Sunday, February 19, 2017

You can keep recycling this article, but you can't make it be about something else.

Image by Mabel Amber/Pixabay.
Everybody's dumping on poor Sabrina Tavernise and her Times "analysis" about how we liberals are never going to convert any Trump voters if we keep being so mean-ass about it and wounding their tender feelings (who's a snowflake?), by making fun of their #MAGA caps and refusing to go on dates with them.

I don't have much to add to Steve's take, in particular, except I think everybody (including Vacuumslayer and Roy) is missing one vital detail about 72-year-old Syracusan Ann O'Connell, one of Tavernise's three examples of the "moderate conservatives" we should be making nice to—a loyal Democrat (why, she voted for a Democratic presidential candidate as recently as 1996!) who has

drifted away from the party over what she said was a move from its middle-class economic roots toward identity politics. She remembers Mr. Clinton giving a speech about the dangers of illegal immigration. Mr. Trump was lambasted for offering some of the same ideas, she said.
(Pop quiz: How many of the following ideas from the latest incarnation of Trump's immigration proposals are borrowed from Bill Clinton?
building the famous border wall; supporting that wall with a massive increase in border-control agents and temporary detention facilities; revocation of Obama’s DACA and DAPA initiatives providing protection from prosecution for Dreamers and their parents; a beefed-up e-verify program aimed at employers of undocumented workers; new measures to prevent immigrants from accessing any sort of public benefits; punitive actions toward so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to help the feds enforce immigration laws; and plans for a tightening of legal immigration as well.
If your answer is zero [Clinton thought US immigration laws should be enforced but promised the governments of Mexico and the Central American countries that there would be no mass deportations, and rejoiced at the coming of a time when the nation would have no ethnic majority], you may keep reading.)

Anyway poor Ann took a lot of mockery for her fear of Meryl Streep films, which she can't watch any more because the star has become frighteningly politicized:

Mrs. O’Connell feels hopeless. She has deleted all her news feeds on Facebook and she tries to watch less TV. But politics keeps seeping in.
“I love Meryl Streep, but you know, she robbed me of that wonderful feeling when I go to the movies to be entertained,” she said.
But if you read closely, it's not Streep's fault. Ann could easily enjoy Florence Foster Jenkins without getting her brain polluted with dangerous ideas of universal health insurance or racial equality, but her husband won't let her. He's decided they can no longer go to the movies to be entertained, but only as an ideological duty:

“I told my husband, I said, ‘Ed, we have to be a little more flexible, or we’re going to run out of movies!’ ”
But Ed apparently refused. That's Ann's real problem right here. She needs to dump that guy, or get her own Netflix account. But she still won't vote with the Democrats until the Democrats stop soliciting votes from immigrants and black people, so it's really not going to help us win. In addition to taking away some of our reason for living, you know.

The other thing is, some commenters have made fun of Tavernise's research methods: as Steve puts it,
Tavernise draws this conclusion after interviewing three "moderate conservatives" (wow, huge sample size!).
Especially since her three "people on the fence" subjects are clearly not on the fence, if they ever were; they're never going to vote Democratic again no matter how nice we are to them, so they really don't provide any evidence for her thesis. If we want votes, we'll have to look someplace else (as always, I'm thinking of the mostly non-voters of the real white working class, as opposed to the Tmes's imaginary one consisting of the snooty petit-bourgeois like Tavernise's interview subjects).

However, we should not overlook her extensive work with secondary sources, where she consulted many experts. In fact she consulted many experts twice:

many experts argue that [Trump] is a symptom, not a cause, and that the roots go deeper. Many experts compare today with the 1960s and the Vietnam War protests.
Her experts cover the range from social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who believes that "if you get it just right, you can get a multiethnic society to fly, but it easily breaks down, and identity politics is like throwing sand in the gears", to the sociologist Douglas McAdam, who believes that "racially-inflected movements and politics since the 1960s have led to unprecedented levels of inequality and partisanship". So that covers a lot of social science. She may indeed have consulted other ones as well, but she doesn't mention any of them by name.

I believe Haidt is the expert who compares today with the 1960s, as summarized by Tavernise:

That period was far more violent but culminated in a landslide victory for Richard Nixon in 1972, after he famously appealed to the “silent majority,” who he believed resented what they saw as disrespect for American institutions. 
Presumably the comparison is that then, as now, if you let those people think you disrespect American institutions, they will elect criminals just to spite you. If only we'd been less sarcastic we could have gotten Harold Stassen.

McAdam, in contrast, thinks the Nixon era wasn't nearly bad enough:

“There is really only one period that was analogous, and that is the Civil War and its immediate aftermath,” said Doug McAdam, a Stanford sociology professor. “I’m not suggesting we are there, but we are straining our institutions more than we really ever have before.”
Here I find it really hard to work out what the analogy is made of. Did the abolitionists make the slaveholders feel unwelcome and awkward so the slaveholders got mad and won the Civil War? I guess they did win the Reconstruction, and identity politics was a loser there, unless it was the demand for power on the part of white identity, which was the big winner, but that's never called identity politics, for some reason.

All in all, though, as you see by the way these themes of scary immigrants and the heritage of slavery keep creeping out from between the lines, it's the same article we've been getting for months now, about how Democrats must be more welcoming to racists and xenophobes if they want to be competitive, except Tavernise is even less aware than most of them that she's doing it.

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