Politics, Social Science, US Election

Serwer Error: Misunderstanding Trump Voters

A little over a month ago, the Atlantic published a long article by senior editor Adam Serwer entitled “The Nationalist’s Delusion.” The essay provoked considerable discussion and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell described it as “mandatory reading.” Serwer challenges the narrative that Trump’s unlikely electoral triumph was propelled by the economic estrangement of white working- and middle-class voters.

Rejecting this account, Serwer instead holds pervasive and deep-seated – if implicit – animosity towards non-white minorities primarily responsible for Trump’s election. To borrow a neologism from MSNBC’s Van Jones, the 2016 election outcome was just a case of ‘whitelash.’ Concerns over lax immigration policies, the flight of blue-collar jobs, Islamic terrorism (and the political obscurantism surrounding the subject), and a stifling culture of political correctness were all simply a pretext for the maintenance of white supremacy and racial inequality. A key data point Serwer draws on to support this claim is Trump’s s ‘sweeping victory’ across all income categories of white voters (emphasis added):

Trump defeated Clinton among white voters in every income category, winning by a margin of 57 to 34 among whites making less than $30,000; 56 to 37 among those making between $30,000 and $50,000; 61 to 33 for those making $50,000 to $100,000; 56 to 39 among those making $100,000 to $200,000; 50 to 45 among those making $200,000 to $250,000; and 48 to 43 among those making more than $250,000. In other words, Trump won white voters at every level of class and income. He won workers, he won managers, he won owners, he won robber barons. This is not a working-class coalition; it is a nationalist one.

In a recent article for Foreign Policy, the neoconservative writer and analyst Max Boot credited Serwer, and these figures specifically, for helping him to finally acknowledge his own ‘white privilege.’ The only problem is that the figures are incorrect. I’ve been studying the reputable American National Election Studies (ANES) 2016 election survey for almost a year now, so this was relatively easy to check. Below is a tabulated output of the ANES results. For ease of interpretation, the winning vote margin is highlighted in bold.

Note: margin of error listed in parentheses. Each was calculated using 95% confidence intervals.

As we can see, Serwer’s claim begins to unravel as we surpass the middle-income bracket. From $175,000 and onward it’s not even close: non-Hispanic whites voted for Clinton by sizeable margins (18.5 percent and 6.2 percent). If we include Hispanic whites (40.4 percent of whom voted Trump), the spreads are even wider (21.3 percent and 10.32 percent). This is consistent with the working/middle-class ‘revenge against the elites’ thesis, but incompatible with that of an across-the-economic-board defence of white supremacy.

Three objections might be made at this point. The first is that the upper-income sample sizes are comparatively small (hence the wider margins of error). Although ANES employs random sampling that, in theory, should ensure representativeness, a larger sample size is always preferable. Second, one might argue that ANES’s breakdown of the income groups does not exactly correspond with those mentioned in Serwer’s article (there is, for example, no $200k category). While true, that hardly supports Serwer’s claim that Trump bested Clinton among whites of every income category. One need only point to the $250k+ bracket, which was included in Serwer’s figures and which shows Clinton winning pretty handily. Finally, how can I be so sure that it isn’t the ANES data — rather than Serwer’s – that are wrong?

For some reason Serwer does not provide a source for his data in his article. So I emailed him and discovered that it came from the Edison Research national exit poll, which he kindly attached. Given the well-known weaknesses of this kind of data (self-selection, incomplete demographic data, exclusion of early voters, and so on) and the availability now of much more complete and reliable datasets, I was puzzled that Serwer opted to rely upon election day polling. Still, I couldn’t assume a priori that the Edison data got it wrong. Cross-replication, preferably on a larger sample, was needed. So I turned to Harvard’s massive (N=64,600; roughly half of which voted) Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) for a closer look, and my suspicions were confirmed:

Note: margin of error listed in parentheses. Each was calculated using 95% confidence intervals.

