Thursday, April 7, 2016

Trump and the transition to a post-industrial society


Trump and the transition to a post-industrial society

            Sam Vaknin a popular philosopher/psychologist, and a contributor to the American Thinker, a center-right website, describes Trump and his followers in very harsh terms. As he writes in one blog post, “The world is a hostile, psychopathic place and who best to deal with it than an even more hostile, narcissistic leader like Trump? We need a big bad wolf to navigate through the jungle out there. This is a form of collective regression to toddlerhood with Trump in the role of the omnipotent, omniscient Father. In abnormal psychology this is called ‘shared psychosis.’ The members of the cult deploy a host of primitive (infantile) psychological defense mechanisms as they gradually dwindle into mere extensions and reflections of their skipper. Theirs is a malignant optimism grounded not in reality, but in idealization: the tendency to interact not with Trump himself, but with an imaginary “Trump” that each fan tailors to suit his or her fears, hopes, wishes, and fervent fantasies.”
This is a vitriolic takedown of Trump and is followers, and in light of Trump’s self-declared disregard for civility in political discourse it feels partly justified. The question is however, whether such a blanket dismissal undermines our ability to understand the realistic bases for Trump’s strengths and successes, and leads us to treat his follower’s sensibilities as if it they are alien. Of course today, in a post-holocaust world, we are especially attuned to the dangers of totalitarianism and we are rightfully wary of politicians who appear as “strongmen.” On the other side, these same concerns may lead us to take mental shortcuts. While looking at history through the rear view mirror we don’t take account of what is in front of our noses. Can we first comprehend without judging and then only judge as a stimulus for our taking action? In the Art of War Sun Tzu writes, “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” The danger of Vaknin’s stance is that he does not know himself. After all, his own prose projects a sense of omnipotent knowing, the very charge he levels against Trump. This suggests that he neither knows Trump nor his followers.  
In the following blog I try to “know” Trump by taking seriously what his supporters say and by trying to locate their experiences in situations that are in some degree accessible psychologically to all of us. This process takes me on a road trip through Trump’s unrestrained behavior, his followers anxieties about political correctness, the populist character of Trump’s movement, the link between populism and the our shared transition to a post-industrial society, and finally the Republican Party’s failure to understand the role of regulation and social policy in shaping that transition. I am interested in my readers’ responses to this trip on what is hopefully a not too long but certainly winding road.

Trump unrestrained, and political correctness.

