Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Week in Review

On a personal note, Dennis Conkin’s reaction to my Wade’s Bio was particularly heartening. When we worked with The Tenderlin Times, which published poetry written by neighborhood residents, Dennis was my favorite poet. His poetry was clear, direct, elegant, passionate, and spiritual. But until I received this comment, I did not know how much we had in common. Dennis wrote:

I am 63. I was 19 when I started going to same sex dances at Alternative Futures Commune. I read your bio and unbeknownst to me, I discovered you’ve been behind or integral to most of the stuff I have been involved with all of my life: Network Against Psychiatric Assult, Madness Network News, Other Avenues Food Store, The Tenderloin Times, etc.

Just sayin’.
Best wishes

Given recent frustrations, and the fact that those who dream never realize all their dreams, it’s good to know I have apparently contributed to the enrichment of at least one life.

Rene Burke Ellis’s comment on that post also felt good.. She and I connected through our support for the Charter for Compassion, and though we have never met and she’s a Dodger fan (no one is perfect), we’ve developed a good online relationship. So, when she wrote, “Impressive credentials, sir!,” it was like icing on a cake. As was that of an old friend from high school, Charla Doughty, who wrote, “My friend…he has and continues to change the world…one conversation at a time..” I don’t live for strokes, but they help.

I also connected with Nedi Safa through the Charter for Compassion. Though we haven’t communicated much lately, she did reply to my I Love Donald Trump by saying, “I think this is the best thing you’ve written. Thanks.” Since I was nervous about losing readers with that post, her response was reassuring.

I still think it’s important not to demonize Trump. So it seems fortunate to me that, contrary to some cable news headlines, Hillary has not labelled Trump a racist, though he has called her a “bigot” without apparently knowing what the word means. Rather, she more astutely levels charges such as “These are racist ideas.” That distinction is critical. To call someone a racist without knowing that they believe others are inferior due to their race is an unjustified judgment that makes fruitful communication more difficult.

Also, on a personal note, I did well last week in terms of refining my routine, taking care of my body, making good money, enjoying many interactions with passengers, squeezing out some time each night for writing, and taking a Day of Rest, during which I “read no screens.”

I enjoy listening to National Public Radio while driving taxi and have come to really appreciate The Takeway, which is edited by John Hockenbery, and Your Call, hosted by Rose Aguilar on San Francisco’s KALW-FM, which was the nation’s first public radio station and is owned by the School District.

Friday, Aguilar interviewed David Sirota, author of “Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton's State Department.” That program prompted me to post to Facebook a link to that article, a link to "Who Cares About the Clinton Foundation?” by Simon Johnson’s colleague, James Kwak, and the following comment:

Within reason, anger can be a good thing. And the piece on the Clinton foundation and arms sales infuriates me. How can they be so stupid? I recently read one article that tried to explain Hillary's greed as having been prompted by economic insecurities after Bill lost his campaign for governor. Give me a break. Two Yale law school graduates and they feel insecure? My anger motivates me to do everything I can to find and join, or help initiate, a National Coalition to really make a difference. Clearly we cannot count on the Democrats.

Then, earlier today, I elaborated and posted The Clinton Foundation, Big Money, and Access to Wade’s Wire.

Last week I was also pleased to post two guest blogs to Wade’s Weekly:

On Wade's Wire, I also posted Reader’s Comments and
Beyond the American Dream: A Good Life is Good Enough, which was inspired by The Downsizing of the American Dream and Why Growth Will Fall by William D. Nordhaus, a New York Review of Books review of The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon.

Gordon “argues that the innovations of today are much narrower and contribute much less to improvements in living standards than did the innovations of [that] special century” and any similar discoveries are highly unlikely in the future.

If he’s right, the cultural impact would likely be dramatic. The result could either be an upward spiral or a downward one. In my essay, I speculate on how the consequences could prove to be beneficial.

Last week I also posted the following to Facebook:

As a parent, this message – that our kids can do anything if they dream big and work hard – is deeply alluring.
But as a psychologist, I find this well-intentioned message distressing.


Key staffers quit amid lingering tensions from the Vermont senator's campaign.

My comment on Facebook: Unfortunately these events are not surprising.


