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When whiteness fails

When whiteness fails

“Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes…Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws…With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law.”
Confederate Vice President, Alexander Stevens on the Confederate Constitution, 1861

Election 2016 is a hopeless puzzle for most analysts. Religious conservatives hailed a crude, philandering casino magnate who has appeared in pornographic films. Working class voters cultishly backed an out-of-touch New York tycoon promising massive tax cuts for the wealthy and a new war on unions. Pro-life voters backed a candidate who has staunchly defended Planned Parenthood. Clinton-haters elected a guy who was, at least until a few months ago, a personal friend and golfing buddy of the Clintons. Voters who seemed to care little enough about race to elect a black President just a few years ago now seem to be animated by blatant racial appeals.

What happened last year is not so tough to understand if we recognize the role race plays in fostering our unique political culture. Race in America is more than ignorance. It is more than malice or bigotry. Race plays a vital structural role in our political system, a role so fundamental to the rest of its operation that we hardly ever pause to consider its importance.

Thanks to generations of progress in civil rights, race, and more specifically “whiteness,” is failing. Being white is losing its meaning, its privileges, its social and even religious significance. As it fades, it has weakened a load-bearing wall in our democracy. Our goal of transcending race, encoded as a distant aspiration in our founding documents, threatens to undermine the “classless” assumptions that make the rest of our system work. Stripped of race as a reference point, and of whiteness as a marker of special privilege, we are left to cope with class as our main expression of identity.

Our political system has no tools, no institutions, through which to wrestle with matters of class identity. As we struggle to assemble a new Republic from the wreckage of the Trump administration, we will either restore whiteness to some semblance of its former status, or we will develop new tools of political expression, unprecedented in American experience, to address needs of groups who have been decoupled from their prior racial alignments.

Cultural and political alignment along racial lines once produced meaningful, tangible results for low income whites. It also produced a vital sense of pride and meaning that blunted any development of class identity. To an extent not seen anywhere else in the world, struggling low-income voters in America could identify with wealthy tycoons, so long as both were white. Accomplishments of robber barons and real estate moguls were “our” achievements, examples of what was possible in America. Whiteness as a cultural force fed the development of unique common identity and a powerful nationalism. All Americans were united in an ersatz “middle class,” a designation that evolved into a quiet code for whiteness.

One need not feel any enmity toward other races, or even an awareness of other races, to participate in the benefits of whiteness. A race-defined culture allowed Americans at all income levels to enjoy a political and economic system largely free of the class burdens that hampered economic development elsewhere in the world. A systematically oppressed and disenfranchised class of black and Hispanic workers performed “work Americans won’t do” at prices that lowered the cost of living for everyone else. Taxes they paid, and still pay, were siphoned into a galaxy of safety net benefits carefully cordoned off to disproportionately benefit whites. Preferences in education, hiring, policing, justice, even zoning, quietly perpetuated the interests of white “middle class” families at the expense of others.

On the aggregate, modern white voters bear far less explicit bias against individual blacks or Hispanics than in the past. They do not regard themselves as racists, and in the truest sense of the word perhaps they are right. Your average Trump voter bears no ill will toward individual black people or other minorities. They are entirely comfortable with the notion of civil rights for minorities, when civil rights are interpreted as an opportunity for “hard working” black people to participate in a rigidly white-dominated culture. Most American white nationalists are entirely comfortable with freedom for minorities, if that freedom is defined as an opportunity to become white, to graduate through education, refinement, and achievement, into an asterisk-laded version of whiteness.

While insisting that they lack a racist “bone in their body,” Trump voters, almost to a person, will react with fierce and angry resistance to any suggestion that non-whites should be granted the opportunity to influence the shape of American culture in any way that reflects a non-white identity. Jews are fine, so long as our common institutions are still dedicated to celebrating a Merry Christmas. Blacks are fine, so long as they don’t trouble us with complaints about what Elvis did to their music or what security forces do to their children or what my Grandpa did to their Grandpa. Hispanics are welcome so long as I don’t have to “press 1 for English.” As long as America remains securely white, Trump voters are comfortable allowing non-white people to assimilate into it.

