On Allegations of Russian Hacking

Putin is basically a dictator who is pushing Russia further toward fascism, an aggressive approach in promoting political and economic interests. It is unsurprising why he’d dislike Hillary Clinton and instead prefer Donald Trump. Clinton is a war hawk politician who has taken a strong stance against Russia and, as president, would have liked the opportunity to take on Putin. On the other hand, Trump is a businessman with longtime business interests in Russia and longtime connections to Russian oligarchy.

Putin probably felt a Trump presidency would mean he could be tougher on geopolitical issues and not worry about reprisal from the US. Plus, he has a history of good relations with Western business interests, an area where he can find common ground with someone like Trump (a neoliberal in practice, if not in rhetoric). Putin seems like a practical guy in his own way and he’d surely like to strengthen trade relations with the US, as long as it would increase Russian wealth and power. Putin is just pushing against boundaries, seeing how far he can go until he gets push back. But he is a saavy political player and there is a calculated cautiousness behind his bravado.

It’s definitely not that he is afraid to act tough. But I don’t see him pushing his agenda in a way that would jeopardize relations with Western countries, unless he sees conflict and maybe war as inevitable. There are those in power who want war, either WWIII or Cold War II. And that is what has me concerned. Some within the US government might like to force Putin’s hand, maybe based on the questionable assumption that Russia would back down (Reagan’s tactic with the USSR).

Anyway, we have yet to see any evidence of recent Russian hacking in the US to effect elections. I have no doubt that, like every other major global power, Russia is using propaganda operations. But I’d like to see the proof that something more is going on than normal. Continuous propaganda operations have been standard for several generations now. If something has changed, I wish US officials would be honest and upfront with us about what is going on.

My spidey sense is going off. I don’t know what is really going on. What I do know is the public isn’t getting the full story. We are getting very little info and what we are getting is heavy on the spin. Public perception and opinion is being managed and manipulated. We are being told a story, so it seems to me. If that is the case, what exactly is the story? And why does it feel like it’s being shoved down our throats? Whatever the exact narrative and frame, I’m concerned that the sound I hear on the horizon is the beating of war drums.

I hope I’m proven wrong. And I hope there are actual facts offered in the near future to prove I’m wrong. The government intentionally keeping us in the dark always makes me paranoid.

* * *

If you want other perspectives, here ya go:

Eight Facts on the “Russian Hacks” | Sharyl Attkisson

There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.

So what are the allegations and facts as we know them?

The intel agencies’ full report on Russia’s hack of the 2016 election won’t silence the diehard deniers.

The unclassified report is underwhelming at best. There is essentially no new information for those who have been paying attention.

DNI Report: High Confidence Russia Interfered With U.S. Election

While it’s nice to see it all laid out like that in a government report, those claims are consistent with what the government and security experts have already been saying — and since the report doesn’t add any new, specific evidence to support those claims, it’s unfortunately not going to convince any skeptics. What is important is that the popular understanding of “hack” and its meaning in this specific case are divergent. Russia did not mess with the vote — it obtained access to damaging documents and waged a battle of publicity.

Byron York: Six questions about the Russia hacking report

Julia Ioffe, a writer for The Atlantic who watches Russia carefully, tweeted this about the intelligence community’s unclassified report on Russian hacking released Friday: “It’s hard to tell if the thinness of the #hacking report is because the proof is classified, or because the proof doesn’t exist.”*

“Thin” is right. The report is brief — the heart of it is just five broadly-spaced pages. It is all conclusions and no evidence. In the introduction, the IC — the collective voice of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA — explains that it cannot supply evidence to the public, because doing so “would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.”

The problem is, without evidence, it’s hard for the public to determine just what happened in the hacking affair.

Here Is The US Intel Report Accusing Putin Of Helping Trump Win The Election By “Discrediting” Hillary Clinton

One week after a joint FBI/DHS report was released, supposedly meant to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia intervened in the US presidential election, and thus served as a diplomatic basis for Obama’s expulsion of 35 diplomats, yet which merely confirmed that a Ukrainian piece of malware which could be purchased by anyone, was responsible for spoofing various email accounts including that of the DNC and John Podesta, moments ago US intelligence agencies released a more “authoritative”, 25-page report, titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”, and which not surprisingly only serves to validate the media narrative, by concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘ordered’ an effort to influence U.S. presidential election. […]

What proof is there? Sadly, again, none. However, as the intelligence agencies state, “We have high confidence in these judgments”… just like they had high confidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

And while the report is severely lacking in any evidence, it is rich in judgments […]

In other words, while not carrying the infamous DHS disclaimer according to which last week’s entire joint FBI/DHS report is likely garbage, the US intel agencies admit they may well be “wrong.” […]

Or, as some have stated, just a regurgitation of already existing opinions and absolutely zero facts.

U.S. Spy Report Blames Putin for Hacks, But Doesn’t Back It Up

The night-and-day report and reaction hint at either a difficult relationship to come between the president and America’s spies, or a cagey response by a future commander in chief who is only beginning to realize how the chess masters in the Kremlin play the game of geopolitics.

The unclassified report is unlikely to convince a single skeptic, as it offers none of the evidence intelligence officials say they have to back it up—none of those emails or transcripts of phone calls showing a clear connection between the Russian government and the political intrusions. The reason—revealing how U.S. spies know what they know could endanger U.S. spy operations.

And it contains some out-dated information that seems slapdash considering the attention focused on it. Errors in the report were almost inevitable, because of the haste in which it was prepared, said one U.S. official briefed on the report.

Russia “Hacking” and the Intel Credibility Gap | Sharyl Attkisson

At a hearing today, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) today said it was “astounding” that anyone would question the credibility of our intelligence agencies.

That comment defies the factual record.

It’s not that Americans don’t appreciate our many honest, hardworking intelligence professionals. But there are concrete examples of false information promulgated by some U.S.intelligence officials under Democrat and Republican administrations. That’s why it would be imprudent to blindly accept, without question, everything our intelligence officials say or, for that matter, everything any government claims. […]

It should be noted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and at least one official familiar with publication of the DNC emails deny that the Russians were the source. There has been no allegation or evidence that the published emails weren’t true and accurate. In fact, the overall track record for accuracy when it comes to WikiLeaks documents appears to be better than that of U.S. intel officials. It’s easy to understand why figures like Snowden and Assange evoke such disdain among powers-that-be, whether liberal or conservative. Instead of addressing the revelations revealed, these powers direct public sentiment against the whistleblowers or conveyors of the apparently truthful information.

Instead of demonizing those who are skeptical of information and narratives emerging in a highly-politicized setting, it’s helpful to understand the genesis of the widespread distrust that’s fueling the skepticism.

DNI report: Overwhelming case proves Russian hacking, but there’s no smoking gun

Although the report proves that the Kremlin vastly preferred Trump to Clinton, it did not provide any evidence conclusively demonstrating that Russia was behind the hacks.

Intelligence Report Concludes That Putin Intervened In U.S. Election To Help Trump Win

The Russian president’s attraction to Trump may have stemmed from “positive experiences working with Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder,” according to the report.

What The Intelligence Report Says (And What It Doesn’t)

The reason Trump was favored by the Putin is that Trump would be more favorable to Russia’s efforts in fighting terrorism. (In other words, he’ll let war crimes go unchecked.)

New Intel Report Declares Russia Had ‘Preference’ for Trump Over Hillary–But It’s Got a Major Flaw

The media are drawing sweeping conclusions from the report that aren’t substantiated by the known facts. […]

We can only make one clear conclusion from this statement: The Russians had a “preference” for Donald Trump, because he was not Hillary Clinton.

There is nothing in the intelligence documents released thus far to ascertain the nature of that preference; indeed, any Republican might have been preferred. It is unclear.

While the U.S. media cast aspersions about the President-elect’s ties to the Putin regime, this is a charge that has been cleared by The FBI after lengthy investigation.

Secondly, there is still no hard evidence tying the Putin regime to the hacks released by WikiLeaks—we still have to take the intel community’s word for it. […]

What is surprising in these intelligence memos, which the press is jumping on to undermine the legitimacy of the future president, is how little new information they actually contain.

It is damning that the Russians’ goal of dividing the nation from within is being carried out flawlessly by a U.S. media quick to jump to conclusions without the demonstrable facts.

Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence

After months of anticipation, speculation, and hand-wringing by politicians and journalists, American intelligence agencies have finally released a declassified version of a report on the part they believe Russia played in the US presidential election. On Friday, when the report appeared, the major newspapers came out with virtually identical headlines highlighting the agencies’ finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Donald Trump win the presidency—a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence.”

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports. […]

The logic of these arguments is as sound as saying, “You were so happy to see it rain yesterday that you must have caused the rain yourself.”

That is the entirety of the evidence the report offers to support its estimation of Putin’s motives for allegedly working to elect Trump: conjecture based on other politicians in other periods, on other continents—and also on misreported or mistranslated public statements. […]

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. […] The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

It is conceivable that the classified version of the report, which includes additional “supporting information” and sourcing, adds up to a stronger case. But considering the arc of the argument contained in the report, and the principal findings (which are apparently “identical” to those in the classified version), this would be a charitable reading. An appropriate headline for a news story on this report might be something like, “Intel Report on Russia Reveals Few New Facts,” or, say, “Intelligence Agencies Claim Russian Propaganda TV Influenced Election.” Instead, however, the major newspapers and commentators spoke in unison, broadcasting the report’s assertion of Putin’s intent without examining the arguments.

The Big Lie on Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections – NO QUARTER USA NET

But today’s report only reflects the consensus of the CIA, the FBI and the NSA (that according to the “Scope and Sourcing” portion of the report):

This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.

What happened to the other 13 members of the so-called Intelligence Community? For example, what about the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research aka INR? They are a key part of the analytical portion of the Intelligence Community and have actual Russian experts. And why was the Defense Intelligence Agency (aka DIA) excluded? One of the supposed bad Russian actors in this hacking fiasco is the GRU, the Russian military version of the CIA. That is a prime target that DIA analysts follow. They are the experts. But they apparently were not given the chance to concur (or maybe they declined to do so out of embarrassment over the amateur quality of the work).