My status update: "Being humble without being arrogant about how humble you are is not easy."


Rankism is "abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative behavior towards people because of their rank in a particular hierarchy". Rank-based abuse underlies many other phenomena such as bullying, racism, hazing, ageism, sexism, and homophobia. The term "rankism" was coined by physicist, educator, and citizen diplomat Robert W. Fuller.

My comment: Are racism and sexism rooted in rankism? If so, is overcoming our rankism one way to overcome our racist and sexist tendencies?


Don't know what #NODAPL means or what the Dakota Access Pipeline is or what all those indigenous warriors on horses are doing in North Dakota? Well this little primer will get you up to speed.


Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated. John Oliver explores why they aren’t at all like pizzerias.

My comment: John Oliver's show is available free on YouTube.


To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.


As Sarah Jaffe’s new chronicle of American protest culture shows, change is happening—but it’s coming from below.

My comment: True enough. But can this energy coalesce into sustained, unified action to change national policy? I'll be posting some updated thoughts on that question soon.


Interview by ANA MARIE COX


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in each of the team's three preseason games and said he plans to continue to do so until he sees real change when it comes to racial oppression in the United States.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Poor Whites and Donald Trump

Since 1990, earnings for men without a college degree have fallen 13 percent. During the same time period, median household income increased by 2 percent.

Middle-aged American whites without a college education are the only age-and-ethnic group that is dying at higher rates than they were 15 years ago.

White men without a college degree are more likely to say the country's best days are over and hard work no longer guarantees success.

Whites with a high-school education or less are reporting more pain, taking more opioid painkillers, abusing alcohol more, and killing themselves more.

So it’s not surprising that non-college-educated whites favor Trump over Clinton by a margin of 65% to 25%. Their condition has not improved under eight years of President Obama. Why should they trust Clinton to do better?

Progressive activists often take a symbolic stand, engage in moral witness, or cast a protest vote against the rigged system? Why shouldn’t poor whites do the same?

Granted, Trump is not proposing measures that will benefit the poor directly and immediately. But when white liberals support progressive taxation, they vote against their economic self-interest. Why shouldn’t poor whites take a stand on principle and try to shake up Washington?

Those thoughts have prompted me to look more closely at the divide between those with and those without a college degree. I recently took note, for example, of a public radio report about resentful female prison inmates without a college degree attacking inmates who have a degree. And I’ve reflected on my own “white trash” roots and my experiences living and working with low-income communities.

This nation’s prospects for fundamental social transformation will be enhanced if we build a broad coalition that includes poor white people (most of whom have no college degree). But middle-class attitudes of superiority and their disparaging opinions about poor whites aggravate the class divide.

In her poignant, personal essay, “Fences: A Brexit Diary,” in the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith wrote:

One useful consequence [of the Trump campaign is] to finally and openly reveal a deep fracture in [American] society that has been [decades] in the making. [Those gaps] are real and need to be confronted by all of us….The left is thoroughly ashamed of [the poor]…. We have a history of ridiculing the poor… for “shafting themselves,” for “voting against their interests [or not voting at all]” …The majority of those [“uneducated” voters] who [support Trump do] so out of anger and hurt and disappointment…. [They are not] in any way exceptional in having low motives…. We might...ask ourselves what kind of attitudes have allowed a different class of people to discreetly maneuver, behind the scenes, to ensure that “them” and “us” never actually meet anywhere but in symbol. Wealthy [America], whether red or blue, has always been able to pick and choose the nature of its multicultural and cross-class relations, to lecture the rest of the country on its narrow-mindedness while simultaneously fencing off its own discreet advantages.

With those thoughts in mind, I’ve recently posted to Wade’s Wire:

Today Terri Gross, “Fresh Air” host, conducted a 36-minute interview with J.D. Vance, author of the best-seller, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

[Vance said:]

A lot of people feel that you can’t trust anything Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama say, ...because they sound so filtered and they sound so rehearsed. Donald Trump, if nothing else, is relatable to the average working-class American because he speaks off the cuff. He’s clearly unfiltered and unrehearsed….

[Obama and Clinton have] surrounded themselves by very elite people who went to very elite universities. And because of that, both in the way they conduct themselves and the things they seem to care about – they just seem very different from the people that I grew up around. And that makes it very hard for me to feel that Clinton – Hillary or Bill Clinton are very relatable.

