Monday, July 3, 2017

Maybe there's a plural working class

Most of them would already be voting Democratic, of course, but maybe not all.

Ziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera, 1929, via Gegensmith.

Hate to keep picking at the scab of the 2016 election, but there's some really compelling new data out that isn't getting interpreted, I think, as usefully as it could be, in a survey for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group that was briefly reported on NPR yesterday morning.

The big general thing they found, in a YouGov poll taken in the weeks just after the election, with a sample of voters they had studied just after the 2012 election, was about the nature of the Trump electorate, which was that—surprise!—it was completely incoherent, dividing into five categories that had pretty much nothing in common with each other other than their disapproval of Hillary Clinton:

  • Staunch Conservatives (31%), the traditional believers in the Christian-right moral agenda of oxymoronic opposition to abortion and big government (oxymoronic in its failure to see that enforcing their moral imperatives would take a very big and oppressive government indeed), and also suspicious on immigration and negative on Muslims;
  • Free Marketeers (25%), the traditional libertarian conservatives, focused on low taxes, free trade, and small government, and relatively friendly toward immigration and Muslims;
  • American Preservationists (20%), strongly in favor of taxes and entitlements and modestly concerned about discrimination against women, negative on immigrants and Muslims, and the Republicans who went most strongly for Trump in the primary—also the least positive on ethnic and racial minorities, asserting that their race (mostly white) was an important factor in their national identity, yet at the same time among the more likely to have voted for Obama in 2012 (not a lot, 15%, and they were 80% unfavorable, as opposed to 53% unfavorable to Clinton in 2012);
  • Anti-Elites (19%), a group that resembled the American Preservationists in their liberal attitude toward government, taxation, and women, but had the most positive attitudes toward immigrants, Muslims, and minorities, and were more likely still to have voted for Obama (22%, and 70% unfavorable, vs. 50% unfavorable to Clinton in 2012; they were also much more unfavorable to Romney in 2012, 36%, than the Preservationists were at 29%); and
  • Disengaged (5%), who were really too few in number to yield a clear picture.

Those Preservationists clearly fit the profile of the voters we're told we ought to be trying to peel away from the Republicans, the White Working Class that would totally be progressive if their suffering whiteness were only given its due recognition and sympathy (they're the group most likely to be using Medicaid), but it strikes me that there's a much more interesting profile in the Anti-Elites, whose views seem to track with mainstream Democrats in respect to the fight for pluralism as well as the fight for economic justice. These are people we never hear the panditry discussing at all, and they sound like folks that could easily be talked into voting for Democrats. Why on earth were they voting for Trump in the first place?

The cheap answer seems to be, sadly, that they hated Hillary Clinton, fairly or otherwise (obviously I vote otherwise). Unlike the Preservationists and Staunch Conservatives, they were very likely to say their vote was not so much for Trump as against Clinton (47%; while a majority, 52%, of the Free Marketeers for Trump felt that way). Some 16% thought they would have voted for Bernie Sanders against Trump, if Sanders had been the candidate (not enough to put him over the top, I hope people are starting to understand that there would never have been a race between Bernie and Donald, because if Bernie had managed magically to spark the political revolution the Republican nomination would have gone to a pearl clutcher, J.E.B.! or Marco, and their campaign would have been about how terrible it is to take risks with our future by going outside the conventional and won on a Nixon 1972 scale).

Only, to begin with, they hated her much more in 2016 than 2012; that 50% unfavorable rating for Clinton in 2012 had gone up to 91% in 2016 (like the leap from 53% to 93% for the Preservationists).

So the more important question would be what happened in the course of those four years to change their attitudes, and it seems fairly obvious that what would bother the Anti-Elites is the degree to which she was becoming an elite herself. Because although you'd think First Lady, Senator, and cabinet secretary—she'd been all three at this point, pretty successfully—would be considered as fairly elite positions, she now proceeded to get really rich as well in 2013-14, independently of her husband (who'd gotten pretty rich himself while she was in the Senate), with her best-selling memoir and all those damned speeches (which we started learning about with the tax disclosures of July 2015, as the campaign just started to get going), and also, I think, to play a more visible role in the activities of the Clinton Foundation, charitable but also pretty flashy, high society, schmoozing with billionaires and foreign dignitaries even as she was preparing her presidential run.

All of which sounds like a political mistake in retrospect (except the book, though it was undoubtedly the biggest money maker), by comparison with her perfectly calibrated 2000 senatorial run, when she had deliberately humbled herself to sit in everybody's kitchen and have them tell her what to do, on her "listening tour' of New York State. And then there were the Clinton calumny industry, the horserace press, the Russians and WikiLeaks, and the dudebros assiduously working to stress these elements, the speaking fees and the Foundation, and to make them sound as much as they could revolting and possibly criminal.

Which is the depressing part, of course, that the errors of the Clinton campaign should have been so magnified in this ridiculous and probably illegal way, and that chance (or Russians) in those 33 counties in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania should have blown that in turn into such a catastrophically anomalous result.

But the thing that strikes me is actually pretty cheerful: that there's an alternative, you know, to running around trying to recruit racists into the party, in the way everybody from J.D. Vance to Freddie De Boer keeps telling us to do. The Anti-Elites are also the youngest of the four large groups (39% under 44, compared to 36% for the Democrats in the YouGov sample, while only 23% of the Preservationists, 21% of the Staunch Conservatives, and 30% of the Free Marketeers), the second-best educated (29% have a college degree compared to 39% for the Free Marketeers) and simultaneously the second poorest (44% with income under $50K compared to 55% for the Preservationists).

They voted badly in November, but it's not entirely their fault: they have been much lied to by folks who should have known better. Hopefully experiences in our Republic going into the 2018 election will have chastened them and there will be candidates who can talk to them in anti-elite talk.

I still like nonvoters best, but if we must aim at some group of Republicans, these guys are the ones we can get, and they aren't so bad.

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