Everything about that complex system of white nationalism has been steadily weakening in recent decades. Eight years under a black President marked a vital psychological breakpoint in the decline of this cultural cushion. We saw a black man inviting black entertainers to the White House and treating them as not just human equals, but cultural equals. We saw a black President taking “extravagant” vacations, which in fact were modest compared to his predecessors, but shocking as an expression of black success. In addition to racial minorities, we saw women, homosexuals, Muslims and other formerly subordinate people asserting themselves, expressing an identity independent of a traditional white cultural standard. We saw African-Americans boldly challenging their treatment at the hands of our security forces. It was enough to break white nationalism as our defining order, but not quite enough to establish a new order that would make sense in its absence. You break it, you bought it.

In the wake of declining white privilege, measurable suffering has been most acute at the lower income ranges, but that is not where the bulk of the political resistance has formed. Voters who are reacting to the death of whiteness with the most fury are not poor. They are not suffering economically much at all. Voters who backed Donald Trump most enthusiastically are the ones who have lost the most in terms of their relative dignity. They are the ones most threatened by an emerging alliance between educated, affluent, urban whites and an assertive new generation of minority voters and women. Trump voters are not going to allow wealthier whites to break out of our white nationalist order, leaving the rest of white America behind.

What does the suffering look like for those abandoned by the decline of white nationalism? It looks like drug addiction, moral malaise, and aimlessness. Trump whisperers have identified de-industrialization and globalism as the drivers of the Trump phenomenon, particularly in the Rust Belt states that were key to Trump’s victory. That evasive explanation lags about 40 years behind conditions on the ground.

Have the Rust Belt states suffered in recent years? Only in relative terms, in comparison to the knowledge economy hubs of the west or our major urban areas. In fact, most of the old manufacturing centers of the Upper Midwest have fared far better in the Obama years than in the past.

Pennsylvania’s Erie County gained attention as a place won by Obama and lost by Clinton. Explanations generally focus on a declining manufacturing base, but that decline happened forty years ago. Deindustrialization of the Great Lakes region has been pretty much complete for some time now. As bad as things are in many stretches of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, it isn’t as bad as conditions in the 80’s when the region was hemorrhaging jobs in six-figure chunks at a time.

Manufacturing employment in the US has been declining since the 70’s. The Rust Belt’s share of US employment declined by a third between 1950 and 1980. We didn’t start using the term “Rust Belt” during the Obama Administration. That term dates back to the 70’s. Economic decline in the Ohio Valley and Upper Midwest hit its crucial peak in the mid-80’s. This was a decade prior to NAFTA, when Barack Obama was a young college graduate.

In economic terms, the former Rust Belt experienced a return to stability in the Obama years. Obama rescued GM with an enormous government bailout, saving not just hundreds of thousands of jobs, but the pensions and health insurance of almost half a million retirees. Unemployment in Pennsylvania’s Erie County dropped by almost half. Wage growth in Erie County has outpaced the rest of the country consistently for the past thirty years. Average wages are higher there now than they were before the financial collapse.

Look carefully at conditions in Erie County and you’ll find nothing to support the narrative that these places have experienced some unique economic crisis during the Obama years. The opposite is true. These places experienced a devastating economic transformation during the 70’s and 80’s which is long over. Manufacturing is actually returning to these places, though in its new form with far fewer workers enjoying far safer, more humane working conditions.

Something is definitely happening in places like Erie County to explain their massive political shift. And it happened over the past eight years. Whatever it was, it had a powerful impact on the residents’ sense of well-being, though only the white residents and mostly the ones who are beyond their working years. In fact, it had its strongest measurable impact on residents who are too old to be effected by the job market at all. Despite a powerful economic recovery, America’s white working class strongholds have experienced a crisis of meaning, of identity, and of purpose in the Obama years.

This mysterious malaise found its voice in a candidate who promised to devastate the social safety net and eliminate a federal program that provided many of these voters with their health insurance coverage. Their political savior was a candidate who offered no coherent positions on any issues of economic relevance. White voters in places like Erie County gave their enthusiastic support to a man who articulated only one clear political position – building a wall to keep out “dangerous” non-white foreigners. They backed a candidate who promised to restore America’s faltering white nationalism.

Why would the religious right back an utterly irreligious moral cretin? Because the religious right was never about religion. It was a movement to preserve a white cultural identity through a state religion. Why would rural voters back a New York real estate tycoon? Because he is promising to resist the decline of white dignity eroded by snooty, racially compromised city-dwellers and uppity women. Why would Democratic factory workers vote for a wealthy Republican who will gut their unions? Because he has promised to restore the preferences they enjoy from their race and bind them in (enforced) common interest with wealthier whites – a much more powerful benefit in America than a union card.

