A Class Act

One more day, one more Trump outrage:

Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that women who seek abortions should be subject to “some form of punishment” if the procedure is banned in the United States, further elevating Republican concerns that his explosive remarks about women could doom the party in the fall.

The comment, which Mr. Trump later recanted, attracted instant, bipartisan criticism – the latest in a series of high-profile episodes that have shined a light on Mr. Trump’s feeble approval ratings among women nationally.

In this case, Mr. Trump also ran afoul of conservative doctrine, with opponents of abortion rights immediately castigating him for suggesting that those who receive abortions – and not merely those who perform them – should be punished if the practice is outlawed.

But abortion hasn’t been outlawed, so this is all academic, as if it mattered:

Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals moved quickly to distance themselves from his initial comments as well. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio said, “Of course women shouldn’t be punished.”

“I don’t think that’s an appropriate response,” he told MSNBC. “It’s a difficult enough situation.”

The campaign of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said attention should be focused on providers of abortion, not the women who receive them.

“Once again, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention,” Mr. Cruz said in a statement, adding, “Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.”

For Republicans, the chaos felt something like a recurring nightmare. After the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012, party leaders had hoped to move beyond a reputation for offensive comments on women’s issues, emblematized by Todd Akin, a Senate candidate in Missouri who posited that victims of “legitimate rape” were somehow able to prevent pregnancy.

Yeah, now there’s blood in the water:

On Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton called Mr. Trump’s comments “horrific and telling.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, sought to tie Mr. Trump to the rest of his party, noting that Mr. Cruz opposed exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest. Mr. Kasich, she added, has moved to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio.

“All three Republicans would drag the country back to the days when women were forced to seek illegal procedures from unlicensed providers out of sheer desperation,” she said.

That was bad enough, but then there was this:

Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said efforts to punish individual women were “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.”

“No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion,” she said. “We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”

Others worried that Mr. Trump had helped fulfill a stereotype of the anti-abortion movement.

“He doesn’t understand pro-life people or the life issue,” said Penny Nance, the head of the conservative group Concerned Women for America and a supporter of Mr. Cruz. “He instead became the caricature that the left tries to paint us to be.”

Okay, that was the Trump Outrage of the Day. Tomorrow there will be another, and it won’t make any difference. No one can see any plausible way he doesn’t win the Republican nomination. His millions of supporters will shrug – everyone is always picking on him – and respecting women just isn’t their thing:

As GOP frontrunner Donald Trump prepared to speak to supporters in Wisconsin on Tuesday, a 15-year-old girl outside the venue was pepper-sprayed after striking another bystander, police said.

Police said the girl was peppered-sprayed in the crowd by a non-law enforcement person. Hundreds of anti-Trump protesters and supporters had gathered outside the Holiday Inn Express in southern Wisconsin, where Trump was holding his maiden rally in the state ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

In video posted on social media of the tense scene, the teen appears to be arguing with a middle-aged man and shoves or punches him before the pepper spray is deployed by a second man. The girl appears to hold a sign that accuses Trump of supporting white supremacy. She is standing next to another young woman holding a Black Lives Matter sign. Others in the crowd could be heard chanting, “All lives matter.”

Police said they are reviewing several videos taken at the scene and have spoken to several eyewitnesses. The young woman told officers she was groped by a man before pushing him away, police said in a statement.

The department on Wednesday published a photo of a young man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap who they want to question about the incident.

So he grabbed her boobs. So what? She deserved it, or something. The Trump campaign has yet to comment on this – but their campaign manager did rough up that woman-reporter, and even though he was charged with simple battery, Trump has said she deserved it and he might sue her for harassing him – and Megyn Kelly is still a bimbo and that Fiorina woman is still ugly as sin, as is the wife of Ted Cruz, as is Hillary Clinton of course. Are women upset, even Republican women? He doesn’t need them. His people know what’s what.

Fine, but what do they know? Why are these people so angry? Matthew Yglesias takes a stab at that:

The political movement behind Trump clearly mixes elements of economic distress, populist resentment of political elites, and white racial backlash. Disentangling which of these elements is to blame for the rise of Trump is the subject of dozens of hot takes per day. But a fascinating piece of political science research published back in 2014 suggests that they are far too tangled to unwind.

I have in mind Brian D. McKenzie’s Political Perceptions in the Obama Era: Diverse Opinions of the Great Recession and its Aftermath among Whites, Latinos and Blacks.