          People who support Trump like his unrestrained and unrehearsed behavior. He appears to be acting impulsively, saying whatever comes to his mind without preparation and rehearsal. To his supporters this means that he speaks truthfully rather than censors his thinking to garner favor or support. This also means that he is independent, beholden to nothing but his own instincts. As one supporter said,Lies are out, unrehearsed truth is in,” and as another noted, “What you see is what you see, all the cards are on the table, the words are non-rehearsed, flowing forth and engendering a sense of trust.” A third commented, “because he is 'crazy impulsive' he has no qualms to step on toes when he is on a roll, and correctness (neither political nor ethical) enters in his objective.”
As this last comment suggests, supporters also take pleasure in his aggressiveness in his “stepping on toes.” As one supporter writes, “So I love Trump. I fucking love him. I wish he were actually going to run all the way to the White House instead of just fart around until the primaries like he usually does. I wish he'd take shots and get on TV and give press conferences drunk off his ass. I wish he'd tell reporters to go fuck themselves. I wish he'd treat International diplomacy like it was an episode of what's his show where he got to say "You're Fired". I LOVE that he pisses off all the politicians on both sides, because he's different than the good old boys (and gals) that come up year after year after year.”
One question of course is why do supporters take such pleasure in his impulsiveness, irresponsibility and aggression? After all, it is also boorish. If we look at this psychologically, one reason we may take pleasure in someone else’s impulsiveness is because we ourselves feel unduly restricted and suppressed. This is a common and familiar feature of celebrity culture. We enjoy a movie star’s chaotic love life because it contrasts with what we may experience to be our own dull one. Identifying with a star, we share through fantasy in his or her exciting experiences. This is also why when Republican Party leaders such as Mitt Romney lambast Trump for his incivility and boorishness, they only underline why his supporters find him attractive.
But this pushes our question one step backward. Why do his supporters feel psychologically hemmed in? It is tempting here to turn immediately to an account of their hemmed in lives, but I think we are on surer ground if we listen to what his supporters actually say. One reason they advance is that they feel oppressed by the psychological injunctions associated with political correctness, by the degree to which it suppresses expression, and censors thinking.  As one supporter writes, “Political correctness is a main reason why America is in trouble because it is a grind and so draining to be so politically correct everyday in our personal and professional lives.” The images of “grind” and “draining” suggest that people feel burdened or exhausted by the work of suppressing thoughts and impulses associated with experiences of race, ethnicity and gender. By contrast, Trump bears no such burden. As one supporter suggests, Trump's speech is uncensored. “Every week, someone would dare to blurt out something un-PC, and the media would absolutely crucify them. Political correctness is the birthplace of disastrous, un-American policies that will destroy the country in a death by a thousand cuts. But here comes Trump, the first person who didn’t even blink when the machine turns its sights on him. He didn’t just fight back. He chewed it up and spit it out.”
We might suppose that people feel censored, because they wish that they could freely express racial or ethnic animosity, in others words to be racist in public as Trump appears to be. But I think that the issue is more complex than this. One scholarly study of Tea Party supporters notes that there was, “strong opposition to explicit racism in the Greater Boston Tea Party. When avowedly racist messages suddenly appeared on the Boston Tea Party MeetUp site, Massachusetts Tea Party members let the newcomer know he was not welcome. Andrea (a leader of the Party), posted: “This country is made up of people from all countries, that’s what made us what we are. . . . I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Instead, I suggest that what white people find burdensome, are the psychological consequences associated with the prospect of giving minorities preferential treatment in the competition for jobs, promotions, or access to college , or as it termed more frequently, creating diversity. A Pew values surveys “asks people whether they agree that, “We should make every effort to improve the position of minorities, even it means giving them preferential treatments. “Since, 1987, as the New York Times reports, the gap on this question between the two (political) parties as doubled. 52% of Democrats support this statement,  (and 48% disagree!-LH) while 12% of Republicans do.
It is customary to think that this antipathy toward preferential treatment is based on conflicts of interest between minorities and whites. This is why for example white students have sued state universities for failing to admit them, claiming that their qualifications were overlooked in order to admit minority students. But I suspect that when a large number of whites resent affirmative action they are responding less to such overt conflicts of interest, and more to the psychological contradictions imposed when considering racial preferences.
Let me suggest that racial preference programs stimulate the very racist thoughts they are designed to suppress. A good number of whites would wonder why minorities deserve special consideration, if they were not in fact inferior. I believe that this thought is aversive and horrifying for many, though not all white people, as indeed it should be, and creates in its wake considerable guilt. This is one reason, for example, why in the famous case of Jayson Blair -- the black New York Times journalist who filed false reports -- his superiors failed to act on their suspicions that he was unethical and irresponsible. Their own suspicions triggered the accompanying idea that they were racist to be suspicious. One way in which whites in such positions then manage their anxiety associated with this thought is to view the minority person as a victim who warrants special consideration. But this too is a demeaning thought. For example, it denies to Jayson Blair his own agency in creating the conditions that lead him to his unethical conduct. In other words, political correctness, when linked to the issue of preferential treatment, sets in motion a complex of discomfiting thoughts, feelings of wariness and guilt, and then resentment for having experienced these feelings. This is, I propose, one psychological account of the meaning of political correctness for Trump supporters. He has freed himself from this nettle of feelings, the draining impact they impose on the psyche, and behaves without guilt or compunction.  

