Thursday, November 9, 2017

Michael Kruse's Politico Analysis of Trump Voters in Light of Tuesday Elections: "A Story of People Who Are Addicted to White Supremacy"

On Facebook and Twitter, I'm finding that the most lively conversations now taking place after Tuesday's election focus on Michael Kruse's article published yesterday in Politico, about diehard Trump supporters in the economically depressed mining community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Kruse is not directly commenting on Tuesday's election results, but his piece appeared at a fortuitous moment in that regard. It might as well be analysis of one side of the American political landscape — and why the other side of the political landscape so resoundingly repudiated that side in the elections held on Tuesday. 

Here's the conclusion to Kruse's article, reporting what Trump voters Pam Schilling ("Pam Schilling is the reason Donald Trump is the president") and her husband Dave McCabe told him as he interviewed them about their reasons for voting for Donald Trump and continuing to adore him even though they know he has not kept his promises to them and will not do so:

Schilling and her husband, however, did not restrain themselves. 
"The thing that irritates me to no end is this NFL shit," Schilling told me in her living room. "I'm about ready to go over the top with this shit. We do not watch no NFL now." They're Dallas Cowboys fans. "We banned 'em. We don't watch it." 
Schilling looked at her husband, Dave McCabe, who's 67 and a retired high school basketball coach. She nodded at me. "Tell him," she said to McCabe, "what you said the NFL is …" 
McCabe looked momentarily wary. He laughed a little. "I don't remember saying that," he said unconvincingly. 
Schilling was having none of it. "You're the one that told me, liar," she said. 
She looked at me. 
The NFL? 
"Niggers for life," Schilling said. 
"For life," McCabe added.

And here's good commentary I've been reading about this article:

It's clear before you get to the last line of this must-read piece at Politico—and you're gonnawanna read it straight through to the very, very bitter end—that attempts to reach out to or reason with hardcore Trump supporters are a waste of time, political energy, and scarce resources. . . . 
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is a dying town full of dying people whose support for Trump can best be understood as a collective death wish—not for themselves, since they're already dying, but for the country that has abandoned them and an economic system that has failed them. That death wish may not be why they supported Trump initially, but it's why they're standing by Trump now. It doesn't matter that Trump has shown no interest in delivering on the many promises he made them. It doesn't matter that he lied to them and betrayed them. (He was the only Republican candidate who wouldn't cut entitlements earned benefits, he said, he wasn't going to give tax breaks to the wealthy, he wasn't going to forget about working (white) people.) On some level the subjects of Kruse's piece know nothing can be done to help them—coal isn't coming back, their town will never be what it was, their kids have to choose between leaving Johnstown or dying there—and they want Trump to burn it all down. . . . 
Be sure to read through to the last line. It's all we need to know about Trump's base. There's no reasoning with them, there's no helping them, and there's really no point in trying.

These people are not reachable. I wish they were. There’s no point in getting angry about it anymore. There’s also no point in wondering why they feel the way they do, why they fell for the snake oil, and why they consistently vote against their own interests, or don’t vote at all.

This is the Trump supporter in a nutshell: When confronted with facts, the topic changed. The sources they use to get their information on a daily basis are suspect: Friends, family and Fox News. The latter is, well, Fox News, but the former are the people who were absolutely certain that Obama was the antichrist.

Gary Younge's recent powerful account of his travels in white America was published two days before Kruse's piece came out, but it serves as an instructive counterpoint to Kruse's commentary, especially because Younge's essay opens with a Johnstown anecdote — and here's Younge's take on Trump supporters whom he interviewed: 

Increasingly, for many white Americans, their racial privilege resides not in positive benefits of work and security but in the sole fact that it could be worse – they could be black or Latino. In other words, their whiteness is all they have left. In few areas is this clearer than the opioid epidemic, which is disproportionately affecting white America.

Or as Alternet sums up Younge's article in a subheading to the Alternet version of this essay

The rise of the alt-right is no coincidence. For millions of Americans, race is all they have.

