American democracy

by Henry on November 9, 2016

The text that is going through my mind this morning is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. I’ve had a half written post sitting on my computer for a long time on the resonances between that book and Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, which is far more lightly written, but which is subtly scathing in its depiction of how racism in America is anterior to, and more fundamental than American national identity. The most important part of Coates’ book, as I read it, is the part that got least attention – its account of American democracy. One of the reasons that liberals like Jonathan Chait get angry with Coates is because of his refusal to accept that things have, in some fundamental way, gotten better. This stems from Coates’ belief, which he develops in the book that the conditions of black people (and others too) are the result of wilful choices by a democratic majority.

The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies — the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects— are the product of democratic will … The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs. (pp. 78-79)

It’s hard to argue with those words this morning.

{ 74 comments }

1

Alesis 11.09.16 at 1:48 pm

I expect TNC’s relative quiet during this election season was in part because he saw the truth of this when a lot of us refused to.

2

Jake Gibson 11.09.16 at 2:16 pm

I see exactly that attitude in many people who may not even recognize it in themselves.

3

Z 11.09.16 at 2:23 pm

The text that is going through my mind this morning is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

Me too, though that is in great part because I finally read it only in the suddenly very distant world of last Saturday.

That said, I think it would be a cruel misunderstanding (not one I accuse you to make) to believe that the majoritarian pigs Coates refer to are solely or even mainly the Trump voters. I think the left perhaps even more than the right has to grapple with the fact that the (for a long time extremely radical) notion of fundamental political and social equality in the United States including all its positive manifestations has been built on the (equally radical) exclusion of Black people (or so goes the theory, anyway, but I buy it myself, and much more so as of today), so that a serious commitment to both political equality and complete social inclusion of all entails the construction pretty much from scratch of something new (for Americans, other people might have succeeded yet have other problems); not (only) something self-evident that uncivilized Trump voters are too stupid and/or too racist to perceive as self-evidently ideal.

One last painful thing to me, reading “majoritarian”. Hillary actually got about 150,000 more votes than Donald, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Meaning that Americans inflicted Trump on themselves and the planet despite their own will because they managed to stick to their absurdly archaic system. That burns.

4

ZM 11.09.16 at 2:42 pm

I think the election shows not just inequality between races in America with black people voting overwhelmingly for Clinton, but also inequality between States with people in the States with lower Labour Force Participation voting overwhelmingly for Trump.

This is sort of weird, that people suffering from inequality vote differently, but this is probably from race being politicised so much in America, and also since I don’t think either party have good policies about reducing inequality either for black people with lower Labour Force Participation or for States with lower Labour Force Participation.

If you look at Labour Force Participation (LFP) figures, Trump won a clear majority of the States with both the lowest LFP (12 out of 16 States) and the highest LFP (9 out of 13 States) rates. The Democrats won a smaller majority of the States with the medium LFP (12 out of 22 States).

Nationally in the USA since 1994 white non-Hispanic male LFP went down from 75.5% to 68.4% and black male LFP went down from 69.1 to 63.6%. This is a similar sized decrease, only very slightly higher for white non-Hispanic males, but black male LFP started from 6% lower in 1994, and has now decreased another ~6%. White non-Hispanic LFP has dropped to slightly below the level of black male LFP in 1994.

If you look at female LFP rates, there is a smaller decrease for white non-Hispanic women and black women actually increase LFP slightly, and there is less of a racial divide — white non-Hispanic women LFP went from 60.1% to 56.9% and black women’s LFP went up from 58.7% to 59.2%.

But the difference in LFP between States is greater than the difference between races.

The OECD puts USA LFP at 72.8%, and Australian LFP at 76.4% (2013).

In Australia the difference between States is not so big, we have two States in the low LFP category — Tasmania at 60% and South Australia at 61.8%; four States in the middle LFP category — New South Wales at 63.7%, Queensland at 64.3%, Victoria at 65.2%, Western Australia at 66.8%; and two States in the high LFP — the ACT at 70.5% and the NT at 74.3% (I’m am not sure of this high figure for the NT, but I don’t know the methodology used).

In the USA you have a greater proportion of States in the low and high categories, with States (16) in the low LFP category of 54% to 62.5% including populous States like New York and Florida in this category, and 12 States in the high LFP category.

Trump won 12 out of 16 States with low LFP and he won 9 out of 13 States with high LFP.

The Democrats won a small majority of 12 out of 22 States with medium LFP.

I think you have a real problem with inequality between States. Labour Force Participation in Tasmania and South Australia are regarded as real problems in Australia, and that is even with our welfare, universal healthcare, and P-12 education being funded by the Federal Government not the States.

The difference between Labour Force Participation in low LFP States and high LFP States is 54% in West Virginia to 72.3% in North Dakota. This is greater than the difference in LFP in 2014 between white non-Hispanic men and black non-Hispanic men, and much greater than the small difference between white non-Hispanic women and black women.

I haven’t looked at income levels as well as LFP levels, but you have a lot of States with low LFP that mostly voted for Trump. I don’t think Trump had very good policies about getting jobs for people, but I can’t think of what the Democrats policies for getting jobs were.

Looking at these figures, I think maybe black people would have voted more for Trump if he wasn’t so racist, since States with low LFP voted for him. I think this is a pretty big problem, race shouldn’t be politicised this much with one major Party basically being off limits for black voters, and the Democrats should be doing better with States with low LFP since they are supposed to be the Party with more social democratic principles.

