Wednesday, November 11, 2020

How I think about the Trump voter and America

A few days ago I listed about 25 reasons that Donald Trump should not be President. Any one of them is sufficient by itself.

There are lots of lists like that. Every science and reality oriented publication in America had its own list. All opposed Trump. All recognized that beyond his venality and incompetence democracy was also at stake.

And yet ...  he almost won reelection. The GOP held the Senate. Dems lost some House seats. The polls were wrong again (I blame the iPhone for the polls - ask me why).

So what do I think about America in general and the Trump voter in particular?

America is what it has always been. Some decades it does better, some worse, but in general it's a rough neighborhood. We were born from slavery and genocide, we fight lots of wars, we don't have universal healthcare, we tolerate mass shootings of children, we have large majorities that support torture of prisoners, we fund public education with local taxation and college through massive debt, we tolerate systemic anti-Black racism, we allow suppression of Black voting, we reelected GWB despite his torture program and the misdirected conquest of Iraq. We did well with higher education and science for a while, but the GOP attacks on science have done grave damage.

We aren't the worst of nations. China, Russia, North Korea, Germany in the early 21st century ... there are lots worse than us. We aren't the best of nations. Canada, the Nordics, South Korea, most of Europe, Japan are all better. Among post-industrial nations we are probably somewhere in the bottom third, but I could maybe argue for being average. Which makes sense -- we are made of humans and we're big and diverse enough to have a representative sample. Our Presidential system and electoral college and our history drive us down a notch or two.

That's America. What about the Trump voter?

I divide the Trump voters into slices. The biggest and most important are the "White* Left Behind". They are a diverse group, but in general they do not have the cognitive traits to be a "knowledge worker". They did not attend college and college would have been a poor use of their time and money. They don't read newspapers, they don't reason out their vote, they vote based on tribe and emotion. They are more or less anti-Black racist but they don't think they are being unfair. They are desperate to work but there are few good jobs for them. Living in an increasingly high tech and complex world they are every day reminded that they can't keep up. They live on the edge.

Trump's genius was exploiting the WLB while showing them that they have real political power. I don't blame the WLB for voting Trump. They are as much victim as they are aggressor.

The religious fundamentalist is another slice. A complicated slice. For some religion is a shallow facade they may assume or discard as needed. Others have a deep conviction that to me shades into delusion -- but I respect delusion. The universe is a vast and terrible place dominated by violence and entropy -- we all need some delusion. If you believe that every terminated ovum is a murder, and you know Trump will suppress abortion, then that outweighs all his other crimes. You might even decide to worship him. 

I don't much blame the religious fundamentalist for voting Trump. They may be rationally choosing based on their fixed belief.

That leaves those who are not dominated by religious belief and who won enough of the cognitive lottery to be able to read newspapers, to remember what happened weeks or months or even years ago, and to make an informed decision.  They may feel that democracy is hopeless, that authoritarian rule is inevitable, and they want to be on the side of the winner. They may care only about their wealth and privilege and feel Trump will best defend them. They may be fully racist -- generally anti-Black racist rather than pan-racist. (Anti-Black racism is far from a White-only thing.) They may enjoy living in an authoritarian society where they are commanded by superiors and able to command the inferior.

They are the elite Trump voter. I blame them. They have chosen a wrong path. They can redeem themselves in future, but for now I cannot be their friend.

* As of 2020 American "White" may include Latino/Hispanic. That boundary has long been fluid.

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