Jim wrote this summer:
“For me it [world view]is a means to help understand how and why others come to conclusions different from what another does. It is not a matter of who is right and who wrong or to distinguish between fact and opinion per ste.” As stated here, one dividing line is police shootings of unarmed Black people and how you see that; another is the amount of voter fraud occurring; another is the number of undocumented people coming across the border with Mexico; another is the contribution for good or bad of Mexican “illegals”. There are more. Some of us believe these matters are susceptible to investigation but others insist there is no interpretation, equivocation, or investigation that will quell their sense of outrage because, according to them, it is a matter of principle. So here we stand, at the divide. Trump’s numbers are climbing and people across the divide are saying HRC is untrustworthy. Trump may yet get his chance to “blow little Iranian boats out of the water.”
Jim did not respond to an earlier “wrap-up”; I hope he is OK. This is my last sputter on this.
Three spikes in the coffin of conservative America are Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and the recent decision on gay marriage. While you can find people in all ethnic groups, parts of the country, religions, and at all income and educational levels who disagree with one, two or all of those decisions on a variety of grounds, they skew White, Southern, evangelical, and of lower educational and income levels. Essentially, the 60s people have won and the 50s people have lost. (Full disclosure: I’m a 60s person)
By conservative I do not mean Conservative, i.e. someone who bases his thinking on political science theory and 19th century philosophical texts, a George Will, for example. Nor do I mean what I call Republicanism, i.e. the main street American values of the GOP: small government, low taxes, pro-business policies, a strong defense and muscular foreign policy. Movement Conservatives seem to be a mix of these first two types. The bulk of conservative folk consists of White, Southern, evangelical Christians. About two thirds of them take positions on a variety of topics but mainly race that set them apart from many other Americans, although they do line up with a significant number of other Americans e.g. conservative pre-Vatican II Catholics, neoconservatives, libertarians, unaffiliated Christians and non-denominational Christians, and a number of totally unaffiliated persons one might describe as anarchic, unattached, free-floating. Yet the core, the voting core, of conservatives is made up of White, Southern, evangelical Christians.
Robert Jones, himself a White, Southern, evangelical, has written a book titled The End of White Christian America. He got the idea for the book from an e-mail he got from The Christian Coalition at the 2012 election of Barack Obama: it had a picture of a 1942 White family bowing their heads over a Thanksgiving dinner and as text it had something about America being under attack. Jones has a huge polling outfit and has a base of 80,000, much larger than just about anyone else. He discussed his book on C-SPAN.
Another sociologist, one I’ve mentioned b/c I went to high school with him and he has just written a book about our hometown, has a base of 3500 for a longitudinal study and has written a book titled American Grace in which he looks at the changing role and place of religion in our society. These and most other students of American society declare or concede that the liberal values of the 60s have won. In the most recent polling, Robert Jones reports, not a single evangelical referred to the U.S. as a Christian nation. The three spikes I mentioned serve as nice hooks on which to hang a fascinating narrative, one which we may look back on (maybe not me; I turn 75 tomorrow) as having ended with the Trump campaign. No science fiction writer could have got a book published whose narrative tracked what has actually happened in this country this past year.
One thing Jones said in his talk struck me as so germane to the exchange I refer to as the grouplet and my response I call my Magnum Opus: he said that the divide is about race.
Norm Ornstein wrote in the Washington Post:
“Our infrastructure is crumbling, and the cost of replacing aging water and sewer systems once they collapse will be sharply greater than acting now. The same is true of the lock and dam system, mass transit, bridges and other transportation systems. The electrical grid needs both modernization and hardening to combat cyberterrorism that could shut the country down. Finding ways to enable people who do their part, working hard to support their families, to have roofs over their heads, food on the table and a safety net against an illness, accident or other disaster is a key to our social contract.
