On Feelings and Votes

This is going to be a bit of a rant, because there’s a recurring theme in my recent social media that’s really bugging me, and I need to vent. I’m going to do it as a blog post rather than an early-morning tweetstorm, because tweets are more likely to be pulled out of context, and then I’m going to unfollow basically everybody that isn’t a weird Twitter bot or a band that I like, and try to avoid politics until the end of the year. Also, I’ll do some physics stuff.

This morning saw the umpteenth reshared tweetstorm (no link because it doesn’t matter who it was) berating people who write about how liberals ought to reach out to working-class whites– as I did a little while back— for caring too much about the “feelings” of white people. While there are undoubtedly some disingenuous op-eds being written for which that’s true, I think it misses an extremely important point about this whole thing. That is, it’s true that these pieces are concerned about the feelings of white people, but only as a means to an end. What really matters isn’t their feelings, but their votes.

And all the stuff being thrown out there as progressives work through the Kübler-Ross model need those votes. You think it’s ridiculous that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.5 million votes but still lost, so you want to get rid of the Electoral College? Great. To do that, you need to amend the Constitution, which requires control of Congress and/or a whole bunch of state legislatures, most of which are in Republican hands, because they get the votes of those working-class whites. You want to ditch the Electoral College, you need to change those votes.

Think those working-class whites have too much power because of gerrymandered districts that over-weight rural areas? You’re probably right, but if you want to fix it, you need to control the legislatures that make the districts, and those are mostly in Republican hands because they get the votes of those people in rural districts. You want to stop gerrymandering and protect voting rights, you need to change those votes.

There are a whole host of things wrong with our current system. Fixing any of them requires winning elections, particularly those off-year legislative elections where Democrats underperform even when they’re winning statewide and national elections. Winning some of those is going to require getting the people who vote in those elections to change their votes, and hopefully their minds.

And that is why pundits and those who play pundit in a half-assed way on their blogs are saying you should care about the feelings of those working-class whites: because they vote, and you need their votes. And you’re not going to get those votes by berating them and insulting them and disparaging their feelings. You get their votes by understanding where they’re coming from, offering them something they want, and treating them with respect.

And again, this does not mean you need to cater to their basest impulses. Fundamental principles of tolerance and equality are not negotiable, and can not be compromised. But you don’t have to pander to racism to move some votes– most of the policies in the Democratic platform are already clearly better for those people than the Republican alternatives. It’s just a matter of pitching them in a way that makes that clear.

As an attempt at a concrete example, look at issues of affirmative action and immigration. If you’re dealing with someone who’s concerned about immigrants or people of color “taking our jobs,” you’re not likely to bring them to your side by lecturing them about how they’re not really entitled to that job, they’re just the beneficiary of hundreds of years of racist policy, and so on. You might be right about the history, but that’s not terribly persuasive to somebody who’s worried about having a stable income and health insurance to support their family. But you don’t need to go full “build a wall,” either– something like “The real problem is that there ought to be enough good jobs for both you and them, and here’s what we’re going to do to make that happen” could work. (It has the disadvantage of needing a plan to create jobs for all, admittedly, but as the recent election shows, such a plan doesn’t even need to be all that plausible.) That steps around the implicit racism of the original concern in a way that preserves their feelings, gets their vote for better policy, and doesn’t compromise any fundamental principles.

(Yes, this is basically the Bernie Sanders strategy. I would’ve been all for Bernie’s economic program; I don’t think he would’ve been a viable candidate in the general election, though.)

Another common and maddening refrain the past few weeks has been “Why do we have to care about their feelings, when they’re hateful toward us?” The answer is, bluntly, that they don’t need your votes. They’re living in gerrymandered districts that give them too much power, and they’re winning the elections that matter. If you want to change the broken system in fundamental ways, you need to convince them to vote for policies that involve giving up some of that power. They can keep things just the way they are, or make them much, much worse, without any assistance from you.