The deserving worker
It is sometimes common to suppose that whites ought to understand that blacks in particular have been hobbled by overt and covert racism in the past, and should therefore be entitled to special consideration. But clearly, many whites reject this idea even after decades of its ascendancy in liberal discourse. Indeed, one reason Bill Clinton won re-election in 1996 is that he severed the links between the Democratic Party and its once historical support for the rights of welfare recipients. Moreover, in the study of the Tea Party I referenced, the authors note that Tea Partiers are more likely than other conservatives to agree with the statement, “If blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.” In addition, “Tea Party activists in Massachusetts, as well as nationally, define themselves as workers, in opposition to categories of non-workers they perceive as undeserving of government assistance. Concerns about freeloading underlie Tea Party opposition to government spending.”
It might be supposed that people with this viewpoint are simply being selfish. But this is a cursory conception. I think this commitment to the link between work and reward is first and foremost a moral one. It is an ideal, and seems to be a good basis for sustaining group efforts whether in a team, a company or an entire economy based on exchange. It addresses the most elementary demand we make on group life, that it be “fair.” It expresses a basic anxiety, that in any group there is always the risk that “free-riders” will exploit group members’ good will, by working less while sharing in the group’s rewards. It can also serve as a critique of tax evasion, cronyism, bribery and “pay to play” as much as it does of “welfare payments to the undeserving.”
But moral principles are two-sided. When fulfilled they provide self-esteem, but when violated they induce shame. This is why, for example, religious people are often ashamed before themselves, by their private sexual peccadillos, even when the latter are trivial or harmless. One hypothesis is that Trump supporters, and the white working class men they represent, are at risk of feeling ashamed before themselves, because increasingly they can’t get access to the opportunities for hard work that merit fair rewards. It is common knowledge that wages for high-school educated men have been stagnant, and that manufacturing jobs, which once secured them good living standards, have been declining in numbers for decades.  One way to cope with the resulting shame is to project it on to minorities, immigrants and others who live on the margins and have even fewer opportunities to do hard work. The “freeloader” becomes the social scapegoat, a symbol of a condition that threatens “us,” not just “them.”
Deterioration and pain
Consider the following. Anne Case and her co-author, The Nobel prize winning economist Angus Deaton, point out, that there has been a “marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround.” The authors link this trend to “drugs and alcohol, suicide, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.”
Moreover, as Deaton and Case show, this same group reports increasing physical pain. “One in three white non-Hispanics aged 45–54 reported chronic joint pain in the 2011–2013 period; one in five reported neck pain; and one in seven reported sciatica. Reports of all four types of pain increased significantly between 19971999 and 20112013. An additional 2.6% of respondents reported sciatica or chronic joint pain, an additional 2.3% reported neck pain, and an additional 1.3% reported facial pain. This increase in pain is one reason that there has been a significant increase in the use of opioids which itself can be a trigger for suicide.
The question is, why has this happened? Pain lies at the intersection between the physical and the psychological. It is also what psychologists call “ego-alien,” meaning that we experience pain as an “other.” That is why we commonly call it an “It” as in, “It hurts.” Distancing ourselves from our pain is adaptive insofar as it allows us to treat “it” with measures that are in themselves painful, for example, in the extreme, amputating an injured limb. 
But at the same time, in distancing ourselves from our pain we are less likely to tackle those causes that are part and parcel of our experience.  For example, if stress leads to back pain, treating it as an “other,” we are less likely to confront those sources of our stress that are part of our lives, for example our low wages, or our children’s poor prospects. Instead we medicate “it,” accentuating our helplessness. This is also what Freud meant by psychological repression. We treat thoughts and feelings that are psychologically painful as if they are alien, not ours, only to discover that they continue to exert a claim on our unconscious attention.
By contrast, good social ties help us ameliorate pain by integrating us into a network of friends and loved ones who, under optimal conditions, buffer us from stress and help us cope with adversity. This is one reason a good working-alliance with a therapist helps people come into touch with their unconscious thoughts. We join a larger social “whole,” our personal network, or our helpful therapist, to undo the split within, between our ego and “it.”  We see this everyday among small children who happily receive our kisses to make their “boo-boo” feel better. Pain in this sense is a measure of social isolation.
This account of the psychosocial basis of pain also explains why Deaton and Case found that suicide is increasing. Ever since Emile Durkheim published his classic study of suicide, it is commonly understood that the social basis for suicide is social disintegration, that is, people no longer feel psychologically linked to their communities. Robert Putnam in his now classic text, “Bowling alone” indeed found that people in working class communities feel increasingly isolated.  They participate less in the panoply of settings, what sociologists call “mediating institutions,” such as labor unions, the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, Churches, the League of Women voters, the Elks, and Parent-Teacher associations, that once glued a community together.
For example, Putnam writes, “For many years, labor unions provided one of the most common organizational affiliations among American workers. Yet union membership has been falling for nearly four decades, with the steepest decline occurring between 1975 and 1985. Since the mid-1950s, when union membership peaked, the unionized portion of the nonagricultural work force in America has dropped by more than half, falling from 32.5 percent in 1953 to 15.8 percent in 1992. By now, virtually all of the explosive growth in union membership that was associated with the New Deal has been erased. The solidarity of union halls is now mostly a fading memory of aging men.”
This conception of social isolation fits with the understanding that Trump supporters feel as if they have no voice. As The Atlantic reportsIf there were one question to identify a Trump supporter if you knew nothing else about him, what might it be? “Are you a middle-aged white man who hasn’t graduated from college?” might be a good one. But according to a survey from RAND Corporation, there is one that’s even better: Do you feel voiceless?”

