I just came across this ridiculous piece on Salon.
The title is catchy: “some of Trump’s strongest supporters are Democrats.” What kind of Democrats, though? People full of racial resentment. Indeed, the conclusion reads, “The reason so many liberal and moderate whites are flocking toward Trump is simple: racism.” I guess being liberal/moderate is not incompatible with being horribly racist. What do they want to do, then? Get rid of these people from the Democratic Party, I suppose. More Brechtian solutions: the people have disappointed the party, thus they must be purged.
I don’t know if the Democrats who support Trump are “racists” or not. I do strongly suspect, based on the numbers I have seen, that they are predominantly white, very few blacks, somewhat more Hispanics and other minorities. The narrative that the whites who resent minorities fits, especially in the aftermath of Trump’s implicit association with the Klan and others and the stereotype of both the Tea Party and the “rednecks” in general.
But how did this piece arrive at this conclusion? The methodology seems dubious. This conclusion is based on correlation between composite measures, which can lead to spurious conclusions. The example of the kind of questions that they used to create the composite measures raise alarm bells: ““If Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”
It is an established fact that economic distress is correlated with support for Trump. It is also likely that economically-distressed people are likely to put blame on various other factors other than themselves, justly or unjustly: the government, the minorities, the Illuminati, globalization. They key words here, though, are “factors other than themselves.” It is not that surprising that the average black would not put blame on themselves, whether correctly or incorrectly. If the question were reversed, whether institutionalized racism is to blame, I would imagine the same pattern would manifest itself in reverse: distressed blacks would be most likely to place the blame, other minorities somewhat less so, and the whites the least.
I think exercises like this are silly, patronizing, and outright dangerous: economically distressed people blame things. All people may or may not be a little racist, but economic distress exacerbates what racism there already is. The best way to combat this is to remove economic distress from as many people as possible. The smug attitude not so well hidden behind this piece is patronizing arrogance: “we love poor people, but only those deserving ones with the proper moral attitude.” This sort of attitude created Victorian era workhouses of Dickensian novels. The characteristics of the “deserving poor” are changing, reflecting the moral mores of today’s cosmopolitan elite, but just as elitist and totalitarian as there ever was. Is it any wonder that the economically distressed of today’s United States are looking at Trump to throw these “neoliberal oligarchs” out? This is not an endorsement of Trump, but a recognition of where this resentment, racialized or otherwise, is coming from. If you want to stop Trump, today or tomorrow, don’t blame the distressed. Remove the economic distress and vast majority of them will return to being good normal decent people that they always have been, even if they might still be racially and culturally insensitive at times. If you control their bread, you may be able to force them to recite the Cosmopolitan Creed with every loaf, but it only furthers the resentment and sets the stage for a revolt. If anything, Democrats should be doing what they can to recruit the economically distressed whites without triggering their racism. Instead, they are trying to find excuses for kicking them away while blaming them for apparent racism.