Occam’s Razor Again

A few days ago, I mentioned “Occam’s Razor,” the principle that the explanation of an event or condition that requires the fewest assumptions is usually the one that’s correct. (Wikipedia tells us that “Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation. Occam’s razor applies especially in the philosophy of science, but also appears in everyday life.”)

In the years since the election of 2016, I have come ever-more-firmly to the conclusion that the explanation of MAGA–as predicted by the principle of Occam’s Razor, not to mention common sense– is racism. 

There are reasons so many well-meaning Americans fail to understand this. As Rick Perlstein recently wrote, much of that failure can be attributed to coverage by the traditional media.

This failure, as I have been imploring, represents a deeply ingrained pattern, betokening a broader civic problem. In the weeks following Barack Obama’s election in 2008, America suffered an epidemic of racially motivated hate crimes: 200, all told, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. You may not have heard about that, because it was woefully undercovered by the gatekeeping organs of American political journalism. It was crowded out by their chosen narrative: that with the election of an African American president, we had overcome.

In the nation’s vaunted Newspaper of Record, a record of that portentous violence was particularly scant—even when it occurred in New York City, on the night of Obama’s victory, when a roving mob on Staten Island committed three separate assaults on minorities. The last victim they thumped onto the hood of an automobile; he spent the next month in a coma. The New York Times only ever mentioned the crime two months later, tucked away in the “New York Region” section, when the alleged perpetrators were arraigned.

I am actually somewhat sympathetic to the “we have overcome” narrative; it was certainly my initial reaction to that election. Unfortunately for its accuracy, subsequent research has painted a very different story. While many Americans (I hope and believe a majority) rejoiced at what we thought was evidence of progress, it turned out that Obama’s election operated to surface a significant and virulent racism that had been (thinly) veiled by what was then called “political correctness” and  is now vilified as “wokeness.”

I recently came across an article about yet another academic study underlining the role of “racial resentment” in our current, ugly, polarized political time. 

“Stop the Steal: Racial Resentment, Affective Partisanship, and Investigating the January 6th Insurrection,” relied on a national survey of adults in the US conducted in 2021. As the Guardian has reported, 

Political observers are quick to blame hyperpartisanship and political polarization for leading more than 2,000 supporters of Donald Trump to riot at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.

But according to a recently published study, “racial resentment” – not just partisanship – explains the violence that broke out after the 2020 election.

Angered over the claim, promoted by Trump and his closest allies, that heavily Black cities had rigged the 2020 election in favor of Democrats, white voters – some affiliated with white-nationalist groups and militias, and others acting alone – stormed the US capitol in an attempt to halt the certification of the 2020 election.

“What Trump and Republicans did was they tried to make the point that something nefarious was going on in areas that were primarily African American,” said David Wilson, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who published the study with Darren Davis, a professor of political science at Notre Dame.

The entire appeal of the MAGA movement has been a play on racist resentments: affirmative action and other remedial measures are really efforts to “rob” Whites,  taxation of the wealthy is a ruse to enable “redistribution” to unworthy Black folks, immigration is an effort to “replace” White Christians, elections of the “wrong” people have obviously been rigged…Whatever “polite” justifications voters offer for supporting Trump, the real reason, when you peel the onion, is that he hates the people they hate: Jews, Gays, Muslims…and especially, always, Black and Brown people.

The research cited by the Guardian confirmed numerous other studies that have found a major, positive correlation between racialized resentment and support for Trump and MAGA. The potential effects of that resentment for democracy were suggested by a hair-raising quotation in the final paragraph:

“If you can get people to believe that democracy is about your freedom, and that the government is taking that away through taxes, through policies, through regulatory efforts, and [even] by fixing and rigging elections, you can stoke their resentment and they can even come to resent democracy.”

If democracy helps “them,” then democracy must go….



  1. Sadly, I have often wondered how many in our modern society in America would be agreeable to reinstating slavery. Observing the growing popularity of the racist maga movement, I’m afraid the answer is that a great number of angry white Christian Nationalists would welcome a newly-risen South. It has been a smoldering undertone in America since the Civil War over 150 years ago, dividing the country in half on many social issues (remember Viet Nam?), i.e., voters rights, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and of course the rights of people of color in this country. I never thought it would come down to a 50/50 count, and I think we defenders of all those rights are still in a majority, however slight, but the other side, as they were in the Civil War era, are on the offensive, and dangerously so. This trend is being supported in various countries around the world as well, composed of those who feel their majority, way of life, and power, slipping away. When people feel threatened, whether real or imagined, they have a strength of purpose that can be overwhelming. We have to stand up against this illiberal, regressive movement. We have to vote. Forget about Biden’s age issues; he stands unequivocally for democracy and the rights of all Americans, and has pushed an amazing agenda forward to rebuild our county’s infrastructure. There are way too many ultra-negative adjectives describing his opponent to list here, but there is simply no compelling reason not to cast your vote for Joe and Kamala. They represent America.