Yglesias explains this study in detail, but it comes down to what is said in the abstract:

The Great Recession and slow recovery period are instructive for understanding ethno-racial elements of citizens’ political attitudes beyond partisan distinctions. The analyses here indicate that numerous whites overlook the economic evidence that blacks were substantially harmed on multiple fronts during the recession and instead believe this group was unfairly aided by a sitting black president. These perceptual biases shape whites’ political opinions and are associated with feelings of financial frustration and higher levels of blame toward the government in Washington. This thought process is consistently prevalent for whites, compared with other racial and ethnic groups. And the replication analyses confirm that the key patterns of whites’ attitudes hold across three time periods using several reputable data sources, including the 2012 American National Elections Study. Interestingly, while many whites believe that African Americans are the beneficiaries of favorable economic policies from the Obama administration, blacks themselves do not feel they have been uniquely assisted financially…

That has been said before, but Yglesias thinks it should be said again:

This ties together white nationalist themes, economic anxiety themes, and populist anti-establishment themes nicely – a large bloc of white voters believes they are suffering economically because their elected representatives in Washington betrayed their interests in order to help nonwhites.

And no one in the Republican Party got it:

The problem is that following Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the leadership of the Republican Party decided that they wanted to go in the exact opposite direction. The idea was that under the leadership of Jeb Bush (with his Mexican-American wife) or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz (both Cuban Americans) and with backers like Sen. Tim Scott and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, the GOP would present itself as a modern, cosmopolitan, forward-thinking vehicle for right-of-center economic policy.

Conservatism would be an ideology for everyone, not just for white people terrified that all their money was going to be spent on Obamaphones and hip-hop barbecues.

The problem, as we can see in retrospect, is that this sent exactly the wrong message to an important element of the GOP base. It said that their own party’s leaders were planning to betray them.

Trump said they did – game over. All he has to do is outrage the party’s leaders, daily when possible, and he rides his wave of successive outrages to the nomination, and Thomas Edsall suggests this is a class thing:

Conservatives who once derided upscale liberals as latte-sipping losers now burst with contempt for the lower-income followers of Donald J. Trump.

These blue-collar white Republicans, a mainstay of the conservative coalition for decades, are now vilified by their former right-wing allies as a “non-Christian” force “in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture,” corrupted by the same “sense of entitlement” that Democratic minorities were formerly accused of.

They’re the new niggers, and he notes Kevin Williamson, a columnist for National Review, offering The Father-Führer where Williamson sees Trump’s struggling white supporters relying on what he calls their imaginary victimhood, which Williamson sees as bullshit:

They failed themselves. If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy – which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog – you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be.

And they have only themselves to blame:

It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that. Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence – and the incomprehensible malice – of poor white America.

And this:

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs.

These folks are just useless:

The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need a U-Haul.

And then there’s David French, also of National Review, who offers this:

I grew up in Kentucky, live in a rural county in Tennessee, and have seen the challenges of the white working-class first-hand. Simply put, Americans are killing themselves and destroying their families at an alarming rate. No one is making them do it. The economy isn’t putting a bottle in their hand. Immigrants aren’t making them cheat on their wives or snort OxyContin. Obama isn’t walking them into the lawyer’s office to force them to file a bogus disability claim.

Edsall has much more of this, but asks the key question:

As a matter of practical politics, how can a party that is losing ground in virtually every growing constituency – Hispanics, Asians, single women and the young – even consider jettisoning a single voter, much less the struggling white working class?

The Republican Party has seen its core – married white Christians – decline from 62 percent of the population of the United States to 28 percent in 2015, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

Trump has won his biggest primary margins among less financially secure, less educated voters, turning the traditional winning coalition in Republican primaries upside down. Mitt Romney consistently did best among the most educated and most affluent Republican primary voters. So did John McCain in 2008.

Yeah, well, those days are gone, and Jonathan Chait sees this:

The modern Republican Party is an awkward contraption that harnesses a politics of white ethno-nationalism to a policy agenda dominated by Ayn Rand-inflected anti-statism. Donald Trump has exploited the wedge between the party’s voters and the ideologists of its master class, placing the latter in an awkward spot.

And thus Kevin Williamson:

What’s most interesting about his argument is not the specificity with which Williamson details his conclusion, but his willingness to follow his premises all the way. To the libertarian true believer, capitalism is a value system rather than merely a tool. Capitalism means economic freedom. People are entitled to their economic rights (meaning their market income) in exactly the same way as they are entitled to their political rights. “Freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself,” as Milton Friedman famously put it.