To read more, click here.


From The New York Times

“The Millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Barely Mention: The Poor”

By Binyamin Appelbaum

AUGUST 11, 2016

WASHINGTON — The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, also abides the deepest poverty of any developed nation, but you would not know it by listening to Hillary Clinton or Donald J. Trump, the major parties’ presidential nominees…..

To read more, click here.


Yahya Abdal-Aziz, an Australian correspondent, sent me an excellent article from the September 2016 issue of The Atlantic, “The Original Underclass.” By Alex MacGillis and ProPublica, [the article includes:]

As Isenberg documents, the lower classes have been disregarded and shunted off for as long as the United States has existed. But the separation has grown considerably in recent years. The elite economy is more concentrated than ever in a handful of winner-take-all cities....

So why are white Americans in downwardly mobile areas feeling a despair that appears to be driving stark increases in substance abuse and suicide? In my own reporting in Vance’s home ground of southwestern Ohio and ancestral territory of eastern Kentucky, I have encountered racial anxiety and antagonism, for sure. But far more striking is the general aura of decline that hangs over towns in which medical-supply stores and pawn shops dominate decrepit main streets, and Victorians stand crumbling, unoccupied. Talk with those still sticking it out, the body-shop worker and the dollar-store clerk and the unemployed miner, and the fatalism is clear: Things were much better in an earlier time, and no future awaits in places that have been left behind by polished people in gleaming cities. The most painful comparison is not with supposedly ascendant minorities—it’s with the fortunes of one’s own parents or, by now, grandparents. The demoralizing effect of decay enveloping the place you live cannot be underestimated. And the bitterness—the “primal scorn”—that Donald Trump has tapped into among white Americans in struggling areas is aimed not just at those of foreign extraction. It is directed toward fellow countrymen who have become foreigners of a different sort, looking down on the natives, if they bother to look at all.

To read more, click here.


On August 14, the Los Angeles Times reported on a recent survey of American attitudes about the poor and poverty. …

When asked if poor people “prefer to stay on welfare” or would “rather earn their own living,” Americans by a large majority, 61%-36%, said they believed the poor would rather earn their own way.

only a third of self-described conservatives say that the poor do not work very hard.

To read more, click here.


On the August 16 PBS Newshour, Jeffrey Brown interviewed Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.

Isenberg argues that “upward mobility” in America has largely been a myth. During the colonial period, the Founders advocated “horizontal mobility” by allowing the poor to migrate westward to the frontier. And in recent decades, we have more “class-zoned neighborhoods” than upward mobility….

When Brown asked her how we could lessen class divisions, she recommended setting aside the myths, confront the reality of class oppression, and think more deeply about how it affects who we are and how “we judge people by the way they’re dressed, by the way they talk, by the unwritten codes of class behavior.”

To read more, click here.


Fuller defines rankism as “abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative behavior towards people because of their rank in a particular hierarchy.” In a TEDx Talk,  Fuller considers rankism’s evolutionary roots and asserts that we can overcome it by affirming “dignity for all.”

To read more, click here.


In addition, I’ve previously posted the following related pieces to Wade’s Weekly:


I hope to post to Wade’s Wire and Facebook most weeknights and to Wade’s Weekly most weekends. To subscribe to Wade’s Wire, click here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Connecting with Poor Whites

How many white people without a college degree did you see speak at the Democratic Convention? I don’t remember any. 

One-third of voters are whites without a college degree. That’s a lot of votes. If Democrats had wanted to appeal to those voters, it would have made sense to highlight poor white speakers. Doing so would have communicated respect and a commitment to listen to their concerns.

According to FiveThirtyEight, non-college voters supported Mitt Romney 62 percent to 36 percent, which makes them “the bedrock of the Republican coalition.” According to The Atlantic, “The single best predictor of Trump support in the GOP primary is the absence of a college degree.” 

According to Federal Safety Net, 86% of Americans over 25 years of age who in poverty do not have a college degree. Poor people tend to be without a college degree and people without a degree tend to be poor.