  2. Yes, forget about President Biden’s age issues and concentrate on the meaning of his D-Day speeches as they relate to the salvation of democracy in America and around the globe.

    Hone Trump’s campaign foundation down to books he never read and movies he may have seen or heard about as he switched form Hannibal Lector being a “wonderful man” to his D-Day “Jaws” speech.

    …“Occam’s Razor,” the principle that the explanation of an event or condition that requires the fewest assumptions is usually the one that’s correct.”

    Occam’s Razor applies in both candidate’s ability to lead.

  3. Exactly Sheila!

    The fear of retribution over centuries of abuse was the driving force. And this goes to show that they, the racists, knew exactly what they were doing and why. There was no ambiguity in their actions. The sad thing, is how many that should have known better denied the issue. The amount of death threats that Obama had gotten, far surpassed any other candidate or president. So, as Sheila said, Occam’s razor, the most logical and simplest explanation, is racism.

    This country was based on racist ideals. Slavery, the theft of native land, The marginalizing of the Asian community. First the Chinese, then the Japanese! The dislike of Islam, because Islam was brought here through the slave trade. Those who looked different than those in power, which happened to be white slave owning land barons, were marginalized at best, and their lives were expendable. Even if they purchased the lives of those who were to be slaves, a lynching, or a hobling, always made a dramatic point.

    The dehumanizing of our fellow man, the devaluing of their lives, I myself am very well aware of. I’ve seen it! I’ve lived in it! And I fought against it. As a teenager, heading up to the Canadian border to join the fight of our native brethren against authorities attempting to steal more land. Interestingly, acceptance by the native population for someone who was not full-blooded, was an honor and privilege.

    Later on in life I realized that killing You are way to change is a fool’s errand, and, morally reprehensible. As I mentioned to Vernon, the amount of family members that were murdered because of their ethnicity, is fairly extensive. And much of it was against men, my great uncles, who fought in wars for this country. Decorated men whose lives had no worth to the racist element here. Men that were ambushed and murdered.

    I loved my uncles, I admired them and what they had to endure. And I realized I was in the same boat. Later on, my boys were at the same boat. It didn’t change, And that’s one thing I never tolerated, messing with my boys. I did lose my brothers because of it though. And I miss them everyday. So many of those who claimed to be righteous hearted and would fight for equal rights, was an illusion. What someone says and what they do are two different things. People will say things to hide what they truly are, and there’s plenty of that here today.

    When a group of people has been so evil for so many centuries, retribution is a huge fear that they figured they would never see because they would always be in control. And, that might be the case! We always figure that will change, but will it really?

    I have faith that eventually it will change, because I’ve seen just the opposite of justice, I know that there is something better. Because I’ve seen that also! Loving your neighbor is not just wishful thinking, It exists. Unfortunately most folks don’t like that either.

  4. The ideal labor environment for unregulated capitalism is slavery. No genius thinking required. It’s always been about the Benjamins – even before there was Franklin.

    Capitalism was allowed to go its own way in America as John Sorg suggests today. Now, Republicans have gone full embrace on the elements that almost destroyed our republic in 1860. It’s what corporate/banking America are funding and have been funding since the end of WW II. Karl Marx predicted this horrible, ugly thing.

    Racism has ALWAYS been part of capitalism. ALWAYS. And it isn’t going away as long as disastrous things like Citizens United v. FEC remain the laws of the land. The irony is that the aggrieved white people whining about woke-ness and all the other MAGA B.S. slogans, have never had it better.

    Oh, and ask Mitch McConnell about his “reasoning” of not allowing the conviction of Donald Trump by the Senate after both of his impeachments. How’s that looking now, Mitch? You want to see the results of embedded racism? Look no further than the senior Senator from Kentucky. Thanks, Mitch, for helping destroy our country.

  5. I must correct Sheila on one point – Trump does not hate Jews, and neither does his base. They both admire the Zionists but for different reasons. I suspect his base hates Palestinians because of their color and religion, while Trump pretends to love the Zionists for their money and “religion.”

    Eight years of Obama’s presidency created Trump. If Europe’s current elections are any sign of things to come, four years of Biden will make Trump in November. It’s not Trump himself, but what he symbolizes to the anti-government racists. The memes minimizing Trump’s felony and blaming Biden for high prices are out in full force already. I try to correct some of them, but there are too many on social media.

    Racism does “trump” morality. The Leftists hold Biden accountable for his support of Israel’s genocide. X is sharing photos of the Gaza massacre, where over 200 Palestinian women and children were killed to save four hostages. The Far-Right supports the massacres because “Hamas started it.” The Far Right cannot take a moral stance against Israel and our POTUS because their racism is more important than their morality and “religious beliefs.”

