Trump, Le Pen and Racism

On “Last Week Tonight,” his brilliant take on the world we inhabit, John Oliver spent considerable time discussing the upcoming French elections. The entire segment is worth watching–it’s informative as well as hilarious (if depressing can be hilarious)–but one quote really struck home.

“One of the frustrating things about watching this unfold from America, is this feels a little like deja vu,” Oliver warns, “A potentially destabilizing populist campaigning on anti-immigrant rhetoric who rages against the elites despite having a powerful father and inherited wealth, even as experts reassure us that there is no way that this can possibly happen.”

Anyone who has watched the “evolution” of Le Pen’s movement over the years, from her father’s forthright Nazi-ism to her smoother delivery of White Supremacist bigotry, understands the extent to which the upcoming election is a referendum on the extent of French racist sentiment.

Deny it as we might, Americans watching the French political drama unfold have just held a similar referendum.

Media pundits and “serious” political commentators have resisted attributing Trump’s electoral college victory to racism, offering a number of alternative explanations: economic distress in the heartland, Hillary hatred, authoritarian tendencies. Recent research, however, confirms what many of us saw during the campaign–the unsettling resonance of barely veiled racist appeals.

In an article for the Washington Post, Thomas Wood, a political science professor at Ohio State, mined newly available data.

Last week, the widely respected 2016 American National Election Study was released, sending political scientists into a flurry of data modeling and chart making.

The ANES has been conducted since 1948, at first through in-person surveys, and now also online, with about 1,200 nationally representative respondents answering some questions for about 80 minutes. This incredibly rich, publicly funded data source allows us to put elections into historical perspective, examining how much each factor affected the vote in 2016 compared with other recent elections.

Wood evaluated the evidence for the income and authoritarian hypotheses, and found them insufficiently predictive. He then looked at the data measuring racial resentment.

Many observers debated how important Trump’s racial appeals were to his voters. During the campaign, Trump made overt racial comments, with seemingly little electoral penalty. Could the unusual 2016 race have further affected Americans’ racial attitudes?…

Since 1988, we’ve never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions. The biggest movement was among those who voted for the Democrat, who were far less likely to agree with attitudes coded as more racially biased.

The statistics told the story.

Finally, the statistical tool of regression can tease apart which had more influence on the 2016 vote: authoritarianism or symbolic racism, after controlling for education, race, ideology, and age. Moving from the 50th to the 75th percentile in the authoritarian scale made someone about 3 percent more likely to vote for Trump. The same jump on the SRS scale made someone 20 percent more likely to vote for Trump.

The unexpected results of the Brexit vote in England have been widely attributed to anti-immigrant bias. Le Pen’s appeal is explicitly racist and nationalist, and she is expected to easily make the run-off in France’s upcoming election. In the United States–long considered a beacon of inclusivity, despite our frequent lapses–the electorate ignored the terrifying personal and intellectual deficiencies of a candidate who appealed to their tribalism and racial resentments.

Are these events– and others, like the Turkish election– evidence of the decline of cosmopolitanism, and a global triumph of tribalism? If so, what happens next?


58 thoughts on “Trump, Le Pen and Racism

  1. It is a shame that multiple regression techniques are considered too esoteric for the results to be discussed in the mass media. The NY Times “Upshot” column would be a good place to start educating people (at least, the readers of that paper) on this powerful tool. And among those who write for that column are ones who could explain it.

  2. The powerful elite have done an excellent job of convincing the working class people that our enemies are immigrants who come into our countries and either steal our jobs or live off of taxpayer funded welfare programs. How can we convince our fellow working class citizens that the true cause of our economic stress is corporatisim that has replaced capitalism?

    This problem has been building within the countries where the white race has held power for centuries – Europe and the U.S. The elite class has accumulated so much wealth that, at this time, I don’t know how the general public can be persuaded that they have been gullible and have fallen for the propaganda that the elite class has fed them. The vast wealth of the elite corporatists gives them the power to continue obtaining more and more wealth that they can use to control the masses.