Their vote for Donald Trump reflects less a specific hostility toward other races than a nostalgia for lost privilege. Presented with no persuasive alternative and with their concerns dismissed on all sides, they have forcefully and dangerously endorsed a return to an oppressive white nationalist order. That effort will almost certainly fail, but that failure is of no comfort to the rest of us.

Their determination to turn back the clock has already wrecked the Third Republic, forcing us now to build something new without a blueprint. That new entity could be a promising new light, or it could be a nightmare. Election 2016 is an even more challenging and complex puzzle than most commentators realize. What political force can replace white nationalism as a cohesive element in our culture? Time to find a solution is running out.


  1. Pingback: Conservatism is fast becoming a synonym for racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and selfishness. | Pennsylvania Conservative Review

  2. Pingback: Conservatism is fast becoming a synonym for racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and selfishness. | Politics Now

  3. Well, hello, orphans. Happy New Year!

    I decided to swing by the orphanage around Christmastime bearing the traditional gift of oranges but I was told that you orphans had developed an aversion to all things orange after the traumatic events of the election.

    I see that you are still getting your usual fare of gruel. Fortunately, there seems to be a never ending supply. 🙂

      1. Yes, Dow, they are and a diverse diet full of vitamins, minerals and fiber helps us to be happy and healthy. As they say, variety is the spice of life.

        However, I see the orphans have had a recent digestive upset and their tummies are still hurting. I have been staying away in the effort to not upset them further (and to avoid their unfortunate malady.)

      2. Small people take pleasure in taunting. People are hurting here and they are trying to constructively take action. Your shallow, hurtful comments diminish the effort we are making to try to make a difference. That should give you no pleasure, but obviously it does. This is deadly serious and no one, myself most of all, appreciates your childish remarks. Everyone who comments here are aware of who won and who lost. It matters deeply. Had the tables been turned, I doubt anyone here would have made the kind of self-serving, comments you continue to make. Normally I ignore you but you have gone too far, Ob.

      3. Mary, I have been staying away because I realize that the pain of losing the election has been recent.

        However, your injuries are self-inflicted and it’s time to take an honest assessment of why you have lost. You picked an incompetent, dishonest and corrupt representative.

        In the last election, there was a choice between a spam and a baloney sandwich. You chose the stringy meat encased in fat and a gelatinous substance that had been sitting in the pantry for ages. Trump was and will always be full of baloney but he was relatively fresh (at least politically) and his message gave people some hope that their situations would improve. Hillary represented a continuation of the same sad political corruption that they thought Obama would deal with but never did.

        People chose the baloney. Get over it. Your choice of Hillary doomed the election for you.

        Part of the reason, Trump won was because of the overly condescending crap that liberals put out about Trump voters. Look at Chris’s description of people who live in the Rust Belt. I grew up there. People there did not vote for Trump because of white nationalism. They voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama: Hope and Change. Hillary would have delivered neither. Get a clue.

  4. Black men are 3.3 times more likely to take service oriented human care jobs than white men. Other minorities are 1.8 times more likely.

    Most job growth is going to women for human facing service work.

    White men are voting for Donald Trump because their precious testicles shrink thinking about doing “a woman’s job.”

    And this, my dear friends, is why feminists say “Feminism helps men too.” If you’re going to pass up a job because it threatens your special snowflake status, you’re going to lose your relative advantages (aka ‘privilege’).

    1. I’m on their mailing list. I think I got it from one of Aaron’s posts. I don’t have the experience in political activism to start anything on my own, but I’m hoping it will lead me to something that will be a good use of my time.

      And thanks Aaron for all the helpful things. And everyone else who’s been sharing. The next few years should be quite educational.

    2. Ryan, Aaron posted that a while back in Off Topic as a guide for us to follow. I think the NC model has tremendous promise – just need people to get involved and follow the suggestions. One suggestion is to pick out promising candidates and help them as you can, as below, which I am trying to do – carefully – given limited resources.

      EX. Daily Kos reported that VA has an election Jan. 10 with two promising Democratic candidates. I sent them a small donation to help as I could. I’m going to be very focused in my campaign contributions…focusing more on the candidates and the races rather than the party.

  5. Happy New Year to all.

    I ask this question, (albeit off-topic), here without fear that anyone might doubt my utter amimus toward the president-elect. Here goes:

    Has anyone here, especially anyone with a modicum of knowledge in cybersecurity, read the original, parent documents released from the FBI and Homeland Security regarding the “Russian Hack”?