I would encourage you to go back and read the unclassified version of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs. Then take a look at the recently declassified version of the NIE. To obtain a judgement representing the Intelligence Community one agency is designated to write the “Estimate” or “Assessment” and then circulate that document to the other agencies for their comments and concurrence. But there is no obligation to agree. In fact, the other agencies can disagree. […]

At least that paper, though subsequently proven wrong, had a lot of facts. Just goes to show that even with supposedly hard evidence that the Intel Community can (and did) get it wrong.

Most of the assessments are laughable. Consider the following claim regarding Russia’s intent:

Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.

And how was Russia going to undermine “Public Faith” in our democratic process? By stealing emails that exposed the true behind the scenes political scheming and machinations by the DNC and Hillary’s campaign. Nothing destroys ones faith in our “democratic” process more quickly than learning that Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to rig the primaries against Bernie Sanders. In other words, those crafty Rooskies were going to flood America with truth. […]

It was not anything that Russia allegedly did or did not do that beat Hillary. It was Hillary that beat Hillary. The sudden obsession with Democrats and most pundits in blaming a Russian information operation for Trump’s victory and Hillary’s demise is not rooted in actual facts.

‘Clinton quite effective at discrediting herself, doesn’t need Putin’s help’ – ex CIA analyst

“It was only CIA and FBI that ‘strongly agree’ but the NSA, who’s the only one in that group that would actually have the physical evidence of the hacking, if that existed… took a middle of the road position,” Johnson told RT.

The whole situation around the “hacking” report gives an impression of a well-staged spectacle, Johnson believes.

“Yesterday, the Arms Services Committee in the Senate holds a hearing alleging Russian hacking, about when hacks took place domestically in the United States and that Arms Services has no jurisdiction over intel side. That was entirely a propaganda ploy, and not a single journalist in the major outlets over here raised questions about that, it was an observed performance,” Johnson said.

Regurgitated Scripts

Below is something written back in November 8 of this year. I share it because illustrates clearly a problematic worldview.

Let me offer some initial context. The person writing it is a middle class white woman who is college-educated, married, lives in a nice house, and works as an actress in the theatre. She is a stereotypical white professional of the middle class and she gives voice to the privileged views of the liberal class.

Her views are not just typical but stereotypical, as she is perfectly playing the role cast for her. It’s a willing example of typecasting. Many others who fit her demographic profile would express the exact same views. It’s the liberal class reality tunnel.

I’ll break her comment down into parts. The first paragraph is about the perceived problem:

“We all know Donald Trump, we all have met him. I’ve met him in my professor whose eyes only focused on the male students when they spoke. I met him in a tow truck driver who disliked towing ‘colored people’, in men who seem to believe that the worst thing a woman can be is fat, in the manager of my first job who paid men more than women because they could lift heavy things. He’s the person who says they can’t be racist because they have black friends. He’s the roofer who changed his bid halfway through the job based on his own calculation error. He’s the guy at the gas station who grabbed my hands and asked if he could spoil me.”

I don’t like Trump, have never liked Trump, and don’t plan on liking Trump at any future point of my life. I have no need nor desire to defend him. I just don’t think that Trump as a person is the main issue.

As both sides have made clear, this was a choice between evils, not between one good and another. Even those who voted for Trump admitted in polls that they didn’t necessarily like Trump or agree with him. The large numbers of working class folk, minorities, and women who voted for Trump didn’t do so because his rich white male privilege inspired them. They were simply frustrated and outraged, and for good reason.

The above quoted view is a narrative framing. In the worldview of the middle class white feminist, Trump stands in for all these bad people.

Women who are poor, minority, immigrant, etc probably have a less simplistic view because they can’t afford to live in such a disconnected narrative. They don’t worry about who the professor is looking at because they and most people they know have never had the opportunity to go to college. They also know that it isn’t just truck drivers who are racially biased but also privileged white liberals like Hillary Clinton with the Clinton legacy of dog whistle politics supporting racialized policies. They can’t afford to be willfully ignorant of such harsh realities.

It’s not that everything this person says is false. I’m sure she has had some of these experiences. As far as that goes, many people have had far worse experiences, including the poorest white men who are a large part of the unemployed, police brutality victims, prison population, and those fighting on the frontlines of pointless wars promoted by war hawks — all the horrific injustices promoted by the policies of the Clinton New Democrats. This is why the narratives of identity politics are mostly comforting to the already comfortable.

Now the next part is not exactly the solution. It’s more a portrayal of the perceived victim.

“We all know HRC, we have all met her. She’s the boring lady boss who isn’t as friendly as we expect. She’s the super smart girl in class who seemed not to know how to smile and flirt to endear herself, who was told that honey catches more flies than vinegar. She’s the unapologetically ambitious career woman who makes a mistake and gets dragged through the mud for it, even though her male coworkers do the exact same thing and everyone looks away. She makes mistakes but somehow catches more shit for them than anyone else partly because she doesn’t follow the usual social scripts for a woman.”

Hillary Clinton, as a well off white woman, stands in for all the struggles of well off white women who deserve to break the glass ceiling so that they can join as equals among the well off white men. Clinton isn’t one of the wealthy plutocrats and powerful ruling elite. No, she is a victim of society and of the system that is trying to keep her down.

And here is the last part, the solution:

“This election makes me so anxious because if Trump wins, it means the sins of the entire first paragraph is more okay than the sins of the second.”

So, what is the solution? Vote for Clinton or evil wins. She doesn’t really believe anything Clinton has done is a sin for she shows no evidence to the contrary. She demonstrates a lack of knowledge of what is involved, both in this particular post and other things she has posted.

The only sin she sees Clinton being guilty of is being a woman in a man’s world. That is the narrative and the story was supposed to end with Hillary Clinton winning, the final culmination of a century of progressive aspirations fought for by good liberals. We need to ensure Clinton was elected in order to protect her as a victim from those who seek to victimize her. Clinton would have been the first Victim-in-chief. Just ignore the minor details of all those victimized by Clinton’s policies.

I commented about this on Facebook. A couple people I know commented. Here is the first comment:

“Sometimes I think our education system that forces us to memorize things and then regurgitate them onto a test to get a pat on the head is to blame for some of this stuff. This is practically a word for word script we’ve been fed about why we should like and vote for her.”

And my response: I spoke of willful ignorance. But that’s not quite right. Willful ignorance is not an excuse, for sure. I’m not even sure it’s an explanation. You get at the issue better than I did, articulating what was bothering me about this. It’s a near perfect regurgitation of a script.

A stupid and ignorant person wouldn’t be able to do that. To regurgitate a script like that, you have to be well informed about the scripts so often repeated in the media. And, as you say, this is a skill that has to be learned, it being most well learned by the well-educated. As research shows, sometimes the most well informed people are simultaneously the most misinformed people, as they simply take it all in without discernment and self-awareness.

One interesting thing is that less educated people are less polarized and partisan. If you’re working poor, you don’t have the time to pay attention to all of the scripts in media and memorize them. It takes a fair amount of time and effort to be able to regurgitate scripts like that, so casually that it seems like your own opinion.

The first victims of propaganda and public perception management are the most media-saturated and media savvy. These are the people who have the luxury of free time to regularly absorb what is coming out of the mainstream media and out of the party machines. These people are typically more politically active and connected to those who are politically active. They are the mostly middle-to-upper class partisans who have high voting rates.

Scripts such as these aren’t meant for the poor and disenfranchised. No, their purpose is to keep the most loyal partisans in line and to keep them from thinking any original thoughts.

This is what another friend wrote:

“Doesn’t much resemble the Hillary Clinton I’ve seen on camera and heard on NPR all these years. The woman doesn’t have an ounce if humility or accountability in her. And no, again, her male co-workers did not do the same exact thing. She smiled plenty in the early pics of her, she’s a war hawk who has little perceivable innate warmth, a great deal of privilege, and a serious credibility problem.”

And my response: I agree. This is the fantasyland version of Hillary Clinton or rather the bizarro world version.

I keep repeating that the kind and amount of damning evidence revealed during the campaign season about Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, the DNC, and colluding MSM hasn’t happened in living memory. I’m not sure it has ever happened before.

Also, I don’t know of any other major candidate in US history that was being investigated about political corruption and wrongdoing leading up to a presidential election. I know my American history fairly well. If someone knows of a comparable situation, I’d love to know about it. But, as far as I can tell, we are in new territory.

This is not normal. And I hope it never becomes normal.

* * *

One last thought:

As this deals with smart people, it would likely involve the smart idiot effect. Professionals of the liberal class tend to not just be highly intelligent but also highly educated. They tend to know a lot about certain things and often to know a little about a lot of things, as a good liberal education gives them. Even so, they typically know less than they think they know. Even experts aren’t experts outside of their field of expertise.

These members of the liberal class are generally successful in their chosen careers or else are able to find other work that is satisfying and pays well. They tend to be more well traveled and worldly. They aren’t isolated in that sense, even as they are isolated in a reality tunnel and media bubble. Their social and class position gives them a sense of confidence and competence.

They are able to argue well and articulate clearly, to offer plausible explanations and convincing narratives. They are smart and able to present themselves as smart. If demanded of them, they would throw out many facts to support their beliefs. And there would be some truth to what they said, even as the evidence they used was cherry-picked.

It reminds me of a coworker my dad told me about. He was extremely smart and could come up with answers quickly. When asked about why he thought a particularly way, he could then offer an instant reason that made sense. But over time my dad realized that he was mostly just rationalizing his intuitions, which doesn’t mean his intuitions were wrong even as the rationalizations may have had little to do with them.

The smarter you are, the better you are likely to be at rationalizations, either in inventing them on the spot or memorizing them.

As always, this isn’t limited to the liberal class. It just seems all the more egregious when good liberals act this way. It’s a need for certainty and easy answers, an ironically conservative-minded tendency. The problem is the world is more complicated than standard political narratives allow for.

Figurehead President

For many years, I’ve held the position that the president is mostly a figurehead. I’m not sure where this idea came from, i.e., how it ended up in my head. I suppose it isn’t an unusual thought to have. But I just noticed this quote by Douglas Adams from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the book he is most well known for:

“The President in particular is very much a figurehead — he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage.”

That might explain the origin of my view. I read that book decades ago. Who knows what other ideas Adams may have implanted in my brain matter. This is why every young person should read Douglas Adams and shouldn’t read Ayn Rand. The crap you read when young has a way of getting permanently lodged in place.

The rest of the quote seems more relevant than ever:

“For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had — he has already spent two of his ten presidential years in prison for fraud.”

