A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

An Archdruid Reports

On a blog called The Archdruid Report by a fellow named John Michael Greer, who styles himself Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn -- So druids have grand archdruids. Who knew? -- In any case, he has some interesting comments on the recent presidential elections here in the US of A. (There were 50 of them, you may recall.) He believed the good guys lost and lost for reasons that no one has talked about.

He writes:
The point I think the Left tends to miss is that not everyone in flyover country is like that. A few years back, in fact, a bunch of Klansmen came to the town where I live [an old mill town in Appalachia] to hold a recruitment rally, and the churches in town—white as well as black—held a counter-rally, stood on the other side of the street, and drowned the Klansmen out, singing hymns at the top of their lungs until the guys in the white robes got back in their cars and drove away.  Surprising? Not at all; in a great deal of middle America, that’s par for the course these days.

To understand why a town that ran off the Klan was a forest of Trump signs in the recent election, it’s necessary to get past the stereotypes and ask a simple question: why did people vote for Trump?
The Archdruid goes on to give four reasons, based on things he's heard people say in his presence. 
1. The Risk of War. This was the most common point at issue, especially among women—nearly all the women I know who voted for Trump, in fact, cited it as either the decisive reason for their vote or one of the top two or three. They listened to Hillary Clinton talk about imposing a no-fly zone over Syria in the face of a heavily armed and determined Russian military presence, and looked at the reckless enthusiasm for overthrowing governments she’d displayed during her time as Secretary of State. They compared this to Donald Trump’s advocacy of a less confrontational relationship with Russia, and they decided that Trump was less likely to get the United States into a shooting war.

War isn’t an abstraction here in flyover country. Joining the military is very nearly the only option young people here have if they want a decent income, job training, and the prospect of a college education, and so most families have at least one relative or close friend on active duty.  People here respect the military, but the last two decades of wars of choice in the Middle East have done a remarkably good job of curing middle America of any fondness for military adventurism it might have had.  While affluent feminists swooned over the prospect of a woman taking on another traditionally masculine role, and didn’t seem to care in the least that the role in question was “warmonger,” a great many people in flyover country weighed the other issues against the prospect of having a family member come home in a body bag. Since the Clinton campaign did precisely nothing to reassure them on this point, they voted for Trump.
2. The Obamacare Disaster. This was nearly as influential as Clinton’s reckless militarism. Most of the people I know who voted for Trump make too much money to qualify for a significant federal subsidy, and too little to be able to cover the endlessly rising cost of insurance under the absurdly misnamed “Affordable Care Act.” They recalled, rather too clearly for the electoral prospects of the Democrats, how Obama assured them that the price of health insurance would go down, that they would be able to keep their existing plans and doctors, and so on through all the other broken promises that surrounded Obamacare before it took effect.

It was bad enough that so few of those promises were kept. The real deal-breaker, though, was the last round of double- or triple-digit annual increase in premiums announced this November, on top of increases nearly as drastic a year previously. Even among those who could still afford the new premiums, the writing was on the wall: sooner or later, unless something changed, a lot of people were going to have to choose between losing their health care and being driven into destitution—and then there were the pundits who insisted that everything would be fine, if only the penalties for not getting insurance were raised to equal the cost of insurance! Faced with that, it’s not surprising that a great many people went out and voted for the one candidate who said he’d get rid of Obamacare.
3. Bringing Back Jobs. This is the most difficult one for a lot of people on the Left to grasp, but that’s a measure of the gap between the bicoastal enclaves where the Left’s policies are formed and the hard realities of flyover country. Globalization and open borders sound great when you don’t have to grapple with the economic consequences of shipping tens of millions of manufacturing jobs overseas, on the one hand, and federal policies that flood the labor market with illegal immigrants to drive down wages, on the other. Those two policies, backed by both parties and surrounded by a smokescreen of empty rhetoric about new jobs that somehow never managed to show up, brought about the economic collapse of rural and small town America, driving a vast number of Americans into destitution and misery.

