Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Making Of President Trump

On May 3, 2017 Rebecca Savransky of The Hill wrote

Democratic strategist David Axelrod says Hillary Clinton would be well served to move on from last year's presidential election and stop talking about it.

"It takes a lot of work to lose to Donald Trump," Axelrod told CNN on Wednesday. "Let me tell you, he was the least popular presidential candidate to win in the history of polling."

No, Ms. Savransky- David Axelrod was not, and is not, a Democratic strategist; he is a Barack Obama strategist.

If Axelrod were not an Obama strategist, he wouldn't have been repeating this grotesquely misleading theme since November 8, 2016 because he would recognize the role of President Obama in Hillary Clinton's defeat.

I'm not speaking here of Obama's failure to inform the public that intelligence agencies had concluded that the Kremlin had interfered in the American electoral process in order to promote Donald Trump's general election candidacy. Nor am I referring to the "red line" the President drew on Syria until Damascus crossed it and he ignored it, an issue effectively exploited by Donald Trump in the campaign.

Neither am I referring to North Korea, which was allowed to continue its nuclear program without interference by the Obama Administration, with a concomitant inability to gain assistance by mainland China to downgrade the program- while the USA's trade imbalance with China only grew. The Administration's slap on the wrist of Wall Street offenders, which candidate Trump (dishonestly) helped use to run his disingenuous "drain the swamp" campaign, is an unrelated matter.

And I'm not speaking- not directly, anyway- of President Obama's decision to ignore the national party, which partly as a result was shellacked in state and congressional elections during his time as head of the Party.

President Obama facilitated the defeat of his party's presidential nominee of 2016 in a manner for which he cannot be held accountable, though must be held responsible.

The recent study "Understanding White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism"observed that the tendency of whites without a college education to vote Republican emerged in 2000, rose through 2012, and increased further in 2016. Researchers Brian Schaffner et al. controlled for both general populist and authoritarian values but as the Pacific Standard's Tom Jacobs summarized
"While the economic variables in our models were significantly associated with vote choice, those effects were dwarfed by the relationship between hostile sexism and denial of racism and voting for Trump," the researchers report. "Moving from one end of the sexism scale to the other was associated with more than a 30-point increase in support for Trump among the average likely voter. The relationship for the denial-of-racism scale was nearly identical. Moving from the highest levels of acknowledgement and empathy for racism to the lowest level was associated with about a 30-point increase in support for Trump."

Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton can be blamed, or commended, for being black or female.  However, significantly one represented a racial minority, the other a gender minority (in power and societal status). Unsurprisingly, therefore, University of Pennsylvania political science and communications professor Diana C. Mutz in a published article concluded "status threat,not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote." In a recent interview with Slate's Isaac Chotiner, Mutz explained

One indicator that people feel increasing threat is social dominance orientations: the extent to which you feel your group should be put above others. We don’t define the groups for people. It is whatever groups they think they are. That [feeling] went up between 2012 and 2016. In addition, though, we have measures that ask people to what extent they think men are discriminated against in American society, to the extent women are, and the same with whites, blacks, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, etc. And it’s those who are particularly likely to see the dominant groups—whites, Christians, men—as currently being discriminated against that are supporting Trump.

Mutz was given an opportunity to clarify and emphasize her interpretation of the election when asked by Chotiner "what is your response to people who say, 'A lot of these people voted for Obama in 2012. It can’t be race?'” She replied

It’s not racism of the traditional variety that we think of. This is status threat. It’s not thinking blacks are poor and uneducated. It’s the idea that they are actually doing better and may threaten the control of dominant whites in society, and have more control of our political process, and so forth. And this is something that having Obama as president actually highlighted. Here we have a very well-educated, very accomplished, and very powerful black man in the White House. That doesn’t suggest the usual negative stereotypes about minorities. It suggests instead that the status quo hierarchical nature of our national culture is changing in some ways. And it’s the same kind of thing with “Make America Great Again”—that we aren’t the superpower we once were, and we need to regain that superior, dominant status in the world.

Having all this publicity about the rise of majority-minority America at the same time as the news about the rise of China—all of these things make people feel like, “Gosh, we need to fight back.”

Republicans, who are targeting Hillary Clinton as their boogeyman, will not admit this. Democrats will not  admit this because, as Axelrod exemplifies, too many Democrats still look admiringly and almost lovingly upon the first black President of our country. Fortunately, there are researchers who- though not framing their conclusion in as many words- have inescapably concluded: without President Obama there would have been no President Trump.

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