Accordingly, one suspects Trump might become one of the most ‘successful’ Presidents the United States has ever had and maybe the entire Earth. But I don’t want to inflate Trump’s ego too much. Still, it can’t be doubted that he likely will provide the greatest distraction the world has seen in a long time.

Now I’m imagining Donald Trump as Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Old School Progressivism

It will be as exciting as the 1930s.
~ Stephen K. Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist

Here is a small history lesson.

It appears that many Americans, across the ideological and demographic spectrum, are quite confused by this seeming new species of politics we’re seeing. But the fact is that it isn’t new. And it isn’t just hidden prejudices surfacing from the deep like Moby Dick, the great white whale that destroys the ship. There is some racism and misogyny being churned up, and it is blatant in a way not seen in a long while. But the question is what is churning it up.

I’ve had a suspicion for a while and some statements by Trump’s adviser, Steve Bannon, seem to confirm it. Bannon said that he isn’t a white nationalist, rather an American nationalist and economic nationalist, and that if they do things right even minorities will support them. He talked about concrete policies like a trillion dollar infrastructure project. The Trump administration apparently is trying to revive old school progressivism. I find it interesting that liberal Democrats no longer recognize it, even as it smacks them upside the head — they viciously attacked economic populism as if it were a dangerous invader when it showed up in their own party.

So, what is old school progressivism?

Progressivism of the past did tend to be socially conservative in some ways and comfortable with certain kinds of prejudices. The old school progressive leaders were fine with making alliances with racists, if that was needed to accomplish their goals. The religious right has historically loved old school progressivism, when it comes to power, and old school progressives tend to find common cause with the religious right. Populist reform mixes economic reform with social and moral reform.

Progressive leaders like the Roosevelts, also coming from inherited business wealth, were strongly nationalistic and promoted patriotism. They were all for a strong military and strong borders, leading to a mistrust of perceived foreigners and restrictions on immigration. And if you were seen as not being in the national interest for the moment, as happened with certain minorities during WWII (Japanese-Americans, German-Americans, and Italian-Americans), you just might find yourself thrown into a internment camp. They were law and order presidents who didn’t mind using force when necessary, not always worrying about political correct niceties. But when possible, they were more than happy to use a carrot rather than a stick… or to walk quietly while carrying a big stick.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into power and cleaned house. He basically told everyone that they’d play nice together… or else! When unions tried to assert their power, he responded by being the most union-busting president seen in US history. Yet when big biz got out of hand in being overtly oppressive and even violent toward workers, he stepped in to demand that workers were treated with basic decency and fairness. The interests of both workers and capitalists were forced to fall in line with national interests. It was a progressive corporatism that only later became reactionary corporatism. And he raised the taxes on businesses and on the rich like never seen before or since to help fund those national interests.

He used that tax money to build the middle class with aid to veterans, cheap college and housing, a strong welfare state, and worker protections. If you were willing to work hard and work within the system, you felt secure in knowing you’d probably do well. This was the foundation of what many came to see as the American Dream. He also used that tax money to build infrastructure and modernize the entire country, bringing the national economy into position as part of the country’s new global power, so that American businesses had the power of the US government behind them in the boom years as US military and economy became a global force following the aftermath of WWII.

We haven’t seen an old school progressive elected to the presidency since that time. And so we’ve forgotten what it looks like… or at least what it sounds like. We have no idea if Trump will follow through on this political vision that is still in the process of being formulated. But that also fits into the uncertainty that is felt by many when progressivism comes to power, bringing along with it a tinge of radicalism and risk-taking, putting everything on the line to create a new order.

I’m not saying you should support Trump and feel inspired by his vision. I’ve never thought he necessarily meant anything he has said. And I’ve never trusted his motivations. I’d apply the same caution toward Bannon, of course. Even so, you should understand what it is that’s being said and why it is so powerful at times like these. This kind of populist rhetoric leading to this kind of populist movement is far from unknown in American history. And it doesn’t easily fall into simple left/right categories. Even if you want to fight it, you better understand what you’re fighting. Old school progressivism is a powerful beast.

* * *

There is another aspect of old school progressivism. It just occurred to me. The aspect is that of technocratic management, sometimes associated with modern liberalism but with its origins in early Progressivism.

The clear example of it was FDR’s administration. He saw society and the economy as something to be managed and, of course, it was assumed that those who would manage it were the technocratic experts. It wasn’t just that there needed to be central management. That had existed before. The difference was that it was an overt and direct management.

That is what justified forcing both organized labor and the capitalist class to work together. Prior to that, the labor wars were often violent, sometimes erupting into gunfights between workers and corporate goons, often the Pinkertons. The Progressive vision was in response to a violent and lawless time in US history, what felt like social breakdown with the rise of gangs and organized crime, along with the privatized police forces like the Pinkertons.

It was also a time of corruption with many politicians being openly bribed. The idea of Progressivism was to create a professional bureaucracy that eliminated cronyism, favoritism, nepotism, and all other forms of corruption. The idea was to create a meritocracy within the government. The most qualified people would be put into official positions and so this decision-making taken out of the control of party leaders.

It would be a well managed government.

So, it was interesting when I heard Trump use similar rhetoric, from something he said a year ago. The specific issue he was talking about is irrelevant, as he walked back his support immediately afterward. It was the way of talking itself that matters most, as it shows the kind of attitude he will bring to politics. In explaining how he would accomplish something, he stated that:

“It would be just good management. What you have to do is good management procedures and we can do that… it’s all about management, our country has no management.”

The issue that he was talking about is relevant in one particular way. It was about law and order. That is what management meant in old school progressivism. A well managed society was an orderly society based on the rule of law and enforced by a professional bureaucracy. There is a paternalism in this worldview, the heart of progressivism. The purpose of a government was seen as taking care of problems and taking care of the citizenry.

I’ll be curious to see what this kind of language means for the Trump administration.

“That party could find itself out of power for a generation.”

What this election means will become more clear over time. The demographic data during the campaigns was interesting, indicating a voting public that was in flux with shifting patterns. It will be interesting to look at the data about who did (and did not) vote and how they voted.

The long term consequences might mean parties that no longer resemble anything from the past. The two parties might essentially switch places. Democrats could become the new big biz party, if the Clinton cronies maintain power. Meanwhile, Republicans might become the new working class party with strong union member support and an economic populist agenda.

Another possibility is that we might see the eventual death of one of the main parties. At the moment, Republicans could be in the more dangerous position. They have the numbers and power in Washington DC to do almost anything they want. They better pick their battles wisely and ensure they gain victories worth winning. They have one shot to show themselves to be a party of reform. If they fail, they could be facing a dire situation far beyond merely losing the mid-term elections.

In a book published in 1997, William Strauss and Neil Howe made a prediction. I read that book not long after that and so the prediction has been on my mind for a while. They wrote that whichever party was in power when the crisis hit “could find itself out of power for a generation.” They saw the beginning of the Fourth Turning as happening sometime early in this century and then in the years following would come the crisis, but this involves predictions of large historical cycles that could be off by a decade or so. Here is the full quote (The Fourth Turning, p. 312):

“Come the Fourth Turning, America will need both personal sacrifice and public authority. The saeculum will favor whichever party moves more quickly and persuasively toward a paradigm that accommodates both. Both parties should lend seasonality to their thinking: Democrats a concept of civic duty that limits the harvest, Republicans a concept of civic authority that limits the scattering. If they do not, the opportunity will arise for a third party to fill the void – after which one or both of today’s two dominant parties could go the way of the Whigs.

“History warns that when a Crisis catalyzes, a previously dominant political party (or regime) can find itself directly blamed for perceived “mistakes” that led to the national emergency. Whoever holds power when the Fourth Turning arrives could join the unlucky roster of the circa 1470 Lancastrians, circa 1570 Catholics, circa 1680 Stuarts, circa 1770 Tories, circa 1860 Democrats, and circa 1929 Republicans. That party could find itself out of power for a generation. Key persons associated with it could find themselves defamed, stigmatized, harassed, economically ruined, personally punished—or worse.”

Barack Obama’s presidency didn’t seem to fit this prediction, despite some fearing it would. He has retained his favorable ratings and nothing horrible went wrong during his administration. It’s just that he turned out to be an ordinary professional politician, but still he succeeded in creating healthcare (insurance) ‘reform’ and under his watch the US military took out Osama bin Laden who was America’s most hated enemy. Even the earlier Bush presidency is still remembered without too much negativity, as it was a time of growing patriotic fervor, even with it having ended on the sour note of the Great Recession.

Donald Trump, however, is an entirely different kind of creature. He will either take Republicans in a new direction or he will take them over a cliff. Upwards and onwards or down and out. It’s hard to see a third option of maintaining stasis. The problems that might come barreling down on the Trump administration could be more than can be handled, even if the Republicans had a worthy vision to offer and workable plans to implement.

Democrats are lucky for power having slipped from their grasp. Now that Clinton lost the election, her sins will slowly but surely disappear from public awareness. She might as well be a non-entity at this point. Anything that happens in the immediate future won’t be blamed on Democrats. They have been sent to wander in the political desert. Upon their return, they can act as prophets from the wilderness, pretending they were never a part of what caused all the problems in the first place.

Voters have short memories. It doesn’t matter who is to blame. What wins elections is who gets blamed. I almost feel sorry for Republicans in their victory. They have some tough years ahead of them. It could very well turn out to be a no-win situation, no matter what they try to do.

Even some on the political right have had these exact same concerns, based on the same prediction of Strauss and Howe. Back in March over at Red State, Ausonius wrote about “this ominous warning for Republicans, who think Trump is the answer for 2016”. The author continues:

“Since 1992, we have endured three Baby-Boomer presidents, a mediocrity, a passable one, and one complete disaster. We currently have two more Baby-Boomer candidates near 70 years of age, whose characters are less than savory, and whose ideas are stale, ridiculous, or formulas for destruction. It is quite possible that a Trump or H.R. Clinton presidency will not address the crisis, but will instead contribute to it by a combination of egotism, incompetence, and ideological blindness. […]

“Republicans could become 21st-century versions of their 1929 ancestors, if they select candidates – and not only for the presidency – incapable of dealing with the chaos around us. Our politicians, and certainly the president, must have a character derived from virtues: the charming, smooth-talking, tell-’em-what-they-wanna-hear techniques of the sociopathic salesman are dominant because a large minority (I hope it is not a majority) of the electorate is thinking on the 12-year old level used by television, the only level it can use.”