5

Ronan(rf) 11.09.16 at 3:08 pm

The right are on the rise in Europe. We’ve had brexit. Russian nationalism is resurgent. As, it seems, is Hindu nationalism. The reactionaries have defeated the Arab spring. I’m not saying there’s some simple causal relationship between all these events, but concentrating on white nationalism/supremacy/nativism and (as is continually done, by others not necessarily HF) ignoring the other political economy causes means we all aren’t going to escape this maelstrom.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2016-10-17/populism-not-fascism

6

Stephen 11.09.16 at 3:12 pm

Z: “fundamental political and social equality in the United States including all its positive manifestations has been built on the (equally radical) exclusion of Black people”

A view going back to Samuel Johnson: How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?

Not that its antiquity helps much in solving the problem. If it is soluble, of course.

7

reason 11.09.16 at 3:25 pm

Z http://crookedtimber.org/2016/11/09/american-democracy/#comment-697605
“Meaning that Americans inflicted Trump on themselves and the planet despite their own will because they managed to stick to their absurdly archaic system. That burns.”

The ones that voted against Trump did not do that, and the archaic system was designed for exactly that purpose by slave owners, whose descendants naturally want to protect it. Inappropriate collectives are a plague.

8

Stan 11.09.16 at 3:33 pm

Z, right….and I’ll just add that that absurdly archaic system is itself a product of the desire to preserve slavery.

9

Mitch Guthman 11.09.16 at 3:47 pm

Eh bien, bienvenue à la abysse.

10

Gabriel 11.09.16 at 3:58 pm

Except that MORE women, black folk, latinos, etc voted for the Republican candidate than they have in years.

Clearly, racism played a strong part in motivating a portion of Trump’s base. Just as clearly, the New Dem strategy of piecing together a coalition by assuming the vote of the educated and appealing to atomized racial groups while ignoring entire classes of people does not work. ‘Neoliberalism – suck it down, because the other guy is a racist demogogue’ does not work. Even when the other guy is a racist demogogue.

11

LFC 11.09.16 at 4:05 pm

Slightly OT but election-related: In Marc Fisher’s piece in WaPo today (bottom front p. of hard-copy edition), there are a couple of paragraphs about how Trump’s rhetorical style — the deliberate offensiveness, quickness to respond to slights etc — fits w the culture of online talk/relations, and how Trump took advantage of this to turn himself into “a human vent, blasting the country with a stream of frustration and anger that many people had either kept to themselves or spewed about only anonymously.”

The implication is that the norms of what is acceptable in political rhetoric and public speech have been changing and this, coupled w Trump’s apparent unconcern for the usual conventions of pol. discourse, worked in his favor. Even if one buys this, of course it wd be only one, and perhaps a relatively minor, strand in what wd have to be a multi-pronged explanation of the result.

12

marcel proust 11.09.16 at 4:18 pm

As of 11AM EDT, the NYT Polltracker is showing HRC leading the popular vote by about 165K, about 0.2%.

Also, I saw a tweet this AM (so not sure of the provenance of these numbers) that 2 party vote totals were down this year by about 7%, more than 3/4ths of that HRC relative to Obama. I can’t quickly find totals for Johnson or Stein, but am doubtful it totals 7% of the 2012 total. This, despite population growth since 2012. So lower turnout is part of the problem.

13

rootlesscosmo 11.09.16 at 4:23 pm

Obama won twice, but Clinton lost, though if anything the economic and demographic changes since 2008 should have been to her advantage. How come? I’d suggest a couple of factors: first, Obama’s opponents, while politically awful, fell within the category of decent human beings and so were less able to mobilize what Coates rightly calls the majoritarian pigs as the swamp creature Trump was. And second, the majoritarian pigs also hate uppity women, and in the back-and-forth between the “it’s class, not race” and the “no, it’s racism” viewpoints (of which I favor the latter) I think it’s worth adding “and it’s gender, too.”

14

Fiddlin Bill 11.09.16 at 5:43 pm

Chris Matthews statement early this morning that racism did not play a part in the election proves Coates’ point to a tee.

15

otpup 11.09.16 at 6:49 pm

1) Democratic will is hard to parse in an governmental system as anti-majoritarian as the American system.
2) Americans cling to their antiquated system because they have no choice, the Constitution is notoriously hard to amend and the political class as a whole has never showed much in interest in procedural let alone structural reform.
3) fwiw, France and the UK have their own issues (admittedly not as dire as the American case) with antiquated parliaments.

16

Alesis 11.09.16 at 6:57 pm

The democratic party never ignored whole classes of people. It was firmly and convincingly rejected by the majority of white people in the years following the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Because of… racism.

17

DMC 11.09.16 at 7:20 pm

I think 2016 now counts as an “anno mirabilis”. First Brexit, then the Cubs, now Trump. I’m investing in a revival of Alfred Jarry’s 1897 proto-surrealist classic “Ubu Roi”. Its strangely topical once again.

18

Val 11.09.16 at 7:21 pm

@ 10
Not more women, judging from exit polls. Only more men, across a range of groups. Have commented on the other threads on the significance of this so won’t do so here again.

19

Yankee 11.09.16 at 7:33 pm

Racism emerged in the campaign but it was given the opportunity a widespread dissatisfaction that is personal and existential rather than racial. That is, the post-war liberal order has failed to deliver to many and the winners have seen the losers as ignorant, uncouth, ungrateful and unworthy, eg HRC’s “deplorables” and even Obama himself about “clinging to guns and god”. Romney’s 47%, except now it’s the 51% vs the 49%, with the sideshow 1% vs 99% … actually 1% vs 48% … just an extreme case.