And, yes, it’s unquestionably true that a distressingly large number of those voters are openly racist and probably not persuadable. But the hard-core racist fraction is not 100%, and you wouldn’t need a huge effect to make things better. As I said before, even if 39 out of 40 Trump voters in PA, MI, and WI was a full-on alt-right Twitter frog, flipping the vote of that one decent human being would’ve avoided our current situation. I think that would’ve been worth a little bit of effort to respect their feelings, at least long enough to win their votes.

Yes, that’s messy, and compromised, and leaves some big issues unaddressed. Welcome to politics. It’s not about feelings, on either side, it’s about getting enough votes to win elections.

Rant over, catharsis achieved. Shutting up about politics, now.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    December 1, 2016

    Think those working-class whites have too much power because of gerrymandered districts that over-weight rural areas? You’re probably right, but if you want to fix it, you need to control the legislatures that make the districts, and those are mostly in Republican hands because they get the votes of those people in rural districts.

    In some states, mostly in the South and West, there is a popular initiative process for passing laws, amending the state Constitution, or both. In such states one can use this process to enact a requirement that legislative districts be drawn by a non-partisan (or bi-partisan) board. California has already done this, and as a result their Congressional delegation and state legislature come close to matching statewide party preferences.

    That’s not an option in my state (NH), but if it is in yours, give it a thought.

  2. #2 See Noevo
    December 1, 2016

    Here’s my mini rant:
    1)
    Why do people rant about white racism winning the 2016 election, when a black man was elected in 2008 (winning the electoral votes by 36 percentage points and the popular vote by 7 percentage points)
    and RE-elected in 2012 (winning the electoral votes by 23 percentage points and the popular vote by 4 percentage points) ?

    Although Barack wasn’t running in 2016, he said over and over HIS legacy, HIS accomplishments were, and Hillary was the person to carry them on.

    His SKIN COLOR didn’t change. So, why didn’t his successor, Hillary, win? Because of RACE??

    2)
    Why are so many people now screaming that Hillary won the popular vote and wailing that the electoral college system is “unfair.”

    Where was all this wailing about the “unfair” electoral college BEFORE 11/8/16?

    3)
    You know how in the year and a half leading up to election night, in all the election polls and predictions and campaign stops, California and New York got maybe 30 seconds of coverage? You know, because CA and NY are no-brainer, big-time Blue, and
    for presidential election purposes, virtually no cares about CA and NY?
    Well, if you exclude CA and NY, then, in the other 48 states, Trump won the popular vote by over 3.1 million (2.8 percentage points).

  3. #3 jane
    December 2, 2016

    Where was all this wailing [emotive language in original] about the “unfair” electoral college BEFORE 11/8/16?

    Um, it was in late 2000, when Bush was handed the presidency by virtue of the suppression of a recount that might have changed the results in Florida. I imagine there was also some when Rutherford B. Hayes, whom we used to call one of the most corrupt presidents before there was Trump, was handed the presidency despite getting shellacked in the popular vote and the quid-pro-quo was that the feds would no longer protect the rights of Southern blacks.

    I understand the legitimate geopolitical rationale for the Electoral College, but it was instituted in a time when all states were mostly agricultural. It was not intended to be a permanent handout to the cracker class.

  4. #4 See Noevo
    December 2, 2016

    Um, when I said “Where was all this wailing about the “unfair” electoral college BEFORE 11/8/16?”
    I was talking in the time period, of about a year-and-half, of the recently completed 2016 presidential campaign. Not the year 2000 or about the time of Rutherford B. Hayes.

    Also, regarding your “handout to the cracker class”,
    isn’t “cracker” the color flip-side of “ni**er”?

  5. #5 SteveP
    December 2, 2016

    The US House Science and Technology committee tweeted this today:
    .@BreitbartNews: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists http://bit.ly/2gINZNf
    Now, if you go to that website, you will find a link to a Breitbart post and within that post you will find comments by people with avatars like “Euro Pox” with a disgusting caricature of a black person, and another with a Confederate flag waving. This is the sort of site that the US House of Representatives points to for information on Climate Change???? Lamar Smith should be removed from the Science and Technology committee, and he should be censured for stupidity.