    Let that sink in.

  6. I’m increasingly glad to have the Lincoln Project in the fight. The Democrats are so bad at messaging, even when they have the least able to govern as their opponents, they want to get into weeds and talk policy. I’m not against policy, but I’ve done a lot of public speaking and I’m certain that if your audience is asleep you’re message isn’t getting through. I hope the Dems can learn from the disaffected Republicans.

  7. And for John Sorg and Vernon, three words about today’s capitalism and racism: private prison industry.

    “Thus, this legislation not only allows corporations to exploit incarcerated individuals with little to no wages but also incentivizes the usage of prison labor by providing tax credits to companies for using such labor. Yet again, this double-dipping of resources further increases profit margins for private prisons and corporations at the expense of exploited workers and taxpayers.”


  8. Of course it’s racism! Racism and cultural bias is behind most of what is going on with T and his followers both in Congress and out of Congress, in my opinion.

  9. Todd,

    Thanks for the mention. I devoted an entire chapter of my book “Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism” to prison labor. It’s history is long, sordid and disgusting.

  10. Todd; Trump and his base love the Christian Zionists, the Israel of today is NOT the Israel granted statehood in 1948 and the Jews who fought and died to earn statehood in 1948 are not the Jews in Israel today. Netanyahu is a Dictator to rival Putin and Kim Jong Un; Trump’s idols and mentors and among his strongest supporters.

  11. Is it racism or entitlement, or, as my counselor daughter puts it, over-protection of resources?

    We are spoiled children, expecting that life owes us whatever excess we want. That’s not sustainable and, therefore, is temporary. The time has come for the world to return to balance, and we are having a fit because the inevitable has shown up.

    Trump promises to protect our resources, not the natural ones but the artificial ones like borders, white privilege, and wealth redistribution. He needs us to be more jealous of Mara Lago and Melania. What’s the sense of accumulating if others aren’t jealous?

  12. Racism, Racism, and more Racism!
    I do not believe that Obama brought us Trump, but as Obama himself said, “I may have come twenty years too early.”
    Nixon’s “southern Strategy,” and Reagan’s opening gambit in the deep south’s own Philadelphia, signaled the direction in which we were headed.

  13. Obama brought us false “hope” and began the crush of the American dream. He talks good, but in these terrible times only writes books, makes movies and rolls in the cash. No “profile in courage” from my view. He got rolled by the banking crisis and came up limp.

  14. Interesting comment regarding the “Jews of 1948” as if they were some righteous band fighting evil to protect their homeland. They were, in fact, mostly foreign invaders who started showing up in Palestine in the 1920s. Three words here: Irgun, Haganah, Levi. Three terrorist groups which became IDF, Mossad, and Shin Bet (collectively, not laterally). Israel demolished a diplomatic compound in Syria to kill Iranian generals. They attacked an embassy. And the world turned. Prior to the Hamas terrorist attack of October 2023, the US has now documented five (count them five) Israeli military units committed violations of human rights prior to the Hamas attack. No US sanctions.
    For decades now, Israel has managed a press campaign making them the victims of this terrible Islamic threat. The reality is far more shaming to Israel. Israel is not a victim state, it is an aggressor state. It defies international law with its settlements, international law with its extra judicial killings, ,and international law by attacking a foreign embassy on a third country’s territory.
    It’s time to hold Israel as accountable for the October 2023 acts as we hold Hamas accountable for them, for truly Israel has unceasingly violated the human rights of the Gazans and Palestinians.

  15. Obama’s election worked like a fluorescent dye to reveal where the cancer is located. It’s widespread and the cure remains elusive.

  16. Just some things to think about. Apply Occam’s razor to religious thinking and the concept of a human soul and life after death falls apart.
    We intuitively understand and yet want to reject this reasoning. The fear of the loss of existence is the fear that underlies all other fears. I think it creates an ever present anxiety in some (most?) people. In response, we seek security in the form of wealth and power and have a kind of “built in” resentment against anything or anyone that seems to threaten that security.
    This anxiety can be stoked and directed by the unscrupulous to gain their own wealth and power, to ease their own anxieties, and so it goes. Understanding this conflict is the first step toward resolving it.

  17. Sharon, Todd, Vernon, Lester, Et’al, The mention of a human soul, something that lives forever was fabricated by those to use as a carrot when the stick didn’t work.

    Nowhere in scriptures does it say that humans have a soul, that concept was brought down with some of the first religious beliefs. Things that were connected way way in the past and spread out across the planet eventually.