Whatever, it isn’t just the US. Apparently we are about to transition to a new style of world order, I don’t see anyway back from where we are even without climate change. Personally I’ve been expecting it since 1967 … it took a long time but here we go. Well … there’s chances.

20

Tabasco 11.09.16 at 7:56 pm

It’s not that complicated. Trump got as many Repub voters as Romney. Maybe different ones but the same in total. Dems stayed home. Many Dems who got out and voted for an African American, twice, stayed home and didn’t vote for a woman or against a man who boasts of sexually assaulting women. That looks like a problem of sexism, not racism.

21

Sebastian H 11.09.16 at 8:39 pm

Kevin Drum has an interesting way of looking at things:

The quickest way to get a sense of what happened is to compare the exit polls from 2012 and 2016. What we’re looking for is demographic groups that differ from -4% by a significant margin. As it turns out, there aren’t very many. Clinton underperformed Obama across the board. She did somewhat better than -4% with seniors, college grads, married voters, and high-income voters. She did worse with low-income voters, union households, and unmarried voters.

This was not a “white revolt.” White men followed the national trend (-4% compared to 2012) and white women did better for Clinton (+1%). Black men and Latino women underperformed for Clinton by significant margins.

He has a full set of numbers here

22

lemmy caution 11.09.16 at 8:48 pm

I voted for Clinton but she was not a very good candidate for 2016. She isn’t a very good politician and was an establishment figure in a year when that didn’t help matters.

The “its my turn”-ers don’t have a great record in presidential races.

Mondale, Dole, McCain, H. Clinton

23

Hidari 11.09.16 at 8:56 pm

@12
How doubly ironic, then, that the much vaunted Electoral College was predominantly set up to protect slave states.

http://time.com/4558510/electoral-college-history-slavery/

‘Everyone’ knows that the EC was set up to ensure that the filthy unwashed proletarian hordes having any power, and it was. But it was also set up to ensure white supremacy, and, again, it has functioned precisely as it was intended to do.

24

Harald K 11.09.16 at 9:01 pm

Connor Kilpatrick picked this comfortable (for your class) narrative apart in Jacobin.

25

Gabriel 11.09.16 at 9:07 pm

Val, if you’ve been saying Hilary didn’t lose the voter share of women when compared to Obama, you are wrong. Obama received 55% of women’s votes, Hillary 54%. Trump won white women handily.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/09/hillary-clinton-failed-to-win-over-black-hispanic-and-female-vot/

The major stories seem to be: massively depressed voter turnout for Dems and Hillary losing minorities (including women) when compared to Obama. Dems have to come to terms with the fact that a lot of women voted for Trump, and that shouting ‘racism’ at states that voted for a Black president twice but suddenly did not support Hillary doesn’t quite jive with the facts.

26

Alesis 11.09.16 at 9:23 pm

A common factor in each surprising loss? Race based voter suppression measures. I know the rule is it’s never race.

But ..it’s really race this time.

27

megamike 11.09.16 at 9:44 pm

Good book here:
The voters boosting Trump have been a permanent part of our American fabric, argues Isenberg.
The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today’s hillbillies. They were alternately known as “waste people,” “offals,” “rubbish,” “lazy lubbers,” and “crackers.” By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called “clay eaters” and “sandhillers,” known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.
Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society––where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics–-a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ’s Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.
We acknowledge racial injustice as an ugly stain on our nation’s history. With Isenberg’s landmark book, we will have to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class as well.
https://www.amazon.com/White-Trash-400-Year-History-America/dp/0670785970
I highly recommend it!!

28

Jim Harrison 11.09.16 at 9:53 pm

The significance of the media’s endless harping about the emails and Comey’s Hatch Act act was not that they made anybody think fondly of Trump but that they were a total drag on Democratic enthusiasm. It didn’t help that every liberal and democrat felt like it was some kind of duty to emphasize on every possible occasion the mediocrity of their own candidate in order to establish their bona fides.

29

Stephen 11.09.16 at 10:01 pm

otpup@15: the “antiquated parliament” of France is part of the Constitution of the 5th Republic, installed in, um, 1958.

You may have reasons for disliking it but – unless you think the modern political era began only a few years ago – you can’t call it antiquated.

30

Tabasco 11.09.16 at 10:07 pm

Obama’s opponents, while politically awful, fell within the category of decent human beings and so were less able to mobilize what Coates rightly calls the majoritarian pigs as the swamp creature Trump was. And second, the majoritarian pigs also hate uppity women

This.

31

Moz of Yarramulla 11.10.16 at 1:33 am

shouting ‘racism’ at states that voted for a Black president twice but suddenly did not support Hillary

I didn’t think we’d got to the point where states vote, yet? So far it’s all been individual voters voting individually and largely anonymously, so it’s quite hard to point at one of those voters and say “you, you right there, you voted twice for Barack then not for Hilary, what’s up with that?” There’s also a difference between voting for a charismatic and inspirational populist and reluctantly supporting the slightly less awful candidate.

32

Tim Reynolds 11.10.16 at 1:58 am

@16, you say:

The democratic party never ignored whole classes of people. It was firmly and convincingly rejected by the majority of white people in the years following the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Because of… racism.

–But this all happened fifty years ago. And for that, you’ve written off every subsequent generation of people from those areas, deciding to visit upon them the sins of their fathers.

And you wonder why they hate you?