As in the ANES dataset, we once again find that white support for Trump trends markedly downward as we leave the lower to middle income brackets. Beyond the $100,000 mark, white voters increasingly turn out for Clinton. At $200k and onward, Clinton beats Trump by comfortable margins – 7.5 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively. For some perspective, I’ve also tabulated the exit poll figures cited by Serwer:

As we can see, whereas the ANES and CCES results are substantively similar, the Edison exit poll Serwer cites doesn’t come close. Given how far they fall from the CCES’ margins of error, the statistical probability that the Edison figures are accurate is exceedingly low. (In fact, they even fall outside of a wider margin of error derived from a 99 percent confidence interval. This means that the odds that the Edison figures accurately reflect the true distribution are less than 1 in 100.)

The reason for this glaring discrepancy isn’t immediately clear. My best guess is that the Edison data — gathered in real time from those who agreed to be interviewed after exiting the voting precincts (hence the risk of self-selection bias) — oversampled white Trump voters. Again, given the availability of alternative data sources, it’s perplexing why Serwer relied on an exit poll. But what’s even more bemusing is that Serwer didn’t bother to crosscheck it against other datasets. This is suggestive of journalistic laziness and more than a hint of confirmation bias.

But Serwer’s distortions don’t end there. In foregrounding racial resentment, he downplays the importance of other variables that help account for Trump’s election win. First, it should be noted the degree of anti-minority sentiment among Trump voters appears to be overstated. According to the ANES out-group feeling thermometer data (scored along a 0-100 scale), Trump voters, on average, evaluated Blacks (mean=63.8) and Hispanics (mean=64.4) in the ‘warm’ direction. By comparison, the mean ratings for both of these groups among Clinton voters were 75 and 73.9, respectively—warmer, but not as much as one might expect.

Second, while Serwer blames Trump’s presidency on racial resentment, one could just as easily point the finger at ‘PC fatigue’. For example, a recent Cato study found that 58 percent of Americans believe “that the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe.” And whereas 73 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents endorsed this statement, a majority of Democrats (53 percent) did not. As this relates to the election, my own research — which I’ll soon be submitting for publication — finds that even after controlling for various measures of prejudice (sexism, hatred of minorities, racial resentment, etc.), issue-attitudes (economic discontent, immigration, refugees, etc.), and ideological orientations (authoritarianism, social dominance orientation), opposition to political correctness significantly predicts voting for Trump. This finding is consistent with the results of a recent experimental study, which found that priming ‘PC norms’ elicited greater support for Trump (and greater opposition to Clinton) irrespective of political ideology. Likewise, I found that even among Clinton voters, greater opposition to PC linearly coincided with greater positivity (albeit still negative) towards Trump.

The ANES data also suggests that anti-immigration attitudes are more informed by cultural and economic anxieties than anything having to do with skin color. For example, support for decreasing immigration was most strongly correlated with assimilationist attitudes (immigrants should learn English, adopt American customs etc.) and the belief that immigrants take away jobs but only weakly correlated with self-reported importance of ‘white identity’ and negativity towards ‘people of color.’ What is more, whereas the former two variables remain statistically significant in a fully specified regression model, the latter do not.

A similar pattern holds with respect to the Syrian refugee issue. Once again, assimilationist attitudes and perceptions of cultural threat are the strongest predictors of opposition to admitting refugees. The importance of ‘being white,’ by contrast, was not found to be statistically significant. The primacy of ‘cultural incompatibility’ perceptions accords with a recent experimental study on attitudes towards Muslims in Europe. And such cultural anxieties aren’t limited to whites, either. In fact, when we exclude the middle or ‘neutral’ value category, a majority of African Americans (61.97 percent) and Hispanics (59.1 percent) oppose admitting refugees as well.

All told, the evidence suggests that Trump’s election had more to do with economic disquiet, the fear that America is trending towards a culturally balkanized identitarian society (i.e. political multiculturalism), and a climate of PC that discourages voicing of concerns about either. We can debate whether these concerns are reasonable. But the hypothesis that they’re simply a guise for white bigotry and the continuance of white supremacy finds no support in the present data. In the end, it’s almost as if Serwer’s explanatory model conveniently includes only those variables that absolve the Left of any culpability in the Trump phenomenon.