    The original-language terms (Hebrew., neʹphesh [נֶפֶשׁ]; Greek., psy·kheʹ [ψυχή]) as used in the Scriptures show “soul” to be a person, an animal, or the life that a person or an animal enjoys…. Back in 1897, in the Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol. XVI, p. 30), Professor C. A. Briggs, as a result of detailed analysis of the use of neʹphesh, observed: “Soul in English usage at the present time conveys usually a very different meaning from נפש [neʹphesh] in Hebrew, and it is easy for the incautious reader to misinterpret.”

    The church absolutely knew this, but what better way to keep people in line, A dogmatic church leadership with a wink and a nod backing a political entity or government, or to keep their hands in the pockets of the citizens. They absolutely lied! Happens when you have men who believe themselves to be gods. The walking Cheeto is evidence of this very thing.

    There is no heaven after death, nor is there a hell. But the religions of the world will fight tooth and nail to save that dogma because it keeps people in line. And once they believe the lie, the fanaticism flows like milk and honey.

    It’s not scripture that these religions follow, or any of the other holy books for that matter, it’s men and their desire for power. After all, did anybody criticize Einstein for figuring out how to produce a nuclear weapon? No they didn’t, he’s revered, because people knew he was a decent fellow for the most part. Like the song says, “believe half of what you see and some are none of what you hear!”

    Just don’t criticize what you don’t know, because that just cements the case of humanity being stiff-necked and ignorant, easily misled!

  18. “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”
    –David Frum.

  19. The Maga movement is against people of color having equal freedoms in US democracy. Maga’s predecessors have organized and fought with suppressive methods ad infinitum. Jim crow laws, juridical umwege and main street segregation tactics to uphold elitist power and position.
    Today more minority Americans are becoming aware of US system of rights and are working with their freedom to make their lives better. This seems to feed resentment in Magas and embolden them to overstep their rights to have their way of exclusivity.
    Barack Obama was a gifted orator and community organizer. He was able to bridge the gap between races since he understood white culture too (white grandparents). He is living proof that strength comes from allowing democracy to work. I don’t like that he didn’t do more during the corrupt banking crisis, even though Biden advised him to.

  20. Sheila: you hit the nail on the head. Here’s Trump–a malignant narcissist–seeing Obama, a black man, not only get elected, but succeed–not only nationally, but internationally. I’ve seen an interview with someone (I don’t recall who right now), in which Trump tells the interviewer that many people urged him to run for President for years. I have always believed that the success of Obama inflamed Trump’s arrogant ego to go for it–after all, according to him, if a (you know what) can succeed and be popular nationally and internationally, well, Trump could be the King of the World! He’s bound to do better because he’s a “very stable genius in astonishingly good health”. Instead, he turned the booming economy he inherited into the worst recession since the Great Depression, a public health problem became a crisis with new daily records of deaths and infections due to deliberately lying about the risks, he drove the national debt to record levels, alienated our allies, and got people to distrust science and public health officials.

    The same racist sentiment drives Trump fans, who are mostly non college educated whites who deeply resented Obama’s success and who feel left behind by the success of college educated women and minorities. Kamala Harris to them is just salt in the wound. I saw a post just today where one of them referred to Trump as an “anti-establishment” outlaw hero. They don’t see the fat, spoiled, rich, draft-dodger who failed at multiple businesses, who is a chronic, habitual liar, sociopathic narcissist, racist, misogynist, or adjudicated rapist, fraudster, and now, convicted felon. The “outlaw hero” mentality explains their belief that jailing Trump will make him more popular.

    These people believe the daily diet of lies pumped out by MAGA media that attacks the justice system for prosecuting Trump, that believes that Joe Biden (even though, according to them, he’s demented and doesn’t know what planet he’s on) is orchestrating his various criminal indictments, that believes the lies about him “declassifying” the classified documents he stole, that believes that the FBI planted the documents and that Biden issued a “shoot to kill” order to assassinate Trump (even though he wasn’t even in the State of Florida at the time). They believe the “2,000 mules” fake “documentary”, and are apoplectic if you tell them that Salem Media has admitted it was fake, pulled it from the market and apologized.

    But, you are correct, Sheila, in saying that racism is at the core of it all.

  21. Sheila, it’s rare for something to be both unsurprising and explosive. You’ve provided a solid example as well as one that is both simple and complex. It’s also one of the most significant challenges this country has got to face up to….we need to acknowledge that pluralism, diversity, responsible immigration and tax policies and an end to unfettered capitalism is our future, if we are to have one, and, at the same time, keep a close watch on those who would destroy our system of government because it benefits those this crowd wants to go away….and stay alert and active….

  22. Lester, it’s been reported that Obama talks with Biden often. His advice/perspective might be helpful? My point was that Biden did see the loss and pain the banking scandal caused to struggling Americans and wanted justice for them. Was it that Obama was burdened down by the national weight of racism personally, that he was unable to muster the wear with all to help carry out justice for the unfortunate victims in those cases?

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