33

Val 11.10.16 at 4:41 am

Gabriel @ 22
No I am not “wrong”. I was talking about trends from 2012 to 2016. According to the New York Times figures (exit polls) women’s votes for Democrats increased slightly. The figures you are citing say they went down by 1% but that is neither here nor there. The point is women’s votes either increased slightly or stayed much the same, while men’s votes for Republicans increased.

The fact that Trump won a majority of white low income women is irrelevant to my argument, unless you have a trend figure showing that that is an increase from 2012. I haven’t seen trend figures at that level of detail yet.

There has been some confusion in these discussions between ‘trends’ and ‘proportions of votes won’. People need to specify which they’re talking about otherwise the discussion gets muddled.

34

GregvP 11.10.16 at 5:11 am

Put the racism narrative to rest, please. Trump was not elected because a majority of Americans is racist. Stop making yourselves ridiculous.

Trump is a message. A message to the political elites of both major parties that they have not been meeting the needs of ordinary people for a generation. So the ordinary people elected one of their own. That’s the whole message.

(Trump is also a textbook example of the advantage of democracy over other forms of government: the message that he is was sent very forcefully but without widespread bloodshed. That doesn’t happen with other forms of government.)

I hope that the elites of both parties hear the message. And do the right things. Or, eventually, traditional folkways of speaking truth to power will reappear. Armed insurrection, for instance. And so will the traditional diversionary tactics of those in power. International war, for instance.

I’m not holding my breath, though.

35

Z 11.10.16 at 5:49 am

And second, the majoritarian pigs also hate uppity women, and in the back-and-forth between the “it’s class, not race” and the “no, it’s racism” viewpoints (of which I favor the latter) I think it’s worth adding “and it’s gender, too.”

No, no, no, please, no. I so wish I could convey how much I believe this is misguided.

Look, I can’t begin to picture what it feels to be a non-Trump voter American these days and I more than understand the frustration, but really, that is more or less the opposite of Coates’s thesis. The “majoritarian pigs” he refers to are not White Supremacists, they are not hardcore Trump supporters, they are not even Trump voters. They are each and every white person (or more accurately everyone who believes to be white in his terminology) who believes in the fundamental benevolence of the American society. Hillary Clinton as well as Donald Trump.

Actually no, let me take this back: Bill Clinton circa 1990 as well as Donald Trump. Because this is where real pain starts. If you actually buy this thesis, then it entails that the political inclusion of Black people (the BLM movement, Obama’s presidency…) if not accompanied by a profound rethinking of what being American means will be experienced by White America has a destruction of political equality, the supreme political virtue in a democracy. If this happens simultaneously with the destruction of any semblance of actual material equality, equality of prospects and equality of standards of living, this will be experienced as a deeply traumatic social experience. People will fight back, and their way of fighting back has been to vote Trump.

Now of course if you unravel this logic, it ultimately rests on the social destruction of Blacks and hence on racism. Racism is central, crucial, first and foremost. But summing it up in “you unwashed, uneducated, rural rubes are just racists; everybody in Manhattan and every readers of CT agree about that” (which is pretty much exactly what happened this election cycle) is the precise antithesis of the project of constructing a new social and political ideal that does not rely on racism. Hence, it is the very heart of the problem, not part of the solution.

Or, if you don’t buy any of this, at least consider the question from a purely pragmatic point of view. Sure, uneducated rural White men are misogynistic, racist gun-clingers. Yet the first victim of their political wrath has been Jeb Bush, the uberestablishment candidate; also the perfect White Male. And in 6 months, the same uneducated rural White men will vote en masse for an explicitly nativist, extreme right-wing candidate with no experience of government and no program except blaming immigrants, Muslims, leftists and Eurocrat elites. That candidate is also a woman, the only one leading a major party in France, and when she took control of her party from a father, that doubled, not halved, its electoral share.

36

Hidari 11.10.16 at 6:53 am

May I just point out that in a country that was set up by, and, therefore, for, slaveholders, and which was, for the first 60 years of its existence,in its essence, a slave owning state (comparisons to apartheid era South African are invidious: the American South was worse that South Africa in every way), and which has, really, made no real attempt to deal with this or face up to it, it is not surprising that race still plays a huge part (perhaps the major part) in its politics.

37

reason 11.10.16 at 9:13 am

Can I just throw in what I think is an obvious to see how much resonance it gets here. America’s biggest problem is the two party system.

We just had an election for an elected king, where both candidates were deeply unpopular.

But worse, where popular policies were inextricably linked to unpopular policies on both sides of the spectrum. Polls on individual policies show that the public by a substantial majority supports liberal and egalitarian policies that are never implemented. Merely, the change to a preferential instead of a first past the post system would allow a modicum of policy evolution into the mix. People need the possibility to evolve towards other policy mixes – either a preferential system or a proportional system will allow this. First past the post will not, and we have seen that if the parties become polarized it favors energized extremists over moderates (especially if voting is seen as a right but not a responsibility).

38

reason 11.10.16 at 9:17 am

To put it simply the two party system essentially locks people into dysfunctional marriages (of poorly matched coalitions) and gives them no way out.