But why does any of this matter? Well, it matters insofar as Serwer is promulgating a polarizing description of reality that rests on erroneous data and gross oversimplification. Worse, his version of events is now being promoted to millions of Americans as “mandatory reading.” Genuine racial hostility undoubtedly motivated a minority subset of Trump voters. But as a liberal alienated by the toxic identitarian political direction of our country, I worry that these broad-brush ‘whitelash’ interpretations allow the Left to demonize millions of Americans and dismiss their concerns. Should this continue, the appeal of the Democratic Party will forever be confined to cosmopolitan bubble-land.

Correction: The tabulated ANES and CCES results have been amended to apply the sample weights. References to the data in subsequent paragraphs have also been updated.

Zach Goldberg is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Georgia State University. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachG932

 

35 Comments

  1. Bill says

    Zach,

    Interesting analysis and inline with a personal hypothesis I harbored. I also suspect that being a victim of the shaming/attempted name-shaming from the DNC also works as an additional factor. For 8 years, anyone voicing opposition to a policy put forth by President Obama was “shamed” with accusations of racism and this stifling led to the view of President Trump as the underdog — someone who could not be shamed the same way Mitt Romney had been or the many other non-DNC pre-ordained (as we now know) candidates of the past.

    A tangential topic is the naming of causes. Black Lives Matter, for example, has an underlying premise which is unifying to far more demographics — that law enforcement behavior accountability matters. Be it profiling based upon age, history, skin tone, or gender — it should not be part of law enforcement but it is often used, my personal view, for financial gain by the agencies. Who will plea, who will “nuisance settle” is what seems to matter. Look at “DUI less safe” laws as an example. Most think someone arrested for DUI was truly drunk > 0.08 while unaware that many many states allow 0.001-0.079 to be charged under this alternate DUI where NEITHER party may actually introduce the BAC reading into evidence. The result is those charges are almost universally plead out to reckless driving because that fine and the DUI lawyer fee are LESS than the lawyer fee to go to trial and be acquitted. But, the BLM movement being so engrained in this DNC mindset of victim blaming or shame-calling chose an unfortunate moniker.

    Imagine the shock and horror that will occur if/when the Trump administration realizes that the text book example of the bias that BLM is standing against was present in May 2016! A LEO commits a crime against a person, say the choking of Eric Garner. The complaint is that the Justice system intentionally skews the grand jury presentation to get a no bill. This is exactly the same as what we now know occurred when Comey and others drafted the exoneration statement before they had even conducted key witness interviews. There you go, BLM. Instead of using a divisive name, why don’t you go “President Trump…see what Comey did with Clinton there? THAT is what we perceive everytime LEO abuses a person of color! Do something about it!”

  2. Very interesting, I did not think to check the data for mistakes on Serwer’s part. I wanted to write a response to that piece for a while, and you’ve done a great job! The main issue I had with Serwer’s piece is that it led to a dead end – either we end democracy because bigots shouldn’t get to choose the president (bad) or we work with bigots and overlook harmful ideas (also bad). Reducing elections to single causes is never wise, and Serwer overlooks a lot of the surrounding media & anti/pro establishment dynamics of 2016. People wanted an exit button.

  3. yandoodan says

    Trump voters, as you point out, are insurgents reacting against the elites’ attempt to control them by blaming and shaming. The elites respond to this insurgency by doubling down on the blaming and shaming. This can’t end well.

  4. Jamey Midland says

    Something seems off about the CCES data. It has Trump only winning by 3 points among whites overall. That can’t be right, he would have gotten crushed in the election if that were the case. I looked up CCES data on google, and while I can’t download and play with the raw data, I found another site making reference to the CCES data, and that shows Trump winning whites by 14 (which makes more sense)
    http://m.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/political_commentary/commentary_by_geoffrey_skelley/another_look_back_at_2016

    Could you check for a coding error?