The Affordable Care Act needs the technical corrections that every other major social policy received after its passage, and some adjustments, including conservative and market-driven ones, to make it work better. We need to address prison reform, immigration, policy toward serious mental illness, the broader issues of our tax system. If there is no Trans-Pacific Partnership and no broader European trade deal, we need a serious, bipartisan effort to craft a new trade regimen that does not jeopardize the U.S. and global economies. We need to think hard about how we confront terrorism, including funding for homeland security and a much stronger counter-cyberterrorism program.”
Good list, huh? Norm Ornstein is a Republican who works at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. Notice there is nothing in the list about combating crime, deporting undocumented people, Nor is there anything about rampaging Black thugs and rioting protesters. This approach advocated by Ornstein asks all serious people to sit down to figure out how to tackle all of these issues in a sober, informed manner. This is not what the conservative media has been offering. Even Limbaugh said he never took Trump’s immigration stance seriously. I wonder how his listeners like that.
But here is something to consider, just consider: why is it that voter preference as measured in polls shows a terrible skew away from Trump among educated voters? Think about it. On the Right, the explanation is obvious: educated people have been brain-washed by those Marxist college professors. Might there be another explanation?
Colbert King traces the trajectory of Black migration away from the GOP and to the Democrats:
“As Musa al-Gharbi wrote in his American Conservative piece “Why Aren’t There More Black Republicans?,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal had something to do with black migration to the Democratic Party. So too, President Harry Truman’s executive orders eliminating segregation in the armed forces and ending racial discrimination in federal employment. Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 and his appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court helped foster allegiance to the Democratic Party.
But then again, blacks also got a push to the door from Republicans.
GOP standard-bearer Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act opened the exits.
Richard Nixon’s play for Southern white voters, pandering to their racial hostility and fears (the “Southern strategy”), told blacks voters that the Republican base would wear a white face.
Nixon’s embrace of South Carolina’s rock-ribbed segregationist Democratic-turned-Republican senator Strom Thurmond was the last straw for baseball great and staunch black Republican Jackie Robinson. In 1968, after Nixon won the nomination, Robinson switched his affiliation to independent. Accusing Nixon of “selling his soul,” Robinson asked in an August 1968 column how anyone could trust a man who “would aspire to the White House by doing business with bigotry.”
And it certainly doesn’t help draw blacks to the GOP when Republicans tout voter-ID laws that disenfranchise minority voters, back the “birther” movement that challenged the legitimacy of President Obama and suggest blacks want nothing but a never-ending ride on the federal gravy train.”
And I would add: putting the locus of pathology in the Black community, ignoring real estate practices, police practices, employment practices, education practices, all of which have been shown over and over to be cogs in the every-turning and ever-churning wheels of structural racism and institutional barriers to Black advancement. But none of this will ever convince a Republican, one at least who has feasted at the teat of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s characterization of Black people.
People who know a little about these things tend to pull back from full-throated endorsement of jingoistic, bigoted, racist conspiracy theories about Liberal elites, thus the skew toward educated people who may be Conservative and even conservative or just want Republican values embodied in their candidates, but know better than to mischaracterize their Liberal neighbors, friends, and family. Meanwhile, the conservative media feeds the so-called base its red meat of anti-foreign, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-women outrage. The more recent musings of commentators fall on the aftermath of the base finding out that it was all a ruse set up by oligarchic power brokers to gain their votes for policies that deprive them of the very base of their livelihood. Thus the Trump voter profiled in the Nation article [https://www.thenation.com/article/inside-the-head-of-a-trump-supporter/], an educated man feeling deprived first and foremost of his dignity.
Francis Fukuyama invoked dignity as a powerful force in shaping society, as exemplified in the self-immolation of the Tunisian street vendor brutalized by the police in protest against his treatment. Karen Armstrong spoke at ASU and remarked that she had never found a sectarian, communal massacre unmotivated by a threat of loss of identity. Dignity? Loss of identity? I feel like a board member in the corporate board room bringing up ethical practices. Real Politik does not admit of squishy factors like dignity and identity……… does it?