    I have. It won’t take more than a few minutes. I’m interested in your comments.

    1. Yes. The FBI’s disclosures are pretty worthless. Very little detail. They are mostly designed as a public service message – a general overview of Russian hacking techniques along with a few internet hygiene tips. They can’t release the good stuff, because the FBI probably doesn’t have the good stuff.

      The FBI absolutely sucks at dealing with computer security and computer crimes. They are institutionally incapable of recruiting and supporting computer talent. The high and tight culture of the organization is…let’s just say – not ideal – for computer security experts.

      NSA has the best in the world (or maybe Mossad). Followed by CIA and some other defense agencies. Part of the tension in this scenario rises from the FBI’s incompetence in his arena. CIA and NSA cannot openly release what they have. The FBI can. But the FBI is sick of their colleagues in the intelligence community snickering at them.

      Funny enough, a lot of private sector groups are much better at this than the FBI. They’ve been convinced since early ’16 of what the Russians are doing. They won’t talk about it in much detail (with the exception of that leak to Slate in October) because they have commercial interests at stake. And apart from the Russians, a lot of people are waiting to find out what the Chinese decide to do in the intelligence arena with the vast amounts of sometimes arcane data they’ve been stealing from usual places, like health care records. It is strange.

      It has been interesting to watch traditional hacking activity like credit card fraud and identity theft recede as a priority, replaced mostly by persistent threats (dropped control software onto target machines) and the theft of seemingly uninteresting data. The sophistication of these nation-state threats is beyond anything that anyone can individually protect against.

      Anyway, here’s the FBI’s joint report with the DHS on the Russian hacking operation.

      1. There is irony in the fact that Comey and the FBI lack computer security skills yet were responsible for helping take down of Clinton on computer security issues…..Does that raise any questions for anyone? Guess the FBI was a convenient tool to complete the take down of Clinton.
        The CIA and NSA and DNI are all supposed to participate in the briefing tomorrow which will be a public hearing then move into executive session if necessary –

        I did not read the FBI report. Anything this agency put out is so tarnished by their blatant partisanship and abdication of ethical protocol that I had no interest in anything they would report and still don’t.

      2. Thanks, Chris.

        Essentially, we’re being asked to “trust us”. There has been at least a bit of comment from the private sector regarding the issue:

        There are things beyond even the most elite organizations. Identifying the perpetrators of cyber breaches are among the most difficult. The “report” you linked, (which is really all we have), is so insufficient for a rational person to base an opinion on, that it’s laughable.

        I truly hope, as I’m certain all thoughtful Americans do, your assertion that security concerns of the NSA and the CIA prevent additional evidence from being disclosed is correct, and that we’ll at some point be informed. Absent that, (and the world is watching), this is a disaster of epic proportion. Epic.

        In the mean time, all the sycophants asserting that the issue is closed by what has been released thus far really should shut the hell up. We flat, smooth don’t know the answer yet. (Now there’s a Texasism fer ya’.)

      3. The FBI and the CIA not getting along is reminding me of pre-9/11. Add to that a narcissistic fool soon to be CIC whose inclination to believe something (or not) is heavily influenced by whether it makes him look good or bad.

        We’re boned.

      4. FP – I don’t disagree. But we are truly, madly, deeply boned if we collectively assume that the ‘truth’ lies with, or is consistent with, the narrative of the side with which we identify without regard for the evidence.

        Good to hear from you though. Where the hell is JG? Anyone have a clue?

      5. What evidence? Whose evidence? Isn’t that part of the problem, Fifty? The Republican Party has been spinning its version of the truth for 8 long years. That does not make it so. Well informed people know that but those who refuse to think for themselves or question find it much easier to accept. Is there anyone here who truly believes that the FBI letter and email investigation were principled?

        You notice that Comey has crawled back under a rock somewhere, having done the dastardly deed he was compelled to perform….not that I’m cynical or anything.

      6. Mime – Happy New Year. Truth is truth, and not somebody’s version of it. If you think the right has a monopoly on spin, well, I’ve got some news for you. OK, so you distrust the FBI. Why would you trust them now? This is exactly what I’m talking about.

      7. I look at how people act, what they do, as predictive of whether or not they will tell the truth on tough issues. The FBI is composed of many people, undoubtedly there are some honest, hard-working agents who deserve our trust. BUT, the actions of Comey were unprofessional and the reported involvement of agents from the NY office was totally inappropriate. That chain of events leads me to my conclusion that this particular report is suspect because of who was involved in its preparation, and what their intent was.