Compared to 1990, non-college, working-age whites are less likely to be fully employed and they earn much less when they do work, according to the Hamilton Project

Inequality is worsening not only because the top are taking more. In addition, those on the bottom are getting less.

One consequence is an explosion of substance abuse in rural America. Other than income, that may be the number one problem in poor communities. But the Democratic Convention had little to say about that issue. 

They could have presented a multi-racial group of recovering addicts and called for an increase in federal funding for drug treatment, as did President Obama in his Dallas speech, when he said:
We ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.  We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.  We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs....  then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.” 
As governor of Indiana, following massive, intense pressure, Mike Pence finally approved a needle-exchange program to reduce the spread of H.I.V.. Shortly thereafter, a health worker
was soon traveling the streets of Austin, in Scott County, in an S.U.V., distributing needles to those who did not feel comfortable coming in to get them. At first, the drug users were skeptical. Then, one day, she and a colleague pulled up in front of a house, and a girl rose from her seat on the front porch and walked down to accept a clean syringe. 

“When we looked up, there were people coming from every house on the street,” Ms. Combs said. “They swarmed the van.”
The flood of new H.I.V. cases slowed to a trickle, as has happened elsewhere.

Substance abuse is only one example of the pressing need for more human services. In-home caregivers, nursing home aides, child care workers, after-school recreation, environmental cleanup, teacher’s assistants, and mental health counselors are other examples of work that does not require a college degree that needs to be done. And we have enough money to pay people a living wage to do it. 

By developing the human-service economy, we could assure everyone a living-wage job opportunity. Yet, when it comes to direct job creation most of what we hear concerns the physical infrastructure, not our social infrastructure. 

Both Clinton and Sanders have talked mostly about the middle class and said little about building a cross-class, multi-racial alliance that reverses the dominant divide-and-conquer strategy. The reasons are unclear. 

They may fear that supporting poor whites would alienate middle-class Americans who look down on “white trash,” a term that “has been adopted for people living on the fringes of the social order, who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for authority.” 

For the same reason -- a focus on winning the next election -- they may want to avoid promoting their “brand,” the Democratic Party and its platform (as I discussed in "The Convention: What Was Missing").

If either is the case, they’re like corporations that concentrate on short-term profits and neglect the long-term. 

This year, the Democrats need to win by a landslide, declare a progressive mandate, and come close to taking back the House, or do so. Winning the next election is not sufficient. We also need massive, grassroots pressure to transform this nation into a compassionate community. It’s not either/or. Rather, it’s both the near term and the long term. To do that, Democrats need to gain more support poor white people. 

The Democrats can win even if they continue to fail to appeal to white poor people. But if they take that approach, that decision will be morally unjustifiable and will undermine the unity we need. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Class Myopia

On my way home from work on the bus, I read the New York Review of Books. Today’s poignant, personal essay, “Fences: A Brexit Diary,” by Zadie Smith, touched on the divide between those who have a college degree and those who do not, which I addressed in “I Love Donald Trump.” The discrepancy between those two groups in terms of their support for Trump is striking. Understanding that pattern could help us prevent the future rise of a more effective Trump-like candidate. Though most responses to my post have been positive, two critical responses lead me to feel that I did not articulate my position clearly enough. Reflecting on “Fences: A Brexit Diary” may help to clarify my thoughts.

Smith is an English writer born to a Jamaican mother and an English father and raised in a relatively low-income, ethnically diverse London neighborhood. Two days before the Brexit vote, after a long absence, she returned to her ‘hood and noticed a wall of bamboo slats and plants that blocked the view of her school yard. She soon saw that fence as a metaphor of what was happening to the world of her childhood and her school, with its mix of the “relatively rich and the poor” — as well as the vote to erect a fence between Britain and Europe.

