Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, May 23, 2016

Megan McArdle: Trump Voters Are Not To Blame For Trump Votes

Small government conservatives show their support for their fiscal guru.

Megan McArdle has had enough of all y'all and your anti-conservative attacks.
Until a few early polls started coming out showing Donald Trump pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton, liberals could be forgiven a certain amount of schadenfreude. After 20 years of relentless partisanship and personal attacks, the monster that Republican leaders created had broken free of its chains and was hell bent on destroying its former master.
Yes, it's true that the right's followers have decided to destroy their "masters," a rather medieval way of putting the relationship between voter and candidate. McArdle never forgets the pecking order. Her authoritarian love of hierarchy drives her to create a fantasy world in which she is, by birth and by right due to merit, an elite lording it over the peasantry.
Or maybe those liberals shouldn't be forgiven so easily. I’ve been pondering these theories -- advanced by everyone from Barack Obama and Harry Reid to Bill Maher -- and the thing is, they don’t make a heck of a lot of sense. They seem to posit a Republican electorate that is, on the one hand, so malleable that the GOP leadership could create the emotional conditions for a Trump candidacy -- and on the other hand, a Republican electorate so surly and unmanageable that it has ignored the horrified pleading of conservative leaders and intellectuals, in order to rally behind Trump.
McArdle has read about people who read studies on conservative authoritarianism. She complained about them in this I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I? post.
Conservatives are conservative because they're authoritarian and resistant to new ideas. Everyone knows that, right? There's a bunch of social-science research that even proves it. If only conservatives were more open and less dogmatically attached to their tribe and their traditions, the world would be a much better place. A lot of smart people endorse some version of this story. And yes, research surveys show that conservatives do express a much stronger affinity for obedience, authority and in-group loyalty than do liberals. But there's a question those surveys can't answer: How does what people say translate into what people actually do?
McArdle admits conservatives are authoritarian but denies that conservatives are authoritarian but says that so is everyone else. Now, when she wants to disavow her own tribe's allegiance to the Trump buffoon, she pretends that conservatives can't be molded. If that were true she wouldn't have a job.

We know why the right has rejected their old elite to fasten upon a new elite who hasn't disappointed them yet. The old elite foolishly pushed the followers too far, giving them power and influence and encouraging their rages and hatreds. They also undermined the followers' allegiance to authority by constantly telling the followers that everyone in government was corrupt. Because they are followers, the right's base believed them and turned to a new leader who wasn't in government. McArdle must ignore all the evidence before her so she can claim that her party is not the party of greedy, racist fools.
Perhaps because I have spent the last 15 years trying to convince other people of my opinions, I have an alternate theory. My theory is: You don’t put ideas in peoples’ heads; they just grow there. Consider the five major planks of the “Everything is the fault of the Republican Party” argument:
McArdle might actually believe this. She says advertising doesn't affect people's choices and money doesn't affect politics. Naturally, she says this because she doesn't have the faintest idea where her own ideas come from. She "thinks" from the gut, having emotional reactions to stimuli and then rationalizing her response with intellectual arguments afterwards, if at all. She believes whatever satisfies her emotional needs.

It's not that her media and social circle tell her to consume her way to elite status. She just really, really likes to spend money on marginally useful elite consume goods. The truth is that persuasion, propaganda, and bribery don't work.
1.Talk radio and Fox News made conservatives crazy. Now, I don’t particularly care for most talk radio. (There are plenty of exceptions, which can be roughly inferred from finding out which conservative talk radio shows I have appeared on.) The name calling and buzzwords are juvenile, and the level of policy debate is not high enough to hold my interest, regardless of whether I agree with some of the chatter. And blissfully freed from the necessity of actually governing, or getting elected, talk-radio folks are prone to urge counterproductive tactical extremism that is great for their ratings and terrible for the political causes they are allegedly trying to advance.
The extremists are not extreme because decades of talk radio have whipped them into extremism, although talk radio has been whipping them into extremism for decades.
That said, media follows its audience, rather than leading it. Opinion columnists who spend any time at all interacting with their readers are well aware of how pitifully rarely we manage to change anyone’s mind about anything. I’m not saying that it never happens, because it does. But mostly, folks read us because they agree with us, and they enjoy having us agree with them. The best evidence that conservative media has any impact on the opinions of its audience shows that the introduction of Fox News to cable systems very slightly moved those election districts to the right -- by about the margin in a white-knuckled squeaker of an election. This can’t explain the last 10 years of electoral results or the current cycle.
The strawman of "change anyone's mind" is manfully overcome and beaten, leaving the original argument sitting there like a crow on corn. Talk radio peddled anti-liberal hate and scorn, and actively drove their audience to act on their orders. But since talk radio alone did not change electoral results (she says), it did virtually nothing at all.
2.Blocking president Obama’s legislation. This theory, as advanced by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, holds that by relentlessly delegitimizing Obama, Republicans somehow paved the way for the rise of Trump and his “no holds barred” style of politics. Now, again, I have been pretty harsh on some of the more theatrical exhibitions of pointless political power over the last eight years. But this explanation for Trump's rise is absurd. First of all, the leadership was frantically trying to stop those folks, and was unable to because the conservative base elected hard-liners who wouldn’t cooperate. Second, as this implies, the impetus for the shutdowns and the legislative blockades came from very conservative voters in the Republican base, the kind who can swing House primary races, yet Trump’s support was strongest among moderate Republicans. You could theorize that Republican obstructionism paved the way for Trump by alienating those voters, except that there’s no evidence for this; few Trump fans seem to be wildly outraged bygreen-energy initiatives, health-care expansions or the failure to cut taxes deeper and faster. When I've asked them what they’re most mad about, it’s that the leadership seemed too cooperative with Obama on immigration reform.
Actually, one of the things they are most outraged about is one of McArdle's biggest enemies: regulation.

