Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Economic Anxiety?

Eduardo Porter in the NYT reviews the latest research on the motivations of Trump voters. It's clear and supported by multiple lines of evidence: their anxiety isn't economic, it's about losing white status privilege. Referring to work by pollster Stanley Greenberg Porter writes:

The research zeroed in on white Trump voters without a bachelor’s degree who were either Democrats or independents and had voted for Mr. Obama at least once. Focus groups detected the same underlying theme that had motivated the Reagan Democrats more than 30 years before: a view of America as divided between “us” — white, struggling and aggrieved — and a nonwhite “them.”
So yes, Republicans are engaged in identity politics It's just that we are trained not to think of white, non-Hispanic as an "identity." Some years ago I was at a conference where I attended a meeting of people interested in behavioral health services for Latinos. We went around and introduced ourselves and this old white guy said - really - "I always wished I had a culture. When I was growing up I'd see the Hispanic kids and the Asian kids and I'd think, 'Why can't I have a culture like them?'" I told him, "I assure you sir, you do have a culture."

Trump voters, in fact, had median incomes above the population as a whole. A few of them no doubt had lost income since the steel mill or the coal mine closed down, but most of them are doing fine.
In a place that is more than 80 percent white, Mr. Trump’s Democrats share “pretty powerful feelings about race, foreignness and Islam that lead them to see white people as victims in a country feeling increasingly foreign to many of them,” the study noted.
The single strongest predictor of support for Vladimir Putin's candidate is racism, broadly construed. This is what causes conservative white voters to oppose policies that will actually benefit them, such as universal health care and expanded educational opportunity: they think that more of it will go to people of other tribes, and they are more interested in retaining their relative privilege than in their absolute well being. Of course they feel other threats to their traditional concepts of community, including growing acceptance of diversity in gender, sexuality and religion.

But here's what I think folks. Open your minds. Don't identify narrowly as a straight white male. Try on a broader self-definition, as, say, a proud citizen of a dynamic, diverse, and inclusive nation. We will all do better when we try to do well together. The divisive politics of the current Resident are not just retrograde and repulsive. They are downright dangerous. 


Don Quixote said...

I know that your PhD in sociology gives you insight into ascribed status.

Real self-esteem comes from within, a feeling of confidence that has at its root self-acceptance and being comfortable in one's own skin. "Esteem" that is used by politicians to divide and conquer--politicians like Trump and so many others--panders to humans who do not have self-esteem, and need to feel "built up" by a an illusory feeling of superiority that is based on a fallacy.

Or in the words of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, speaking to Bill Moyers:

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."


Anonymous said...

Try on a broader self-definition, as, say, a proud citizen of a dynamic, diverse, and inclusive nation.

OK, try that on the black or Hispanic community and see how it goes.

I'm sure there are lots and lots of whites that identify as white people.

It appears that your opinion is that it's OK to practice identity politics only for certain skin colors. Others...not so much.

The usual rebuttal is that you have some higher calling that allows these exceptions and, of course, you're qualified to make those calls.

Don Quixote said...

The guy who posts above ("Anonymous") may be the troublesome idiot known as "Gay Boy Bob" or he may be another invidious troublemaker, but either way it's a tribute to Cervantes's belief in freedom of speech that he allows such tone-deaf, non-empathetic shitheads to post their comments. As usual, the poster's comments show hows the mind of an argumentative, racist jackoff works. Get a job, dude ... and if you still have free time, hang out watching "Fox and Friends" instead of posting comments that trumpet your ignorance on a fact-based website you apparently can't understand. In the future, restrain yourself when I post. I have no willingness to debate a person whom it's pointless to debate with. We're not even speaking the same language and you have absolutely NO insight into other humans or yourself. Get some therapy.