    How do we fight back without the benefit of money to fund a campaign of truth? I still see a revolution coming.

  3. Sheila:

    “Are these events– and others, like the Turkish election– evidence of the decline of cosmopolitanism, and a global triumph of tribalism? If so, what happens next?”

    It’s choosing between UNCONTROLLABLE CHAOS or CONTAINMENT.

  4. Nancy: I think the battle has to begin w state legislatures and gerrymandering and build from there.

  5. daleb,

    “Nancy: I think the battle has to begin w state legislatures and gerrymandering and build from there.”

    In a perfect world that might be the answer, but not in this one. We have to dig deeper into what has been virtually, unknown, political territory.

  6. We need to remember the words from a pretty intelligent guy named Albert Einstein:

    “Problems can’t be solved at the same level of awareness that created them”

  7. I believe the Trump “win” in the Electoral College was for all of the reasons listed and the fact that the reason for enacting the Electoral College is outdated by more than 100 years but is hung onto as a lifeline. Plus; the family members and friends I know who voted for him (picture me with clenched jaws, bulging veins and red-faced to admit this) didn’t even watch his rallies or speeches. I know because I asked. Their vote was for what they believed is the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves who, incidentally they continue to hate the descendants of those freed slaves.

    They are still not aware of what Trump is doing because they are still not watching the news. Their minds are filled with mid-20th Century rhetoric, memories of the “good old days” when those who are speaking out at this time are finally being heard. Blacks, LGBTQs, Jews, Muslims, women from all groups of people are viewed as anti-Christian troublemakers; they have no idea what Brexit is about or why the Egyptian and French elections are vital to this country, the fact that Trump bombed Syria and Afghanistan will resolve our problems there in their minds. They know ISIS is the enemy but know not why, who they are or where they are. North Korea is a war of the past so no real threat to us; Trump is dealing with it as they would…sending threats they probably have not yet learned are lies. “The Wall” is the rallying cry for many with no comprehension of the damage it is already doing to Americans living along the site of the wall or the fact that it, like those bombs Trump spent millions of our tax dollars to drop, is a useless endeavor. All issues are outside the realm of their personal tribe of staunch Republicans…and weak Democrats. They cannot be reached even over holiday dinners because when told, they are against the changes Trump is enacting but blissfully and totally unaware that they are the perpetrators.

  8. daleb,

    I agree that change must start with state legislatures and gerrymandering. However, it takes money to fight the power of the gop propaganda machine. The dems don’t have the money to fight back with the truth. Especially at the state level. At this point in time I just don’t see a positive change without some type of revolution. So far, the gop voters have been fed so much propaganda that they refuse to accept or acknowledge the real source of their own pain.

  9. Marv,

    “Problems can’t be solved at the same level of awareness that created them”

    This is so true, but finding a way to counteract the right-wing propaganda that would change people’s minds seems to be formidable without the same level of wealth to fund a campaign of truth.

  10. Peggy,

    Excellent point. We recognize that most, if not all, of the people on this blog are in agreement. The important issue is how we each are trying to make change happen in our local area. Personally, I am engaging in efforts to change the deeply embedded beliefs of local gop citizens and am working within the local dem party to bring about opportunities to educate the public. I envision education as the way that I can contribute to bringing about positive change.

  11. Peggy,

    “I wonder how much good we actually do when we are preaching to the choir.”

    For me it’s the invaluable feedback….both positive and negative I have received from a very TALENTED group of people.

  12. Actually, “preaching to the choir” is helpful in that it is a support group where we can also work out ideas, actions and solutions. Some might get stuck in complaining, yet many others find motivation and problem solving within the “choir” setting.

    As for ignorance, the only cure is education, aka enlightenment.

  13. On the Le Pen front, it does seem like the fundamentalists are running a pretty wise long-term strategy. An attack in Paris just before the election only favors Le Pen. If Le Pen wins, she will crack down on all forms of “immigrants” (including, I imagine, anyone with the slightest tan who is a French citizen) and her rhetoric/her father’s rhetoric will ramp up.