        Truth is truth…however painful and inconvenient. I clearly agree and understand that hard fact.

        Best of 2017 to you and your family too, Fifty!

      8. Good to see you too 50. Haven’t seen JG or Homer here for a while. Maybe they’re in a busy stretch at work or taking an Internet break. I had to take a few of those last month.

        I’m withholding judgment on the Russian hacking thing. There is a a catch22- is there definitive evidence that would compromise security/sources if released? Or no definitive evidence? I can’t distinguish between those possibilities right now. I agree that we’ll have to wait for more of the story.

        If it is true, it’s the piss-poor security that really bugs me, any alleged damage to the Dems, not as much. Maybe I’m just too cynical, but I don’t recall any of the leaks being that shocking. I was under no illusions that HRC was squeaky clean, just not as dirty as Trump.

      9. Fifty-

        Even as a Hillary supporter, I was open to seeing what might come of the benghazi and email investigations. But after 2 years of FBI and Republican led congressional investigations, there have been no indictments. That should be enough for anyone to agree there is no objective evidence. To believe otherwise means you need to believe this tea party dominated congress is actually all RINOs who secretly support Hillary.

        The Russian hacking is different. I don’t think we Democrats are absolutely certain. We’re saying it’s a disturbing possibility that has huge ramifications and if an intelligence agency is saying it happened we ought to investigate it seriously. The fact that Trump refuses to even consider the evidence, and is now launching a jihad against the CIA for even having the temerity to suggest his BFF Putin could do this is what’s shocking.

      10. Since we’re a republic, and have representatives to do things that it’s unworkable for hundreds of millions of individual citizens to do, why can’t we just have a security cleared group of Congress members picked from both parties/chambers go examine all the evidence behind closed doors? We can then hear their conclusions without compromising sources/security.

        I concurr with WX Wall- Trump is jumping to a conclusion and IFAIK it’s BEFORE seeing any evidence. Add to that he’s publicly warring with an agency with a major role in national security. ISIS has to be absolutely giddy.

      11. ***Essentially, we’re being asked to “trust us”. ***

        Not exactly. Yes, computer security is a complex realm and yes, these players are taking active steps at a sophisticated level to cover their actions, however there is a lot that we know with confidence.

        We know that the Russians (and the Chinese) have invested enormous resources in developing these capabilities. Everyone in computer security is used to seeing very sophisticated exploits coming from Russian state sources. I’d say it started to be a very big deal about three years ago, becoming the main source of the worst hacks.

        And although it is difficult to pin down blame with the specificity you would need in court (this individual took this action at this time on this piece of equipment), the computer security community has been aware of the strange connections between the Trump infrastructure and Russian hackers for most of this year. Media hasn’t really latched on to the most damning pieces of the puzzle yet, partly I think because people (even in major govt positions) don’t understand enough about how this stuff works to grasp some of the darkest implications.

        It will take time for all of this intelligence to be digested, translated to distributable form, scrubbed for sensitivities, and then (let’s admit it) carefully leaked to the press. But by the time this has been unspooled no one who isn’t a complete moron will still see Trump as a credible, legitimate head of state. That is not, by the way, a happy outcome. As described in previous pieces, having an inept, illegitimate, and not yet impeached President holding office is likely to cause a lot of problems.

      12. “Read this and weep for what Big Brother is planning in controlling every aspect of dissent and rights to function at whatever level.”

        When I was discussing the likely fallout from this horrid election with my brother, we agreed that we were likely to see an encore of some 1960s-style turmoil (something we’re too young to know first hand). Time to dust off those civil disobedience manuals. The NAACP has already started, by holding sit-ins in protest of Session’s nomination for AG.

      13. Fifty-
        Yes, Obama has taken some definitive actions. And he has been supported by not just Democrats but Republicans like McCain & Graham. Even McConnell isn’t opposed to investigating this further (although he opposes an independent cmte just yet).

        If you want to discuss whether Obama’s actions were premature, I’m personally more than willing to have that. The truth is we the public don’t yet have access to enough unclassified information to know for sure. But the scary part is that Trump has blatently refused to even consider the possibility that the CIA is right, simply because he doesn’t like the conclusion. That’s what I disagree with.

