Category Archives: Elections 2016

The First White President

UPDATE BELOW

The First White President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most provocative and compelling article I have read to date about the phenomena of the Trump presidency. You may not like and it may make you feel uncomfortable, but it should be read. Coates argues that the single, underlying factor that defines Trump’s election is race, plain and simple, and that liberal pundits and politicians who push the “working white class” narrative are either in denial or complicit in the racism.

Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

. . . The scope of Trump’s commitment to whiteness is matched only by the depth of popular disbelief in the power of whiteness. We are now being told that support for Trump’s “Muslim ban,” his scapegoating of immigrants, his defenses of police brutality are somehow the natural outgrowth of the cultural and economic gap between Lena Dunham’s America and Jeff Foxworthy’s. The collective verdict holds that the Democratic Party lost its way when it abandoned everyday economic issues like job creation for the softer fare of social justice. The indictment continues: To their neoliberal economics, Democrats and liberals have married a condescending elitist affect that sneers at blue-collar culture and mocks the white man as history’s greatest monster and prime-time television’s biggest doofus. In this rendition, Donald Trump is not the product of white supremacy so much as the product of a backlash against contempt for white working-class people.

Yes, as Coates explains, Trump won every single demographic of white voters, regardless of whether they were working-class:

Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascar dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant. According to Mother Jones, based on preelection polling data, if you tallied the popular vote of only white America to derive 2016 electoral votes, Trump would have defeated Clinton 389 to 81, with the remaining 68 votes either a toss-up or unknown.

. . . Part of Trump’s dominance among whites resulted from his running as a Republican, the party that has long cultivated white voters. Trump’s share of the white vote was similar to Mitt Romney’s in 2012. But unlike Romney, Trump secured this support by running against his party’s leadership, against accepted campaign orthodoxy, and against all notions of decency. By his sixth month in office, embroiled in scandal after scandal, a Pew Research Center poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater with every single demographic group. Every demographic group, that is, except one: people who identified as white.

Coates is brutal in his criticism of Democratic politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and of liberal pundits like Nicolas Kristof for playing into white identity politics, pushing the disaffected work-class white voter narrative.

My only question to Coates and what I still cannot figure out is why Obama continues to be the most popular political figure in America?

Ultimately, though, Coates’ parting words are indisputable, similar to my own sentiments:

And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.

UPDATED 8 SEPTEMBER 2017

A colleague I discussed this article with noted that Coates did not focus enough of gender, specifically that Hillary-hatred, in large part due to her gender, was a decisive factor in Trump’s victory. I have read some criticism of Coates in the the past that he focuses almost exclusively on race at the expense of gender. I would argue that Coates’ statements about white supremacy and Trump could be easily extended to white, male supremacy.

Trump ran a shockingly overt misogynistic campaign. He was relentless in his attack of female journalists and politicians who disagreed with him, always focusing on their physical attributes. But what was particularly disturbing, revealing, and utterly offensive was his insistence that Bill Clinton’s extramarital behavior was a sign of Hillary’s shortcomings.  That all of America witnessed this (in combination with his “grab’em” statement) and still a majority of white Americans voted for Trump speaks volumes about gender equality in this country.

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Filed under Elections 2016, Trump 45, We The People

The Healthiest President Ever!

I apologize for the revisionism, but these photos speak for themselves.

Need I continue?

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My Final Election Reflection: It Wasn’t So Unique

13clinton-master768

After the initial shock and hysteria of the Trump victory, I have had some time to reflect. My final conclusion is that in general terms the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections were pretty normal, with nothing out of the ordinary.

Let’s start with what we know about U.S. elections:

  • Americans are tribal and vote based on demographics rather than adherence to political ideals
  • Americans are complacent and apathetic; hence voter-turn out tends to be low
  • Because political parties are basically just branding, as such, they focus on fringe issues to differentiate themselves from each other. With a two-party system, this means that the partisan/sectarian split tends to be very close to 50-50% of the population
  • Because of the above, there are very few swing voters and the key to winning elections is not swaying voters, but getting more of your sect to the polls (ie, rallying voters) than the other team.
  • Because of changing demographics in favor of Democrats, the Republicans have an interest in making it as difficult as possible for certain parts of the Democratic constituency to vote.
  • The incumbent party generally loses the presidential election after two terms.

Now let’s look at this year’s facts and how voters behaved:

  • Obama currently has the highest approval ratings of any exiting U.S. president in recent history
  • The economy is performing relatively well, with low unemployment in states like Michigan where Hillary lost this year, but Obama won in 2012
  • There was low voter turnout
  • There was low voter turnout for Hillary
  • There was low voter turnout for Trump, with Trump receiving lesser votes in this election than Romney did when losing to Obama in 2012
  • There was almost no media coverage of the issues, 32 minutes in total on the three major networks.