    That, in turn, should be a recruitment tool for the fundamentalists. They will be able to point to France and say “See? They do hate you. Join us!” Nothing rallies people like a little hardship, and Le Pen should bring that in spades. I’m no fan of ISIS/ISIL (obviously), but you do have to respect the long con, in a depressing kind of way. It’s a pretty slick marketing move.

  14. Sharing Sheila’s blog on Facebook every day reaches a wider group of readers; no way to know if or how many may read it out of curiosity and learn something or those who will agree and “share” it further. Others will scroll past it; we have picked up “choir members”; and rarely lose one. There are those who read the blog but do not comment and the sharing of information from different areas and viewpoints is why we are here. I believe the majority of commenters research information from others, pass along information and recommend the blog to others. “Word of mouth” is valuable today due to the number of “alternative facts” and “fake news” sites on social media. SH says it well!

  15. Dirk rightly points up that there is no better rallying point than a little hardship, and the Trumps and Le Pens of this world have exploited that truism very well. It’s too bad that this doesn’t seem to translate into the world of the American working class who have been mercilessly reduced to widgets in this non-union wage inequality world. It appears that the Trumps and Le Pens have been able to sell this class on the proposition that the corporations are not the bad guys, that the bad guys are those of a different color, women, refugees, liberals, cheap Chinese labor and bad trade agreements.

    It’s all about propaganda aided and abetted by slick framing of phony issues and the corporations are the current winners and the working class along with the rest of us are the losers, all of which translates into political games where trickle down, tax breaks, environmental destruction and less regulatory control of the banking sector are handed out to the rich and the shaft is (quietly) handed out to the rest of us.

    What to do? Continue to fearlessly tell the truth and wait for the working class to finally catch on to the fact that they have been conned, if we can indulge in the luxury of waiting with a delusionary leader who now is attempting to substitute war as a tactic to cover his manifest failures. Tactics are not policies and instead of our current government by whim we should be making policies from which tactics flow, thus putting the horse back before the cart, but who in Trump’s world of TV and braggadocio is thinking about that? It’s all about show, propaganda, and ultimately, all about him, hardly what Madison had in mind in concocting our “noble experiment” in representative government.

  16. Gerald at 9:49 a.m.

    “What to do? Continue to fearlessly tell the truth and wait for the working class to finally catch on to the fact that they have been conned, if we can indulge in the luxury of waiting with a delusionary leader who now is attempting to substitute war as a tactic to cover his manifest failures.”

    You can’t go down that road. It’s been “washed out.” You better find another route in, as I would suggest, ……. “A NEW YORK MINUTE.”

    One thing nice about “Sheila’s Zoo” is the inhabitants are free to come and go as long as our “one of a kind zoo keeper” doesn’t close the door.

  17. I’ve been wondering the same thing, is this the beginning of accepted racism and tribalism? Waiting for the answer to your last question “what happens next?”.

  18. Marv – I think the term “zoo” would have better application to the legislative halls of state capitals and Washington D.C. Sheila’s “zoo,” as it were, is populated by animals who are smarter than their zookeepers, and I think that putting down those whose opinions vary amounts in the democratic tradition to a cheap shot. Count me as one who is unimpressed by such negative chatter. We are all in this together whether we like it or not, and how we got here and what opinions came out of such varying experiences in varying environments has to be given slack by elitists. For instance, I am the son of a coal miner and a product of the Great Depression and WW II and a forever New Dealer, a retired lawyer sitting in Florida. My younger commentators on this blog cannot have had such experiences, but I can honor even if I disagree with their commentaries which were based upon their experiences in accord with our democratic institutions. Liberal elitists who can not tolerate differing views can be bigots, too.

  19. Gerald @ 9:49 a.m.

    “Dirk rightly points up that there is no better rallying point than a little hardship, and the Trumps and Le Pens of this world have exploited that truism very well. It’s too bad that this doesn’t seem to translate into the world of the American working class who have been mercilessly reduced to widgets in this non-union wage inequality world.”

    The WHITE working class is betting on the “race card” not the “class card.” They’re not going to change unless they are convinced that the “race card” is a LOSER.