* * *

The Most Significant U.S. Political Development In Over 30 Years
by Neil Howe, Hedgeye

Neil Howe Warns The ‘Professional Class’ Is Still In Denial Of The Fourth Turning
by Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge

Has The Fourth Turning Brought Us Trump?
by Scott Beeken, Bee Line

From Generational Theory Forum:
Presidential election, 2016
The Most Significant U.S. Political Development In Over 30 Years
Neil Howe: It’s going to get worse; more financial crises coming
Neil Howe: ‘Civil War Is More Likely Than People Think’
It Ain’t Over, Folks
Grey Champions and the Election of 2016
Has the regeneracy arrived?
A Realignment Theory
Will a nationalist/cosmopolitan divide be the political axis of the coming saeculum?
Political Polarity To Reverse On Gun Control, States’ Rights?

 

America Is Not Great For Most Americans

I just saw a comment that stated, “There is no making America great again. America is better than it’s ever been.”

I’ve seen that same idea repeated by many people. I used to notice it from conservatives. In fact, it was the core message of the GOP inspired by Cold War rhetoric. But now I hear it from supposedly liberal Democrats. It doesn’t matter from which side it comes from. It expresses an utter disconnection from the lived experience and social reality of most Americans.

Inequality is growing. Large personal debt is becoming common. The real unemployment rate is the worst it’s been in a long time. Wages have been stagnating or declining for most workers since the 1970s. There is loss of job security, loss of benefits and pensions, loss of good jobs for the less educated (and, yes, the vast majority of Americans still don’t have a college degree). Factories have been closing down, offshored, or downsized. There are many poor communities (rural and urban, black and white) where the majority of residents are unemployed and the majority of men caught up in the legal system.

As for Trump’s supporters, older whites with average education, the world has decidedly taken a bad turn. Middle aged whites and rural whites are experiencing worsening mortality rates, not seen since data was kept. The middle class in general has been shrinking with many having fallen down the economic ladder, a generation doing worse than their parents and grandparents.

America is better than it’s ever been, really? Wake the fuck up!

If you’re the type of person who keeps repeating this bullshit, know this. It is you, in your ignorance and disconnection, in your lack of understanding and compassion, who are helping to promote Trump’s cause. You are the reason his supporters are so outraged. You are part of the problem.

Why not, instead, be part of the solution?

Data and More Data

Here is some data and analysis that caught my attention. It’s about demographics, class identity, social views, and party politics. One set of data is actually from the UK. It likely is similar to US data.

If I was feeling inspired, I’d look for some patterns across it all. But I’m not sure what to make of it. There is so much intriguing data I’ve come across lately. It makes me endlessly curious. It’s a lot of work sifting through it all looking for connections and patterns.

I figured I’d just throw it out there for now. Maybe later on I’ll have some commentary about it. But let me make one point while I’m thinking about it.

It particularly stands out that Clinton’s supporters are a bit more racist than Sanders’ supporters. It’s still not a majority, but the difference needs to be explained. It doesn’t make sense according to mainstream views.

Clinton is claimed to be the minority candidate, ignoring that Sanders won the majority of young non-whites. More importantly, Sanders has won the strongest support from the lower income demographic, including the infamous and supposedly racist white working class.

Yet “while Clinton’s supporters are less racist than Trump’s — no surprise — they are, on some measures, as racist (and in once instance, more racist) as supporters of Kasich and Cruz.” How does one make sense of that? Republicans are regularly stated as being racist.

Maybe Clinton’s having called certain people ‘superpredators’ wasn’t a mere gaffe. And maybe a significant number of her supporters agree with that assessment. But let’s be clear: This can’t be blamed on poor whites, a population that has no particular love for Clinton.

By the way, how did FDR’s party of the working class become the New Democrats, the party of the neoliberal professional class? On top of that, what does class mean these days, whether in terms of actual economics or social identity?

* * *

The Parties Invert
by Ronald Brownstein

In the history of modern polling dating back to 1952, no Democratic presidential candidate has ever carried most college-educated whites; even Lyndon Johnson fell slightly short during his 1964 landslide. (This analysis uses the American National Election Studies, a poll conducted immediately after the vote, for the elections from 1952 to 1976, and the exit polls conducted by a consortium of media organizations for the elections since.)

From 1952 through 1980, in fact, no Democratic nominee reached even 40 percent with college-educated whites, except Johnson. During that same period, no Democratic nominee failed to reach 40 percent of the vote with non-college whites, except George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1980. Over these eight elections, every Democratic nominee except McGovern ran better, usually significantly better, among non-college-educated whites than among their college-educated peers. This was a world in which Democrats were the party of people who worked with their hands, and Republicans represented those who wore suits and worked behind desks.

But the period since 1984 has seen an accelerating reversal of that historic pattern. During his landslide defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1984, Walter Mondale ran slightly better among college-educated than non-college-educated whites. In the next three elections, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton ran almost exactly as well with both groups.

Since then, every Democratic presidential nominee has run better with college-educated than working-class whites. From Al Gore in 2000 through Barack Obama in 2012, the share of the vote won by the past four Democratic nominees among college-educated whites has exceeded their performance among non-college-educated whites by four to seven percentage points.

Different Republican Responses to Changing Times

I know a number of Republicans who hate Trump. They are refusing to vote Republican because of this. Some are considering the Libertarian candidate or else not voting at all. I suspect some might even vote for Hillary Clinton, God forbid!

One Republican I know well is really struggling with what to do. He has voted Republican for nearly every election in his in adult life and, as far as I know, he always votes. He is an old school mainstream conservative.

I overheard a conversation he had with his brother. Like him, his brother is a lifelong Republican. But his brother has a different bent, such as his having defended social liberal positions. I guess he might be a Rockefeller Republican or something like that, although probably not as far left as a Theodore Roosevelt Bull Moose Republican. Both of them are more conservative on economic issues. They can agree on much, despite key differences.

The brother is even more put off by Trump. It sounds like he is going to register as a Democrat. I know the brother fairly well. He is on the city council in the small town he lives in, and he ran as a Republican. If he does switch to Democrat, that could upset many people who voted for him and that likely would be a big deal in a small town.

Trump isn’t just temporarily turning some away from voting Republican. He may be permanently driving away quite a few. The GOP will likely never be the same again. Goldwater eliminated most of the moderate and liberal Republicans. Now the few remaining will be gone. It will leave nothing but the authoritarian extremists, the hardcore partisans, and I suppose the establishment politicians who have nowhere else to go. I’m not sure what kind of Republican party that will be (or what kind of Democratic party as well, once all those former Republicans join).

I heard the first guy I mentioned above talk to another Republican, a Trump supporter. It was interesting. I could feel the tension of worldviews. The two of them have been acquaintances for decades, but they never were the same kind of Republican. Still, I couldn’t tell if even this supposed Trump supporter actually took Trump’s campaign seriously, as he seemed amused by the whole thing. I guess he is for Trump simply because he is entertaining and because he isn’t a Democrat.

All three of these Republicans are Christians (and all older white males). Yet they are of entirely different varieties. The Republican-turning-Democrat is a socially liberal Christian. The Trump supporter is more of a fundamentalist, unsurprisingly. The Republican who knows both of these other two is more centrist in his Christianity, a moderate conservative, although moreso in the family values camp.

In talking to the Trump supporter, this moderate conservative ended up defending the morally relativistic position that scripture can be interpreted differently in terms of views about such things as homosexuality. It was interesting to hear a conservative Christian make such an argument in opposition to a fundamentalist. Maybe the socially liberal brother has influenced his views.

Strange times. Even old white males and conservative Republicans aren’t immune to change.

Presidential Candidates and Voter Demographics

 

The demographic data is more important for this election than ever before, partly because of all the shifting demographics and hence ideological confusion. The mainstream media struggles in trying to fit the demographic data into some mainstream narrative or another that they’ve been repeating for decades. There is a fair amount of complexity in the data. Nothing breaks down along a single divide.

This is particularly true of the data on socioeconomic class. Most of the data is about income, and I haven’t seen any wealth data which is a major blind spot. Income alone doesn’t tell how well someone is doing economically, specifically in terms of savings vs debt. It also doesn’t show other data such as unemployment/underemployment, multiple job households, hours worked, wage/salary, pensions and other benefits, costs of living, buying power of the dollar, etc. Income alone doesn’t say how well or badly most people are doing.

Anyway, it’s hard to know the full support for some candidates and exactly where that support might come from, as many people don’t know they agree with a candidate until they’ve learned about the candidate. Sanders, for example, attracts the most Independents who have been the most excluded. The poorest are the least likely to be involved in primaries, the least likely to vote in elections, and probably the least likely to get represented in polling data. The minority and youth demographics have higher rates of economic problems and also are typically less politically engaged. But even if these demographics vote at higher than normal rates, it’s still unlikely that they’d vote for someone like Clinton.

Many typical non-voters might vote this year, depending on who is nominated. This could make things unpredictable. A hypothetical Clinton win would be more dependent on who didn’t vote than who did. The same is likely true for Trump as well. Sanders is the only candidate with a chance of winning the majority, instead of winning by default of making the majority lose all hope in democracy.

This is more than relevant at times like these. Most Americans no longer vote in most elections or even bother to register. When asked about their affiliation, most Americans claim Independent which is just to say they claim no affiliation with anything. For many, this means they feel no affiliation with the entire corrupt system and fake democracy. Whether or not they think in these terms, a larger and growing number of Americans perceive our country as a banana republic—a majority already sees the presidential nominating system as rigged and that the rich buy elections.

This is why protest votes shouldn’t be ignored. We are at a point where there is almost nothing left other than protest votes. Both major presumptive nominees, Trump and Clinton, are the most disliked and mistrusted candidates ever recorded in US campaign history (since data began to be kept in the 1980s). There is little hope left in the system and in the candidates it offers as choices, an endless lose-lose scenario between one evil and another.

Sanders supporters definitely shouldn’t be ignored, as he is the only popular candidate that the majority trusts. He represents the last remnants of faith in democracy. Once he is gone, there is nothing left but cynicism and realpolitik. But I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand any of the other voters and potential voters, no matter who they support.

