Friday 6 November 2020

Not Quite Enough "Passionate Intensity".

The Fire And The Fury: And so, they came out and voted for him – four million more of them (and counting) than turned out for Trump in 2016. Not quite enough, it would seem, to keep their Rough Beast in the White House. But close. Far too close.

PRESIDENT BIDEN. It has a reassuring ring. A democratic ring, too, given that more Americans have voted for Joe Biden than for any other presidential candidate in US history. That is hardly surprising, since the last time such a large percentage of eligible Americans turned out to vote the year was 1900 – twenty years before US women secured the franchise! And yet, in spite of all these hopeful portents, the world is not ready to cheer – not yet.

Because it is close. Very close. So much closer than, in theory, it should be. In theory, a big turnout equals a big Democratic Party victory. For decades, the political scientists have argued that if it is poor and marginalised Americans who are boosting the numbers voting, then, overwhelmingly, they will be voting for the party which, ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s, has presented itself as the friend of the ordinary American working man and woman.

That theory now lies in tatters. The huge surge in voting numbers has, in large measure, been a bi-partisan surge. Yes, the Democrats have turned out their vote, but so have the Republicans. The latter’s strategists learned the art of the “ground game” from, of all people, Barack Obama, whose campaign team pioneered new and highly effective methods of identifying and mobilising the Democratic vote. Even those pundits sympathetic to the Democratic Party have conceded the superiority of the Republicans’ ground game in key battleground states.

But it wasn’t just the party’s ground game that turned out the Republican vote, it was Trump himself. With the energy of a man half his age, the President criss-crossed the United States on Air Force One, sometimes speaking to as many as four rallies in a single day.

The veteran Republican strategist, Karl Rove, famously advised those wishing to understand American politics to watch the television news with the sound turned down. Anyone following his advice over the course of the final few days of the campaign would have seen Trump, pumped-up and punching the air in front of rapturous crowds. Biden, careful and Covid-wary, spoke to car-parks full of masked and socially-distanced voters. With the sound down you wouldn’t even have been able to hear the beeping of their horns.

Observing these very different events from afar, it is difficult not to be reminded of the following lines from W. B. Yeats’ famous poem, The Second Coming:

The Blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

It is also very difficult not to be reminded of the political magic of the UK Leave Campaign’s Dominic Cummings – the man who made Brexit happen. With help from the notorious Cambridge Analytica, Cummings was able to communicate directly with people who, for years, had given up on politics as a mug’s game. The sort of people who chuckled when someone joked: “Don’t vote – politicians always win.” The fatal mistake of the Remain Campaign was to assume that these non-voters would stay non-voters. Their chief pollster, one of the best in the UK, built that assumption into his data analysis. That’s why he got it so wrong. That’s why the Remainers never saw Dominic coming.

It is highly probable that the US pollsters made a very similar sort of error. Certainly, Michael Moore, the left-wing US film-maker, who famously called the election for Trump as early as June of 2016, has been warning anyone willing to listen that the pollsters were dramatically under-counting Trump’s supporters.

Moore knew this because he’d made it his business to go to the places where Trump supporters lived: to the trailer parks and the endless miles of soulless suburban tract-housing. He knew because he had sought out, as Paul Simon puts it in his song The Boxer: “the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, looking for the places only they would know.” He knew it because he’d heard it from their poor, white, barely-making-it, working-class mouths: “Trump is making us great again.”

And so, they came out and voted for him – four million more of them (and counting) than turned out for Trump in 2016. Not quite enough, it would seem, to keep their Rough Beast in the White House. But close. Far too close.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 6 November 2020.


Nick J said...

Why Chris "Far too close"?

Aren't the masses worthy of choosing a champion? Are they deemed too thick? Is there some inverse resentment that Trump is popular with people that don't know their place and aren't voting the way their "better informed" superiors told them to? He may be flawed, tarnished, useless, but they chose him, those half of American voters deemed stupid by the commentators.

From a distance it is obvious that Trump is an issue for both the Republicans and Democrats, he's just not the annointed of the elite from either side. And as such his legitimacy is suspect, especially if he were to do what his supporters want, what they voted for him to do.

It would appear that the elite might have just thwarted the "deplorables" in the form of Trump, yet this is not going to go away. They are demanding to be heard, and you can bet that the Dems, the Deep State, the corporates, the one percent aren't listening. This is where the Left used to take the moral high ground, for the dispossessed, unemployed, the rank and file. The people who the Dems have deserted.

End result. I'd predict a real populist movement and leader. A real hard core Rightist with no love of the establishment. Not a blustering big mouth like Trump but a focused evil type who is everything Trump was hyped up to be. The field is clear, be very fearful of a rerun of 1930s Europe.

Tiger Mountain said...