Robert Jones, the aforementioned founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, discussed his research and offered the following highlights on what he calls the end of White, Christian America.
The offending text under the picture Family at Prayer, 1942, Pennsylvania is contradictory: OTOH it states that we richly deserve condemnation even as we still receive blessings from God (this is what the Rev. Wright said but he was Black and therefore not allowed to criticize White America), yet we must ask God to protect us against enemies that wish to destroy America. But it appears that, in the opinion of the Christian Coalition, we are doing this to ourselves. Puzzling…….. until you listen to the pronouncements of this and similar groups blaming Hollywood, television, Marxist college professors, activist judges, blame-America-first Liberals, the Warren Court, godlessness in the market place selling any sort of filth and perversion like short skirts, and so on. Then you realize the “we” includes all Americans, including us perverts.
In 2004, White Christians (not just evangelicals) made of 59% of the population and in 2016, 45%, a 10 pt. drop in one decade.
How might this happen? Take my family: my parents were not church goers but considered themselves nominal Christians, my dad swearing fealty to a Catholic church he did not attend and whose priests he despised; my mother could not tolerate the screaming banshees that her mother loved in those evangelical churches and so would flee a service if the minister raised his voice. My wife, by contrast, was raised by banshees: Pentecostal. We both love the church and its people but she skedaddled at age 18 to date, party, and get a degree, none of which was promoted by the church. So our two children were raised in a non-religious home. Now they have three children among them which have been raised in non-religious homes and so two make seven, from 1964 to 2016, 52 years of progress toward a secular society. When you understand the role of religion in the Black community, you can see why few of my wife’s peers followed her into apostasy. In my case, upward mobility replaced religion. Education capped my secularism. Exactly how is one to have faith in “things unseen”?
Similarly, 10% of Americans supported same-sex marriage at the beginning of Obama’s presidency; now six years later, the majority does. Less than a decade. Are we speeding up? Due to what? In 2014, 21% of the 18-29 age group self-identified as White Christians. In the 65+ age group, 67% identify as such, a number that increases, I am sure, as you get up into the 75+ age group b/c people my age, 75, came of age at the start of the 60s, that cauldron of godlessness and free sex (for which I seem to have been standing behind the door).
Black Christian numbers are holding. Why? It certainly illustrates the race divide. The Romney and Obama coalitions reflected the age gap: Obama’s looking like the 30s cohort and Romney’s on Geritol. If you were born in 1942 (1941 for me, ‘42 for my wife), you have an active memory of a segregated society and were 17 when Hawaii, the only multi-ethnic society at that time, became a state.
Race is the real dividing line, according to Jones, and your statements on Black Lives Matter illustrate this: if the problem is a pattern of shootings by police of unarmed Black men, then 4 in 10 Whites think that but only 29% of White evangelicals think that. Thirty percent versus forty percent seems like not much of a gap, so I interpret that to mean the divide is along lines of ethnicity, White and Black, rather than religion. Imagine the guys at the Bundy Ranch with their side arms and long rifles, automatic weapons and sniper scopes sighting in on Federal marshals, being Black. What would have happened? A flight of fighter jets would have flown over and dropped napalm on them, that’s what. Why the favoritism toward this radical, armed and threatening group? White skin? They are being heavily prosecuted by the feds. Good.
The turning-point for Jones is the Liberty University case where Carter’s administration threatened loss of federal funds if they maintained their ban on interracial dating. That was viewed as unwarranted intervention in their regulation of their children’s behavior. Two thirds of White evangelicals believe that so-called “reverse discrimination” is as big a problem as discrimination against people of color and 8 in 10 believe that evangelical Christians are discriminated against. But there are now more millennials than there are baby boomers and 45-46% of them identify as non-White.