    • Zach says

      Hey Jamey,

      Someone else just called my attention to this. It’s not a coding error–I just forgot to apply the sample weights. Either way, the results are substantively similar (i.e. Clinton wins the upper income categories): https://imgur.com/HNnE2bE

      I’m wondering if I can get the editors to fix it for me (?).

  5. RobH says

    It was so surprising that I think that it made it difficult for us to realize it. Trump’s campaign was perhaps primarily a demonstration that he could thrive in an environment of insults. Political correctness basically works by defining certain views as against good manners – by insulting those views and anyone who holds them. Trump rallied those people by claiming their views and from that position unrelentingly firing from the hips. His voters didn’t betray manners and decorum, they reacted to having manners and decorum turned against them.

    Another note on this is that while conservatives experience political correctness as a tactic, from the left I suspect it’s more like a moral phenomenon. Group and individual ideas of equality and diversity according to identity have become so paramount that the individual citizen morality associated and perhaps enabled by the old and new testament moral paradigms is something so different to them that they do not understand it. They undoubtedly make tactical choices about what is newly defined as PC in the moment but perhaps on the main level actually can’t understand and therefore truly do think that their ideas are the only moral ones. This is what Jonathan Haidt discovered in how conservative moral values cover the liberal ones but also contain others that the left doesn’t even recognize anymore.

    The more our societies realize this the more we can recognize what we need to know – that Trump is no failure of democracy but the American democratic system responding genuinely to this rift in the American and Western social fabric. Whether political correctness is ill-intended or not it needs to be understood as very much that in effect.

  6. “from the left I suspect it’s more like a moral phenomenon”

    I speak to this more in the paper I’m submitting. It’s a form of social engineering premised on the notion that words/language inform our perceptions of reality. Thus, changing words = changing how we perceive reality (and those within it).

      • RobH says

        It definitely does, it sounds like an interesting paper. Based on recent events maybe even *cough* Lauriellian.

    • Frank says

      This is the bizarre world of identity politics that the progressive movement wanted. The demand from identity politics is that we should respect not just the person qua person but also his or her beliefs. It’s a demand that undermines individual autonomy, both by constraining the right of people to criticize others’ beliefs and by insisting that individuals who hold those beliefs are too weak or vulnerable to stand up to criticism, satire or abuse. Far from according them respect, the politics of identity treats people less as autonomous beings than as vulnerable victims needing special protection.

      The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them. And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged. The right to subject each others fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, intellectually diverse society. Once we give up such a right in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘respect’, we constrain our ability to challenge those in power, and therefore to challenge injustice.

  7. Lee Moore says

    Apart from racism, nationalism, economic distress, the Supreme Court ; I think I’d add one more factor that probably helped Trump hang on to a few critical suburban GOP and Independent voters who might otherwise have sat it out. The “I have had it up to here with your smug lectures” voter – with the antipathy directed roughly equally at Hillary and the media. You might call this a subset of the revolt against PC; but it’s not quite the same. PC is about what you’re allowed to say, smug lectures are about what you’re allowed to do, combined with the triumphant assumption that you have no option but to comply. Some people just hate being told “you’ve got no choice.”

    I wasn’t expecting much useful out of Trump, but he’s actually turned out to be better than expected. But to some extent that’s irrelevant. What he gave me was the election night TV, and that was the best show i’ve ever seen. Schadenfreude by the bucket.

  8. Hmmm, perhaps the higher income white voters were simply more educated thereby more resistant to “white nationalism” arguments?

    • There is some grain of truth to that, but I think it’s more accurate to say that the higher educated tend to be more progressive/cosmopolitan (and are thus more likely to endorse ‘open borders’ / multiculturalism). Education is a good predictor of income, but it’s obviously not a 1 to 1 correlation. According to the CCES, 47.9% of 4-year white college graduates voted Clinton while 44.6% voted trump. Among whites with graduate degrees, 56.4% voted Clinton and 37.6% voted Trump. Thus, on average, the highly educated voted Clinton. This, again, is consistent with the ‘revenge against the elites’ hypothesis.

