZ did, mention Trump as a source of inspiration, a source of inspiration!!! Whatever leverage we have had as a global player and leader is going right down the drain because of all of this. Trump needs to go ASAP and this lurch to the maniacal right has to be stopped at every level as well. The cohesion of both our society and our political system is at stake, not to mention our international reputation and ability to positively influence events worldwide. We are loosing time in confronting all of this with event after sordid event overwhelming us and that time is running out!!!

  26. How do Ya’ll feel about Sharia law coming to America, like Europe ? Hey ladies , are you ready for your husbands being able to Behead you because you pissed him off , or how about him ordering you to get a clitorectomy if HE desires . It’s coming – WAKE UP.
    Unless farting cows are a bigger issue to you. How about post-partum abortions ? THAT sounds warm, and fuzzy , don’t it ?

  27. A degree from ANY college , or university is a bought and sold commodity – just like a pound of BALONEY.
    Just like a high school diploma, they are nothing more than a glorified work permit.
    If you can handle the debt , you’ve got one.

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