Well there is unlikely to ever be a “blue landslide” until the Democrats clean out their DNC, move even a little away from neo liberalism, and stand someone like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for President in 2024.

AOC and Democrats for Justice speak to the the disenfranchised and wounded just like the Republicans do. Of course while Trump acknowledges their pain–as he gives tax cuts to billionaires–he cynically never intends to relieve their suffering, apart from stunts like farm subsidies. And, most importantly he gives his supporters the ok to target other people, to scapegoat and terrorise them, and worse. The “hate high” emanating from all things Trump should not be underestimated.

Americans seem more masochistic, and more aspirational, than a number of other populations. Counties with gruesome Covid tolls voted in huge numbers for Trump! They are willing to pay 20% of their income, plus extras, for medical insurance, but don’t have the stomach for paying say 4% of their income in taxes, for universal health care! What form of swinish idiocy drives them? Regionalism and culture wars motivate them it seems, and low amounts of information on a good day.

It looks like Kamala Harris will be President sooner rather than later, or at least Mr Biden reduced to being rolled out for ceremonial appearances only–he really does appear ill.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

What is distressing is that even after Trump has proven himself to be an incompetent, lazy, eejit that so many people are still willing to vote for him. I think it's partly a reflection of the fact that so-called centre-left parties have abandoned the working class, certainly over much of the developed world. But also, Trump has managed to convince people that he's one of them. I don't know how he does it – because it's probably the biggest lie he tells. But there you go, people will believe what they want to hear.
But it's also encouraging that even after the shenanigans of voter intimidation, voter suppression, and gerrymandering that so many people have turned out to at least put Trump's presidency in doubt, and hopefully get rid of him altogether. And if anything it's convinced me that a simple parliamentary system and non-computerised voting makes it all a bit more efficient and transparent.

oneblokesview said...

Good Column Mr Bowalley :-)

Odysseus said...

Under Trump the Republicans have become the party of the working class. The Democrats are favoured and funded by the elites. It's a remarkable turnaround. The main divide is no longer race but class. It's also a re-run of the Somewheres versus Anywheres paradigm, so prominent in Brexit. Globalism is dead, even if Biden prevails because the Republicans hold the Senate. I find nothing reassuring about Biden succeeding; he clearly suffers from dementia and would serve as a figurehead at best. There is still much to happen however in this election which will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court. Sadly the Democrats have form when it comes to electoral fraud. It's so convenient how bags of mail-in votes have suddenly been discovered in the small hours of the morning with sufficient pro-Biden ballots to overturn the Trump lead in critical State races. Yeah right.

AB said...

Trump in his rant today about the election being stolen, said something terrifying: that the Democrats are the party of big money, big media, and big tech, while the Republicans are the party of working people and diversity. It's terrifying because although the second part of that statement is pretty much a lie, the first part isn't. If the Republicans can get that message to stick, then a surge of working-class right-wing populism becomes possible - pretty much as @Nick J said above.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The Democrats are favoured and funded by the elites. "
So are the republicans. If you believe otherwise I have a bridge to sell you. Koch bros. in particular. Also Murdoch. What the Repugs do is massage the white working class and keep them in a state of fear. That their guns will be confiscated, their religion will be banned, and their whiteness devalued. LBJ put it best. "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."
The rich need no such persuasion, just the constant lowering of their taxes

John Hurley said...

On twitter

Public Truth Private Lies sounds interesting

John Hurley said...

When you think of Trump's lies they are the lies of a three year old and transparent. On the other hand Anita Pavlenko in Superdiversity and Why it Isn't says "experts say the best brands take reality and alter it just a little". Joe Biden says white Americans will soon be a minority: "that's a good thing; it's a source of our strength". Does he know that for sure? Where is his evidence? The educated Chinese netzins scoff at that behaviour. I have read explanations on Quillette. One is that it signals status and gets you into high society (Asians have noticed this) the other is a group who thinks it is metamorphing into a new type of person. Another is that elites have shifted societal norms to extend us beyond the border so their is no moral imperative to protect society.

Of course there is more to life than attaining economic excellence. The social and environmental impact of immigration also needs to be considered. But here the reasons given for restricting immigration range from pathetic to extremely dodgy. Most of the accusations are barely disguised racist piffle backed by tenuous rumours and cloudy anecdotes. Winston Peters’ stirring of the masses has exposed the ignorance and racial biases of a small and distasteful section of New Zealand society. These people yearn for a cloistered, inhibited, white (with a bit of brown at the edges) dominated utopia fondly envisaged by racists and xenophobes everywhere. John Carran 2 April 1996.

A good review of Eric Kaufmann's book here

The Barron said...