The Tea-Party and populism.
The history of the Tea party is suggestive here. It was set in motion by Republican Party elites, gaining support and traction from FreedomWorks, “a multimillion-dollar conservative non-profit led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX). FreedomWorks is closely aligned with the Tea Party Express, a project of the Republican-run political action committee, ‘Our Country Deserves Better,’ which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in support to conservative candidates.” In addition, Fox News provided the Tea Party with significant publicity in its early days. Yet Tea Party members soon used it to undermine the elites that started it. In an early foretelling, a Tea Party activist in Virginia, David Brat, defeated Eric Cantor, the Republic Majority Leader in the House of Representatives in a 2014 primary election for the latter’s congressional seat. The Tea Party, and the Trump supporters it helped galvanize is now the voice of its members, not its founders. After all, Trump supporters now threaten to undermine the Republican Party’s capacity to mount a legitimate party convention.
This phenomenon of a once voiceless group helps account for why analysts call Trump’s supporters “populists.” One trope that emerged early in the primary season was that Trump supporters were authoritarian.  But as two researchers, Washington PostThe AtlanticWhite Middle Americans express heavy mistrust of every institution in American society: not only government, but corporations, unions, even the political party they typically vote for—the Republican Party of Romney, Ryan, and McConnell, which they despise as a sad crew of weaklings and sellouts. They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, ‘That’s my guy.’”
writesLike the joker from The Dark Knight, I just want to see the world burn,” 
or as another notes, “Hell, if Bozo the clown was running, I would vote for him,” or, “So, I will happily bide my time dancing foolishly under Mr. Trump's brightly-striped tents and festive lights. Drawn to the man and his message like a moth to a flame.” 

