Winners and Losers

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A highly recommended morning read: Thomas B. Edsall, The ‘Rotten Equilibrium’ of Republican Politics: Charlatans rise. Government falls.

Edsall presents data conclusively demonstrating that Republicans are now winning most of the economically backward states and districts while losing just about all the economically prosperous jurisdictions. These graphics tell the story.

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He then considers at some length the implications of these data. For example, will it henceforth be in Republicans’ interest to prevent economic growth, lest the newly enriched become generous and therefore liberal?

The Oppression of Red State America

schoolhouse door

In a piece entitled Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears, Thomas B. Edsall has a lot of useful thoughts on the reasons why Red State America is mad as hell. Mad enough to elect a delusional incompetent. Mad enough to join with the Party of Plutocracy in attempting to impose a sort of dictatorship over Blue America—to counter the dictatorship they believe Blue America has imposed on them.

Lots of good stuff about normative threats, authoritarian mindsets, economic injury from “larger economic forces,” and so on and so on.

As I say, lots of good stuff, but nothing about race. Mr. Edsall needs to clean the wax from his own ears and hear how George Wallace framed the matter as he stood in the schoolhouse door back in in 1973:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice.

So therein lies the problem. We Blue Staters either oppress the Red Staters by forcing them to let black folks attend their universities, or we lighten our oppression and let them oppress black people instead. We either oppress them by forcing them against their will to recognize the rights of gay people, or we don’t, and instead let them go on treating gay folks badly.

No, Mr. Edsall, Aardvark’s fingers are not stuffed up his ears. For decades Aardvark has heard, loud and clear, the pleas of his cousins and high school classmates to be free of Yankee oppression—an oppression made all the more onerous by being forced to accept a black man as the legitimate President of the United States.

I hear their cries of anguish and desperation. I understand that their pain is so intense as virtually to destroy reason. I fully grasp that, in their minds, the only way effectively to counteract this racial, cultural, and economic oppression is to unite with the Party of Plutocracy to impose a counter-oppression on Blue State America.

I feel their pain.

Six Blind Social Scientists Examine the Populist Elephant in Some Detail


This morning Thomas B. Edsall, opinion writer for the Washington Post and professor of journalism, calls our attention to a Harvard Kennedy School working paper by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, Trump Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash. The article, and the scholarly work it describes, complement and contrast with other recent efforts to get our arms around populism in Europe and the United States.

What I have to say is a second hand account of a second hand account, so please go read the original if the topic interests you.

The learned authors, it appears, label progressive thinking of the contemporary sort as “postmaterialism,” evidently because we contemporary progressive folk are said to be more co ncerned about cultural issues than about bread and butter issues.

 “Postmaterialism,” they write, “eventually became its own gravedigger.”

The rise of postmaterialism here and in Europe, Inglehart and Norris argue,

brought declining social class voting, undermining the working-class-oriented Left parties that had implemented redistributive policies for most of the 20th century. Moreover, the new non-economic issues introduced by Postmaterialists overshadowed the classic Left-Right economic issues, drawing attention away from redistribution to cultural issues, further paving the way for rising inequality.

Again, I don’t pretend to do the article full justice, but the essence appears to be that the Left took its eye off of economic inequality and the plight of those whose jobs were lost or threatened, causing the latter to manifest whatever racist, xenophobic, and cultural fears they already had in latent form.

Aardvark is confident that the documentation for all this is helpful, but from a bird’s eye level, it strikes me as the painful elucidation of the obvious.

What’s less obvious is how to fix it. Some seem to think it would help if Harvard professors go down and drink beer with the longshoremen. An even better approach would be to find a way meaningfully to address the valid economic concerns that many of the Trump supporters—a significant number of which, after all, voted for Obama in previous elections.