      • Frank says

        I noticed that as the level of income increased, the tendency to vote on the Democrat or liberal side increased. I like this explanation as to the reason for that phenomena:

        “Acceptance of diversity and multiculturism is in direct proportion to your distance from it.
        The purpose of a college education is to give you the politically correct view of minorities, and the means to live as far away from them as possible.”

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  10. Hmmm, perhaps the higher income white voters were simply more educated thereby more resistant to “white nationalism” arguments?

    You’ve just demonstrated exactly why Trump won – but not in the way you intended.

  11. Your analysis carries its own dilemma. If such a sizeable portion of the electorate is being driven to the polls by fear of “a climate of PC,” then clearly the election didn’t do anything to raise political consciousness.

    Political correctness as a naturally-occurring social phenomenon always comes with social progress, often in ways that are considered desirable, i.e. the barring of racial slurs from public discourse following the civil rights movement. It has been taken to the extreme in recent decades as part of a deliberate political tactic. The Democratic Party and its affiliates, in order to conceal their gradual rightward shift, have managed to equate leftist ideology with defending ethnic and religious minorities from rhetorical assault, allowing them to pose as an alternative to the Republicans while simultaneously providing absolutely no genuine resistance to predatory capitalism.

    This bait-and-switch is infuriating to many Republicans and conservative-minded individuals, either because they hold actual racist sentiments or because they considerate it a threat to free speech. PC warriors do maintain an oversized presence on Twitter and some college campuses, and it is certainly not invalid to attack political correctness as a basis for shutting out some forms of speech. But doing so without examining its larger implications is pointless. PC culture should be criticized, not because it poses any measurable threat to society, but because in its present form it is used to divert the attention of the masses away from the problems that desperately require it. If they can’t, in general, be accused of racism, Trump voters are at the very least guilty of being unable to prioritize political issues. Overbearing SJWs simply don’t compare to things like climate change, income inequality, imperialism, or the threat of nuclear war. Anyone who thinks otherwise, enough so as to allow it to influence their vote, is being conned.

    • RobH says

      There is a case to be made that political correctness has more of an effect on other issues than maybe anyone formally realizes. I initially saw Trump as a desperate dark horse candidate for Republicans who couldn’t find any establishment candidates who would actually try to stop illegal immigration. As far as I know the only other country in the world that effectively supported illegal immigration in recent times was Australia where it was a one party position of the Labour party, and I think a losing issue for them in the last election. Meanwhile Republicans turned to a total outsider on the issue.

      There’s certainly pro-business and globalistic libertarian influences in that but to me there’s just no way there couldn’t be a mainstream candidate for that in normal circumstances. So it seems an ideal of equity by group or individual identity defined the Democratic position on the issue under Hillary and actually strongly influenced the Republicans. If it is socially enforced through political correctness that ties opinions on the issue to moral assumptions in a way that makes it categorically unacceptable to be opposed to illegal immigration then the only way out is to find someone who is willing to break those social norms to a degree that the rest of the Republican party wouldn’t – even if they did theoretically support a more secure border. You can’t dispassionately and rationally argue a position isn’t actually morally unacceptable during a heated debate or election. People just wonder why you’re talking so much about how you aren’t actually immoral. You just have to find a way to fire back on similar grounds.

    • Taupe Pope says

      Trump voters were well aware of the issues that affected them and current PC culture is a barrier to addressing these in public. Political consciousness should not be defined by the remote, narrow, hyperbolic fears of leftists.

      “The Democratic Party and its affiliates, in order to conceal their gradual rightward shift”

      I suppose this shift occurred after they tried to institute single-payer medical care and a self-proclaimed socialist would have been their candidate if not for their own corruption. In any previous election Bernie would have fallen at the start-line.

    • Frank says

      If a society cannot establish an environment to compromise to solve political problems, there will be no “attention from the masses directed toward the problems that desperately require it”. It would seem that many commenting here are taking a “rationale” analysis of this very human condition and that is a mistake. The truth is that people (Homo Sapiens) tend to organize politically around some aspects of shared identity.