Even minority, specifically older minority, supporters of Clinton are all too aware that the entirety of democracy is a sham and they are simply trying to hold back the worst evils that they and those before them have experienced. They know authoritarianism as a reality, not mere theory. It’s not that they don’t realize that Clinton is a dangerous, corrupt politician. But sometimes you need to hire a mean goon to fight off the other mean goons, or that is the hope, however desperately naive it is. It’s a protection racket and minorities understand all too well how it works.

As for Trump’s support, it is wider than generally assumed. The demographics that support him are about equally found across the lower, middle, and upper classes. Also, his supporters are about average in education as compared to the general population. These aren’t stupid poor whites. All that you can generalize about them is that they are mostly white and mostly conservative. So, they are standard Republican voters. Nothing particularly special. All that makes them stand out is that they are outraged, but even that isn’t a new phenomenon that started with Trump.

It’s not that the Republican demographics have changed recently, besides Republicans being an aging population. Moreso, it’s that the world around those demographics has changed. Even as the economy has grown in recent decades, the average real income for the majority has not just stagnated but decreased. Also, there has been a loss of job security, good benefits, pensions, etc; along with a shrinking middle class and lessening upward mobility.

It would be reasonable to assume that Trump’s supporters have felt these changes in their lives, as have so many other Americans. Many people characterize these people as the white working class, sometimes even portraying them as outright poor and ignorant, but that is inaccurate. They aren’t that unusual. In fact, they were once the heart of the middle class. Their status in society has been downgraded. They have become the new broad working class, the downwardly mobile and the trapped. They are outraged because they’ve lost hope that the world will get better for them and for their children and grandchildren, and they are likely correct in their assessment.

The more economically secure older demographic are those who had union jobs and are retired with generous pensions. Most of these people are with Clinton all the way. They don’t want anything to change because they are set for life. You see a divide in many small towns, such as where my dad grew up: Alexandria, Indiana. There used to be small factories in the town and larger automobile factories in the area, but most of them have shut down. The main income for the town is through the taxing of old factory workers with pensions. The young, however, are impoverished and have no hope for the future. The young generation has been abandoned. And those towns are going to be hurting when the old retired factory workers die and their pensions disappear. The rural young are largely looking to Sanders for obvious reasons.

Class politics has always been a major force in US society and politics. But it hasn’t always been clear, as it often takes different forms. In the past, it has often been divides of race and ethnicity, culture and religion, immigration and citizenship status (including status of free vs enslaved), and much else. Aspects of this are still true to varying degrees. There are also regional divides, along with rural/urban and inner-city/suburban divides.

A more interesting divide is generational. In the early-to-mid twentieth century, there was an aging population that was extremely poor. Many of the progressive and New Deal policies primarily helped the young, from Social Security to the GI Bill. The young did better than the generations before them.

That is different now. The young are doing worse than the generations before them, despite being more well educated and higher IQ. The economy has become much more harsh with higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, decades of stagnating and even dropping wages, low upward mobility with much threat of downward mobility, a shrinking and ever more precarious middle class, a half century of weakening unions with decreasing membership, and loss of job security and good benefits. It is massive crappiness that has been dumped on the  young most of all.

This kind of generational divide is an entirely new dynamic. There exists a wealthier, more financially secure older demographic often with pensions while there is also a poor youth demographic with an uncertain future. Such a demographic situation has never before existed in US history. The future of the young has been sold for the comfort of the old. Not too many generations ago, it was the older generations who were willing to make immense personal sacrifices to ensure their children and grandchildren would do better than they did. This present generation of older Americans, however, are much more selfish and greedy or else simply clueless and ignorant… or, to be generous, maybe they’re apathetic and cynical, just going along to get along.

It is unfair to treat the young now as if nothing has changed across the generations. It’s not just that the young now are temporarily poor. They are facing unemployment rates and decreasing wages that their grandparents’ generation never experienced when they were younger. Sanders supporters aren’t simply biding their time until the money starts rolling in. Employment with job security, good benefits, affordable healthcare, pensions, and high union membership are harder to find these days. This slow economic start will have a severe impact on the lifelong earnings of an entire generation.

Being an older and lower income is not the same as being younger and lower income. Older folks had cheap college and cheap housing. They were able to find good jobs right out of high school or right out of college. Their main earning years was during economic boom times. They were able to save more money and also they had generous pensions. Labor unions have made sure to protect older workers, even as they’ve too often sacrificed young workers.

It’s class conflict, but not of a variety that many in the mainstream understand. No matter how the MSM spins this, it shouldn’t be ignored. Class politics are live and well. It just so happens that at the moment class politics coincides with generational politics, at least to some extent.

This is also a racial divide. The young who support Sanders are the most diverse generation in US history. Sanders has won not just young whites but also young minorities across the board. I haven’t heard of a single minority group in which the majority of the young haven’t turned their hope to Sanders. Among young minorities, a minority-majority is already forming. This creates a different attitude than older minorities who have always known they were outnumbered and so they kept their expectations low.

I’d add that, by speaking of the ‘young’, this includes a large segment of the society. Sanders hasn’t just won the majority of those in their 20s. He has also won the majority of those in their 30s. He probably wins as well those in their low 40s and certainly he breaks about even in the 40+ demographic. This includes a large segment of the workforce and the entirety of young families, including many parents that are reaching the point of sending their own kids off to college. Generalizing all of Sanders’ supporters as young is misleading. Still, the point is that these aren’t old people who began their adulthood during the booming economy and strong welfare state of the mid-20th century.

The national median age is 36 years old. So, Sanders’ supporters are at the demographic center of the national population. In a short period of time, these people will become a great force in society, as the younger generation is larger than even the Boomers.

Older Americans, especially those of lower income, realize they aren’t the future. The young, despite all the problems, are surprisingly optimistic. Also, the young haven’t turned on the old. When asked, the young don’t think they will personally benefit from social security and yet they want to maintain social security benefits. The young aren’t simply saying, screw the old people that effed everything up! There is a generational divide, but that isn’t the main concern. Most people of all ages realize the economy sucks all around, that it isn’t just their group suffering. Still, maybe it is harder for older people to deal with these kinds of drastic changes, as they remember better times.

We forget that a few decades ago, most people thought of as middle class lacked college education. It used to be easy to work one’s way up from an entry level job to more specialized work or even management. This is because on-the-job training and education used to be made widely available. Back in the day, all that it took to be middle class was basic intelligence and motivation. Almost anyone who wanted to work could find work. And almost anyone who wanted to work their way up could do so. Being middle class was simply defined by upward mobility. It was an economic status, a lifestyle, and a social identity. For several generations, it was the defining characteristic of the American Dream.

Trump supporters, being a slightly older demographic, remember what the economy was like a few decades ago. They are old enough to remember a different world, a time of immense opportunity when they were growing up and entering the workforce. Working hard and bettering oneself was a point of self-respect and pride. The loss of that social identity has hit many Americans hard.

Many of these people were taught from a young age that failure isn’t an excuse. It was assumed that an individual was only limited by their own ability, potential, and work ethic. This belief in meritocracy never fully matched reality, but even so it was a belief so many took seriously. This is hard for older Americans to take, as they can’t easily go back to school to start a new career. Besides, who would want to hire these aging workers when there are so many young people who are equally or better qualified? In many cases, there is no place for these older folk and so little hope. Their present state of economic uncertainty or even downward mobility is a point of shame. With shame, comes outrage and scapegoating. People are looking for something or someone to blame for why life has become so hard and hopeless. Yeah, they’d like America to be great again.

Attacking Trump’s supporters isn’t helpful. They didn’t cause these problems. Most of them probably don’t even understand what has happened. They are pissed off and they have good reason. All Americans have good reason to be outraged at this system of corruption and this status quo of failure. Besides the few who feel secure and comfortable, this is an unhappy situation.

This creates endless conflict. At this point, many Americans simply want to be heard and to have their problems acknowledged. They want someone to tell them that they matter. But more than anything, they want change. Real change.

* * *

Inequality Divides, Privilege Disconnects

A Sense of Urgency

Facebook discussion from a post by Corey Robin

* * *

With More Americans Going Far Left (And Right), an Anti-Corporate Agenda Takes Shape
by David Korten

A recently released study by four leading economists of voting in U.S. congressional races uncovered an important pattern. According to a New York Times report on the study, “Areas hardest hit by trade shocks were much more likely to move to the far right or the far left politically.” Job losses, especially to China, the authors noted, lead voters to strongly favor either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

One Last Kick at the Liberal Dog
by Joe Bageant

What are the Democrats offering working class folks? Do they dare say: “Your health care is non-existent so we’re gonna fix it by completely socializing all health care, period. Fuck the upper middle class medical racketeers.” Do they stand up and say, “We are going to completely stop the outsourcing of American jobs?” Or that those goddamned fraud elections are over and will never happen again? Are they out there door to door educating the people, connecting the dots for them? Hell no. Instead they field, as one of my readers put it, “…cheerleaders for exactly the kind of global corporate suck down that is leaving the working class shattered and more vulnerable every day. In the wake of the Kerry disaster, who is now the front-runner for 2008? Hillary.”

Holy mother of hip hop Jesus, give me strength! Could they possibly have found a more chilly and unappealing wonk bitch in the eyes of working people? Look, she may have tried to fix health care at one time. But trying ain’t doing. She will get points for it but just because the hack party machinery can get her elected in New York does not mean the rest of the country is going to let her off so easily.

Facts That Challenge the Narrative About Angry Working Class Voters
by Nancy LeTourneau

Bernie Sanders Has Strength Among White Men Pinched By The Economy
by Tamara Keith

Rural West Virginia is anything but Clinton country
by Michael Finnegan

Why Young Latinos in Rural California Support Sanders
by Olivia Rodriguez

In California’s predominantly Spanish-speaking Eastern Coachella Valley, younger Latinos are responding to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, challenging the narrative that his appeal does not extend beyond white voters. “A lot of youth in the Eastern Coachella Valley see college as not affordable, a shattered dream. Because of his emphasis on college affordability, Sanders can be that spark for us to regain confidence and make a bigger difference.”

Sanders Wins Idaho, Sweeping Rural Crotchety, Gun-owning Men Who Admire Denmark’s Economic Policy
by Cafe

Sanders steamrolled Clinton in Idaho, dominating the key demographic of rural, white, crotchety, gun-owning males who admire Denmark’s policies on maternity leave. Sanders also won Utah, whose Mormon voters made clear his Jewish faith was not a problem, since he can easily be baptized after he’s dead.