    That’s the answer. In the end it will be all about the facts (if they can be successfully conveyed).

  20. Gerald,

    “[Marv]I think that putting down those whose opinions vary amounts in the democratic tradition to a cheap shot.”

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I believe we are all in it in the long run. But we’re not altogether on this blog from my point of view unless I volunteer to be a “first class jerk.”

    I can see your position. You’ve always have had a problem of seeing mine.

    I would strongly suggest “your shot” has missed the mark.

  21. Recently, I saw a video of a young black lady she was heckled about affirmative action.
    The racists in our society simply have no clue about the historical depths of racism in our society.

    First black people were brought here as slaves. The slaves had no individual rights, they were property. The core of humanity the family, could be broken up at will by the slave owner. It was with deliberate and malicious intent that the slaves were not allowed to be educated. The Judaeo-Christian religion of authoritarianism provided the religious approval for slavery.

    After the Civil War, Jim Crow emerged. Union General Carl Schurz reported and predicted Jim Crow Laws, as follows: “The emancipation of the slaves is submitted to only in so far as chattel slavery in the old form could not be kept up. But although the freedman is no longer considered the property of the individual master, he is considered the slave of society, and all independent State legislation will share the tendency to make him such. The ordinances abolishing slavery passed by the conventions under the pressure of circumstances, will not be looked upon as barring the establishment of a new form of servitude” .
    Hilton Head, S.C., July 27, 1865.

    It was not until Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954, that Civil Rights emerged as an issue on the national stage. Fierce resistance followed exemplified by Declaration of Constitutional Principles (known informally as the Southern Manifesto) was a document written in February and March 1956. The manifesto was signed by 101 politicians (99 Southern Democrats and two Republicans). One section stuck out: “This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding.” The list of names is interesting and includes Carl Vinson of Georgia. >>> Does the name ring a bell. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was named in his honor and is now steaming to who knows where. <<<<

    The legal end to Jim Crow did not end the social, cultural and economic racism. The opportunities for higher education in colleges and universities for Blacks were challenged by among others George Wallace.

  22. Gerald,

    We have to deal with the RACISM before it is too late. You’re in denial of the extent of it and JoAnn is scared to death of it. We need to find a position somewhere between the both of you.

    That might be impossible.

  23. Marv – I want to hear what you have to say, but that does not necessarily suggest that I agree with what you have to say in whole or in part. As to Hillary’s defeat, you are right. I said that Trump could not win. I was wrong, and had plenty of company, though she did handily win the popular vote. I don’t pretend to be errorless, but what I am trying to say is that we live up to our Big Tent idea where opinions are placed on the table for all to read and discuss without personal putdowns, which does nothing to advance th cause. Things change as we experience reality. Sheila was once a Republican, for instance, and even Hitler was once an altar boy. I have even morphed from an ordinary Democrat to a liberal as the right wing drove me further left with their drivel and sellout to Wall Street and the libertarian Kochs et al. Let’s keep contributing to this blog and welcome those who contribute but with whom we may disagree from time to time and, by the way, you are not a jerk. You have opinions. So do I. That doesn’t make us a jerk. King, Ghandi and Jesus had opinions, too. Let’s express those opinions in what is left of our democracy as we robustly exercise our First Amendment rights, especially now with a psychopath at the helm and our tattered democracy headed south unless we can somehow salvage it from the dustbin of history.

  24. Gerald,

    I appreciate your sincerity. However, I want out now. Life is too short. No hard feelings.

    Hopefully, we have both learned much from each other. In my opinion, there is no better blog in America.


  25. Marv; April 21, 11:28 a.m., response to Gerald’s comments:
    “We have to deal with the RACISM before it is too late. You’re in denial of the extent of it and JoAnn is scared to death of it.”

    Marv; April 20, 7:36 p.m., response to my comments:
    “You’re right. You’re not “making a stand.” And that’s why you never have or never will support me.”