        BTW, his support of Assange is laughable. Truth be told, I support Wikileaks because I think they did valuable service exposing lies from the Iraq and Afghanistan War. Even now, I don’t begrudge them leaking stuff from the DNC. That’s what they do. But leaking stuff, and knowing who the ultimate source of that leak was, are two very different matters. Assange has absolutely no idea where the leak originated. If it was someone like the Russians, there’s no way he’s sophisticated enough to figure that out (if he even cares enough to try), and his hypothesis that it could have been some 14 year old is worthless. For Trump to believe Assange rather than the CIA over the source of the leaks lacks any coherency: let’s see, the CIA can’t figure out the source of a sophisticated hack, but Assange, holed up in a London Embassy for years, can?

      14. WX – Yeah, I really haven’t formed an opinion, on whether or not the President’s actions were premature. We just don’t have information sufficient to do so. I really, really hope they were not. Either way, somebody’s gonna take a beating on this one. And they’ll deserve it richly.

    2. Fifty, do you have more clarity as to the legitimacy of the charges by the intelligence community about Russia’s intent and actions to affect America’s election after hearing the testimony and reading follow up reports?

      This article by The Guardian offers some interesting information about private technology sources who have offered more detail than has been released by US Intel. I’m unfamiliar with the names cited. One has to wonder if the Intelligence agencies would feel comfortable sharing detailed information with Trump and we have to assume that there is much information that the public will never hear or see.

      Your thoughts?

  6. Donald Trump is planning to ‘revamp’ the CIA because it’s too ‘politicized’:

    Chris, you mentioned this before, but I hope you’re following this pending deep state war between the intelligence agencies and the Presidency. This is getting serious, and either outcome is horrifying: Trump gutting the intelligence agencies, or turning them into a bunch of yes-men, or the agencies revolting against their civilian leaders to preserve their independence and power.

    I’m not sure what to hope for: Even if short term, the CIA is the “good guy” in that they’re fighting an idiotic President who refuses to hear any information that doesn’t fit his world view, in the long term, we are guaranteed to lose our democracy if we support the shadow agencies against civilian institutions. We are far closer to Pakistan and the ISI than I thought even a month ago.

    I’ve already seen alt-right reports of an inter-agency deep state war: the FBI, with law enforcement types who are typically Republican, supporting Trump, and the CIA, typically staffed by ‘elite’ college grads devoted to complex analysis — and burned by the last Republican President — favoring the Democrats. Even stripping out the usual conspiracy BS, there’s potentially a kernel of truth in this one…

    1. It’s pretty typical of a certain corner of academia, and orthodoxy among white conservatives. It’s also complete horseshit, but interesting horseshit. It’s interesting, because it is a preview of the kind of contortions we are going to experience as white nationalism dies.

      Start with this comment excerpted by Haidt from the ’69 letter:

      “The American creed, one that Yale has proudly espoused, holds that an American should be judged as an individual and not as a member of a group.”

      That’s great, but it’s a lie. That lie is of critical importance to our entire culture. White nationalism was a critical link in a chain that preserved that lie, letting us pretend that our system rewarded talent and drive above all else. What these institutions have been experiencing for the past few decades is a consequence of their position on the leading edge of the death of that lie.

      First, let’s clarify the lie. George W. Bush graduated from Yale the year before this letter was written. He didn’t get there by his wits, neither did a large percentage of his class. Similarly, Trump graduated from Penn in ’68. You could go on and on. Almost nobody just shows up one day to take a test and qualifies for Harvard or Yale. Almost everyone gets in that position thanks to their parents’ work, or their parents’ heritage.

      Twenty years later, Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law. Under no alternate history would Obama have gained entry to Harvard if affirmative action hadn’t happened. Do you think there is a half-sane human being alive would would try to claim that Bush or Trump were more academically qualified for their Ivy League slots than Obama?

      Ancient history? Perhaps, but that’s what life was like before affirmative action. And to a large extent, that’s still what life is like now. Princeton’s admissions rate for “legacy applicants” is almost 70%!!!!

      The notion that absent affirmative action, black and Hispanic students would not gain admission is absolutely accurate. The notion that the reason is “poor qualifications” is self-deception. Absolute bullshit. In fact, those black and Hispanic students are far more elite in raw talent terms than their white peers. These students would not be admitted without affirmative action because they would have no chance of being evaluated fairly.