39

GFGM 11.10.16 at 11:44 am

I want to emphasize the point made at 31 and push back against the claim Gabriel made that “shouting ‘racism’ at states that voted for a Black president twice but suddenly did not support Hillary doesn’t quite jive with the facts,” in part because this sentiment also seems to be in the news and on social media. This is deep into ecological fallacy territory: the facts do not suggest that because MI went Dem in ’12 therefore going Rep in ’16 is not due to racism, or the appeal of white nationalist politics. The facts have no idea what you are talking about. Given the current facts we possess we have no idea whether the white voters in MI, or PA, or OH that voted Trump did so for racist reasons or not because we don’t know who they are or what their behavior was in previous elections. We have no concrete evidence of vote switching — that is, a voter moving from Dem in ’12 to Rep in ’16 — we only have evidence of the distributions of voter aggregates shifting. This could be due to switching, or it could be due to Rep leaning voters who didn’t vote for Romney turning out, while Dem leaning voters who went for Obama choosing to stay home. Since who is counted in the aggregate of ‘rust belt whites’ – or whatever demographic – shifts depending on who goes out to vote, we can’t safely conclude at all that former Obama voters switched to Trump. I wish people would stop saying this on TV, it makes me want to throw things.

40

Alesis 11.10.16 at 11:50 am

I am a black man born and raised in Alabama. I have not “written off” the white working class. These are my friends and coworkers. People who I spent the majority of my time with for decades.

It’s racism.

41

otpup 11.10.16 at 12:12 pm

Stephen@ 29 Fair enough I was being sloppy. For the UK it is more accurate but for both countries I mean their political systems avoided the majoritarian evolution toward proportional representation, legislative supremacy etc. that occurred elsewhere in Europe. As you suggest, at times said avoidance was deliberate and relatively recent. Germany’s post-war system was the result of a clash between the US occupiers and the SPD, with the former trying to foist a version of the US Constitution (and thankfully thwarted in part).

42

Val 11.10.16 at 12:31 pm

Reason, I have also suggested to Americans here that they could work for a change to their voting system towards a preferential or proportional system, but have not seen much enthusiasm. I think it would be very helpful. For example, disgruntled left voters instead of just bagging the Democrat candidate, could vote for a more left candidate, and give their second preference to the Democrats.

I think Americans generally may not realise the full advantages. Not only does it allow you to make a protest vote without actually helping the opposition, but it allows third parties to grow.

I sometimes wonder whether Americans think it’s too hard to change their system, or don’t see the advantages, or maybe they still privately think their system must be the original and the best.

43

M Caswell 11.10.16 at 12:49 pm

A lot of unclarity about signal versus noise here. Romney and Trump were both vehicles for the Ryan budget. If Romney won more of the working class in absolute terms, then maybe all of Trump’s ‘tribune of the workers’ stuff actually hurt him at the polls.

44

reason 11.10.16 at 1:02 pm

A comment on a blog post from Paul Krugman:

“I am just thankful in Australia that we have compulsory voting (and a Westminster system of government that prevents this type of charlatan from achieving power for any considerable period of time). 46% of eligible voters did not vote in this election; only 25.5% voted for Trump (less than Clinton). And look what will be wrought.”

What America needs is not a renewal of the Democratic, but a realization that they are part of the problem. You an electoral reform party.

45

reason 11.10.16 at 1:36 pm

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/11/09/american-democracy/#comment-697797

Oops – the last sentence was mangled:
” What America needs is not a renewal of the Democratic PARTY, but a realization that they are part of the problem. You NEED an electoral reform party.”

46

MFB 11.10.16 at 1:40 pm

Surely, any serious attempt to address the issues of why the Democrats lost the Presidency and both houses of Congress, and lost in several states where intelligent commentators believed the Republicans stood no chance of winning, must begin with the question “What did the Democrats do wrong?” rather than with the question “Why are Republican voters horrible human beings?”. After all, Democrats can change their political tactics, their policies and their leadership, whereas they cannot change the nature of their opponents.

However, if it were genuinely true that the Republican Party appeals only to white racists, misogynists, religious fanatics and fascist ideologues, as has been repeatedly claimed on threads in various Democratic Party-sympathetic websites (and most embarrassingly, here where there is supposed to be some kind of intellectual content — nobody expects anything but hackery from LGM) . . . then the Republicans would have swept the Aryan Nations gang, but would have lost all fifty states and wouldn’t have a single seat in Congress, because there just aren’t enough people with all those qualities to sustain a party.

Perhaps the reason for pretending that the issue is racism, sexism, religious fanaticism and fascism is an excuse for not actually facing up to the issues, because that would entail changing the Democratic Party most fundamentally?

47

reason 11.10.16 at 1:45 pm

Val http://crookedtimber.org/2016/11/09/american-democracy/#comment-697794
I’m sure the bit that Americans (and Britons for that matter) really don’t understand is the effect that preferential voting has on the policy and candidate dynamics in major parties, not just that it allows protest votes. It is no coincidence that we have seen frequent regicide in the major parties in Australia. Preferential voting makes party dynamics much more subject to influence from public opinion.

48

PGD 11.10.16 at 1:53 pm

Hidari@36, to say that America in 1850 was worse than South Africa in 1980 is totally true, but then to write off the entire history of the U.S. since then, to include the bloodiest war in American history (the Civil War), the creation of civil society organizations like the NAACP, the Civil Rights movement, voting rights laws, affirmative action, the rise of a black middle-upper class and black representation at the highest levels of American society, culminating in the election of a black President for two terms, all adds up to “no real attempt to deal with race or face up to it” is absurd. It is perfectly true that there are still vast inequities in American life linked to the heritage of slavery, but when don’t try to be precise about those and the mechanisms that drive them are you end up just implicitly claiming that America is still stuck in 1850. Anyone who doesn’t share your subcultural assumptions is going to dismiss you completely at that point.