After considering the standard explanations for the decision, including racism, she concluded:
The profound shock I felt at the result—and which so many other Londoners seem to have experienced—suggests at the very least that we must have been living behind a kind of veil, unable to see our own country for what it has become….
A few days before the vote she was at a dinner party with other London intellectuals:

We were considering Brexit…. But it turned out we couldn’t have been considering it very well because not one of us, not for a moment, believed it could possibly happen. It was so obviously wrong, and we were so obviously right—how could it? 
After settling this question, we all moved on to bemoaning the strange tendency of the younger lefty generation to censor or silence speech or opinions they consider in some way wrong: no-platforming, safe spaces, and the rest of it. We were all right about that, too. But then, from the corner, on a sofa, the cleverest among us, who was at that moment feeding a new baby, waited till we’d all stopped bloviating and added: “Well, they got that habit from us. We always wanted to be seen to be right. To be on the right side of an issue. More so even than doing anything. Being right was always the most important thing.” 
In the days following the result I thought about this insight a lot. I kept reading pieces by proud Londoners speaking proudly of their multicultural, outward-looking city, so different from these narrow xenophobic places up north. It sounded right, and I wanted it to be true, but the evidence of my own eyes offered a counter-narrative. For the people who truly live a multicultural life in this city are those whose children are educated in mixed environments, or who live in genuinely mixed environments, in public housing or in a handful of historically mixed neighborhoods, and there are no longer as many of those as we like to believe. 
For many people in London right now the supposedly multicultural and cross-class aspects of their lives are actually represented by their staff—nannies, cleaners—by the people who pour their coffees and drive their cabs, or else the handful of ubiquitous Nigerian princes you meet in the private schools. The painful truth is that fences are being raised everywhere in London. Around school districts, around neighborhoods, around lives. One useful consequence of Brexit is to finally and openly reveal a deep fracture in British society that has been thirty years in the making. The gaps between north and south, between the social classes, between Londoners and everyone else, between rich Londoners and poor Londoners, and between white and brown and black are real and need to be confronted by all of us, not only those who voted Leave. 
Amid all the hysterical characterization of those Leavers in the immediate aftermath—not least my own—I paused and thought of a young woman I had noticed in the playground the year my daughter spent in that school…. She was a mother, like the rest of us, but at least fifteen years younger. After walking behind her up the hill to my house a few times I figured out she lived in the same housing project in which I myself grew up. The reason I noticed her at all was because my daughter happened to be deeply enamored of her son. A play date was the natural next step. 
But I never took that next step and neither did she. I didn’t know how to penetrate what I felt was the fear and loathing she seemed to have for me, not because I was black—I saw her speaking happily with the other black mothers—but because I was middle class. She had seen me open the shiny black door to the house opposite her housing project, just as I had seen her enter the project’s stairwell each day. I remembered these fraught episodes from childhood, when things were the other way around. Could I ask the girl in the big fine house on the park into our cramped council flat? And later, when we moved up to a perfectly nice flat on the right side of Willesden, could I then visit my friend in a rough one on the wrong side of Kilburn? 
The answer was, usually, yes. Not without tension, not without occasional mortifying moments of social comedy or glimpses of domestic situations bordering on tragedy—but still it was yes. Back then, we were all still willing to take the “risk,” if risk is the right word to describe entering into the lives of others, not merely in symbol but in reality. But in this new England it felt, to me at least, impossible. To her, too, I think. The gap between us has become too large. 
The tall, narrow Victorian house I bought fifteen years ago, though it is exactly the same kind of house my middle-class friends owned when I was growing up, is now worth an obscene amount of money, and I worried that she might think I had actually paid that obscene amount of money to own it. The distance between her flat and my house—though it is, in reality, only two hundred yards—is, in symbol, further than it has ever been. Our prospective play date lay somewhere over this chasm, and never happened, as I never dared ask for it. 
Extreme inequality fractures communities, and after a while the cracks gape so wide the whole edifice comes tumbling down. In this process everybody has been losing for some time, but perhaps no one quite as much as the white working classes who really have nothing, not even the perceived moral elevation that comes with acknowledged trauma or recognized victimhood. The left is thoroughly ashamed of them. The right sees them only as a useful tool for its own personal ambitions. This inconvenient working-class revolution we are now witnessing has been accused of stupidity—I cursed it myself the day it happened—but the longer you look at it, you realize that in another sense it has the touch of genius, for it intuited the weaknesses of its enemies and effectively exploited them. The middle-class left so delights in being right! And so much of the disenfranchised working class has chosen to be flagrantly, shamelessly wrong. 
We have a history of ridiculing the poor, in Britain, for “shafting themselves,” for “voting against their interests.” But no less has the neoliberal middle and upper-middle class shafted itself, living in its gilded London prisons…. 
There has been a kind of money madness in London for some time and for the rest of us looking on it’s hard to find in such symbols any sign of a beautiful, harmonious, or even happy life…, though at least when you are this rich you can comfortably fool yourself that you are happy, utilizing what the old North London Marxists used to call your “false consciousness.” That crusty standby won’t work anymore for describing the economically and socially disenfranchised of this nation: they are struggling, deeply unhappy, and they know it. 
…The majority of those who voted Leave did so out of anger and hurt and disappointment, helped along by years of calculated political and press manipulation of certain low feelings and base instincts…. I don’t find the people who voted Leave to be in any way exceptional in having low motives. 
While we loudly and rightly condemn the misguided racial attitudes that led to millions asking “them” to leave “us,” to get out of our jobs and public housing and hospitals and schools and country, we might also take a look at the last thirty years and ask ourselves what kind of attitudes have allowed a different class of people to discreetly maneuver, behind the scenes, to ensure that “them” and “us” never actually meet anywhere but in symbol. Wealthy London, whether red or blue, has always been able to pick and choose the nature of its multicultural and cross-class relations, to lecture the rest of the country on its narrow-mindedness while simultaneously fencing off its own discreet advantages. We may walk past “them” very often in the street and get into their cabs and eat their food in their ethnic restaurants, but the truth is that more often than not they are not in our schools, or in our social circles, and they very rarely enter our houses—unless they’ve come to work on our endlessly remodeled kitchens. 
Elsewhere in Britain people really do live cheek-by-jowl with the recently migrated, and experience the undercutting of their wages by newcomers. They really do have to fight for resources under an austerity government that makes it all too easy to blame your unavailable hospital bed on the migrant family next door, or on an oblique bureaucracy across the Channel, which the nitwit demagogues on the TV keep telling you is the reason there’s not enough money in the NHS. In this atmosphere of hypocrisy and outright deceit, should the working-class poor have shown themselves to be the “better man” when all around them is corruption and venality? When everyone’s building a fence, isn’t it a true fool who lives out in the open?
When I read those passages again just now, it broke my heart. The parallels to this country are too powerful. I recall my own “white trash” roots, the shame I felt, and the slights I received. I reflect on how when I hear a southern accent, my gut reaction tends to be disparaging. I regret how when I lived in a low-income housing cooperative, those of us with college degrees who lived there voluntarily gravitated toward one another, and were targets of resentment from those without degrees who lived there out of necessity (it didn’t help that we romanticized the neighborhood). And just tonight the news reported that Trump still leads Clinton 2-to-1 among whites without a college degree.