Regarding religion, we see that being classified as an evangelical is a matter of self identification; you have to say you are an evangelical. Being “born again” is the identifying phrase or motto or slogan. The insularity of the movement was illustrated by Jones from a phone conversation he had recently had with a White evangelical activist, a guy he knows well and respects, who, during the conversation, three times introduced a statement with the words: “it is only common sense that….”, the following statement being one with a consensus only within the White evangelical community. That got a chuckle out of the audience and a request for an example from his interlocutor, Sam Tannenhaus. Jones gave, “Every child needs a home with a mother and a father.” I recall some years back reading that that fits only about 7% of American homes in the 21st century. When these assumptions on the part of evangelical Christians talking to each other in their bubble are challenged when they lay them out to a broader public, they label such challengers “political correctness”. I found that a fascinating way to frame the appeal of Trump when he disparages “political correctness”; what is he talking about? It is when a conservative says Blacks are better off here than in Africa, so slavery was a benefit (as was said the other day to my grandson), and someone remonstrates with them, then it becomes the “I can’t even open my mouth” syndrome. Disagreeing with these people and challenging them is seen as disrespectful. You are supposed to accept whatever they say. My own diagnosis is that this results from their religious orientation where questioning is labeled heresy and you get your face slapped by an outraged church lady. It also falls along the educational fault line since topics like the condition of Africa prior to European contact are part of academic knowledge seldom possessed by conservatives.
A sense of vertigo has overcome White Christian evangelicals and a lot of other people, too. But for them especially, they have seen their tight world go from the center of American cultural values with political and economic leaders coming from their ranks to a marginal status. It began, I believe, with the Scopes trial and they went underground after that, safely ignored by a strong middle class becoming more and more educated and thus, like my family, less likely to buy into the belief systems that are “common sense” to evangelicals. They were revived by Falwell and political activists.
I address some of this on my blog in the category Basics in an about-to-be-published entry. I take a case put by an evangelical on the issue of transgendered students and take it apart to show the techniques used by people with a doctrinal agenda. I also discuss what is happening to many such communities around the world which are being gobbled up by globalization, commodification, and cultural hegemony. McDonalds instantiates all of these: the globalization of food provision apart from the family setting for both production and consumption; the turning of food into a product; and the imposition of alien cultural values around food and convivial eating as summed up in the phrase “fast food”.
The use of dog whistles, coded messages that pass by conscious comprehension but that evoke and invoke appeals to shared values, is common. If I know a substantial number of potential voters prefer Coke but I will violate the law by mentioning Coke, I will refer only to those “good old drinks we all know and love. Life in America! You can tell when It’s the Real Thing.” Hey! I didn’t mention Coke. So when Ronald Reagan talked about Cadillac-driving welfare queens and strapping young bucks buying steaks with food stamps, the words Cadillac and buck delivered the message as sure as opening his campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi did. But he never mentioned race or Blacks.
Where Trump went wrong was in being open, barking rather than using a dog whistle, and his overt appeals to bigotry turned off that White, educated, suburban middle class that has embraced the values of diversity, integration, and multiculturalism which make open cries of Nigger, Nigger, Nigger verboten. His racist appeals are blatant and only the strangest minority group members support him – think “Taco trucks on every corner” – and the Whites skew uneducated. Our real challenge is to bring these people into the body politic without condemning their religious beliefs or accusing them of racism. They don’t like being condescended to and treated like back-country, agrammatical hicks. But bringing these folks in will require more than bemused tolerance. And frankly, I am not sure what it is. My own association with lots of evangelicals has been limited to Black folk. The dynamics there are different but we can see that Black evangelicals will support a Progressive agenda when couched as embodying American and Christian values as well as benefits to the common folk and the agenda does not directly repudiate their belief system. But the dynamics are indeed different with African-Americans.
Surprisingly, my own solution was found as a comment to the article in The Nation titled Inside the Head of a Trump Supporter [https://www.thenation.com/article/inside-the-head-of-a-trump-supporter/]:
“So when are Democrats going offer this guy and like minded individuals the option of secession? We’d save money, and they need an object lesson.” Apparently I am not the only one suggesting a large segment of our population still longs for their Confederacy. Eric Alterman in The Nation recently wrote:
““liberals,” a label that has come to stand for anyone who does not embrace the combination of imagined history, religious fundamentalism, and corporate-driven pseudoscience that comprises conservative ideology. Can we talk seriously if we see each other like this?