49

lemmy caution 11.10.16 at 3:53 pm

“People need the possibility to evolve towards other policy mixes – either a preferential system or a proportional system will allow this. First past the post will not, and we have seen that if the parties become polarized it favors energized extremists over moderates (especially if voting is seen as a right but not a responsibility).”

The problem is that it is hard to get constitutional changes. The electoral college sucks too.

50

Layman 11.10.16 at 4:22 pm

MFB: “…but would have lost all fifty states and wouldn’t have a single seat in Congress, because there just aren’t enough people with all those qualities to sustain a party.”

That’s an odd thing to say, coming on the heels of a victory by a Republican who ran a campaign designed to appeal to white racists, misogynists, religious fanatics and fascists ideologues.

51

Hidari 11.10.16 at 5:44 pm

I didn’t say that there had been no real attempt to deal with ‘race’. I said there had been no real attempt to deal with slavery. There is a difference.

For example, The New York Times recently pointed out:

‘A variety of factors informed the creation of the Electoral College….

Above all, some historians point to the critical role that slavery played in the formation of the system. Southern delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, most prominently James Madison of Virginia, were concerned that their constituents would be outnumbered by Northerners. The Three-Fifths Compromise, however, allowed states to count each slave as three-fifths of a person — enough, at the time, to ensure a Southern majority in presidential races.’

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/us/politics/the-electoral-college-is-hated-by-many-so-why-does-it-endure.html?_r=0

So the American political system was, in a very real sense, created by racism. And yet it never changes.

Did the South lose the Civil War? Well in a sense, yes. But in a deeper sense, no. After all the war was about their desire to keep African Americans as second class citizens and that, they succeeded in. So Jim Crow went on until the late 1960s, a de facto Apartheid Regime (as it is never called).

Immediately after that, the Prison Industrial Complex started (AKA the ‘New Jim Crow’) (http://newjimcrow.com/) and the rise of so-called ‘neoliberal’ ‘free market economics:

(‘Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”‘ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy)

No one in American political life wants to face up to this. You think Hilary (‘superpredator’) Clinton wants to talk about how her beloved ‘free market’ economics are racially tinged? Her worthless husband, let’s not forget, was personally responsible for the death of a black man with learning impairments. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricky_Ray_Rector)

Everything in American life, everything, is always about race, and, therefore, it’s always all about slavery. And no one wants to face up to this. Not really.

52

A H 11.10.16 at 5:55 pm

Trump himself and many of his supporters are racists and that is horrible. However there is basically zero evidence that racism was a major factor in this election. Trump won because he got all the Romney voters to come out to vote. Even though these are racist voters, this shows that racism played no special part in this election as opposed to previous elections.

The reason Trump won was because Clinton could not mobilize the non-racist majority. Any analysis that does not start with this fundamental failure is useless going forward. Coates’ self righteous nihilism may feel good, but to accept it is to live in a political fantasy.

53

WLGR 11.10.16 at 6:55 pm

Re: changes in Democratic Party policy, this Tweetstorm by Matt Stoller seems instructive as to some of the failings of technocratic neoliberal wonkery. The first Tweet alone sums up the point nicely: In 2010, I was working in the U.S. House. I got a call from a constituent who said “I have cancer. Where do I get my free Obamacare?”

Now that Democrats have lost their last institutional handle on the levers of federal policy, by definition their proposals will be even more pathetically ineffectual than all the GOP’s dozens of ACA repeal votes over the past few years, only useful in terms of campaign messaging and appealing to the electorate. So if the Democratic establishment under Trump comes out with anything short of 100% social-democratic populist red meat — free Medicare for all, free higher education for all, massive federal affordable housing, reinstated Glass-Steagall full stop, prosecute the bankers, etc. — we can safely call bullshit on all this pathetic excuse-mongering about how the only reason we ended up with such milquetoast crap after 2008 was because Mitch McConnell ate Harry Reid’s homework. Shying away from this kind of agenda even when it has no chance of passing (which would presumably easy enough to explain to their donors behind closed doors as political theater) will make it crystal clear that the real reason they never put it on the table is because they themselves actually, deeply oppose it — so deeply in fact that they’d rather keep losing elections, and empower the very same President they’ve just spent months denouncing as an unhinged fascist Manchurian blah blah blah, than risk an electorate that might feel entitled to demand it.

54

NoPublic 11.10.16 at 7:16 pm

Yeah, it can’t possibly be that 300,000 voters were disenfranchised in Wisconsin that tipped the scales, it must be lack of mobilization.

55

bexley 11.10.16 at 7:45 pm

So seriously here. As a foreigner I’m looking at the demographics of who voted for who and basically Trump won amongst white people. Regardless of education and regardless of income level.

Conversely he seems to have lost among black and hispanic voters regardless of education and income levels. Also noticeable that Trump did better among men than women.

So anyone pushing their pet theory of what the vote for Trump was all about owes some kind of explanation of the voting patterns above.

56

js. 11.10.16 at 9:34 pm

People on here liked to say that the left is dead. But now, the left is really dead. And not in just a it’s ineffective or it’s disorganised kind of way, but deeply dead with probably no way back for a really long time. People don’t realize how bad this is. But we—some of us more than others—are totally fucked. And it’s only going to get worse.

But hey! At least we beat neoliberalism. Or something.

57

phenomenal cat 11.10.16 at 9:53 pm

MFB @48

“However, if it were genuinely true that the Republican Party appeals only to white racists, misogynists, religious fanatics and fascist ideologues, as has been repeatedly claimed on threads in various Democratic Party-sympathetic websites (and most embarrassingly, here where there is supposed to be some kind of intellectual content — nobody expects anything but hackery from LGM) . . .