Some interesting conversations I've had on Twitter and Facebook about Kruse's essay and the commentary about it I've shared above:

My Facebook friend John Masters, in response to Kruse's article after I shared it on Facebook: 

Here is one of two key statements, "His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it's evidently not what he's doing so much as it is the people he's fighting." 
The author cautions about any candidate simply running against "Trump," and thinking they will win. The problem is, the people he interviewed made it clear that nothing will change their minds about Trump. The other key statement is, "It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether." 
What you have to accept is that you are not going to get Trump voters, unless you behave as bad as he does and embrace bigotry and white supremacy. Hopefully, Democrats won't try that strategy. The key, as I think we say in yesterday's election is to get out the vote. I think we saw it is possible to simply overwhelm the Trump base. They will be more apt to turn out for him in 2020, so keep that in mind, but I don't sense any real zeal for anyone else running in the mid-terms. 
So we need to pull out all the stops in 2018 as a dry-run, and then execute a ground game and get out the voter strategy in 2020. Just forget trying to find some way to cater to his base....It. Ain't. Gonna.Happen.

John, yes — I thought those two statements were really telling, too. I agree with your conclusion: "What you have to accept is that you are not going to get Trump voters, unless you behave as bad as he does and embrace bigotry and white supremacy." 
The Democratic party can stand on its head and will not change those folks' minds. As a nation, we need to accept that they do not represent our future, but are a drag and brake on a viable future — in the same way white Southerners who kicked and screamed about integration were. 
The lesson I learned living through the kicking and screaming: NEVER let folks like that determine the future. Walk around them. They do not want to help themselves. They do not want to learn, to listen, to do better and be better. Leave them to the fate they have created for themselves by their belligerent ignorance.

And more — John Masters again:

I have, over time, given this a lot of thought. I just couldn't get my head around why people keep voting against their own interests.  
I am no social scientist, but here's what I've come up with. I think a lot of these people have given up and come to realize the world and the economy have passed them by. They no longer expect anything will change. They hope it might, but have decided it likely never will. I think that is why drug use is so high in these provide a panacea for that feeling. 
So, along comes someone who hates the same people they do, and is willing to join them in blaming their ills on someone else...easy targets, the people they already didn't like or were suspicious of. They keep saying that at least Trump "understands" them. Of course, he has no clue about their lives, but he's been able to identify who they don't like, so he understands that about them. Since you don't think anyone will ever change anything about your circumstances, at least they found someone who understands that they want to blame someone else, and who will share their hate of others not like them. It's a political position from hopelessness. 
Now, this certainly does not describe all of the Trump supporters, but a good portion of them, and I'm convinced these will be the core. The people who will support him to the end, whenever and however that happens.

I agree, John. And I'm sorry for their economic plight. The thing is, they keep choosing their own immiseration by falling over and over and over again for the lies of the party they want to keep in power — as it robs them blind and ignores their terrible condition. 
For one simple reason: racism. They long ago drank that Kool-Aid and will not seek a cure. 
I also read article after article reporting that young men in these hollowed-out mining communities tell reporters that no, they don't intend to take advantage of free job training offered to them to teach them skills other than mining skills. When asked why, they say Trump will bring their jobs back.  
How can one feel sorry very long for people who deliberately shoot themselves in the foot because they relish the toxic Kool-Aid they keep drinking? 

In the same thread, my friend Charlie Smith writes,

 Sad stories from a sad part of the country.

I reply:  

Charlie, yes, they surely are. The world seems set up always so that some people bear the brunt of other folks' advancement and luxuries. There are populations that get exploited, used up, and thrown away, and those folks are not given lifelines to help them rise out of their misery. 
What's so frustrating is the determination of some of these groups to blame someone they see as "beneath them" for their misery, when it's socioeconomic elites who have exploited them and keep doing so. I find it perplexing that many folks in these conditions just keep right on voting to empower those who have created misery for them.

My conclusion about all of this, which I shared with my Facebook friends yesterday:

Donald Trump has done NOTHING for them. They know this. They admit this. 
They know that none of the grand things he promised them have come their way, nor ever will come their way. But they say that they love him. When asked why, they say that he gets things done! 
By contrast, Barack Obama is the antichrist. They hear this in their Catholic churches. Black Lives Matter and those brown-skinned immigrants trying to come in and steal our jobs and rape our women: those are the problem. 
And yes, they will proudly vote for Donald Trump again, even though they know and state that he will never fulfill any promise he has made to them. They like him because he focuses their hate and he acts out that hate in an unashamed, public way. 
As Jamelle Bouie has tweeted about this article, "The best description i have for this piece is it is a story of people who are addicted to white supremacy." 

(Thanks to Sarasi for pointing out that I had typed Kevin Kruse and not Michael Kruse in the header for this posting. I've corrected that mistake now.)

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