I think it is worth debuting Odysseus and others who define 'working class' in terms of 'white' middle class. The United States has many ethnic groups that makeup the working class. To suggest that the Republican party is the party of the working class is akin to suggesting George Wallace represented the Southern working class. You have to exclude the most disempowered workers, render ethic groups invisible and not legitimate workers. In brief, your world view is a racist construct.

John Hurley said...

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."
Not sure how to read that but it sounds as though LBJ is as bigoted as you GS? As a member of the WC I know we don't think like that about our fellow workers (as long as they pull their weight).

John Hurley said...

Pakeha will loose hemony; how do we deal with "hate speech".

sumsuch said...

Such a release to be rid of him. The subjectivism that will kill us soon made king, a step too far, at this moment. Today as I worked I thought of him as the mental case. Return to reason. Or at least reasonous. A great release all over the world.

I think all the Americans who voted for him will now see what he was and dissipate off. Biden understands what caused him.

Unknown said...

"more Americans have voted for Joe Biden than for any other presidential candidate in US history" Some of them from the grave apparently , and some from the bowels of computers...

Nick J said...

I find John Carrans' statement, "the ignorance and racial biases of a small and distasteful section of New Zealand society an absolute indictment of him. It is judgmental, patronising, insulting, dismissive. His statements that precede this are binary, "you are wrong I'm right". They are not supported well substantiated positions, merely suppositions based upon his world view. He may well be right but he has made no attempt to persuade. Basically this is laziness. If he has a point worthy of serious consideration he needs to do the work and persuade us.

John Hurley said...

People ask how i could support Trump when he's racist, misogynist

here's why

It's a myth that there's these racist whites and passive minorities. One of the assumptions of the Sailer Strategy is that people tend to ethnocentrism so you absorb them slowly and have a break. That is the opposite of "celebrate difference"; "embrace diversity"

Ethnocentrism is not a White disorder and evidence is emerging that immigrant communities harbour invidious attitude towards Anglo Australians, disparaging their culture and the legitimacy of their central place in national identity.[xxiii]

Young women of Latin and Turkish origin living in Melbourne find it hard to see any Australian culture. Some see a vacuum; others see a bland milieu populated with ‘average-looking’ people. In contrast, they feel that their own migrant cultures are strong. They ‘get through more’. If there is any Australian culture it is, in their opinion, losing ground to migrant cultures.

Jon Haidt says the incite of conservatives is that "order is hard to achieve".

Hopeful said...

If you believe in the wisdom of crowds the American people have sent a clear message to the Democrats. They have given Biden the Oval office but only just. An electorate that has signalled again and again since 2004 that they want "Hope and Change" are giving the establishment candidate another go.

It looks like the Democrats will probably win the Senate as well, enabling them to enact their policies. A smaller Democrat majority in the House of Representatives is also a clear message. Policies of "defunding the police" and "green new deal" do not have the level of support that the noise on social media suggests.

Trump got in because he persuaded enough people that he could "drain the swamp." We can all think of many examples of what he was talking about. Of course, being a NY property developer he was totally out of his depth. But despite all of his obvious negatives more people voted for him than voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016. He increased his share of the Hispanic and African American vote. That is the depth of feeling against the political class.

Biden and Co are on notice. If they don't deliver he will lose control of the Senate in two years. In four years he will be replaced by the next populist demagogue. And be sure that there are candidates for that job who are more politically skilled than Trump. And more ruthless. And they have been watching and learning.

For all of our sakes let's hope that Biden does well.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Not sure how to read that but it sounds as though LBJ is as bigoted as you GS?"
Then you are ignorant of US politics John. LBJ was born and brought up in the South. He knew his electoral base.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I listened to Trump's 'drain the swamp' speech carefully unlike many Americans who only heard what they wanted to hear. He said 'the Goldman Sachs swamp'. And one of the first things he did was to appoint 2 Goldman Sachs people to his administration. There would have been a clue in that for anyone whos\'se IQ registers on the scale at all. Trump IS the swamp. The only difference between him and Goldman Sachs is his lack of competence. 'Out of his depth'??? maybe in politics, but he's an expert at ripping off the sort of people who voted for him. And probably the most corrupt US president of the last century or so.

John Hurley said...

Here's another reason to vote for Trump, because Trump was going to build a wall whereas Jacinda Ardern muses: "what if we change who "us" is.

Also get the low down on Auckland - segregated culturally and socioeconomically. Spoonley regrets adding "super" to "superdiversity". Just before that section he says Pakeha will lose hegemony - but that will be good (like diversity). Like a boy getting de-sexed.

sumsuch said...

The release I felt was the same when Clark won in 99. The 15 years long deeply oppressive ideology of the rich know best was over-thrown. We floated on that relief for 9 years. We should have fought but we love the soft above all. By which the strong churn up fields for their purpose.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Geoff Fischer.

Your comments have been noted, Geoff - and will be passed on.