–The inability or unwillingness to analyze the current political scene with a modicum of dispassionate interest, suspend or confront one’s personal political biases in the service of analysis, or employ any kind of genuine perspectival approach (even if for heuristic purposes only) to the situation is…not exactly surprising, but definitely a bummer. As a result we got CR’s and many other commenters smug assurances that Clinton would landslide this deal; also, endless and ongoing discussions of racism and sexism as the pure prime mover of all recent political events. And now, in a new development that is exemplary, we’ve got mcmanus–that sharp end of the vanguard–running around in threads declaring all hope is lost b/c Clinton imploded and Trump won. Newsflash: this turn of events wasn’t and shouldn’t have been a surprise, except it was and is to all the really smart people.

I get it. It’s upsetting and people are upset–emotions are and have been running high. But goddammit, people here really ought to do better at coolly surveying reality–save your biases and cherished personal anthropological truths for facebook or whatever.

“…Perhaps the reason for pretending that the issue is racism, sexism, religious fanaticism and fascism is an excuse for not actually facing up to the issues, because that would entail changing the Democratic Party most fundamentally?”

–Well, the democratic party obviously, but the real change entails facing up to these issues (of which racism and sexism are significant) in a much more immediate and direct way. And that is very hard to do. It’s generally the case that people, myself included, don’t change until events force their hand. For good and ill, events are now unfolding, hands will be forced.

58

smass 11.11.16 at 1:07 am

As a non-American (so therefore a little deficient in understanding some of the details) I’m finding a lot of commentary on this election unenlightening. Maybe it is too soon, maybe it is because (as has been pointed out upthread) no-one knows if anyone actually changed their vote at all. Perhaps the result is all down to turn-out, with republicans voting like they always do and democrats voting like they always do but just in lower numbers.
Overall, turnout seemed pretty low – Trump may have won this election but he got fewer votes than Romney did in 2012. How does the idea that Trump was sending a message to the elites play with that fact?

It seems to me that the real story is the people who did not vote. Can anyone point me to something that seriously talks about this?
Were black and hispanic voters taken for granted by the Democrats? A lot of people seemed to think their votes were in the bag but was that part of the problem ? Was it voter suppression (some here have mentioned that – details would be great)? Was it just that Hilary was uninspiring or perhaps that Obama was particularly good at getting people to vote?

59

Scott 11.11.16 at 6:29 am

Just throwing this out there:

Are there ANY historical examples of a politically successful national coalition (anywhere in the world) that wedded (1) economic populism and (2) ethnic diversity? Feeling kinda stumped.

Hopefully there are examples we can learn from, but it strikes me that the project of American progressivism may be literally unprecedented. That would say something about the scope of the challenge and the obstacles in the way.

60

Neville Morley 11.11.16 at 7:22 am

Obvious point, and if someone else makes it in the interim no need to approve this comment, but in response to A H above (#52). Zero evidence that racism played a role? Not to say that everyone voted for Trump because of his innumerable blatantly racist statements, but they didn’t withhold those votes, despite those statements. Call it passive racism if you like, or a high tolerance for racism, or ‘actually quite relaxed about living in a world run by someone with these views so long as my personal grievances are acknowledged’, but this is manifestly not a non-issue.

61

Hidari 11.11.16 at 8:24 am

‘Was it voter suppression (some here have mentioned that – details would be great)’

There was a Bloomberg article linked to, I think, by Tyler Cowen which pointed out that a lot of Trump’s electoral strategy was based on voter supression, not the illegal stuff (or at least not so far as we know) but locating African American’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and targeting them with messages highlighting Bill and Hilary’s racist comments in the 1980s and 1990s (‘superpredators’ etc) and, if memory serves, also targeting young women with ad.s reminding them of Bill (and Hilary’s) ‘slut shaming’ of the various women who accused Bill of harassment in the 1990s. Of course we will never know if this worked, as such, but lowered voter turnout from precisely these groups handed Trump the presidency: as has frequently been pointed out, there was no ‘Trump landslide’. He didn’t get any more votes than Romney. Trump didn’t win: Clinton lost, and all analysis should begin with this fact.

62

reason 11.11.16 at 8:42 am

Scott,
what do you mean by “politically successful”. If you mean got into power – what about Lula in Brazil.

63

reason 11.11.16 at 8:57 am

lemmy caution http://crookedtimber.org/2016/11/09/american-democracy/#comment-697815
“The problem is that it is hard to get constitutional changes. The electoral college sucks too.”
I don’t think the actual voting system IS in the constitution. The hard thing is getting that sort of change through against the self interest of the two parties in the two party system. That is why I think you seriously need a charismatic figure to create a one issue electoral reform party that promises to just change the voting system and then dissolve itself.

64

reason 11.11.16 at 10:47 am

In fact thinking about it, in the US an independent Presidential candidate could do the trick. That would be even better, because he could appoint a cabinet from both the major parties (in proportion to total votes in the senate for instance) and institute a government of national unity for a single term. It could be run jointly by the defeated candidates from the major parties. Only thing he would insist on is a change in the voting system as a constitutional amendment (so that it couldn’t just be undone after the next election).

65

kidneystones 11.11.16 at 11:29 am

@ 58 re: voter suppression and complacency.