Still, as with Smith and her friends, we progressives tend to arrogantly always assume “we are all right about that.” We speak proudly of our multicultural, outward-looking cities that we consider so different from narrow xenophobic rural areas and red states. Few of us interact with people without college degrees.

To draw more parallels:
One useful consequence [of the Trump campaign is] to finally and openly reveal a deep fracture in [American] society that has been [decades] in the making. [Those gaps] are real and need to be confronted by all of us….The left is thoroughly ashamed of [the poor]…. We have a history of ridiculing the poor… for “shafting themselves,” for “voting against their interests [or not voting at all]” …The majority of those [“uneducated” voters] who [support Trump do] so out of anger and hurt and disappointment…. [They are not] in any way exceptional in having low motives…. We might … ask ourselves what kind of attitudes have allowed a different class of people to discreetly maneuver, behind the scenes, to ensure that “them” and “us” never actually meet anywhere but in symbol. Wealthy [America], whether red or blue, has always been able to pick and choose the nature of its multicultural and cross-class relations, to lecture the rest of the country on its narrow-mindedness while simultaneously fencing off its own discreet advantages.
Those are some of the factors that motivated my “I Love Donald Trump” Perhaps this commentary will clarify my meaning for any who missed it.

I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump” by Jonna Ivin and the KALW interview with Nancy Isenberg about her new book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. have also influenced me. I also recommend those resources.