Robert Jones, when asked what route to reconciliation might be found, thought of churches: there are more churches in the U.S. than there are post offices. But 8 in 10 churches are what he calls monoethnic, of one ethnicity. I am struck by the 99% Black attendance at funerals I go to. Earlier on my blog, I attributed this to the fact that most of the deceased were of advanced age and formed friendships during segregation. But I note the same disproportion when the deceased is a young person. The society is still very segregated and Jones points out that in the last 10-15 years, schools have reverted to racial polarities found only during de jure segregation.
At one point in the exchange on the Grouplet, James brought up Kate Smith. For me, Kate Smith is emblematic of the cultural divide some call a racial divide……. but it’s really cultural. Kate Smith was a popular singer in the 40s and 50s whose career went on into the 60s. Her style of singing God Bless America became emblematic when singers like Jose Feliciano and Aretha Franklin and others began belting out more bluesy versions. I am a poor person to discuss this b/c I went from a working class White environment where Kate Smith’s very European contralto voice was much appreciated to a Black Pentecostal church whose singing style resembled Aretha Franklin’s more than Kate Smith’s and I began to take on that musical taste. Nevertheless, it did happen in the 60s that people made disparaging remarks directed at these bluesy versions and holding up Kate Smith’s style of singing as the right way to do it. James may have meant nothing of the sort in bringing up Kate Smith, but it is worth noting that back in the day, people got worked up over this matter of style and thus Smith became emblematic. Whitney Houston’s performance received universal acclaim and I just listened to it and noted it was definitely in the Franklin/Feliciano tradition though not as controversial as Jimi Hendrix’. But I am sure Kate Smith, who died 6 years before the Houston performance, would have approved.
The Supreme Court’s last Protestant went away in 2010; every Justice is now either Catholic or Jewish. As stated above, even evangelicals no longer refer to the U.S. as a Christian nation. The notion of American Exceptionalism, a mainstay of conservative and Conservative thinking, turns out, according to Jones, to have derived from a joke, viz. Arthur Schlesinger coined the term unilateralism regarding the idea that the U.S. could act in the world alone as ludicrous. Out of the term though came the elaborated meme of American Exceptionalism. I did not know that. I have a section in my Magnum Opus on American Exceptionalism and should add a note to this effect.
I know I’ve given a lot of play to this Robert Jones PRRI survey, but he and his polling deal directly with the issue raised by Jim Weiher early on in the discussions on the listserv moretprs: does our understanding of the role of poverty in education and of race in poverty depend on our world view, and, if so, can there be reconciliation. I have to take my stand that intelligent reasoning can take us a long ways, to boldly go where no man has gone before, and to sadly vacillate between hope and despair on ever reaching common ground with my fellow citizens.
Coda: quotes with my comments from Dog Whistle Politics by Ian Haney Lopez:
p. 36 Linking minorities to certain behaviors like criminal acts, terrorist acts, acts of cheating, is not considered racist in part because those bringing up, e.g., “welfare cheats” never mention race, allowing the dog whistle to do its work in light of the assumption that certain groups do engage in more criminal behavior than other groups and some groups are more predisposed to terrorism. Labeling these charges racist outrages conservatives because they believe these stereotypes are true, are just common sense; after all, why else are so many Blacks in prison? You look at illegal immigrants and label them law-breakers and criminals and you get accused of racism, how unfair when we all know that they are law-breakers because they crossed our border illegally. What is more law-breaking than illegal?