      The populace of America — the part that cares — has been growing apart for 5 decades now and basically that divide centers around the fact that citizens are deeply divided about who should get the benefits and who should pay for them. Our society’s multiethnic and diverse admixture has taken away what we once had in the way of commonality of purpose. Absent the commonality of purpose, political compromise is impossible. Compromise in American politics requires unity of purpose, and as such is a virtue that is distinctly American. Compromise is only possible among competing interests when they can agree on an overarching goal. That has been, and will continue to be, impossible in the USA. That doing something– compromising – for the “greater good” – “higher cause” — thing often disappears in a multicultural democracy. That’s one of the biggest problems with the current political structure. Some Americans are still looking for that mythical politician who can “bring us together” when in fact, politically bridging the needs of highly varying cultures is virtually impossible.

  12. “then clearly the election didn’t do anything to raise political consciousness.”

    Granted, but I never argued that raising ‘political consciousness’ was the intended objective. Rather, voting for Trump was, for many, a cathartic flip of the middle finger–for better or for worse. Political decisions are often (some would say always) emotionally driven, so expecting perfect rationality (a contested concept itself) is demanding the impossible. I didn’t mention it in the article, but (according to an October pre-election Pew survey), 54% of those who indicated they’d be voting Trump saw it more as a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump the candidate.

    “PC culture should be criticized, not because it poses any measurable threat to society, but because in its present form it is used to divert the attention of the masses away from the problems that desperately require it.”

    It really depends how you conceive of ‘threats to society’. I definitely think–and research does suggest–that self-censorship is intellectually (and thus scientifically) pernicious. Either way, I would also agree that PC is a distraction from deeper issues that require redress. On this count, I tend to side with Mark Lilla–Democrats should start crafting a more universalist (vs. identitarian) platform that can actually appeal to it’s traditional [white] base. Sanders had the right idea, but socialism is always a tough sell in individualistic cultures.

    • “It really depends how you conceive of ‘threats to society’.”

      I take a very materialist view of “threats to society.” Basically, anything that poses a direct, measurable threat to the health or quality of life of a significant number of people.

      I certainly agree that things like self-censorship are harmful and should be resisted, but in my opinion, more abstract threats such as these are most often used to generate fear and anxiety that is largely unwarranted. In America, this is almost always the case when it’s being pushed by the mainstream media or political elites. I suspect that you and I would disagree over whether this applies to PC culture.

      “Democrats should start crafting a more universalist (vs. identitarian) platform that can actually appeal to it’s traditional [white] base.”

      If and how they choose to revise their platform, my only hope is that the Democrats continue to dig their own grave. The Sanders campaign, though not approaching true socialism, finally began to expose them for the pseudo-leftist frauds they really are. If they somehow manage to breath life into the party by bringing white voters back into the fold, it will benefit nobody.

      • I think one of the growing problems with (or barriers to) the type of ‘true socialism’ you’d endorse is that it requires a high degree of generalized social trust, which, itself, typically requires cultural homogeneity (see 20th century Scandinavia). In short, people are more willing to give to ‘strangers’ who share their values/normative assumptions. Otherwise, people (especially conservatives) tend be wary of free-riders who–for all they know–may squander the assistance while contributing little back into the system. Given increasing demographic diversity, contemporary Western societies thus have a decision to make: either they encourage assimilation and create the conditions necessary for expanding social provisions or they keep pushing multiculturalism and erode the foundations of collectivism. It’s quite the predicament–one I won’t pretend I have the answer to.

  13. ” If such a sizeable portion of the electorate is being driven to the polls by fear of a climate of PC.”

    Ah, and I never argued that opposition to political correctness was the only relevant variable (see the paragraph where I discuss economic anxiety)–but only that it was a significant variable (among others).

    • I wasn’t really contesting anything you said in the article, just pointing out that one of your alternative explanations for what motivated Trump supporters indicates a different concern than widespread racial prejudice, namely, that most of them have still not managed to escape the parameters of “acceptable” political discourse set by the media and the ruling elites (despite what should have been an extremely informative presidential election).