    Get off my butt, Kramer, yesterday I tried to lighten the mood in response to your comment by telling of my walks wearing tee shirts with political slogans as my chosen manner to “make a stand”. You read it as not supporting you which goes back to my continued support of SPLC which you are rabidly opposed to because they do not operate their business the way you believe they should regarding anti-Semitism. Today you have spouted a monumental size untruth about me conjured from your vividly paranoid thought processes. You should be aware of my LACK OF FEAR of racism by my support of SPLC plus your knowledge from our past exchanged E-mails about my personal life – and yours – regarding race. I have fought racism and been victimized by it due to my active involvement against racism since the mid-1950’s – and anti-Semitism since I learned what the term meant. You have the right to speak against me due to your protected freedom of speech thanks to the 1st Amendment. I have the same right but choose not to speak against you but to correct you when you speak untruths about me. I also have the right to tell you to get off my butt, just leave me alone. Please; just scroll past my comment sections and pretend I don’t exist the way you pretend SPLC doesn’t fight anti-Semitism.

  26. Marv – True, but it’s a much nearer statement of truth borne of experience than a statement such as “Democracy and the Republican Party are synonymous.” Things change. For instance, the Democratic Party of Lincoln’s day was right wing and pro-slavery. Had I been on the scene, I would have been a Whig from whence the Republican Party arose in 1854 and a Republican thereafter. As Shelia has written, she did not leave her party; the party left her. If the Republican and Democratic Parties exchanged positions today, I would be a Republican since, as the bard asked, “What’s in a name?” As the biblical expression goes, “By their fruits shall ye know them,”and the fruits offered us by Trump and the Republicans today are not fit for human consumption. Keep being opinionated, Marv. We need your take on the evolving scene.

  27. Gerald,

    I also noticed you implied that I was a liberal elitist. On what basis did you come to that conclusion? On second thought, I better stop it now. I now can see that we have much less in common than I thought.

    Being around the elite for much of my life doesn’t make me one. It allows me to understand their minds and how they operate. My father left me a trust fund of a million plus which I refused to touch. That’s why Ernst Reuter, the Mayor of Berlin was so effective during his tenure. He understood both sides. Both the good and the bad. Something you can’t do. Maybe you’re just jealous?

    Think about it.

  28. By the way, Kramer, I for one resent you referring to Sheila as a “zoo keeper” (which suggests we are zoo inhabitants) more than Krunk’s silly reference to being at the zoo. You are becoming more like Gopper with your disparaging comments; you should return to your highly respected, intelligent, knowledgeable legal experiences fighting for civil rights for all rather than your current attack mode..”full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

    My apologies to Sheila and all others for using your valuable space for venting my personal ire.

  29. It seems to me the the best that can be expected from democracy is government that reflects the country’s culture. To the degree that that statement is true and discounting factors like Putin/Comey intereferance and the electoral college and gerrymandering (the combination of which were likely to have won the election), we as a nation are what present day DC is, or at least roughly half of us are. God help us.

    People who follow Sheila’s blog are probably sick of reading me blaming the take over of mass media from journalism to advertising for first corporate America, later political America, as the creator of our clearly now dysfunctional culture.

    The question is what forces are powerful enough to counter propaganda news?

    One in my mind is the depth to which the process has led to dysfunctional government. To whatever degree that’s true the Trumpty Dumpty Show will collapse of its own dysfunction in obvious enough ways that even the most loyal fan will suffer buyers remorse and change sides.

    So waiting and watching is one recovery strategy. Is it all that we can do?

    Culture is not something easily changed. It has no real purposeful leadership. It evolves within a changing environment to adapt to it right or wrong but it also has an impact of its own on the environment.

    It could be helped along its course by emerging political leadership.

    Who? When? From where?

  30. Marv – Stick around. Let’s not allow catfights to use up our energies better devoted to defeat of the common foes, people such as Assad, Trump, Putin, McConnell et al. Those are the ones where our ire should find a home. As for me, I want our Big Tent to get bigger. We have work to do.