Richard Hasen at TPM has a very useful article on voters not turning out for Clinton.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/dems-blame-voter-suppression-for-loss

Leslie Wimes, a leading African-American Democrat in Florida claims that the Clinton campaign refused to ‘engage’ the African-American community despite repeated warning the strategy of relying on surrogates would cost Democrats the election. One week before the election Ms. Wimes informed a disbelieving young white woman that: support for an African-American president does not ‘automatically’ transfer to a white female candidate.

Ms. Wimes was clear and blunt on November 1st. ‘It’s over.” We’re talking Dick Cheney level hubris on the part of liberal elites. Painful to watch for some, illuminating for others.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/11/01/dem_strategist_clinton_should_be_in_panic_mode_over_enthusiasm_gap_with_black_voters_nothing_she_can_do_now.html

66

Igor Belanov 11.11.16 at 12:11 pm

Scott @59

“Are there ANY historical examples of a politically successful national coalition (anywhere in the world) that wedded (1) economic populism and (2) ethnic diversity? Feeling kinda stumped.”

Virtually any left-wing movement that has come to power in Latin America. The Indian and South African Congress movements. Just off the top of my head.

67

AH 11.11.16 at 6:28 pm

@60 It’s not that racism didn’t play a role, it’s that there is no evidence that racism played a special role when compared to previous presidential campaigns. The Republican Party is racist and that is bad. However the Trump victory is does not show that the country is irredeemably racist because the republicans have been defeated in the past.

68

digamma 11.11.16 at 8:35 pm

I have not heard stories of voter suppression in Pennsylvania. Their voter ID law was overturned and they have a Democratic governor. Something else happened in Pennsylvania.

69

Scott 11.11.16 at 8:35 pm

reason and Igor: Thanks for the tips. I certainly knew it seemed unprecedented in the US and Europe. (The New Deal coalition shattered by the Civil Rights Act, European socialist parties being torn apart over increased immigration, etc. )

Any books or essays that might be a useful primer?

And do these movements have any relevant lessons for the future of the progressive movement in America or Europe?

70

William Meyer 11.11.16 at 9:18 pm

Scott@59

Huey Long comes to mind.

From http://hueylong.com/perspectives/politics-racism.php:

“To the outrage of the Klan and its sympathizers, Huey Long’s programs to uplift the poor meant that African Americans received public education, healthcare, tax exemptions, and the opportunity to vote free of charge (although the vast majority were still blocked from voting by local “Jim Crow” laws), among other benefits aimed at freeing the disenfranchised from the shackles of poverty. Black ministers even organized Share Our Wealth clubs among their congregations with Long’s blessing, a radical inclusion in 1930s America.”

I realize he has been considered a racist for not repealing the Jim Crow laws of Louisiana, but at a minimum he seems to have been opposed by the most virulent racists of his era.

71

kidneystones 11.12.16 at 1:12 am

35 percent of Florida Hispanic voters prefer Trump. CNN puts a toe in the ‘swamp’ and discovers brown people are not alike. Who knew?

Must be self-loathing Hispanics, huh.

The best part is watching the CNN reporter bite her tongue when doing the unthinkable for journalists of her ilk, by which I mean listening to what a politically very important set of real-live, brown people actually think and feel. You guessed it: ‘Build that wall!”

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/11/11/cnn_investigates_why_latinos_in_florida_voted_for_trump_silent_majority_has_won.html

72

Layman 11.12.16 at 11:22 am

kidneystones: “35 percent of Florida Hispanic voters prefer Trump.”

Which means he lost ground.

Donald Trump Florida 2016 Latino vote: 35%
Mitt Romney Florida 2012 Latino vote: 39%
John McCain Florida 2008 Latino vote: 42%

73

phenomenal cat 11.12.16 at 11:14 pm

Which means he lost ground.

Donald Trump Florida 2016 Latino vote: 35%
Mitt Romney Florida 2012 Latino vote: 39%
John McCain Florida 2008 Latino vote: 42%

Yeah, but considering the conventional wisdom as applied to the Trump campaign strategy was that he was just turning out the (sleeping giant) White Nationalist vote, shouldn’t his numbers have cratered (not just dipped) among Florida Latino voters?

Something doesn’t add up. Smart people might want to figure out why…

Also, word to the wise, any assumption that “Latino” or “Hispanic” signifies something unitary and homogeneous, much less an unchanging and predictable voting bloc, is faulty with a capital F. Native and immigrant Latino communities across the U.S. vary widely. There are many internal and external fissures and tensions in these communities which are indicative of multiple political interests.

4th generation Cuban in Florida does not equal 2nd generation Honduran in Nevada does not equal 10th generation New Mexican in New Mexico.

74

Layman 11.13.16 at 12:49 pm

phenomenal cat: ‘Also, word to the wise, any assumption that “Latino” or “Hispanic” signifies something unitary and homogeneous, much less an unchanging and predictable voting bloc, is faulty with a capital F.’

I don’t know who imagines that it is. I certainly don’t. kidneystones made two claims about latinos in Florida. The first was that Trump outperformed Romney, which is manifestly wrong. The second was this claim, which implies that Trump’s level of support among latinos in Florida is surprising when in fact it is not surprising.

Nonetheless, Trump lost 10% of the support Romney had there, and 15% of the support McCain enjoyed. Since deciding to abandon ‘immigration reform’ of the Bush/McCain form, Republicans have lost about 40% support among Florida latinos. I’d say the argument that Republican immigration rhetoric is, generally, driving latino support away are spot on.

Donald Trump Florida 2016 Latino vote: 35%
Mitt Romney Florida 2012 Latino vote: 39%
John McCain Florida 2008 Latino vote: 42%
George Bush Florida 2004 Latino vote: 56%

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