Our prospects will improve if we learn better how to connect with white poor people who have no college degree.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I Love Donald Trump

Mutual demonizing and scapegoating in the Presidential campaign undermine prospects for social transformation. That “politics of personal destructionreinforces an ongoing downward spiral. Violence, whether physical or verbal, breeds violence. We risk becoming the evil we resist. Being the change we seek offers greater hope.

Jesus was right: Love your enemies. We can hate what people do without hating their soul, their essential humanity, who they are down deep as a person. With nonviolent communication, we can make judgments without being judgmental.

Trump has made racist statements, but I cannot say he is a racist (I don’t know that he believes people of color are inherently inferior). He has fascist tendencies, but I cannot say he is a fascist. He sometimes acts like a bully, but I cannot say he is a bully. His children are testament that he probably has positive human qualities.  

I hold sympathy for Trump. His abusive father pushed his sons to “get ahead” (which apparently is the primary message Trump taught his own children). That extreme pressure damaged his brother, but Trump flourished. True to the American spirit, he became hyper-competitive. “Winning is everything.” He’s the ultimate American individualist. He’s a victim of the American myth that you can be anything you want to be.

His relative success nurtured in him arrogance, a sense of superiority, and a tendency to be harshly judgmental. Like the hippies, he does his own thing. Like Frank Sinatra, he does it his way. Like a chronic adolescent, he indulges in instant gratification and says whatever’s on his mind. Like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, he revels in rebellion.

Like Leonard Cohen said, America has the best and the worst. We have high ideals that we only sometimes honor. Trump i’s a true American, a product of the dominant culture, a mixed bag. We cannot criticize him, without criticizing ourselves.

Like many left-wing utopians, without focusing on winnable short-term objectives, he wants to “shut it down,” “shake things up,” “tear down” the “rigged system,” “turn Washington on its head,” and hopefully impose major improvements out of the chaos.

He’s not insane. Rather, he’s crazy like a wolf who aims to dominate. As America taught him, he believes someone must be in charge. You either dominate or submit.

But, most likely, underneath the rigid bluster is an insecurity that constantly drives him to prove himself. As such, it’s sad to watch him perform, with his weak ego just below the surface.

But his performance has provided a great service. He has helped expose how progressives have ignored, disrespected, and failed to address legitimate concerns felt by white poor and working class people who suffer immensely from economic injustice.

Trump has helped us confront those questions. For that, I express my appreciation.

Routinely, progressives preach the “middle-class mythology” -- the belief that upward mobility is the solution. But the obsession with constantly climbing the social ladder is the heart of our problem.

Guaranteeing economic security for all by insuring that everyone can immediately get a living-wage job would be a much different goal. Under those conditions, those who want to do so could relax about their economic future and devote more time to serving humanity and pursuing truth, justice, and beauty.

If we college-educated Trump opponents deepen our understanding of why so many “white trash” support Trump, it will help us learn how to form productive cross-class alliances. After all, we do want to ally with the working class, don’t we?

But thus far, college-educated progressives have done a poor job of connecting with whites who don’t have a college degree.

Trump, however, has spoken to them, tapped their anger, and fed on their resentment toward urban elites who adopt a condescending attitude toward those who “cling to guns and religion.”

It’s not just economics. It’s also cultural. Until progressives learn how to affirm values held by rural and working-class whites that are positive, that gap will not be bridged.

Donald Trump is not the problem. He’s a symptom, created by a social system that thrives on advertising revenue, manufactured crises, and zero-sum games with “winners” and “losers.”

No Presidential candidate is the Devil and none is a Savior. And no camp of followers is purely rational. But we are getting sucked into an increasingly mean, irrational vortex.

We can discredit Trump’s temperament without demonizing him in a way that insults his followers. After this election, another, more effective Trump might follow his path. To weaken that threat, it will help to learn from him and develop better ways to engage his followers.

To do that, we need more humility and less self-righteousness. I suspect most of us have some of the same tendencies that Trump displays, such as irrational gut reactions, being judgmental, a conviction that we have the answers, and a desire to impose our beliefs on those who are less enlightened. I know I do.

Facing those weaknesses and our own class-based biases would help with that effort. An upward spiral of evermore understanding and compassion could then nurture reconciliation with many Trump supporters and help coalesce an overwhelming majority of Americans that could implement major improvements in our society.

Learning to love Donald Trump would be a good first step.