  31. “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

    Pete; the above copied and pasted portion of Abraham Lincoln’s speech, prior to his election as president; feeds into what we are experiencing today with Trump’s divisive administration and strangely, race is again at it’s core. The same is true of the mass media takeover of journalism; they should be cohesive rather than combative, supportive rather than becoming part and parcel of Trump’s divisive administration spouting “alternative facts” and “fake news” which is reported by both mass media and journalists. Divided, neither will stand to provide the public with the needed information source we can trust. Both are tilting at windmills; fighting one another for leadership and neither can be fully trusted and neither will win.

    You are not the only one “blaming” mass media for taking over journalism but…journalism seems to forget their job was to provide the public with facts and figures, vital information. The term “fourth estate” means the public press; it, coupled with mass media has become a battleground of miss-information because investigative journalism has been lost and squalid gossip reigns supreme. You are correct when you say “culture is not something easily changed”; did we “wait and watch” as we lost almost all of our trusted news sources? Our current administration is filled with tales of foreign intrigue and titilating sexual escapades of our elected leaders and their mind-boggling amounts of wealth put to us as news.

    Don’t apologize for reminding us that mass media has taken over journalism because it appears too many of us watched it happen and didn’t demand better. Think back to the 2016 fiasco of a presidential campaign – who did we see at every turn and why. The public seemed more interested in Trump’s campaign which was filled with racism, sexism, threats and actual violence while Hillary tried to run a political campaign. Uninteresting due to the repeated unproven accusations till the final days when the FBI stepped forward – illegally – but by then mass media controlled the election.

  32. Whoa, what have I missed. I guess a lot by today’s comments.

    Anyway, as much as I followed politics before returning to the states, I’ve discovered a real life back ‘home.’ I can’t bare to turn on the tv anymore because 1. the commericals, gaaa, make them stop. 2. Everyday it’s the #45 has embarrassed himself and the US once again with his ignorant remarks. He is the laughing stock of the world and he is still not my President. I have been fortunate that I haven’t run into #45 voters/supporters but I haven’t been out much. I’m sure it’s coming. I just keep myself busy putting the house back together and trying to keep up with this blog. Living in this deep red state, I know it’s coming.

    Have a nice weekend everyone. Be nice to each other.

  33. Good points JoAnn.

    The Democrats were significantly in error during the campaign assuming there were limits to what Trumpty Dumbty would do to win.

    However I believe they realized accurately how inexperienced, incapable, and incompetent the whole administration would be.

    As hard as it is to do for me I believe we can’t be more patriotic than to let the whole mess collapse of inexperience, incapability, and incompetence as fast as possible, then take on the rebuilding.

  34. I understand your feeling, Pete, about total collapse and rebuild from the bottom up. I’m hoping that isn’t what it will take to salvage democracy and this country. While working in a methadone clinic years ago, the counselors had to learn which of their patients NEEDED to hit bottom before they could return to their lives and which ones could be reached before that happened. Maybe, a huge maybe, but maybe next week will be the wake-up call with Trump threatening another Republican government shutdown if he doesn’t get the ACA repealed – with or without a replacement. With the entire Congress facing more than 20 million angry and sick voters with no health care should scare them into action. It isn’t only Trump who is addicted to money and power; the bulk of Congress is also addicted…and as we learned during President Obama’s administration, Congress rules this country. Trump’s good friend “Ron” might not need to hit bottom to seek a cure. We can rally, march, protest and hope!

  35. Is everybody so sure that our nation is being overwhelmed by racists? Or is it possible there are just a ton of people looking for something or somebody to hate? Maybe a couple of tons?

    Being positive most of the time takes a lot of energy. It’s a great experience to see two people with different views become close friends. Surely the Fake President Trump will lead us out of the wilderness. But not in my lifetime.

  36. It’s quite a compliment to any group who (that?) sit and watch open discussion. I look forward to this group almost daily. Many years ago I was part of what we called “the supper table”, complete with imaginary red checked tablecloth and hot cornbread. Our group is where we went to laugh and cry. Most of us never met. Several have died.
    I’m starting to feel that way about this blog. Hope you all have pleasant dreams. I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow.
    Love, Marge in Texas

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