So what do the combination of what we already knew and what we’ve seen this year tell us? That this was a pretty normal election. Here’s why:

  • Contrary to what you may be hearing, Americans are not angry. Otherwise, we would have seen large turnout, as we did in 2008. The economy is doing well, and Americans overall like the sitting president. But neither Obama nor Biden were on the ballot, so in theory there was no continuity candidate.
  • Without getting into a discussion as to why or if justified, Hillary was an unpopular candidate. She didn’t persuade Democrats to vote for her in 2008 and wasn’t able to articulate a new reason to vote for her in 2016.
  • There was no discussion of issues, which doesn’t really matter anyways because Americans vote based on sect, not policies. So it didn’t matter that Donald Trump – the New York City Playboy conman with entitled, gelled-back haired offspring– was the picture of everything Republicans have always hated about the Northeast.
  • It was consistent with our history that the Republican party (non-incumbent) candidate would win after two terms of a Democrat in the White House.

So put aside the alleged changing political dynamics, racism (there’s always been racism, heck, our country was founded on it), and Middle America’s political revolt and anger. Obama would have likely won by a landslide had he been able to run.

Twenty-five percent of voters, some 90 million people, didn’t show up. Trump did worse than Romney who lost big. Hillary was a horrible candidate because she was unable to rally Democrats. Americans continue not to give a damn and are increasingly more sectarian. These should be the stories of the day.

The fact that Trump was able to empower racists, xenophobes and anti-Semites is anecdotal, a negative externality of the campaign. Something to be ignored by White Privilege.

Our take away could be that the victory of a highly incompetent cheat and race-baiter who got a nudge from the FBI Director means that America as meritocratic and post-racial is pure myth. But being able to keep the fiction alive . . . that, my friends, is White Privilege.

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If You Voted for Trump, Own it. All of It

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a Bollywood-themed charity concert put on by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, New Jersey, U.S. October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2P03M

UPDATED BELOW

I had been hoping to put together my overall thoughts on the outcome of the election, focusing on how this election was lost by Hillary Clinton. Not so much because Trump was a great candidate or because Americans were overtly racist – actually Obama has the highest approval ratings of any modern exiting president. So race is not the story. The fact of the matter is that Democrats didn’t want Hillary in 2008, and there was no new reason for a large number of Americans to suddenly want her now. The sad moral of the story was that – although one could argue that the Clinton’s did some good for the country – it was more than time for them to be retired and to just leave us all alone.

I was even going to give a few arguments about how besides Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich suddenly becoming the second and third most powerful men in the world, the country definitively becoming a police state and the end of the bill of rights as we know it, likely the country would not change course. That’s the beauty (or tragedy) of our fictional political system, something that my father-in-law graciously pointed out to me when he saw his two American grandsons and son-in-law on the morning after. Plus Trump has never kept a promise, so why would he keep his campaign promises now?

But then this morning, I started reading and hearing first-hand accounts of multiple acts of racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic acts of intimidation around the country. Things like Hispanic school kids being taunted by the classmates, chanting Build the Wall and your father is going to get deported, black women being assaulted in public by white men (with “Obama can’t help you now”), blacks and Hispanics being told to sit at the back of the bus, swastikas decorating buildings, and a Muslim American woman who got along with her neighbors for years but woke up to a sign on her lawn telling her to go back home.

If Trump had said, for example, vote for me and I will deport all Jews to Israel, and you voted for him, then I would tell you that voting for him was incompatible with our friendship. And if Trump said, as he did repeatedly, Muslims (which include my wife and children) would be banned from entering the country and you voted for him, then I would want to know why you thought that our friendship and my family were more dangerous than a Hillary presidency. Don’t tell me that Trump isn’t really going to do that. He’s already publicly said that there is something wrong with my family. Is there?

The thing is that the cruelest acts against humanity don’t happen because of isolated evil masterminds. They happen because of complacent masses looking the other way. I hate to use the Hitler analogy, but that is exactly what happened in Europe. Give the people a common cause and enemy, and they’ll commit the most atrocious acts in your name.

Of course, I am not claiming that the majority of Trump voters are deplorable, racist, xenophobic, anti-Semites. But everyone in the country who voted knew perfectly well that Trump was courting all of those extremist factions in our society, and by winning, there are Americans who now feel empowered to openly, publicly and without shame insult, intimidate and assault minorities.

Trump opened that can of worms, and if you voted for him, you have absolutely no excuse NOT to take ownership. What do Republicans call this? Personal Responsibility? So own it.

Don’t we tell Muslims that they are all collectively responsible for terrorists claiming to be Muslim? So take your own medicine and start owning up. Maybe these acts are temporary and will wane over the next few days, but they won’t until as a society we say they are unacceptable. If you voted for Trump, denounce the racism, xenophobia and antisemitism being perpetrated in your name, lest you too be a terrorist.

UPDATE 11/11/2016:

I apologize for beating a dead horse, but I keep hearing Trump voters saying that they should not be held accountable for the acts of other Trump supporters. But if you just voted for a guy who clearly made part of his campaign value proposition that (1) no Muslim could be trusted because a few Muslims were terrorists, and (2) Mexicans were racists, how can you now say that is it unfair to judge the whole group based on isolated actions of the few?