    And the N-word, by way of explanation for those overly sensitive white people who are offended by the term cracker, is particularly despicable because it has been used as a term of contempt for centuries, and because it was used to imply social, economic, and moral inferiority to any person who wasn’t saltine white in color. Any white person who resents the fact that they are being categorized as a privileged white person ought to take a deep breath, exhale, and think about what it must be like to be continually taunted, belittled, discriminated against, and, in many cases, murdered, just because their skin wasn’t white. . Whites get no sympathy for having to endure the term cracker.

    What is really a source of concern is that we have a Nazi as an advisor in the White House. Not good.

  6. #6 SteveP
    December 2, 2016

    So Herr Flaggenpussygrabber has chosen Steve Bannon as his advisor . Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon is a man who praises Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. Spencer says the white race must conquer or die.

    Trump has basically raped and murdered America (with the administration he is forming), and what he is going to put in its place is some zombie approximation. America is basically done. Finito. Over. Finished. Unless Mike Pence goes psycho and turns on him with a letter opener , he is here to stay. And while he is dictator, he will undoubtedly hit some trip wire that the state department warned him to avoid. Then, any one of a number of states with leaders as bellicose and primitive as the boy monster will feel threatened and wukk stand up to Trump. Then we will be on our way to our next major war. .

    Well, I guess we are just still in the stage of evolution where Prussian warrior virtues are the most important things in Murka.

  7. #7 Fakrudeen
    Sunnyvale, CA
    December 3, 2016

    After this election I have given up on belief in basic human decency and right winning over wrong.

    It is selfishness and short-sightedness. Screw the climate and my grandchildren or even the country – it is all about my comfort right here and right now.

    People in southern states I expected. But PA, WI? I didn’t expect people in these states to be this racist and stupid.

  8. #8 See Noevo
    December 3, 2016

    To SteveP #5:

    “Whites get no sympathy for having to endure the term cracker.”

    You might be right. Just so long as it’s one white person calling another white person “cracker.”
    Like how black people call other black people “nig*er” all the time, and it’s perfectly OK.

    “What is really a source of concern is that we have a Nazi as an advisor in the White House. Not good.”

    No, it’s actually good, because Bannon’s not only not a Nazi, he helped Trump win the election and will help Trump’s presidency be perhaps the greatest presidency in my lifetime and one of the greatest presidencies ever.

  9. #9 dean
    December 3, 2016

    “because Bannon’s not only not a Nazi”

    Very few people alive now are nazis. What is true is that bannon is a liar, a misogynist, a racist, a bigot, and prime example of the worst people the United States has to offer. He’s almost as vile as you sn, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

  10. #10 CCPhysicist
    December 3, 2016

    The election was lost by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, right down to their choice of ads in my battleground state, ads that energized Trump voters to turn out and vote.

    It didn’t help that she is not an isolationist, and the country is leaning the other way. It isn’t clear if Trump is actually an isolationist or just ran as one, but what he campaigned on was part of why he won. His moves as President-elect suggest he might be the opposite, or so malleable regarding foreign affairs that his own views don’t matter. If he starts sending troops all over the Middle East, he will see his support plummet.

    It was also lost years before by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and their sub leaders, who were worse than ineffective at framing the issues for this election. For them, it was all about the Obamacare votes, not about jobs. They were on TV every week and not a peep about infrastructure — construction jobs and Caterpillar and trucks — when the Republicans repeated stalled those recovery-related bills. That is what working-class whites didn’t hear from Democrats or non-Trump Republicans. On that issue, Trump ran as a Democrat against the obstructionist Republicans, only he did it by blaming “government” rather than the party responsible.

    And it was lost because some parts of the media could not put the Trump circus in the corner. MSNBC probably swung voters to Trump with their wall-to-wall coverage of his unfiltered speeches. They thought it was funny. He won. And others, like CBS, are so sensitive to criticism that they broadcast falsehoods and half-truths as news.

    It was NOT lost because of gerrymandering. The House was lost because of gerrymandering.