      The article just assumes, without offering any proof, that these students are struggling. Not so in the Ivy League. At that level you’re dealing with a minority talent pool that consistently outclasses their white peers by a significant margin. It is a bit more true farther down the university hierarchy, but the reasons are pretty obvious. In fact, if you want to understand why, read JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. The reasons minority students often struggle on campuses is the same reason he did as a poor white kid. No cultural supports on which to fall back (not a legacy), money pressures, cultural isolation on campus, didn’t pass through a ten-year de facto college prep class in the form of a highly educated, well-connected family.

      This is a great post because it presages a lot of the fights we’ll be having for the next 20 years. You have an entire political and cultural system designed around a false assumption – this is a meritocracy – while structured to deliver preferences for white people. Breaking down those preferences will also short-circuit the basic functioning of many of these institutions. So people will blame racial reforms for the failure of these institutions. And it will spiral on and on.

      We’re already seeing this in criminal justice. Ask cops to accept some basic human responsibility for negligently (or callousedly) killing black people. They balk, and retreat from their jobs. Crime gets worse and they point to the reformers as the cause. And in a sense, they’re right. The efforts to change an unjust system are bringing to the surface problems with those systems.

      How much dysfunction and dislocation will we tolerate on the way to a better, more just, more authentically meritocratic order? Well, Election 2016 gave us a hint. Lots of people will be happy to burn the whole system to the ground before they’ll give up an inch of white nationalism.

      So,…well that’s what I think of Haidt’s piece.

      1. “First, let’s clarify the lie. George W. Bush graduated from Yale the year before this letter was written. He didn’t get there by his wits, neither did a large percentage of his class. ”

        That takes me back to my fledging internet days, when W’s defenders (many of whom had bitched about AA in other threads), would use that as a defense of W’s intellect. The more honest ones would admit that sure, it was AA for rich kids, but the Universities needed those donations from the alumni parents! I don’t doubt the truth in that, but I hate the dishonesty people cloak it with. In reality you’ve got a multi-tiered system in elite universities- some of the students make it in on merit. The others are brought in on some type of AA, but minority kid AA has a stigma that rich kid AA doesn’t. Be honest about it.

    2. Antimule – So Haidt and Jussim have discovered someone in the past that proposes that affirmative action will create problems. i.e. “the anti-racist policies these schools pursue give rise, indirectly, to experiences of marginalization for black students”

      So affirmative actions for a class that historically was precluded from education of any kind, that was then educated in underfunded and segregated schools, will require a different path to a defined success?

      Do they offer an alternative?

      So they suggest the Army way of doing things. “Instead of lowering its standards, they point out, the Army elevates veterans as well as recruits with a wealth of instructional courses and programs.” I’m not sure how this “wealth of instructional courses and programs” be applied to a university education without it becoming “experiences of marginalization”.

      Maybe they are suggesting taking “wealth of instructional courses and programs” to the neighborhoods that said students arise.

      My humble opinion, yes, set-asides and quotas are unfair to the FAVORED MAJORITY for a while. Court ordered hiring practices are unfair to the FAVORED MAJORITY while they are in effect. (Hiring judgments are known to be removed when fair hiring practices become common).

      But if you are bitchin and you are in the FAVORED MAJORITY, you might want to look inward and reflect on your sense of fairness.

  7. This link was posted on The Weekly Sift and offers a blueprint for people in NC to work towards winning a majority in the NC Senate. The NC legislature targeted black people to redistrict and were ordered to re-draw and re-conduct elections in these new areas (which the NC Republican Party has appealed and is trying to get thrown out)at least one house in the state legislature). It’s well thought out. I am going to try to follow the effort as a template for state level organization. It’s more state-specific than the plan compiled by former congressional staffers, but whatever works, right?

    1. I have reached out to the NC state senator, Jeff Jackson, who is championing the NC proposal, to see if I could be placed on their email list to follow their activities. I plan to donate to their effort as a small way to encourage them from afar. If this works, it can be a model for other states. I am very impressed with how well thought out yet simple their plan is. I love the fact that it directly recruits people who may be interested in being a candidate…talk about going back to basics!

    2. Needless to say though, as long as it’s the GOP-controlled legislature drawing the districts, the odds of Democrats gaining much in the way of competitive seats are slim to none. This problem will continue until a standard is set that directly restricts just how much any legislative map can be gerrymandered, which is why the Wisconsin decision is so important and why we need a decision from the Supreme Court immediately.

      Barring a supreme backlash from N. Carolina voters, don’t put too much hope into this.