This anti-elitism also explains Trump supporters’ admiration for his unrehearsed performances during the primary debates. As ABC reported, “Candidates usually spend hours and hours preparing for a major debate -- reading up the issues, going through practice Q & A sessions or mock debates and practicing lines to use when the big moment comes. Not Donald Trump. ‘Trump doesn’t rehearse,’ a senior Trump advisor said today. It’s not that his political team hasn’t tried. Trump’s aides have prepared him memos on the issues and the expected lines of questions and potential attacks from the other candidates, but there have been no formal debate prep sessions, no mock Q & A, no practice debates.”
Elites try to exert control in politics, corporations and in large not-for-profit organizations by attending carefully to their strategies for communicating with their various publics and stakeholders. This is the heart of public relations work and may at times entail deceit or at least misdirection. Thus for example and most strikingly, the Tea Party’s origins, lay in, “Tobacco companies’ attempt to create the semblance of broad opposition to tobacco control legislation and to defend ‘smokers’ rights,’ against the charges associated with second hand smoke. These efforts failed, and in 1990 as several researchers note,Tim Hyde, RJR director of national field operations, outlined a strategy for RJR to create ‘a movement’ resembling what would later emerge as the Tea Party by building broad coalitions around the issue-cluster of freedom, choice and privacy. (As he wrote), ‘Coalition-building should proceed along two tracks: a) a grass- roots, organizational and largely local track; b) and a national, intellectual track within the D.C.-New York corridor. Ultimately, we are talking about a ‘movement,’ a national effort to change the way people think about government’s (and big business’) role in our lives. Any such effort requires an intellectual foundation–a set of theoretical and ideological arguments on its behalf.’”
The dilemma with public relations is that it becomes less effective as it becomes institutionalized. People become inured to its claims, suspecting reasonably that messages cloak interests that are not truthfully revealed. Politicians are suspect as voters learn that their messages have been carefully crafted using focus groups, voter research and tests of advertisements. This creates cynicism, which is fact one emotional basis for nihilistic feelings. Cynicism is intellectualized self-pity, and is based on the experience of helplessness. The nihilistic fantasy reverses helplessness by helping the cynic imagine the prospective destruction of settings that are the seat of his impotence. The Trump movement goes one step better. It can undermine the Republican Party for real.



A substantial minority of Republicans—almost 30 percent—said they would welcome ‘heavy’ taxes on the wealthy, according to Gallup. Within the party that made Paul Ryan’s entitlement-slashing budget plan a centerpiece of policy, only 21 percent favored cuts in Medicare and only 17 percent wanted to see spending on Social Security reduced, according to Pew.”

The Republican Party’s weakness
This underlines a central weakness facing the Republican Party.  Marco Rubio, while a candidate, frequently referred to the Party as the “Party of Lincoln and Reagan.” One question this appellation raises is, what was the structural basis for Reagan’s power and charisma? After all in his character, he was quite detached from the role of president, and largely disinterested in policy. Let me propose the following. In the earlier phases of the transition to post-industrial society deregulation and the ethos of free markets were in fact developmental. They increased competition, decreased dependency on welfare, and helped create a climate of entrepreneurship. They gave substance to Reagan’s sunny disposition. These themes helped create an economic and cultural mechanism for harnessing investments in new technologies and for reordering labor markets.  Indeed, in many ways, Bill Clinton’s presidency rested on these very same achievements.
But this stance has come up against its own inherent limits. This is one reason that Reagan’s vision is no longer compelling to the Tea Party’s base, and why in fact Hilary Clinton, strongly identified with her husband’s presidency, faces strong opposition from the left. Most strikingly, the “production” of human capital is imperiled as students accumulate debt they cannot pay off, a central argument in Bernie Sanders’ campaign, while the social safety net is too narrowly conceived and constructed to help working class and underclass communities make the transition to a post industrial society. This is why Trump’s diatribe against free-trade has such resonance, even thought it violates a central tenet of the “Party of Reagan.”  It may be mistaken, in the sense that automation rather than trade has reduced the number of manufacturing jobs.  But restricted trade, and deporting immigrants are symbolic stand-ins for the social policies that are now necessary, but which Republican Party elites never understood nor advanced.  
Ironically, after Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the Republication party tried to “post-modernize” its message by embracing the new minorities and creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. This was to be Marco Rubio’s great legislative achievement, which the Republican Party quashed after the Tea Party defeated Eric Cantor, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives. But the Party could not anticipate that a part of its base was increasingly vexed by the elite’s mismanagement of markets, resulting for example in structural unemployment, low wage work, high indebtedness and diminished prospects for upward mobility.  This is one reason why Marco Rubio’s campaign, based on a post modern-identification with minorities, a conservative and religious temperament, and a commitment to free markets ultimately failed.

