Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Couple Quick Semi-Heresies from the Left on Trump Voters


       It's a basic point, academically expressed as, "People are 'multiply situated' and are rarely one thing." Now, it doesn't always seem that way for a reason I learned in some problematic lessons back in high school. Lesson one came when I was dumb enough to mutter aloud my dismissing of another student as a "TNSJ." I was overheard and pressed on the point and explained the initialism meant, "Typical" Chicago "North-Side Jew." The person asked me if I was not a "typical North-Side Jew," and I responded with something less reprehensible than my first comment: "I hope I'm not a typical anything." 

      We can miss that "All people are 'multiply situated'" because some people go beyond adolescence living stereotypes of "Professional FILL-IN-THE-BLANK." For them, my advice would be to dial back their "professionalism" to where they can say that "BLANK is my main identify and for good reasons" — e.g., being oppressed for it — "is my current priority.

      Now a fair number of Trump supporters are professional Americans, patriots, Christians, and so forth, and that is in the normal order of things. So is, in a group that large, a fair number of bigots, racists, and just assholes. If we judged every group by its worst people no group outside a congregation of saints — and a small congregation at that — could avoid condemnation. 
      What is more interesting among Trump voters is that a fair number seem motivated by issues of the White working class without being members of the actual working class, which in the USA is pretty heavily non-White anyway: 45% or so, and rising. A fair number of Trump voters seem to be not working class but insecurely middle class economically and motivated by fear of becoming working class. With some justification, they may fear they're in "zero-sum games" with people they (a) formerly didn't have to compete with, period, and (b) now have legal protections on the job and elsewhere that they lack. 

      The competition with new groups — women, non-Whites, new groups of immigrants — is something they're going to have to get used to, given the demographic trends and the rules of decency. But, there is this much of a legitimate and pressing complaint by various subdivisions of "White": The Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution needs to provide "equal protection" to everyone to some degree — in our multiple identities — and job protections like tenure need to be more general and less elite. Many Trump voters are motivated by "the politics of resentment," and the answer to that resentment isn't to bring others down but bring large groups of people up. Employers have too much power over most workers, period, and the "workers of the world" are distracted from that by getting divided up. For strong historical and political reasons, different groups have gotten needed extra protections, and that help can generate understandable envy. 

      We humans are multiply and complexly "situated" and have different roles. Most of us, though, for much of our lives, are workers, or unemployed. Whether you labor with mostly with your muscles or your mind, you still sell your labor, and you spend much of your time and devote much of your life to one job or another. Elite workers as Professional Professionals need to see that they — we for most of my life — probably supported Bernie Sanders and voted for Hillary Clinton but potentially share economic insecurity with middle-class Trump voters and share issues of economic power with workers generally. 

       An unnamed Lord says in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well,

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and
ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our
faults whipped them not; and our crimes would
despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.
And even so for our acts and words. I said a stupid, bigoted, self-threatening thing, but when challenged I was able to formulate something I believed and was able to expand upon the idea: "Only pigeons belong in pigeon holes," and there is problem if someone can legitimately be put into one. People sometimes can be with a smidgen of fairness because of a problematic line from another teenage Chicago North-Side Jew of the 1950s, dismissing a guy on the fringe of our group as living the stereotype of "a professional Jew": i.e., someone who not only put Judaism at the center of his life, but put Jewishness as the essence of his being — and let people know it.

* * *
      One area, though, where we need more group identification: age and generation; indeed we need again some Professional Youth. Young Americans are insecure and may not make it into the upper-levels of the working class. Transferring money from education and job training to health care and prisons (etc.) generally helps older people — especially those on Medicare — at some cost to younger people; ditto for declining to invest in the environment and infrastructure. Trump supporters tend to be fairly old, White, insecurely middle-class voters, and their representatives know what they're doing in making it difficult for, among other groups, young people to vote. And young people don't help if/when they demand candidates they can get all enthusiastic over. 

          Young people: The Trump administration is not your friend. But there was a backlash against the young starting in the late 1960s, and "the Youth" of that period are now pretty aged, but the backlash continues and has revved up, and you weren't helped much by the William J. Clinton administration either. Yes, you need to be forced to contribute to health insurance — but only if it's truly universal, such as Medicare for all, and only if that kind of transfer of money is offset by those investments in education and job training that you need now, and in protections for the environment and conserving of resources that only you will live long enough to enjoy. 

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