It’s like saying that I voted for Hitler’s Make Germany Great Again part but not the antisemitism, so you can’t blame me for the Holocaust. It doesn’t work that way. If you voted for Trump, you can’t now pick and choose what you voted for.

When I advocated for Obama in 2008, the moment he won, I immediately began criticizing those policies which I disagreed with and have done so ever since.. So if you don’t agree with the racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, then challenge the man you elected to disavow those who do or own it. It’s your country  now.

To the same extent, the Democratic Party needs to take ownership of why they failed so miserably to produce an electable candidate and platform. Over 90 million eligible voters did not vote. That is the true story of this election. The DNC has some explaining to do. Those who didn’t vote also need to own this.

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Ashamed

I have this beautiful baby girl in my arms, my lovely wife on the other side of the bed, my two boys in the next room, all sleeping peacefully while Americans are voting to ban them from entering our country!

My in-laws are visiting. What do I tell them when they wake up and ask if my country hates them?

I am profoundly embarrassed and heartbroken.

I hope you are all real proud.

 

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Blowin’ in the Wind .. the End of the Fiction

donald-hillary

How many years can a mountain exist before it’s washed to the sea?

On the eve of this 2016 Presidential Election, it is looking like that story we’ve been telling ourselves for generations is fiction. Maybe we are not that great nation of ideas, that beacon on the hill, governed for and by the people after all, but a sectarian state where Republicans and Democrats are no different from the feuding Shiites and Shia of Iraq.

Think about how Republicans rationalize voting for Trump – perhaps the most disgusting and unqualified candidate of any major party in our nation’s history – by convincing themselves that Hillary Clinton is both evil incarnate and on a mission to purposefully destroy the country. The only honest assessment is that America the Beautiful has devolved into a tribal, sectarian state.

Let’s face the facts: Hillary Clinton is a crypto-Republican. During both her husband’s presidency and her time in government she has consistently promoted conservative causes and was certainly no radical. She has never taken a politically unpopular position and likely never will. She is best defined by her political expediency and certainly not ideology. In fact should she win on Tuesday, Hillary will become the most right of center Democrat to serve as President of the United States since the Great Depression.

On issue after issue, Hillary is undoubtedly a more suitable Republican candidate than Trump.  That of course assumes that we vote based on the issues, instead of tribal preferences. That the vast majority will vote in perfect alignment with their demographic, only confirms that tribalism is the most accurate determinant of voting behavior today in America.

In his recent history of humankind, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes about the cognitive revolution that took place in our species when we achieved the ability to create fictions, empowering us to “imagine things collectively.” In essence:

We believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society. Imagined order are not evil conspiracies or useless mirages. Rather, they are the only way large numbers of humans can cooperate effectively.

So what happens when the pillars upon which our fictions rest begin to crumble? Continue reading

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Cognitive Dissonance (or the World According to Trump)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a Bollywood-themed charity concert put on by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, New Jersey, U.S. October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2P03M

  • The media is beating Mr. Trump (by rigging the election) vs. Mr. Trump is capable of destroying ISIS, restoring law and order and safeguarding the National Security
  • They’re not nice and unfair vs. Mr. Trump is tough
  • Immigrants are bad vs. Trump gets to keep marrying them
  • Mrs. Clinton is a liar with a dangerous liberal agenda vs. the Podesta emails prove she is secretly pro-Wall Street, pro-fracking and pro-military intervention (ie, she is a closet Republican)
  • Central Park Five are guilty because they admitted to crime vs. Trump is not guilty even though he bragged about repeatedly committing sexual assault
  • Mrs. Clinton aided and abetted Mr. Clinton’s behavior as a sexual predator by standing by him vs. Mrs. Trump stands by her man and blames the media.
  • Big government, regulation and intervention are bad vs. police are always right, increase Stop & Frisk, build a wall and increase regulation of immigration.
  • Taking a knee is unpatriotic vs. claiming elections are rigged
  • Protesters are violent vs. Police responding with military equipment are keepers of the peace
  • You don’t like it, leave the country vs. Mr. Trump doesn’t like it, we should change the country
  • Christianity vs. Mr. Trump
  • Mr. Trump will be incredible vs. Mr. Trump’s campaign

For bonus points, if gaming the IRS makes you uniquely qualified to reform the tax system, would:

  • a misogynist and sexual predator be uniquely qualified to solve gender inequality?
  • an undocumented immigrant be uniquely qualified to reform immigration?
  • a jihadist be uniquely qualified to lead the fight against terrorism?
  • a drug dealer be uniquely qualified to lead the war on drugs?
  • a white supremacist be uniquely qualified to fight racism and antisemitism?
  • a corrupt official be uniquely qualified to fight political corruption?
  • the Ferguson police department be uniquely qualified to reform racist police practices?
  • a man who’s never been a locker room be uniquely qualified to engage in locker room talk?

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