If so, one thing leads to another:

Republican doctrine reflects the conviction that the main evil of modern government is to excessively punish the rich and reward their inferiors. All of the Republican presidential candidates, Trump included, propose massive tax cuts that would confer about 40 percent of their benefit on the highest-earning one percent (who earn about a fifth of the income). Williamson briefly considers, and immediately dismisses, any reconsideration of a domestic agenda out of regressive tax cuts. “It is really quite difficult to design federal tax cuts that benefit people who do not pay much in the way of federal taxes,” he writes. Oh, the working class doesn’t benefit from an abolition of the estate and capital-gains tax? Well, then, we’re out of ideas.

This is absurd if you think of economic policy in pragmatic terms. But it is perfectly sensible if you think of economic policy as a moral framework built around the protection of natural economic rights. “They failed themselves,” Williamson sneers about poor whites. The marketplace hasn’t failed the white working class; the white working class has failed capitalism.

For that, they cannot be forgiven – but really, they don’t give a damn. This is class warfare to them, and Slate’s Jamelle Bouie says we’ve seen this dynamic before:

“The chief characteristic of Rag Tag and Bobtail, however, is laziness. They are about the laziest two-clogged animals that walk erect on the face of the Earth,” wrote Alabama lawyer and secessionist Daniel R. Hundley in Social Relations in Our Southern States, a widely cited volume published on the eve of the Civil War. “Rag Tag and Bobtail” is Hundley’s moniker for the poor whites of the South, whom he also calls “poor white trash.” He describes them as “working habitually in company with Negroes,” and, in some sense as being black themselves. “Even their motions are slow, and their speech is a sickening drawl, worse a deal sight than the most down-eastern of all the Down-Easters while their thoughts and ideas seem likewise to creep along at a snail’s pace. All they seem to care for is to live from hand to mouth; to get drunk, provided they can do so without having to trudge too far after their liquor,” Hundley wrote. “We do not believe the worthless ragamuffins would put themselves to much extra locomotion to get out of a shower of rain; and we know they would shiver all day with cold, with wood all around them, before they would trouble themselves to pick it up and build a fire.”

Hundley is just one man, but there’s no question these attitudes were common among the Southern fancy class. … Among members of the elite, the teetering of the social structure established by slavery was understood in part as a sort of blackening of poor white people. There was something inherent in this class of white people, the thinking went, and that accounted for – and justified – their lowly station and their “dysfunctional, downscale communities.” Class anxieties had been racialized.

So now we have the blackening of poor white people once again. They’re niggers now too, but with a twist:

The ascension of a black American to the nation’s most prestigious office – coupled with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – produced a jolt of material and racial anxieties for millions of working white Americans. In the past, whiteness brought a measure of social stability. Even when poor, whites would never be at the bottom of America’s hierarchy – they would never be niggers. Suddenly, that wasn’t as true, as the downturn destroyed jobs and brought “inner-city” social ills to white rural and suburban enclaves. Moreover, the visible rise of a nonwhite elite (both black and Latino) challenged notions of any kind of social superiority. Now, perhaps, they were at the bottom, or close to it.

This isn’t the same fear and anger that put Lincoln in the grave and stopped Reconstruction from reaching its potential, but it’s related. It rhymes. And while our period of economic crisis and rapid racial change is different from previous ones, it has – like its forebears – sparked a similar movement of the anxious and resentful, drawn from working- and middle-class whites who view themselves as a bulwark against the seemingly idle and dependent, even as conservative elites begin to view them in the same way.

But that effort to turn the poor white black may be doomed:

The difference now is that this group of whites isn’t as large as it was. And if the GOP weren’t so reliant on white voters – that is, if it weren’t such a dysfunctional party – Trump might have stayed at the margins. But the GOP’s extreme conservatism – inculcated and heightened in the state houses and governors’ mansions where it has complete control – and contempt for basic norms of politics has given Trump (and Trump-like figures) space to grow and flourish. And while Trump is still a long shot for the presidency – the larger American electorate is different from the Republican Party base – that doesn’t mean he can’t do real damage to our political institutions. With the outbreak of violence at Trump events around the country – spurred on by the candidate himself – it’s already happening.

That’s class warfare, not racial warfare, or it’s both, also comingled with gleeful unapologetic misogyny about women who should just shut the fuck up, in a way that makes it impossible to differentiate any of it, and all that Bouie can offer is this:

This backlash of anger and nativism will get fiercer before it burns out – if it ever does. One thing is clear, however: These voters aren’t entirely wrong. The inversion of status, or at least a dramatic decline in status, is happening. National Review did us the service of making that explicit.

Yeah, they said that most Trump voters were no better than lazy shiftless niggers, although they didn’t use that word. They didn’t have to. Perhaps thanks are not in order here.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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