Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nick Kristof's Guide to Popularity

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Heart of Dixie Cafe and listen to Lester Maddox explain why even though he of course isn't a bigot he still supports the Tangerine-Faced Grifter, here comes Nick Kristof again to tell us liberals (who support his pontifications by paying to read The New York Times) that we've got it all wrong.

We had previously taken issue with Kristof's not-especially-convincing efforts to exonerate Grifter voters on the grounds that they were not all bigots and why can't we all get along.  We made – what's that word again? – arguments, both practical and moral, against his views.  Apparently some other folks expressed their views with greater vituperation, because Kristof now complains that his previous arguments in support of the Essential Goodness of Trumpanistas made him “unpopular.”

Let's see if we can mend Nick Kristof's broken heart, if not his reasoning.  First of all, if you want to paint those who disagree with you as screaming idiots, all you have to do is pluck a few of the ripest comments from your harvest.  Is it really the case that you judge your opponents by the most extreme statements made by any of them?

We'll revert to that inquiry infra but first let's do something he doesn't do: grapple with reality.  He says:
The blunt truth is that if we care about a progressive agenda, we simply can’t write off 46 percent of the electorate. If there is to be movement on mass incarceration, on electoral reform, on women’s health, on child care, on inequality, on access to good education, on climate change, then progressives need to win more congressional and legislative seats around the country.
Can't dispute the second sentence.  Let's look at the first.  Now who are we to quibble over the meanings of words with a distinguished columnist for the world's most authoritative news source?  We always thought that “electorate” didn't mean those who voted; it means the entire body of qualified voters, whether or not they turned out to vote on Election Day.  In our defense, we can only point out that this view is also held by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.  On page 575.  Like us, you can look it up.

So going with this barely plausible definition of electorate, we can say that the Tangerine-Faced Grifter received the support not of 46 per cent of the electorate, but of 46 per cent of voters who cast ballots.  As turnout in 2016 sank to 55% of eligible voters, in fact the Tangerine-Faced Grifter received the support of 26 per cent of the electorate, a rather less imposing bloc, and certainly less numerous than the 45% who stayed home and ate Cheetos on November 8.  You can look up these numbers too.  Here.

Kristof argues that not all of this 26% can be written off as bigots.  Since we haven't talked to all of them, we can neither confirm nor deny that assertion.   But some other folks, practicing an obscure craft known as “reporting,” did, and here's what they found:
Facts, however, as a rather more illustrious predecessor of President Trump once remarked, “are stubborn things.” Interestingly, on the very same day that Sanders offered his evidence-free defense of Trump voters in Boston, the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) was released.
Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over this ANES data and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.”
The Intercept, April 6, 2017.

Non-bigoted Grifter voters, shown here winning
The study quoted by The Intercept correlated Presidential preferences with responses to questions involving racist tells:
Klinkner himself grabbed headlines last summer when he revealed that the best way to identify a Trump supporter in the U.S. was to ask “just one simple question: is Barack Obama a Muslim?” Because, he said, “if they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.” This is economic anxiety? Really?
Other surveys and polls of Trump voters found “a strong relationship between anti-black attitudes and support for Trump”; Trump supporters being “more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’”; more likely to believe “people of color are taking white jobs”; and a “majority” of them rating blacks “as less evolved than whites.” Sorry, but how can any of these prejudices be blamed on free trade or low wages?
But back to our star columnist, who doesn't stoop so low as to consider pesky things like facts when he can nurse his wounded pride.  Grifter voters aren't motivated by racism, bigotry, or anythings horrible like that; they're upset that liberals think so (apparently correctly, as we just learned):
I asked the people I interviewed in Oklahoma why they were sticking with Trump. There are many reasons working-class conservatives vote against their economic interests — abortion and gun issues count heavily for some — but another is the mockery of Democrats who deride them as ignorant bumpkins. The vilification of these voters is a gift to Trump.
But rural Oregon's gift to punditry doesn't stop at blaming those pesky liberals for forcing white non-bigots into voting for a crooked ignorant dangerous unbalanced sex criminal whose entire Administration devotes every non-dysfunctional moment to f**king them over.  He's also got practical solutions:  
Maybe we need more junior year “abroad” programs that send liberals to Kansas and conservatives to Massachusetts.
I think this is op-ed humor but with this guy who knows?

We've got a different idea.  Where does he think that these alert, informed citizens got the idea that liberals spend their days not in fighting desperately to preserve their health care and bring them jobs, higher education, and economic opportunity but in lounging around kale bars slagging them off?  Could it have anything to do with their sources of information?  I'd be fascinated to know if our intrepid columnist met any Trumpanistas who ever read a word printed by his employer.

Our guess is that they get their “news” from old Uncle Gropey and his fellow barroom brawlers at Schlox News, the leading news choice of these thoughtful voters.  They also consume bottomless steins of disinformation poured through their Facebook accounts by reactionary bloggers and Kremlin trolls.   Maybe that explains why they think President Obama is a Muslim who used taxpayer money to give Negroes free phones or that liberals are engaged in a massive conspiracy to make them look like ignorant credulous hate-addled schmucks.

Even if us coastal elites got in our Priuses and Teslas and drove to Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Youngstown, Ohio, or wherever else (Oklahoma?  What's that?) Grifter fans congregate and prostrated ourselves at the feet of these worthies, we doubt we'd win many hearts and minds.  We'd bet that they would continue to consume a news pizza double-stuffed and dripping with disinformation designed to alienate them from those who advocate on their behalf.

It's never hard to make liberals sound cruel and unfair.  There will always be a few angry comments you can highlight and generalize from.  But what kind of fair-minded reporter would do something like that?

As for us, we're going with The Intercept's pithy conclusion:

Always remember: You have to identify the disease before you can begin work on a cure. In the case of support for Donald Trump, the results are in: It isn’t the economy. It’s the racism, stupid.
On second thought, let's improve our political discourse by not calling Nick Kristof stupid.  Let's just say naive.

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