    • Frank says

      Good article. I might add that I think it’s fairly obvious that a few Americans are still shocked/surprised/staggered by Trump’s popularity. My observation is that Americans who have been so displeased with the misdirection or focus of the US have largely felt incapable of being heard by the media or the public in general, partly for fear that somehow their portrayal of these concerns would only gain them derision or even being called non-politically correct. When people feel restricted or censored in their ability to express opposing political thoughts, they typically get angry and react accordingly. It is my opinion that the division in the country is deeper and more fundamental than any time in my 5+ decades of existence. It seems pretty clear that establishing agreements about what is “best for the country” will not be as easy as it might have been 4-5 decades ago.

  14. Zachary Reichert says

    It’s never just one thing or the other. Hypothesis that boil-down complex human systems to one-word answers are both doomed to failure and blind those advancing them to other explanations.

    Did some people vote for Trump because ‘racism’? Of course.
    Did some (a lot more according to the data) vote for Trump because of ‘PC fatigue’? Yes.
    Rebellion against the establishment? Sure.

    I like articles (such as this one) that try to give us an idea of the true complexity of life, rather than trying to dumb it down.

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  16. Frank says

    A quick look at the historical record shows that conflict between different groups has been common throughout human history. Tribalism seems to be the default mode of human political organization. It can be highly effective: The world’s largest land empire, that of the Mongols, was a tribal organization. But tribalism is hard to abandon, again suggesting that an evolutionary change may be required. It has been recently written said that the 21st century will be the Century of Identity, as ethnopolitics in the multicultural West replaces the Left/Right divisions of the past.

    Dictionary.com defines multiculturalism as “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.” That definition contains a glaring contradiction. A society cannot be unified if it preserves different cultures and cultural identities within itself. That’s why our national motto is translated “out of many, one.” To the multiculturalist it appears to be, “Out of one, many.” History demonstrates that no nation can long survive if it forgets why it exists. Our failure to inculcate American traditions, beliefs and history, even in the native born, not to mention immigrants, is rapidly destroying the country bequeathed to us by our forebears.

    Protecting other people’s self-esteem or emotional states has become important because humans are no longer seen as being able to cope with ‘disagreeable’ words. This has pretty much become the organizing principle on university campuses throughout Britain and America. But the culture of limiting ‘offence’ has only encouraged people to perceive and exaggerate all manner of comments as ‘offensive’. We’ve reached the point where an individual’s subjective ‘hurt’ now triumphs over solidarity with other people. The fact that Trump hasn’t tempered his comments has made him a hero to those who now believe that political correctness has become heavy handed and even oppressive in regards to free speech. Many Americans are tired of politicians that continually “temper their words” and “weigh their comments,” and are looking for people to speak what is true to them. These are people who are tired of a media that practices arm twisting, and politicians committed to posturing and ambition. Even HuPo has said, “The whole political correctness movement might be at a crossroads as millions of Americans seem to believe it has simply gone too far. Donald Trump might be the very poster child of that reality.”

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  18. Steve Cohen says

    “Political Correctness” is a strategy built on moral shaming. It’s worth asking when it has ever worked.

    The obvious example is the Civil Rights movement. But moral shaming had a big boost that is missing now – global competition with the Communist bloc. It accounts for much of the willingness of Republicans to support Civil Rights bills in the 60’s. Photos of church bombings were not helping America sell its system on the world market. Similar concerns explain the success of the New Deal.

    Similarly, the Abolitionists were not able to change much until they united with broader forces in 19th century America, though credit must be given them for keeping the issue alive.

    Today’s movements like Black Lives Matter are in that abolitionist mold. I disagree with those on this thread who call their choice of name a mistake. They should be left to do what they do. But I am in fundamental agreement with those on this thread who think reducing everything to racism.

    If 10% of Trump voters can be turned, Dems win a sizeable victory. The racism-only explanaton says we shouldn’t waste our time on them. It’s suicidal.

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