Clinton’s weakness against Trump? Appalachian and rural voters
by Anthony Hennen

Clinton has done well among African-American voters, but her margins have fallen dramatic in Appalachia compared to 2008.

“That mountainous stretch handed Clinton some of her most staggering reversals: In Ohio’s Galia [sic] County, along the West Virginia border, Clinton’s share of the vote fell by 30 percentage points; by 33 in North Carolina’s Graham County, abutting Tennessee,” Bloomberg noted.

Many of her county wins in Appalachia Ohio were narrow over Bernie Sanders, her biggest win coming in Mahoning County, where Youngstown is located, with 59 percent of the vote. In a general election against Donald Trump, she’ll struggle to win all but a handful of Appalachian counties if voting patterns don’t shift.

Nor is her problem relegated to Appalachia. She struggles among white voters in rural areas in general. When Bloomberg examined rural county vote results compared with the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton saw her vote share fall by more than 20 percent in more than two dozen counties across rural Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri.

In Rural Iowa, Some Voters Call Themselves ‘Socialist,’ Support Sanders
by William Gallo

But is Iowa really full of left-wing voters who see themselves as democratic socialists? Some evidence to support such a claim is found in a Des Moines Register poll this month, in which 43 percent of Democrats who plan to participate in Monday’s Iowa caucuses identified themselves as “socialist.” That’s more than the 38 percent of respondents who called themselves “capitalist.”

The poll may help explain why the fiercely liberal Sanders is popular across Iowa, despite the state’s reputation for having traditional, conservative Midwestern values. […]

If the success of the Sanders campaign does mean left-wing politics are becoming more mainstream, then that wave could start in Iowa, with voters like Bob Mortensen, the Elk Horn resident, who is caucusing for Sanders on Monday night.

Would he have have told the Register pollster that he identifies as a socialist?

“Yeah, I suppose I would, because I understand what the true meaning of that label is,” he said. “I am a Christian. I am a socialist. And part of the reason I am a socialist, by the true definition of that word, is because I am a Christian.”

Important Wins for Trump — and a Surprising Loss for Clinton
by Perry Bacon Jr.

And in the rest of Michigan, particularly its more rural areas, Sanders carried more than 60 percent of the vote in many counties.

Rural Vote, Which Clinton Won In 2008, Cinches Victory For Sanders In Mich.
by Bill Bishop and Tim Marema

Hillary Clinton lost to Senator Bernie Sanders in Michigan’s small towns and rural counties and as a result lost the state to her Vermont opponent in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election.

Clinton was expected to win Michigan easily, and she did roll up a nearly 11,000 vote advantage in the state’s urban areas. But Sanders beat Clinton by 22,000 votes in the state’s small cities (those between 10,000 and 50,000 people), and he won by nearly 8,000 votes in Michigan’s rural counties. Sanders won Michigan — a state all the polls said he would lose — by just over 19,000 votes. […]

The most surprising result of Tuesday’s primaries was Sanders’ win in Michigan. For Clinton, the results were a dramatic switch from 2008. In the primary eight years ago, Clinton’s share of the rural and small town vote was 10 percentage points higher than her vote in the cities. This year, Clinton’s share of the vote dropped by 8 points as the vote moved from the cities to the countryside.

In 2008, Clinton was in a close contest with then Senator Barack Obama and, for a time, North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Early in the primary season, a pattern developed in the vote: Obama would win the cities, but as the vote moved outside the major metropolitan areas, Clinton would gain.

The Clinton campaign in 2008 took note and began concentrating on rural areas and small towns. In 2008, Clinton was the choice of rural and white working class voters. […]

In Michigan, Sanders narrowed the gap with Clinton among African-American voters — he won 30 percent of the African-American vote in Michigan — and then rolled up large majorities in rural areas.

The Clintons Have Lost the Working Class
by Benjamin Wallace-Wells

Why can’t Hillary Clinton’s campaign get going? By most conventional measures, she had a pretty good week in New Hampshire: a commanding performance in Thursday night’s debate, an emotive one in Wednesday night’s televised town hall. But the scale of her loss to Bernie Sanders was striking, and its shape was revealing. Clinton lost among young voters by nearly 6–1, and among independents by 3–1. Most arrestingly, Sanders won voters with an income of less than fifty thousand dollars by 2–1. There’s a lot of talk about Clinton’s campaign repeating the chaos and errors of 2008, but that year she had the white working-class vote. Clinton’s candidacy looks narrower than ever, more confined to those whose experience of life approximates her own. Last night, in New Hampshire, the rare demographic group she won was those with incomes of more than two hundred thousand dollars a year. For now, at least, Clinton has become the wine-track candidate.

A dying breed: middle class Americans drive success for Trump
by Martin Barillas

In contrast, in 1999, the average middle class income was $77,898. In 2014 it was $72,919, a difference of $4,979. It was in the key battleground states where both Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders have done well, such as Indiana, Michigan, and West Virginia, where the biggest drop in middle class occurred.

Sanders, Trump and the US working class
by Megan Trudell

For example, the contrast between the top down Clinton campaign and Sanders’s grassroots organisation is striking. One important indicator of this is the way that union members have voted. Despite having the endorsement of only a handful of national unions compared with Clinton, “In a stark illustration of his argument that revolutionary political change can only come from below, a growing number of local union chapters are choosing to ignore their national leadership and back Sanders on the ground instead”.7

In every major union that has let its members decide on who the union endorses, Sanders has won. In every union where the leadership has decided, the endorsement has gone to Clinton. This speaks volumes about the divide between the Democratic elite and the party’s supporters.

First Corbyn, now Sanders: how young voters’ despair is fuelling movements on the left
by Owen Jones

Yet it is surely economic insecurity that drives today’s young radicalism. A poll last year found that nearly half of so-called “millennial” Americans – those aged 18 to 35 – believed that they faced a “dimmer future than their parents”. Forty million Americans are now saddled with student debt, helping to suppress their living standards and leaving them with less disposable income for, say, a mortgage or a car. Home ownership across the Atlantic – the linchpin of the “American dream” – is now at its lowest level for nearly half a century. The economic recovery is an abstraction for many young Americans, all too often driven into insecure and low-paid occupations with little prospect of rising wages or a standard of living they believe they deserve.

What Bernie Supporters Want
by Shawn Gude & Matt Karp

Of course, when coupled with the social-democratic remedies Sanders pushes, this is just old-fashioned class politics — the idiom of any viable left project. […]

74 percent of Sanders supporters (compared to 56 percent of Clinton supporters) reported that “the difference in incomes between rich people and poor people” has grown “much larger” in the last twenty years. Sanders supporters placed income inequality among their most important political issues twice as often as Clinton supporters. […]

But if abstract policy preferences aren’t so important after all, perhaps we should take another look at those inequality numbers. What if they actually show the growth of a deeper allegiance — a compound of social identity and symbolic attachment that we might even dare call “class consciousness”?

Burying the White Working Class
by Connor Kilpatrick

Here in the middle of all this were the voters of West Virginia — one of the poorest and whitest states in the country, a place that repeatedly elected a former Klansman to the Senate — asserting their material interests. In the ongoing Clinton coronation, they were about as welcome as a case of black lung.

But it isn’t just the Sanders campaign zombie that liberal pundits are desperately trying to stamp out. It’s the white working class itself.

With Clinton’s nomination a lock, liberals have become even more furious and dismissive of white workers. Commenting on Sanders’s West Virginia victory, they were quick to point out that a felon running against Obama in the same state in 2012 got nearly half as many votes. They crowed about how some of both Bernie and Clinton’s voters said Trump was their real number one choice, and much was made of how Sanders overwhelmingly won voters who want “less liberal” policies than Obama’s.

Conveniently lost in the noise is the fact that Sanders won an even bigger share of voters who want “more liberal” ones.

The media takeaway was clear: somehow, someway, West Virginia’s vote for a Jewish socialist Brooklyn native was a vote for racism. “I don’t want to say it,” said Chris Matthews on election night “but West Virginian voters are, you know — conservative on social issues — but there’s another word for that. . .”

The Bernie Coalition
by Matt Karp

The young liberals who flocked to Obama in 2008, in other words, were economically both comfortable and confident. All signs so far suggest that Bernie Sanders’s Iowa and New Hampshire youth revolt is of a very different character. […]

Why does this matter? One striking difference between Sanders and Obama, as Jedediah Purdy has noted, is that the Sanders campaign is about the platform, not the candidate. Another striking difference is that Sanders has forged connections to lower-income New Hampshire and Iowa Democrats that eluded Obama and every other progressive primary challenger in recent history.

Sanders has done it by offering a substantial rather than rhetorical “progressive” vision. His call to break up the big banks, install a $15 minimum wage, and provide single-payer health care for all — however mild as “democratic socialism” goes — represents an aggressive economic populism exiled from the national Democratic Party for decades. Certainly Sanders’s program far exceeds the universally timid and deficit-focused reforms on offer from Bradley, Dean, and Obama.

Sanders may well have won intense backing from the professional and technical workers that John Judis described at a campaign rally last fall, and that Michael Harrington long hoped might embrace democratic socialism. But the polls suggest that Sanders’s program has also proven immensely appealing to a younger but less affluent and more traditional Democratic white working class: not just hybrid owners, but truck drivers, too.

Bernie Sanders Is Making Surprising Gains With Less Affluent Whites
Nate Cohn

In a compilation of New York Times/CBS News surveys since November, Mr. Sanders leads Mrs. Clinton, 47 percent to 39 percent, among white voters who make less than $50,000. If anything, these figures may understate Mr. Sanders’s strength; he has gained in state, national and New York Times/CBS News surveys over the period.

In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Mr. Obama lost white voters making less than $50,000 by a wide margin to Mrs. Clinton (60 to 33 percent), according to exit poll data. A similar story holds for white voters without a college degree.

Other national surveys consistently show Mrs. Clinton faring no better among less affluent voters than more affluent voters — a telling sign of Mr. Sanders’s strength among less affluent white voters, given his well-established weakness among nonwhite voters, who represent a disproportionate share of less affluent Democrats.

The same appears to be true in the early states.