  11. #11 CCPhysicist
    December 3, 2016

    Regarding gerrymandering. It does NOT make a particular party invulnerable. It helps if you pack all of the racially identifiable Democratic voters into one district, as they do arguing that it is required by law, but it actually works by trying to have a lot of reliably 60-40 and 55-45 districts while giving away some 1-99 districts while also having some 80-20 districts of your own.

    Results in those middle districts depend on turnout, which is why turnout at midterm elections is so important. Doubly so in a census year that is also a midterm year, like 2010. If one party or interest group (like seniors, or those who lost health care, or minimum wage workers, or angry people) turns out during a midterm election, House districts and state legislature districts can be flipped. But that requires two things that the Democratic party has been miserable at for at least twenty years: Grooming good candidates in those “middle” districts and backing them with year-round public relations (what gets said on TV talk shows and then spread on line) and ads pointing out the horrible vote their rep just made. That is where Pelosi and Reed were spectacularly ineffective if not downright counterproductive. The only thing that kept Reed from looking like a total idiot was the elderly guy on the other side.

    Finally, the flip side is not cracker or red neck, it is honky.

    And, See Noevo, the President is not, technically, black. He is mixed race or mullato or, most precisely, an African-English American. However, most importantly, the President is male. It should be noted that Hillary lost to a male Democrat in 2008, almost lost to a male Socialist in 2016, and then lost to a male Republican in 2016. Biden would have crushed Trump if he had run.

  12. #12 rork
    December 4, 2016

    Dem candidates are failing at the basics. I don’t think most voters really want to see marginal tax rates for the richest folks drop from 39.6 to 33%, but I think very few voters knew that was the proposed policy. Instead I think lots of voters think the poor don’t pay enough taxes, cause they are repeatedly told the poor pay little or no income taxes, but are not told that the poorer people pay sales taxes, payroll taxes, and other fees and taxes so that it’s actually non-trivial. I have argued with people who are not that horribly innumerate, who do not understand these simple things, and many similarly simple things. We might explain much better that higher taxes on the wealthy, invested into infrastructure, education, and public health, can lift allot of boats. But we suck at it.

  13. #13 rork
    December 4, 2016

    How often did you hear about Trump capital gains proposals? Have we heard proposals to increase capital gains taxes a bit from Dems? How often was the 99% discussed?

  14. #14 colnago80
    December 5, 2016

    The Democrats aren’t helping the cause by supporting Keith Ellison as the new DNC chairman. Ellison is hardly the man to right the ship and appeal to working class voters in the rust belt, which is where Hillary lost the election. Of course, the smear campaign reeking of antisemitism is being launched against anyone who has the temerity to question the appointment of Ellison. Look no further then Mano Singham’s blog on Freethoughtblogs, ole Mano being a long time Israel basher.

    It doesn’t matter whether those voters stayed home, voted for dumbkopf Donald or a third party. Many of them were long time Democrats who, for whatever reason, didn’t think that Hillary was the answer.

  15. #15 dean
    December 5, 2016

    “ole Mano being a long time Israel basher.”

    Holding a view that is not the same as yours does not qualify as being an Israel basher. Stop with the false representations.

  16. #16 colnago80
    December 5, 2016

    Re #15

    Apparently dean is either not a regular visitor to Singham’s blog or he is also an Israel basher. Singham gave an Aussie named StevoR the heave ho for having the temerity to politely disagree with him on the subject of Israel. He probably would have given me the heave ho too if I had not stopped commenting there, refusing to cast my pearls before swine. It is quite clear from following Singham’s blog that he wishes that Israel would just go away.

  17. #17 dean
    December 6, 2016

    I do read his blog on a regular basis. SteveR did not politely disagree, he went on several racist rants advocating annihilation of people didn’t like – as you have.
    This is the last I will comment on your dishonesty, but make no doubt: you are being dishonest (which is surprisingly tame behavior for you.

  18. #18 Chad Orzel
    December 6, 2016

    I have mostly been keeping out of this, as I’ve got a ton of other things to deal with right now. I have absolutely no interest in hosting a new round of a pre-existing argument, though, so here is your only warning. Subsequent comments continuing this pissing contest will be summarily deleted.

    It’s a big Internet; find another comment section to squabble in.

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