Coda: The working class
As extraordinary as Trump’s campaign has been, it is important to remember that he has never won the majority of votes in any primary. On average, he is has won about a third of the votes in each state election and of course this is counting only the Republican Party voters.  His supporters represent a relatively small fraction of the total electorate. Moreover, working class members of the Democratic Party have voted for Sanders. But his primary victories highlight the wider tensions we face as a society in transition to a post-industrial age.
Several years ago I saw a compelling photo on the Internet, which unfortunately I can no longer locate. It pictured a large group of United Auto Workers, with clubs and bats in hand, marching down a Detroit avenue in the great strike wave of 1948. It startled me to see this display of militancy and forcefulness.  The union workers were announcing that they could protect themselves. I thought at the time, that this moment, close to seventy years ago, but still within earshot of our current way of life, typified a period in which the American working class could represent itself and its interests without hesitation. It is striking to see Trump as an heir to this moment, and then to review the long and winding history through which unions withdrew from the primary task of organizing low-wage workers, in whatever sector they worked. Instead, they retreated to defending the privileges of their current members who worked in stable jobs.
Perhaps this development was inevitable. Could unions really have organized the large, sprawling and fragmented low- wage service sector of salesclerks, waitresses, fast food workers and janitors?  Instead, unions made their greatest gains among public sector employees, and unfortunately the scale of the pensions they have won in contract settlements with local and state governments have turned them into the taxpayer’s enemy.
In industrial society, politics gained coherence from its class structure; from the rough and ready distinction between workers and capitalists, manual workers and their foremen, finance and production. In a post-industrial society these easy distinctions elude us. Teams are self managing, learning is a part of work, the factory technician controls the computer console of the automated machine, and human capital begets financial capital as entrepreneurs raise money from venture capital firms. But in the resulting confusion a political moment can erupt and throw into high relief all the underlying conflicts that simmer below the surface. At that point the elites stand up and take notice, and we can as well. 




11 comments:

  1. Thank you Larry for this insightful posting. It is frightening to watch Trump from the distance of Australia and it leads me to wonder how people can be supporters. There has been a meme circulating on Twitter that the US presidential race is seen as an IQ test by the rest of the world, that sadly US citizens are failing!

    However, you are a true polymath and this article helps to shed light on the new "hero" of the struggling white working class.

    Kate

    ReplyDelete
  2. The rise against industrialization harks back to the Luddites, artisan weavers smashing textile machines that could be run by the unskilled. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite. Do Trump supporters, men and women, have similar grievances?

    Norbert

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Norbert I think that there is a rough analogy between these two periods, though the Luddites showed up relatively early in the industrialization process. The transformation of the labor market and the job structure in the US had been ongoing for 50 years and so there is no chance that there could be any reversion. But the process of decline takes a long time and herein lays the potential for social decay of the kind we are witnessing now. On the other side all groups of the population are exposed to the greater insecurity and contingency of post-industrial labor markets. For sure one necessary condition for social survival is a college education though even this may not be enough. Some people are positioned to take advantage of this new flexibility based on their skills and temperament.

      Delete
  3. Most interesting--and provocative--Larry. I wonder about some of your assumptions about racism, but I think your piece might help us all, even Australians, deal with the gigantic empathic failures that I see in US politics today, and in the world.

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  4. Larry,

    I find this less than convincing. For one thing, affirmative action is yesterday's issue. Trump never talks about it and nobody else does, either, at this point. The things Trump talks about, like uncontrolled immigration, from Latin America and Muslims, are matters the government is determining as it wishes, and the views of most people do not count for anything at all. And that's just the beginning. Look, for example, at the corruption of the IRS, the VA, ATF, the public school systems, the military... Look at the Comments sections of news media. All this is going to build a distrust of elites. The distrust of Republican elites by Republicans arises from the fact that, despite the fact that Republicans have been elected to Congressional majorities, they haven't done anything about it. Putting the distrust of elites on a Republican failure to organize our transition to a post industrial age ignores the fact that the Democrats have been running the show for almost eight years now and haven't done poop to organize that transition, nor has either of them indicated any serious plan to do so.

