It turns out that Hillary Clinton was right about one thing — Trump’s supporters are Deplorables.
It was a fleeting, and uncharacteristically harsh, judgment from a party now running its own right-to-lifers, gun-toters, and militarists, lip-syncing the GOP’s lyrics that White America was somehow “left behind.” Taking a cue from the GOP, the Clintons’ DNC and DCCC is now downplaying racial injustice in order to court Deplorables with their Better Deal — which Dems announced last Summer from the Heart of Dixie. But their midterm strategy — sending people of color to the back of the bus if not throwing them under it — neglects the stinking rot at the root of our so-called American “democracy.”
A new study by Diana Mutz from the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, debunks the theory that White America voted for Trump because they were afraid of losing their jobs. They were simply afraid of losing their privilege.
“This study evaluates evidence pertaining to popular narratives explaining the American public’s support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election. First, using unique representative probability samples of the American public, tracking the same individuals from 2012 to 2016, I examine the “left behind” thesis (that is, the theory that those who lost jobs or experienced stagnant wages due to the loss of manufacturing jobs punished the incumbent party for their economic misfortunes). Second, I consider the possibility that status threat felt by the dwindling proportion of traditionally high-status Americans (i.e., whites, Christians, and men) as well as by those who perceive America’s global dominance as threatened combined to increase support for the candidate who emphasized reestablishing status hierarchies of the past. Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns. Instead, the shorter relative distance of people’s own views from the Republican candidate on trade and China corresponded to greater mass support for Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012. Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.”
Another study by Steven V. Miller at Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis at Texas A&M confirms Mutz’s “loss of privilege” theory, and also refutes the notion that democratic traditions inoculate Americans from fascist leanings. In “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy,” Miller and Davis write:
“Democracy has been durable in the United States – so durable, in fact, that serious inquiry into Americans’ attitudes toward it has been uncommon. No more.”
Working from World Values Survey data from 1995 to 2011, Miller and Davis discovered that:
“White Americans who would not want an immigrant/foreign worker, someone who spoke a different language, or someone from a different race as a neighbor are more likely to support strongman rule in the United States, rule of the U.S. government by the army, and are more likely to outright reject having a democracy for the United States. These findings are robust across multiple model specifications we analyze and report in the appendix as well.”
Their study documents the strong correlation between White America’s bigotry and proto-fascist leanings. Once White America perceives that the benefits of democracy are being extended to “others” their commitment to democracy is quickly abandoned. Like a child playing a board game, if they can’t win, they won’t play.
But this hardly comes as a surprise to the rest of America:
“[White] American citizens have not historically exhibited the sort of lofty, normative commitments to things like equality and tolerance that we might expect from one of the richest and longest-running continuous electoral democracies in the world. As Sullivan and Transue (1999) note, most citizens were willing to apply double standards that afforded one set of rights to popular groups while denying rights to more extreme or less popular groups.”
Tinkering with Capitalism may sound like a plan, but Democrats need to do a better of job of defending democracy. The surest way to do this is by defending the rights of all citizens and opposing every institution of an authoritarian, surveillance, and police state America. Once Democrats are back in power — unless they roll back the Patriot Act, stop the endless wars, pare back the military budget, dismantle FISA courts and institute sweeping reforms of the criminal justice system and ensure police accountability — they will have done nothing to rescue what’s left of our shredded democracy.