p. 45 Lopez quotes John Powell: [slight paraphrase] “The unconscious is largely social. It is the environment, including our social structures and cultural meanings, that both create the negative associations and uses them in priming our psyches. It’s not race that minds naturally seek out, but difference generally. Thus the fact that race comes automatically to mind reflects not our nature but our society”. Here’s an experiment: I’m describing my mom, a person with a rosy complexion; then I describe my wife, a person with a chocolate complexion……. That would be, by my guess, a bit puzzling for some people b/c an African-American’s chocolate complexion would normally be referred to as skin color, not complexion, so if I said her complexion was chocolate, there might be a sense that perhaps she had dark skin but was not of African ancestry. When I see my wife, her color is not what I focus on but that is certainly part of her person, her appearance. My wife always says, if someone who doesn’t know her is looking for her in a crowd, the easiest way to describe her in a crowd of White people is to say she is Black (I capitalize Black like we capitalize the names of other ethnicities e.g. Italian, Greek, Serbian and that obviates the fact that she is chocolate color, not black). Why would you avoid saying that?
p. 47 my idea of much of this problem lying in our colonial past (see the Past as Present segment of my Magnum Opus) springs up here: “In the context of colonial North America – one instance in a larger pattern of colonialism that produced the racial ideologies of the modern world – European immigrants began to invent ideas about “racial differences” in order to justify their treatment of the indigenous populations on the Eastern seaboard as well as those from western Africa.”
p. 97 To Jim’s frequent resort to Moynihan: “For Moynihan to argue that blacks were the authors of their own failure would seem, in today’s world, uncharitable and mean-spirited, something closer to what Newt Gingrich might say. In the mid-1960s, it was earthshaking, for it repudiated the liberal consensus upon which the modern state was predicated….. Whites believed in structural remedies when they saw the poor as people like themselves, folks sometimes trapped by larger forces or bad breaks. They shifted to a belief in personal failings when they began to see the poor as non-whites fundamentally unlike themselves.” I see this as the middle class turning against the New Deal when they began to see themselves as well-off and not poor.
p. 167 “Dog whistle racism has helped convince many whites, arguably even a majority, that the greatest danger they face comes from a liberal government in hock to minorities, rather than from concentrated wealth and its plutocratic agenda.”
p. 173 A beautiful and accepting view of these people seduced by the dog whistle: “Beyond the loss of status, working-class whites also suffered material losses associated with integration. Poorer whites who lacked the financial resources to resist the pressures of integration slowly lost exclusive control of their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces, their most valuable possessions. They rightly viewed these as sources of their well-being and launching pads for their children: homes that held most of their wealth; neighborhoods that supplied a sense of community; jobs that delivered decent pay and maybe someday had a place for one’s child; schools that seemed like escalators to take the next generation higher. This was about more than status. This was about access to union jobs, government mortgages, decent schools, effective public services, and government-funded amenities like nice public parks and swimming pools – all of which had been reserved for whites, often formally and in any event by social sanction.”
p. 185 A recognition of the force of the past: “The social world through which we move reflects centuries of racism that extends right up to the present [remember Past as Present?]. But this is hard to grasp in its particulars. Instead, we see clearly only the results, and with the underlying causes hidden, we tend to accept the extant world as a testament to the implacable truth of racial stereotypes. The environment itself seems to confirm the power of race to explain group differences, and group fates.”
p. 187 Brilliant: “For instance, the dominance of colorblindness today surely ties back to motives, not on the fully conscious level, but in many whites being drawn to conceptions of race that affirm their sense of being moral persons neither responsible for nor benefited by racial inequality. Colorblindness offers whites racial expiation: they cannot be racist if they lack malice: nor can they be responsible for inequality, since this reflects differences in group mores. [Think Moynihan] Colorblindness also compliments whites on a superior culture that explains their social position. In addition it empathizes with whites as racism’s real victims when government favors minorities through affirmative action or welfare payments. Finally, colorblindness affirms that whites are moral when they oppose measures to promote integration because it’s allegedly their principled objection to any use of race that drives them, not bias. ”
That is a devastating critique of social devices that perpetuate the structures put in place long ago to ensure the “proper” balance of power. It’s all in our history.
Thank you for reading.