In Iowa, polls suggest a tight race among less affluent whites, ranging from a Quinnipiac survey showing Mr. Sanders ahead by 21 points among voters making less than $50,000 to an NBC/Marist poll that gave Mrs. Clinton a narrow lead of 52 to 45. CNN and Fox News data suggested a modest Sanders edge.

In New Hampshire, Mr. Sanders leads among voters making less than $50,000 in every recent poll — and usually by a lot. That margin in the most recent NBC/Marist result is 68 to 30. Back in 2008, Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama by 15 percentage points among voters making less than $50,000 a year, according to the exit polls.

But on the flip side in the early states, Mr. Sanders seems to fare worse than Mrs. Clinton among more affluent white voters — who tend to turn out in far greater numbers than lower-income whites. Fewer surveys offer results for voters making over $100,000 a year — but those that do suggest surprising strength for Mrs. Clinton.

The Quinnipiac survey showed Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Sanders, 58-37, among voters making more than $100,000 in Iowa — a group that gave her a paltry 19 percent of the vote in 2008. Similarly, a recent Boston Herald poll in New Hampshire that showed Mrs. Clinton down by 16 points over all nonetheless gave her a 13-point edge among voters making more than $100,000.

What Pundits Keep Getting Wrong About Donald Trump and the Working Class
by Jamelle Bouie

Tally the numbers and you’ll find that Trump’s appeal falls well outside the large plurality (if not majority) of working-class Americans who are either people of color (young or otherwise), or liberal to moderate whites. And you see this in polls of Trump’s favorability. In terms of popularity with blacks, Hispanics, women, and young people, the real estate mogul’s polling is somewhere in the Marianas Trench.

The truth is that it’s inaccurate to talk about Trump’s “working-class appeal.” What Trump has, instead, is a message tailored to a conservative portion of white workers. These voters aren’t the struggling whites of Appalachia or the old Rust Belt, in part because those workers don’t vote, and there’s no evidence Trump has turned them out. Instead, Trump is winning those whites with middle-class incomes. Given his strength in unionized areas like the Northeast, some are blue collar and culturally working class. But many others are not. Many others are what we would simply call Republicans.

The easiest way to guess if someone supports Trump? Ask if Obama is a Muslim.
by Philip Klinkner

You can ask just one simple question to find out whether someone likes Donald Trump more than Hillary Clinton: Is Barack Obama a Muslim? If they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.

That’s more accurate than asking people if it’s harder to move up the income ladder than it was for their parents (54 percent), whether they oppose trade deals (66 percent), or if they think the economy is worse now than last year (81 percent). It’s even more accurate than asking them if they are Republican (87 percent).

Those results come from the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) pilot survey. My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Donald Trump.

These results might be rather surprising since most political commentators have sought to root Trump’s appeal in the economic anxieties of working-class whites.

Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump
by Jeff Guo

It seems that Donald Trump performed the best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest. […] In every state except Massachusetts, the counties with high rates of white mortality were the same counties that turned out to vote for Trump.

We’re focusing on middle-aged whites because the data show that something has gone terribly wrong with their lives. In a study last year, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton pointed out that mortality rates for this group have actually been increasing since the ’90s.

That fact becomes more alarming when you look at the context. Over the past decade, Hispanic people have been dying at a slower rate; black people have been dying at a slower rate; white people in other countries have been dying at a slower rate. […]

Economic struggles have likely contributed as well. Case and Deaton also found that the increase in the death rate has been driven by people with less education. For those without a college degree, the economy in recent decades has been increasingly miserable. This may explain why some have turned to self-destructive behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse.

The people I’ve been describing — this distressed, dying demographic slice of America — are similar to the people who tend to vote for Trump, according to phone and exit polls. Trump supporters are mostly white; skew older; and are less likely to have college degrees than other Republicans. […]

It’s true that life was once better in many parts of America. In the late ’90s, not only was the death rate for middle-aged whites lower, but median wages for non-college workers were higher. Since then, globalization sucked away many more manufacturing jobs, and the Great Recession gave an extra kick to places that were already in decline.

Misrepresenting the White Working Class: What the Narrating Class Gets Wrong
by Jack Metzgar

Rather, for the most part class-prejudiced assumptions are based on professional middle-class ignorance and misunderstanding.

Take the assumed popularity of Trump among the white working class, for example. There appears to be supporting evidence for that. According to Brookings, for example, in a national survey 55% of “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who support Trump are white working-class Americans.” But this does not mean what Brookings thinks it means. Among all adult whites, nearly 70% do not have bachelor’s degrees (the definition of “working class” used here). This means that at 55%, the white working-class is under-represented among Trump supporters. Conversely, unless Trump is getting much more minority support than reported, his supporters are disproportionally college-educated whites. They make up 30% of the white population, but they are at least 40% of Trump voters in the Brookings survey.

There are two reasons for this kind of error, this one by a highly respected D.C. think tank. One is simple ignorance of class demographics. The bachelor’s/no bachelor’s binary is widely used to separate whites into two broad classes, but many analysts and reporters have no idea of the relative sizes of these two groups in the overall population. They routinely assume that most white people must be college-educated professionals like themselves and the people among whom they live and work.

The other reason for this kind of error is based solely on the assumption that white people who have graduated from college are less racist, less anti-immigrant, less anti-feminist, less homophobic, and generally more tolerant of diversity than people who have not. As a college professor, I very much hope this assumption is valid, but I could find no solid evidence that it is. At least in political commentary, the question is never asked, and you have to wonder why not.

The desperate middle-class voters who made Trump the GOP nominee
by Mark Gimein

Polls have shown that Trump does better with lower earning, less educated voters. And indeed, Trump’s backers are less well off than, say, those who voted for John Kasich. But as Silver shows, less well off than other Republican primary voters is still fairly well off. With some careful statistical work, Silver shows that the family income of the typical Trump voter is $72,000.

That’s not wealthy, but it’s clearly a middle-class income, especially in the parts of the country where Trump gathers his most devoted support. The voters who made Trump happen aren’t, by and large, those who have been chewed up and spit out by the death of factory jobs. They are people who thought they’d met the requirements for success in the contemporary economy, and still find themselves losing ground. […]

For much of the primary season, Trump was dismissed as the candidate of the deeply disaffected and uneducated. As the campaign season went on, that became less and less supportable. In many states from Super Tuesday onwards, Trump won handily among GOP voters with college degrees. Blue collar workers may have made up Trump’s most devoted supporters, but it took a lot of $70,000-a-year professionals to get him to Cleveland.

There’s one thing that the conventional wisdom on Trump got right: Trump’s appeal is certainly strongest for those who feel like their expectations have been disappointed, their hopes circumscribed, and their financial state made precarious—people who feel shame that they don’t have the money to retire or to support their families. The hard part to get your head around is how much of the middle class that turns out to be.

The Mythology Of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support
by Nate Silver

Trump voters’ median income exceeded the overall statewide median in all 23 states, sometimes narrowly (as in New Hampshire or Missouri) but sometimes substantially. In Florida, for instance, the median household income for Trump voters was about $70,000, compared with $48,000 for the state as a whole. The differences are usually larger in states with substantial non-white populations, as black and Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly Democratic and tend to have lower incomes. […]

Many of the differences reflect that Republican voters are wealthier overall than Democratic ones, and also that wealthier Americans are more likely to turn out to vote, especially in the primaries. However, while Republican turnout has considerably increased overall from four years ago, there’s no sign of a particularly heavy turnout among “working-class” or lower-income Republicans. On average in states where exit polls were conducted both this year and in the Republican campaign four years ago, 29 percent of GOP voters have had household incomes below $50,000 this year, compared with 31 percent in 2012. […]

Both Democratic candidates do better than the Republicans in this category, however. Only 12 percent of Trump voters have incomes below $30,000; when you also consider that Clinton has more votes than Trump overall, that means about twice as many low-income voters have cast a ballot for Clinton than for Trump so far this year.

Class in America is a complicated concept, and it may be that Trump supporters see themselves as having been left behind in other respects. Since almost all of Trump’s voters so far in the primaries have been non-Hispanic whites, we can ask whether they make lower incomes than other white Americans, for instance. The answer is “no.” The median household income for non-Hispanic whites is about $62,000,4 still a fair bit lower than the $72,000 median for Trump voters.

Likewise, although about 44 percent of Trump supporters have college degrees, according to exit polls — lower than the 50 percent for Cruz supporters or 64 percent for Kasich supporters — that’s still higher than the 33 percent of non-Hispanic white adults, or the 29 percent of American adults overall, who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

This is not to say that Trump voters are happy about the condition of the economy. Substantial majorities of Republicans in every state so far have said they’re “very worried” about the condition of the U.S. economy, according to exit polls, and these voters have been more likely to vote for Trump. But that anxiety doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal economic circumstances, which for many Trump voters, at least in a relative sense, are reasonably good.

Bernie Sanders, not Donald Trump, is winning over the ‘white working class’
by Charles Davis

Writing for In These Times, author Jack Metzgar notes that the basis for this assumed white working-class support for Trump is his popularity among Republican voters who lack a college degree, who have indeed preferred him to the other Republicans in the race. “Among all adult whites,” however, “nearly 70 percent do not have bachelor’s degrees,” the definition of working class used by pundits. One recent survey found that 55 percent of this group support Trump, meaning “the white working-class is under-represented among Trump supporters,” Metzgar observes, which means “his supporters are disproportionately college-educated whites.”

This becomes clear when one takes a step back from the tiny weird world of the U.S. right and looks at the electorate as a whole. In a general election, polls Sanders would not only beat Trump but destroy him: Reuters currently has him up by nearly 10 per cent overall, and that with far less media coverage. Among white voters in particular, Sanders’ margin of victory in the most recent poll does drop to just under 5 per cent — but among white voters who make less than US$25,000 a year, his margin of victory actually grows to 15 per cent. Among unemployed white voters, that number rises to 16 per cent. Practically no one who isn’t white is voting for Donald Trump.

Commentators are right, then, to believe the Trump phenomenon is a white people problem — it’s just the data shows it’s not working-class whites who are the heart of this problem.

Donald Trump is rising because the US middle class has crashed
by Matt Phillips

Trump supporters—who pushed him to victory in key Republican nominating contests in Mississippi and Michigan on Tuesday—are disproportionately older whites without college diplomas.