Clinton’s campaign did a really inspired job of rehashing every detail of the empty rhetoric just mentioned, and so gave people out here in flyover country no reason to expect anything but more of the same downward pressure on their incomes, their access to jobs, and the survival of their communities. Trump, by contrast, promised to scrap or renegotiate the trade agreements that played so large a role in encouraging offshoring of jobs, and also promised to put an end to the tacit Federal encouragement of mass illegal immigration that’s driven down wages. That was enough to get a good many voters whose economic survival was on the line to cast their votes for Trump.
4. Punishing the Democratic Party. This one is a bit of an outlier, because the people I know who cast votes for Trump for this reason mostly represented a different demographic from the norm out here: young, politically liberal, and incensed by the way that the Democratic National Committee rigged the nomination process to favor Clinton and shut out Bernie Sanders. They believed that if the campaign for the Democratic nomination had been conducted fairly, Sanders would have been the nominee, and they also believe that Sanders would have stomped Trump in the general election.  For what it’s worth, I think they’re right on both counts.

These voters pointed out to me, often with some heat, that the policies Hillary Clinton supported in her time as senator and secretary of state were all but indistinguishable from those of George W. Bush—you know, the policies Democrats denounced so forcefully a little more than eight years ago.  They argued that voting for Clinton in the general election when she’d been rammed down the throats of the Democratic rank and file by the party’s oligarchy would have signaled the final collapse of the party’s progressive wing into irrelevance. They were willing to accept four years of a Republican in the White House to make it brutally clear to the party hierarchy that the shenanigans that handed the nomination to Clinton were more than they were willing to tolerate.
Item #4 may be why the results were more due to lower Democratic turnout than it was for higher Republican turnout -- although Mrs. Clinton's utter lack of charisma may also have been a factor in that. 

A close attention to #3 as well may reveal that opposition to illegal immigration was less a matter of xenophobia or racism than an objection to corporations importing cheap labor to drive down wages. Bipartisan support for trade deals may also explain why Trump spent most of his time attacking and demolishing the conservative wing of the Republican party with apparently no ill effect on his support. They disliked the Republican establishment nearly as much as they did the Democratic establishment.

#1 and #2 were scarcely mentioned at all by the punditry. Hunh. But you might notice that the reasons the Archdruid heard bruited about amounted to the Old Democratic Platform and as the industrial belt had become the rust belt, the core of the Party has become disaffected. The Father of TOF told him once that he had voted for the first time for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and if they were to disinter him and reanimate his corpse, he would vote for him again. But in recent years he had voted for the likes of Reagan and Romney because they actually sounded to him more like the old Democrats than modern Democrats did.

The Archdruid continued:
Those were the reasons I heard people mention when they talked in my hearing about why they were voting for Donald Trump. They didn’t talk about the issues that the media considered important—the email server business, the on-again-off-again FBI investigation, and so on. Again, this isn’t a scientific survey, but I found it interesting that not one Trump voter I knew mentioned those.

What’s more, hatred toward women, people of color, sexual minorities, and the like weren’t among the reasons that people cited for voting for Trump, either. 
The media seemed unable to grasp this and continued to interpret matters in terms of their favored paradigms, as in the bed of Procrustes. But the same set of facts can mean very different things when viewed from the perspective of different theories.
Example: The media recently reported as if it were a contradiction (or "controversy," as they are wont to put it) the statement of Trump that he saw no evidence that the Russians had interfered in the US election and the CIA's conclusion that Russia had released the DNC and Clinton Campaign emails in order to encourage the election of Trump.* But if the vast majority of Trump supporters really didn't care about the emails, but were more concerned about Mrs. Clinton's bellicose posturing over Syria, triple-digit increases in health care costs, job loss, or (among disaffected Democrats) the suppression of the Bern, then both could be correct because Mr. Trump and the CIA were actually speaking to two different issues: Yes, the Russians were messing around; no, it didn't affect the election.  
Basically, most voters other than the extremes didn't care about the issues that the elites thought were central -- boutique concerns, let us call them -- but more about bread and butter issues.
(*) CIA. Just this morning, TOF heard to his astonishment, the mainstream media rush to the defense of the CIA after Trump had badmouthed them for being wrong about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq (so why believe them over Russian hacking?) Who are you? he asked the screen, and what have you done with the real NBC? A day or two before he had heard the media defend big corporations against Trumpean tweets accusing them of overcharging the government or putting profits over jobs. (This could affect your 401(k) plans. Yes, yours!) No one warned us of this possibility when investigative reporters accused corporations of overcharging, nor worried overmuch when the Usual Suspects accused the CIA of masterminding All the Evils in the World. Have we fallen into Bizarro World?

1 comment:

  1. If it comes as news to you that the Democrats instantly switch messages based on a single election, then apparently you slept through sixteen years of Bush and Obama. Remember how when Bush was in the White House, dissent was patriotic?


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