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Curious - 2018-03-29

Almost every day, I check the % of the voting population that keeps supporting trump http://www.gallup.com/poll/201617/gallup-daily-trump-job-approval.aspx no matter what he does or says, no matter what his family does. His support stays firmly between 36% and 40%. Today, it is at 40%, a phenomenon that I kept trying to explain but couldn't.

Until I found this fascinating NYT article today, "The Closing of the Republican Mind" by Thomas B. Edsall. This article has solved one of my personal problems: Although I am going nowhere with it, should I keep trying to understand the trump voter and do I think that the Dems should reach out to those voters and find a way to relate to them and invite them to join the political center? My answer is now: No! I will do something more productive with the time and energy that I used to waste on "peace and harmony". The trump voters should remain on their side of the divide, and I should remain on my side. Demography will do its work: In a couple of voting cycles, the trump voters' shrinking minority will be less and less of a problem. Meanwhile, let's survive.

Trump did not campaign against economic elites. Instead, he built a fire under animosity toward what has been called “the creative class” ,[…] the “cosmopolitan class”. “The New Elite marry each other, combining their large incomes and genius genes, and then produce offspring who get the benefit of both,” . Far from spending their college years in a meritocratic melting pot, the New Elite spend school with people who are mostly just like them — which might not be so bad, except that so many of them have been ensconced in affluent suburbs from birth and have never been outside the bubble of privilege.

The article identifies 2 types of voters/classes and who they are explain who they vote for: The “anywhere” voters, the creative class, who move where the jobs are, and the “somewhere” voters who stay where they are and accept decrepitude.

“One of the more interesting findings that came out of the 2016 election in the United States is that voters who never left, or remain close to, their hometowns tended to vote for Trump, while those who moved away were inclined to support Hillary Clinton.

The anywhere voter values “autonomy, mobility and novelty” while giving much lower priority to group identity, tradition and patriotic expression. They view globalization, immigration, self-realization and meritocracy as positive concepts.

Somewhere voters are more rooted and have “ascribed” identities — [in the case of the UK, for example: ] Scottish farmer, working class Geordie, Cornish housewife — based on group belonging and particular places, which is why they find rapid change more unsettling. One core group of Somewheres have been the so-called ‘left behind’ – mainly older white working class men with little education.

Give a randomly selected group the choice, stay or go, and those who choose to go will be profoundly different from those who stay. And thus when we observe the behavior of those who live in distressed areas, we are not observing the effect of economic decline on the working class, we are observing a highly selected group of people who faced economic adversity and choose to stay at home and accept it when others sought and found opportunity elsewhere.

Those who choose to leave such communities and find their fortune elsewhere are, in Stimson’s view, ambitious and confident in their abilities.

Those who are fearful, conservative, in the social sense, and lack ambition stay and accept decline. I don’t see them as once proud workers, now dispossessed, but rather as people of limited ambition who might have sought better opportunity elsewhere and did not. I see their social problems more as explanations of why they didn’t seek out opportunity when they might have than as the result of lost employment.

Stimson then poses another question: “Should the Democratic Party cater to these voters?” His answer is an unequivocal no:

The [rural] working class was once mainstream America, the most common and typical of all of us. It is now the residue of failed social mobility, when most have been mobile. After decades of social mobility, that residue is now more distinctive, it is those who are not willing to grab the ring, but rather to remain in the hometown and fear change and others. These people should be Trump voters.

While Stimson’s analysis is harsh — criticizing as it does many hardworking men and women whose loyalties to family, friend, community and church may supersede personal ambition — he captures a crucial element of contemporary politics. This is the potential of an angry electorate to provide a key base of support to a politician like Trump who capitalizes on resentment, intensifies racial and ethnic hostility and lies with abandon as a means to his ends.
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