    Howie

    ReplyDelete
  5. Howie- a few thoughts. 1) About affirmative action and racial preferences. It seems to me the idea is very much alive in the code word “diversity.” The meaning of the term is that institutions should reserve a special place for minorities 2) your analysis does not look at the demographics of Trump supporters and their unique experience. They are a particular segment and a minority one at that. What especially animates them in contrast to other voters, who have been exposed to the same evidence of corruption or lassitude but are not supporting Trump? 3) I did not say that the Republican leaders failed as legislators, though this may be the case. Rather, that the Republican part elite imagined that their commitment to and conviction in free market principals and a limited safety net would continue to have resonance with their base of Reagan Democrats.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree and applaud your work, Larry, especially on the centrality of point 3. Only minor attention has been focused on this group, bereft of social cohesion, and safety nets, acutely aware that the mortality rate among them is spiking. I extend your insight to Central Europe, and ask you to comment on a source of resistance to integrate this tragic phenomenon. Much thanks, Larry.

      Delete
    2. Larry,

      Good points, but

      1) though there certainly is a connection between affirmative action and diversity, I think what would be more at issue in this case would be the multicultural bullshit that goes along with it. Also, though, diversity is not getting a good deal more play than AA in all this. I just don't see it as raising the blood pressure very much.
      2) Actually, your analysis didn't get into the demographics of Trump's support, either, and I have seen quite a bit of conflicting analysis. But the second part of your point is answered fairly easily. What differentiates those who will not vote for Trump is their horror at the idea of the man himself in the role of President. I think there is much feeling that while Trump has opened up some questions that need discussion, he has not offered serious answers, and will not, because he is not a serious man.
      3) On this point, you are correct, but it relates also to item 2, in the sense that Trump does not offer a serious alternative, but simply his own magic. His supporters buy that. Yet that bring us back to Vaknin, who you dismissed. But it isn't as if an alternative to the Republican failure has been offered by the Democrats. Sanders, especially, simply offers governmental magic as a substitute for Trump's magic. And in the face of the governmental failure that we see all around,it is hard to feel comfortable with that alternative.

      Howie

      Delete
    3. Laszlo- for some reason part of your response seems to have disappeared. Also I am unable to respond to it directly, but I am using the response box below Howard’s submission to write a follow up to your comment. There are many classic studies on the impact of unemployment ton mental health I have a feeling though no data, that this situation is more chronic and for that reason more invisible. The issue is probably not unemployment per se, though this may be a factor but as you note social isolation and invisibility. Perhaps as people lose their sense of being worthwhile, all in the context of affluence, it is that much more difficult for individuals to understand the reasons for their stress and so they somatize it even more. These are important issues to consider.

      Delete
  6. Very interesting article and increasingly important issue. A few comments. One basis of Trumps support is his constant legitimization of underlying racism in the population. Trump was an active and public "birther". According to a CNN/ORC 2015 poll, 29% of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim and 20% believe he was born out of the country. According to a HuffPost/YouGov 2016 poll, 43% of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim and 53% of Republicans doubt his citizenry. Similarly, Trump claims as a signature issue building a wall between Mexico and US to keep out immigrants who he claims are flooding the country. In fact, according to Pew Research between 2009 and 2014 there was net out flow of Mexicans from the US to Mexico of approximately 140,000 persons. Trump has called for the suspension of immigration of Muslims to the US "until we can find out what is going on" whatever that means. All these are thinly veiled appeals to nativism and racism that is shared by a large part of the American electorate. Trump is heir to the portion of the Republican base that historically, until 1965, were Southern Democrats(Dixiecrats), then become - along with white working class Northerners - the base of the Wallace presidential campaign in 1968, and then became the Reagan Democrats. Keep in mind that only 25% of the total electorate considers itself to be Republicans (including leaning R it is 41%) so 50% of Republicans and leaners is between 12.5 and 20.5 of the electorate. Trump uses these fake issues as a means to attract the support of this demographic.
    Another signature issue for Trump is his rejection of Political Correctness which you discuss. While it may be argued that PC is a form of group censorship as you do, in this case the attack on PC is another way to assert the validity of racist and nativist ideologies that would not be permitted to be directly and honestly expressed. It has been suggested that one reason the Republican establishment is angered by Trump is that he goes to far and reveals their more hidden mode of addressing this element, otherwise know in Republican history as the "Southern Strategy". In any event, Trump has been successful in this strategy, most noticeably in the open support he has garnered from the white supremacists.
    The issue of the role of labor unions and the cause of their decline is too complex to address in this comment, but it is important to address elsewhere. It should be stated that much of Trumps support comes from white working class (and other middle class) men who are upset with other sociological changes that are taking place in society that demonstrate their loss of status and power on many fronts, not only in the form of decline of wages and job security. These issues include: movements toward racial equality, diminution of status of ethnic communities, loss of respect for religion in general and Christianity in particular, the movement toward gender equality in the home and the workplace, and legal recognition of the validity of various forms of sexual orientation. All these changes elicit a sense of loss of identity and place in society as well as social status and are accompanied by anger and frustration. Trump seizes on this anger and directs it against the "establishment" in general and the Republican establishment in particular that has either been open to these changes or at the very least failed to successfully resist them. For Trump being the vehicle for expression of this anger and frustration (including anger at loss of good paying jobs) is the essence of his campaign. In contrast to Bernie Sanders, who also is leading an anti-establishment movement, Trump proposes no real proposals for addressing even the material needs of his supporters. That is not his concern. His purpose is to stoke the anger and express it as a means to achieve power and not to harness the anger and power to make substantive changes in the country that will actually address the challenges it faces our.

