Episode 2: Fighting White Nationalism
We also discuss a presentation that Andrew gave at the Left Forum in NYC on June 30th of 2019. You can view the video of that presentation here.
The current-events segment of this episode is devoted to discussing the renewed push for Trump’s impeachment in the wake of the unearthing of the whistleblower’s complaint.
Radio Free Humanity is a podcast covering news, politics and philosophy from a Marxist-Humanist perspective. It is co-hosted by Brendan Cooney and Andrew Kliman. We intend to release new episodes every two weeks. Radio Free Humanity is sponsored by MHI, but the views expressed by the co-hosts and guests of Radio Free Humanity are their own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MHI.
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Please visit MHI’s online print publication, With Sober Senses, for further news, commentary, and analysis.
I’ve listened to both podcasts and am quite elated someone finally pointed out that just because someone votes for a black guy, it doesn’t follow that that someone isn’t racist. The liberals that think this presumably also believe no married men are patriarchs or sexists.
I did have one semi-critical question for Professor Kliman’s analysis. I believe Professor Kliman is arguing that ‘Obama-Trump’ voters voted for Obama regarding policy (since race was not a factor in the Obama elections), but voted for Trump because race was a factor in his elections. That’s quite plausible. My critical question is how does Professor Kliman deal with the Bernie stats? That is, polling seemed to show that many Trump and Obama-Trump voters would vote for Bernie in a general election. Bernie neither shares Obama’s policy, nor is he a candidate that plays to racism, so what accounts for the shift?
A very recent analysis argues that in fact Trump voters are not primarily motivated by racism, but instead hostility to coastal elites. If that’s true, that could explain why Trump voters also prefer Bernie.
Finally, does Professor Kliman believe any of the Democratic candidates are best suited to defeat Trump AND Trumpism?
Unfortunately, my reply has to be long. There’s a lot to unpack and clarify here.
First, on which, if any, “Democratic candidates are best suited to defeat Trump AND Trumpism,” these are 2 different things.
Defeating Trump in the 2020 election is one of the possible ways of bringing him down. I have no idea about which candidate would be most likely to defeat him. Basically, the Trump and anti-Trump voting blocs seem almost completely locked in, and most of us in the latter would vote for a ham sandwich instead of Trump. Turnout will matter, but I suspect that anti-Trump turnout will be much more important than pro-[insert Dem. candidate] turnout.
In any case, cleansing the country of Trumpism cannot be accomplished principally through elections, and certainly not through a single election. Even a bloody Civil War and a near-decade of Radical Reconstruction weren’t enough to do the job once and for all. We need a protracted mass movement of Resistance that’s in this for the long haul, that widens the struggle to bring down Trump into a struggle that goes on to bring down Trumpism, and doesn’t stop until the job is done.
I’m not the only person who has challenged the myth that no racist would ever vote for a black guy. Jamelle Bouie pushed back on this immediately after the 2016 election, and the authors of Identity Crisis have a substantial analysis that shows that the myth is indeed a myth. Etc. And well before 2016, David Sedaris hit the nail on the head: “My first boyfriend was black as well, but that doesn’t prove I’m color-blind, just that I like big butts.” (See my review of Identity Crisis, https://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/reviews-and-culture/the-baseness-of-trumps-base-a-review-essay-on-sides-tesler-vavrecks-identity-crisis.html which also has a link to Sedaris’ comment.)
I’m not trying to say why Obama-Trump voters voted for Obama (except to say that racism wasn’t a driving factor in their vote choice in 2012). In general, the motivations behind peoples’ votes are complex, and policy positions are generally not the dominant factor. Relatively few US voters base their vote choice on candidates’ policy positions, either because they don’t know enough about that or because they think about the choice they face in other terms entirely.
With respect to 2016, my data analysis clearly indicates that racism was a main determinant of Obama-Trump voters’ “flip” to Trump; but so were a number of other deplorable attitudes that went hand in hand with racism to a (perhaps surprisingly) strong extent –hostility to Obamacare, sexism, anti-immigra(nt/ion) attitudes, and desire for authoritarian leadership.
As far as “polling seemed to show that many Trump and Obama-Trump voters would vote for Bernie in a general election” is concerned, how many is “many”? And which poll(s) are you referring to?
The stats I have at hand are about the reverse question–who did the people who voted for Sanders in the primaries vote for in the general election? One estimate is that 79% voted for Clinton and only 12% for Trump. (Another estimate of the latter number is 6%). The 79% who went for Clinton is somewhat higher than the percentage of people who voted for Clinton in the 2008 primaries who then voted for Obama in the general election in 2008 (70%).
The fact that few Sanders voters went for Trump, and the fact that voting in general elections breaks down much more cleanly along party lines than polls in the spring and summer do, makes me suspect that, if Sanders rather than Clinton had been the Democratic candidate, only a small percentage of Obama-Trump voters would actually have voted for Sanders instead of Trump. I found that, on average, Obama-Trump voters were far to the right of Clinton voters–especially with respect to racism and other deplorable attitudes, but also with respect to economic and social policy. I found very little, if any, opposition to “neoliberalism” or attraction to social democracy among them.
If I understand you, you’re suggesting that Sanders voters aren’t attracted to Trump’s racism. I’m not at all sure about that. Here’s what John Sides, one of the authors of Identity Crisis, wrote about this a couple of years ago:
As for the idea that “Trump voters are not primarily motivated by racism, but instead hostility to coastal elites,” I don’t think these things are really alternatives. They tend to go hand in hand. There is antipathy toward elites who supposedly are not part of “the real America” and who supposedly favor the interests of blacks, women, and other “others” over the interests of “real Americans” and those who are “deserving.” On the basis of their analysis of the data, David Norman Smith and Eric Hanley have postulated that
And the blog post you cite, far from counterposing “racism” and “hostility to coastal elites,” actually concurs with this: “What is pissing them off is that coastal elites keep ignoring their trauma and focus their attention on creating a more inclusive country.”
It’s true that this blog post tries to challenge the “diagnosis [that] has achieved a nearly hegemonic position among political scientists and Democratic elites,” which “traces support for Trump to White racial prejudice.” But I don’t think it does so. I don’t think it even comes close. For one thing, it does not even try to estimate the extent to which racial prejudice drives support for Trump! For another thing, it actually admits that support for Trump and racism are closely related (but dismisses the connection as a symptom rather than a cause). And I have other problems with the data analysis and the conclusions drawn from it.
I want to (quasi) publicly apologize for towing the Jacobin line, for at least 5 years now, against the arguments and data provided by Professor Kliman. It’s now clear to me that white supremacy is, in too many cases, the overriding reason for Trump’s support, and not the fact income inequality is on the rise, or health insurance is lackluster, or some job in Wisconsin is now located in South East Asia.
Although, just as an intellectual curiosity, I do know studies tend to show people are less likely to be explicitly racists if their home is in economic order so to speak.