Today, these folks are usually referred to as “working-class.” But at the heart of Trump’s appeal is the uncomfortable fact that they used to be something else. These people used to be America’s middle class. […]

Basically, this confirms what many people know from experience: These types of households are clinging to middle class status by a thread. […]

Income inequality began to grow again in the early 1980s, and has since returned to the relatively high levels seen in the years before the Great Depression.

Why? Well, for many reasons. But the key is wages.

Incomes at the upper echelons of the American earnings distribution have surged in recent years, while incomes for the vast majority have stagnated. Data from US economist Robert Gordon’s recent book The Rise and Fall of American Growth actually show that real incomes have slightly decreased between 1972 and 2013 for the bottom 90% of US workers. […]

So, it should come as no surprise that this chunk of the electorate would be drawn to Trump’s anti-trade, anti-China, anti-immigration rhetoric. Of course, Trump’s appeal is as much about style as it is about policies. And that style—vindictive, crude, authoritarian—is perhaps the biggest reason to be concerned by both the rise of Trump and the decline of the middle class.

“There’s plenty of literature linking a broad, healthy middle class with political stability and moderation in government. So it’s worth noting too that, on the Democratic side, liberal firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders also won a surprise victory in the Michigan primary on Tuesday, over the more centrist Hillary Clinton. Growing numbers of Americans are veering toward extremism, and the rise of Trump is just a another sign of the fall of the US middle class. And it’s something worth worrying about.

Why Trump’s appeal is wider than you might think
by Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu

Contrary to these statements, however, lower-income and less-educated people aren’t the only voters backing Trump. Trump supporters—even the white ones—are rich and poor alike. They are law school grads and high school dropouts. Trump is leading the pack in every corner of the GOP, not just the working class.

In terms of income among Trump supporters, you’ll find roughly equal numbers of high-income, middle-income and low-income voters. According to data from a national NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll conducted online from March 7 through March 13, the share of Trump supporters who make more than $100,000 per year is almost exactly the same as the share of Trump supporters who make less than $50,000 (and that’s true even when you just look at white Trump supporters). Trump gets just as much of his support from the richest Americans as he does from the poorest.

In terms of education, it’s true that there are lots of people without college degrees backing Trump. But that’s because in the GOP—and in the U.S. in general—there are lots of people without college degrees period. According to the Census Bureau, among Americans 18 and over, about 71 percent don’t have college degrees. According to the tracking poll, among Trump supporters, about 74 percent don’t have college degrees, and that’s also true for the subset of white Trump supporters.

Trump’s fan base is not substantially less educated than the country as a whole.

The Donald’s Trump Card Isn’t an Ace
by John Stoehr

In other words, virtually everyone who voted for a Republican in Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia reported earning more than $50,000 a year. These are Trump voters. Even if they never went to college, they earn more than the average wage, which was $44,569.20 in 2014, according to the Social Security Administration.

Granted, that’s not a lot of money. But earning more than the national average individual income would appear to strain any credible definition of working class. Plus, half of those who pay payroll taxes – about 79 million people – earned less than $29,000 in 2014. Those aren’t Trump voters. Remember, virtually every GOP voter in 18 states said they earned more.

Higher income among even “poorly educated” individuals, as Trump might say, isn’t surprising in East Coast states like Connecticut, where the cost of living is relatively high. But the problems facing the often-told narrative of Trump’s support among white working-class voters don’t end there.

Even in Rust Belt states, where he’s said to have an advantage with Reagan Democrats, Trump didn’t perform as well as you might think. In Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio, for instance, support among such voters never rose above 30 percent. He split that bloc with his rivals.

That Trump performed more or less on par with his rivals in Rust Belt states suggests that his supporters were already firmly conservative or already primed to choose any Republican, populist or otherwise, according to Andrew Levison, author of “The White Working Class Today” and analyst for “The Democratic Strategist,” a journal of public opinion and strategy. Indeed, Levison observed in a March white paper, Trump performed best not with Midwestern Reagan Democrats but with white working-class Southerners. This, he argued, isn’t due to Trump’s “right-wing version of economic populism” but “the racial and xenophobic elements of his platform.”

So the media narrative of Trump’s support among white working-class voters belabored by global economic forces is problematic for two reasons. One, many of his supporters are earning above-average incomes. Two, many voted for Trump for reasons having nothing to do with globalization.

From Slump to Trump
by Christopher Phelps

In a majority of the GOP primaries and caucuses to date (fifteen of twenty-seven) — including such northern states as Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well as southern states such as South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee — Trump swept to victory in every single income tranche, from lesser-paid to wealthy.

In Connecticut, for example, he won 59 percent of those making $50,000-100,000, 55 percent of those making $100,000-200,000, and 52 percent of those making more than $200,000. (No data is reported for that state on those making below $50,000.)

In New York, he actually gained in strength as the wealth scale moved upwards. There he took 52 percent of the votes of those making less than $30,000 and $30,000-50,000, but 62 percent in the $50,000-100,000 band and 63 percent of those making more than $100,000.

Poor and working-class voters make up only about a third of the GOP electorate, measured by an income below $50,000. (Again, a crude gauge: most graduate students make less, some unionized steelworkers more. But median household income is about $52,000, so in the aggregate an income below $50,000 does help approximate the working class. Full-time minimum-wage employees, the lowest rung of the working population, make $15,000.)

Upper-income citizens are far more likely to vote and therefore comprise an outsized portion of the electorate, particularly the GOP electorate, compared to their proportion in society. Again consider New York, where the 28 percent of GOP voters whose income is under $50,000 went for Trump by 52 percent. By contrast, those who make more than $50,000, a group that voted for him by 63 percent, made up 72 percent of the electorate. That’s huuuge.

In short, Trump’s plurality or majority among upper-middle and wealthy voters, because it carries more weight, has propelled his rise more than his popularity with those in the lower tax brackets where his popularity, speaking generally, is greater.

As for level of education, in 70 percent (nineteen of twenty-seven) of the GOP primaries and caucuses college-educated voters preferred Trump by either a plurality or majority. This again included such northern states as Illinois and Michigan as well as southern ones such as Georgia and Virginia.

Voter surveys measure college education in the following categories: none, some, a completed degree, or post-graduate studies. Notably, Trump did better or the same among those with some than among those with none in Indiana, Maryland, and Missouri, and virtually the same in others, such as West Virginia. In Vermont and Mississippi, he actually did better among college graduates than those with merely some college.

The data demonstrate, in other words, that if Trump is the preferred candidate of the GOP working class he has also been the preferred candidate of the GOP’s upper-middle-class, college-educated, and even wealthy constituents.

The only group that Trump consistently does not fare very well among is those with post-graduate education. For as long as the primaries were competitive they split their vote across the remaining field (Kasich, Cruz, Christie, Bush, and company).

What does it mean that Trump has done well among middle-income and higher-income voters but not the most-educated? This suggests that his real base of support is small-business owners, supervisory and middle-management employees, franchisees, landlords, real estate agents, propertied farmers, and so on: those who are not at the executive pinnacle of corporate America (who largely have MBAs and other similar degrees) and those who are not credentialed professionals (doctors, lawyers, and the like), but the much wider swath of those people whose livelihood is derived from independent business activity or middle-band positions in the corporate hierarchy.

This corresponds, of course, to the classic scenario in which the petty bourgeois — the middle class whose ownership of small parcels of property does not protect them from vulnerability in the business cycle and the need to exact self-exploitation — experience worry and insecurity following a financial crisis and economic slump, making them receptive to right-wing authoritarian solutions and scapegoating of ethnic-racial minorities.

Bubba Isn’t Who You Think
by Paul Krugman

In fact, if you look at voting behavior, low-income whites in the South are not very different from low-income whites in the rest of the country. You can see this both in Larry Bartels’s “What’s the matter with What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (pdf), Figure 3, and in a comprehensive study of red state-blue state differences by Gelman et al (pdf). It’s relatively high-income Southern whites who are very, very Republican. Can I get away with saying that rich white trash are the problem? Probably not.

What this reflects, in turn, is the odd fact that income levels seem to matter much more for voting in the South. Contrary to what you may have read, the old-fashioned notion that rich people vote Republican, while poorer people vote Democratic, is as true as ever – in fact, more true than it was a generation ago. But in rich states like New Jersey or Connecticut, the relationship is weak; even the very well off tend to be only slightly more Republican than working-class voters. In the poorer South, however, the relationship is very strong indeed.

This is why it’s true both that rich voters tend to be Republican, and that rich states tend to be Democratic.

More Metaphors of Madness

I first likened being a US citizen to being run over by a car. I then used a simple comparison to describe the prospective presidencies in terms of the boiling frog scenario. Here are three more metaphors for your cynical amusement.

This one is a more detailed metaphor for the candidates this campaign season:

The body politic is ailing. Hillary Clinton is a symptom of the corruption that has compromised the immune system. Trump is a secondary illness like pneumonia that is potentially life threatening.

The secondary illness wouldn’t be dangerous if the immune system wasn’t already compromised and the patient were willing to seek medical treatment. But for some reason the ailing patient refuses to go to the doctor who is Sanders.

The mainstream media is the hospice worker administering pain drugs that puts the patient to sleep, as death nears. Then the patient’s eyes open and rallies some strength asking for something in a voice too quiet to understand, either asking for the doctor or Jesus.

Is all hope lost? Or can the patient still be saved?

The next metaphor is me being plain silly:

Clinton is a monkey in a banana experiment. The monkey’s hand is stuck in the hole, unable to get the banana out and unwilling to let go of the banana.

Sanders is the scientist observing the monkey and taking notes. The scientist goes on lunch break so as to eat his banana and peanut butter sandwich that he made himself.

Meanwhile, Trump is a banana plantation tycoon. He is inquiring about buying the laboratory where the experiment is happening, as he thinks that further banana research might be good for banana profits. He is also inquiring about maybe even buying an entire banana republic while he is at it.

The voting public sees a news report about the ongoing research. It makes them hungry for a banana.

And the best metaphor saved for last:

This campaign season is “Monte Python and the Holy Grail.” Clinton is King Arthur. The mainstream media is the guy following along making clopping noises with coconut shells. Trump is the Frenchman taunting King Arthur and his entourage. Sanders is the peasant complaining that he never voted for King Arthur. The voting public is the killer bunny.

That should clear everything up for you. I’m glad to be of service.