    Saul Schapiro

    ReplyDelete
  7. Larry:
    I wonder if trust is the theme in play. In 2007/2008 an economic tsunami was avoided thru another bail out for the financial sector. The barriers to home ownership were lowered (not sure how) and these loans were re-packaged in arcane investments and sold world-wide by a relatively small group. These individuals received outrageous compensation and added no substantive value to the economy. In essence a shell game. In the meantime, traders are making millions using network technologies to shake out price discrepancies during trading sessions.
    America woke up to the possibility of economic depression and had no hand in its development. For many investors they lost 30-40% in their 401K/IRA accounts in a few weeks. What happened? I was working, paying my bills, saving for retirement and doing everything I thought was correct and I'm now looking at working another 5+ years?

    In the meantime US manufacturing was shipped off shore, Enron exploited power grids and made obscene profits, water has been poisoned for some communities, Cantor gets booted out yet picks up $400K+, Patreus screws his biographer and shows up on DC news shows as a financial consultant (really?). Mass shootings increase, more white men commit suicide, depression and pain meds scripts are passed out like Halloween candies.
    Candidates continue the same tripe - freedom, better lives, etc. - with out any concrete examples. Sanders and Trump offer simple ideas. And that's why it sells.
    IMO many are tired of the broken promises, the long lines at the DMV, the inequities, the constant drum beat for more equality. They are tired of being told they are privileged when their lives suck. They can see what they look like when they take their clothes off and see no way back to fitness as they have mouths to feed, shitty jobs to go to.
    In my experience, most Americans want an opportunity to work, to contribute, to be part of something bigger than themselves. They buy into America's values and are proud of its accomplishments. They also see the underside of capitalism - materialism, greed, consumption. What I think they want is a straight answer, a way forward, some hope that things can be better. They love this country - it's expanse, its inherent spirit, its beauty and history. Yet, for many, they are tired.

    It may be hoping for some modicum of control in a world that can go very wrong very quickly. For someone who they can trust who will do what they say.
    Instead, we all seem to know that government institutions move oh so slow. Yet, we also know that one has to be very careful with private firms and the fine print and the deal as you can get screwed over pretty quickly.

    Sorry of the ramble. Maybe for many they are acting like children and looking for a different parent to lead them. Maybe for some their choices and options have not turned out well. Maybe they're afraid. Living too close to the edge, wanting answers or options.
    We know that some men travel to wherever the work is and leave their families so they can provide something better than what they have. Some can't.
    Maybe Trump offers a simple siren song that resonates with those who need a new piper, someone who for whatever reason, is unable to navigate this economy.

    ReplyDelete