    1. You can add control of the US Supreme Court to your list, Creigh, courtesy of this bill filed by Rep. Peter King. Not content to make laws, Republicans now want to decide “which” laws SCOTUS may consider as legal precedents….Drunk with power, arrogant in actions, we are watching a train wreck about to occur.

    1. “Class” is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I don’t give a hoot how elitist it supposedly is, I get it off the bookshelf every other year or so and have a riotous good time with it.

      For anyone who wants to learn many of the lessons of Hillbilly Elegy without getting depressed, read Class.

      1. Thanks Fly and Armchair – Looks really interesting. I’ve ordered it.

        Here’s an oldie you might consider if you want to learn more about how health care compares in the US vs the industrialized world. This highly readable book resulted from in person interviews by T.R. Reid with heads of health care services in the seven industrialized nations of the world, published in 2009 – sadly still apropos. It will make you think even more deeply about why America manages health care as we do…Could it be profit? Because it surely isn’t life span or better outcomes.

    2. I second the recommendation! It’s simultaneously enlightening and hilarious.

      I also believe Fussell’s statement that in the absence of an inherited aristocracy, we’ve created our own class markers. The biggest being which college you went to. Decades after people graduate and the skills they learned there become far less useful than the skills they’ve acquired since, they still ask each other where they went, root for their college in football, and fervently hope to send their kids to the same place.

      1. Mary, thanks for the recommendation, but I know I’m going to pass. As the kids say these days, I Can’t Even. I’m barely keeping it together after this election, and I simply can’t read depressing policy stuff right now. But I’ll keep it in mind for the future.

        Regarding “Class”, a lot of people don’t like it because Fussell makes fun of poor people. It’s true, he does do that. But he makes fun of middle class people too. And rich people. In fact, he clearly has more disdain for rich people than anyone else.

        So, no matter where you are on the class ladder, your feelings will be a little dinged, but the author is so genial about it that you won’t mind.

        When you’ve finished it, send me a private message and we can have a fun conversation about it. Or perhaps we can start a thread on the forum.

  8. Dinsdale. Valid points on gerrymandering and voter suppression. I keep coming back to 42 eligible American voters who stayed home for the 2016 election. What can we do to engage more of these people? To help them understand the importance of their vote and participation? I think Chris is focusing on the correct denominator: class. We are about to see a rapid acceleration of the income divide which will exacerbate class divide. It won’t be “white-focused” but the net result will be that the poor will be shoved a little further into a cycle of poverty.

    Unions used to provide some sense of dignity and protection to many who now occupy the lower rungs of society. Republicans recognized this and have essentially destroyed unions. Maybe it’s time for a resurgence in this area. Whatever you think about the stranglehold the current Republican majority has upon the future of our country, there are steps each of us can take to make that harder to achieve. It begins one person at a time, and each of us standing up to do what we can. There is going to be a lot of pain and a great deal of destruction in our democratic institutions. Know that and prepare for it and plan to fight it any way you can. It matters.

  9. First time poster here. Yes, I see your point about how white nationalism had a massive impact on this “election”. But I have read so little, just about anywhere, about the voter suppression that took place in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin that gave Trump his “win”. The table-setting for this coup began years ago, on the state level. And that does not even begin to deal with the gerry-mandering of the congressional seats.

    As the Hispanic percentage of the population grows, the percentage of white racists has slowly declined for many years. Yet only this year a member of that group (at least a member that is in the open) took power?

    Yes, the fact that trump got such a large chunk of the votes is a shocking and a damning indictment about the level of ignorance and hatred of the average american. But it is far more scary to me what was done with the mechanics of this “election”. And keep in mind, the republicans will be using NC and Wisconsin and Florida as templates to enact suppression laws in any state that they control. I strongly doubt that the democrats will be winning in 2020, as the absolute amount of black, hispanic, and other marginalized groups’ votes shrinks, instead of grows.

    1. Florida by citizen initive consitutuional amendment ungerrymandered our districts. Right now a movement is on allow felons the right to vote. 1.7 million Floridians cannot vote and 500 thousand of them are Black. It may not be so easy to hang onto white nationalism after all.

    2. “Yet only this year a member of that group (at least a member that is in the open) took power.”

      Dinsdale, the problem has come about because “took power” has been happening for quite a while at the state level. Think of the disastrous governorships of such as Pat McCrory in North Carolina, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and Sam Brownback in Kansas.

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