They also hold the Confederate Flag near and dear to their hearts, no doubt because state's rights are so important to them. Perhaps they think "Blacks who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition" because they believe in personal responsibility, not because they think poorly of Blacks. If they don't want to be arrested, beaten, choked, and murdered they can just stop being so culturally inferior, not to mention stupid (maybe!).

After realizing that they no longer had control of their electorate, the conservative elite tried to wrestle back control but it was too late. The hard-liners, who had been very deliberately empowered and incited by the leadership, were now too strong. And let us also not forget that Megan McArdle aided an abetted the Tea Party along with her husband. He worked for them, making fake grassroots videos to discourage voters from supporting any taxpayer bailouts while Mrs. Rat-f*cker went to work stumping for bank bailouts. McArdle claimed the Koches weren't backing the Tea Party (they later admitted they were) and got a story about the connection pulled from Playboy magazine. They were quite the little power couple and got rich off of it.

The most important factor regarding Trump voters, however, is the same factor that divides Clinton and Sanders supporters: their authoritarianism, the very thing that McArdle claims doesn't exist (more or less). They want a strong leader who attacks their enemies and protects them. They want to follow, not lead.
3.Personal attacks on Democrats. This is just -- I have no words for what it is. At least, not words that can be printed in a family-friendly column. It is triple-distilled balderdash … high-test twaddle … self-congratulatory swill … nonsense on stilts. It suggests that the Republican leadership could have somehow shut down all such attacks, which would have, at the very least, involved both government censorship and flagrant violation of our nation’s campaign finance laws. And of course, it suggests that climbing further up the moral high ground would have somehow instilled a sense of shame in Trump or the folks who enjoy his outrages, a theory which has been thoroughly and conclusively disproved by the events of the last six months. Should the Republicans have been more forthright in denouncing Donald Trump’s birth certificate nonsense? Absolutely, and while they’re at it they should call their mothers more, and donate more of their personal funds to global malaria eradication. But it’s a pretty big stretch to suggest that any of these things would have somehow impinged on his popularity.
Not only did the Republican elite not try to rein in Trump, they encouraged his birther accusations. They might have been able to undercut his eventual elevation to a plausible political candidate; we'll never know because they were afraid of alienating Trump's racist followers.
4.Fox News gave him so much air time. C’mon. C’mon. Every time I tuned into MSNBC or CNN, I thought I had mistakenly woken up in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, where television stations were legally required to air hours of the off-the-cuff ramblings of their local strongman. There is a lively debate to be had over whether the networks should have chased ratings by giving Trump a couple of billion dollars' worth of free airtime. That debate does not end in the conclusion that somehow, it’s all the fault of Fox News.
It is very amusing to see conservatives blame Fox for Trump after decades of vacuous support.  Fox didn't support Trump at first but they did a very fine job of whipping up their audience to help get conservatives elected. It's not all Fox's fault but they certainly helped a great deal.

It's strange that McArdle can list numerous reasons why conservatives created Trump, eliminate them one-by-one as not being the sole cause of the rise of Trump, and then conclude that the right had nothing to do with Trump's rise.
5.The Southern strategy. In this theory, the original sin was the GOP’s Southern strategy, in which they cynically decided to go after the South’s angry white racist vote with a code-word-laden campaign about law and order. Eventually, this culminated in the nomination of an outspoken racist for the party leadership.
I have a somewhat more nuanced view of the Southern strategy. First of all, the idea that law and order concerns were all about appealing to Southern racists is frankly nuts; law and order concerns were mostly about appealing to voters who were appalled by the explosion of violence and disorder from the '60s to the early '90s. We can certainly argue about whether the policies enacted in response to that explosion were just, right or effective, but the idea that Republicans somehow invented this to cover up their attempt to reinvent the KKK as a major political party is just shockingly ahistorical.
This little bit of offal demonstrates why McArdle is and always will be a shill. She is an agnotologist, deliberately attempting to create ignorance to advance her own welfare.  It is so transparently dishonest, so "shockingly ahistorical," that I will just leave it there; smelly, bloody, and oozing with dishonesty.
And second of all, to the extent that Republicans were tapping into such sentiments, some of it was simply because with crime and welfare benefits unequally racially distributed, any party that favored tough law enforcement and was skeptical of social spending was going to appeal more to whites than to minorities, and especially to whites who had strong negative feelings about the minorities who committed a disproportionate share of the crimes and collected a disproportionate share of the poverty benefits. This makes the “Southern strategy” look more deliberate than it was; part of what we’re looking at is simply a party realignment away from regional blocs and the old business/labor split and toward ideological size-of-government and culture war fault lines. The fact that small-government policies appealed to racists doesn’t mean that this was the motivation of the folks pushing those policies.
It's not that our society is racist, it's just that Blacks are inferior and violent.
Which brings me to my third point, which is that to the extent that it was deliberate, the Republican Party was chasing those voters, not leading them. The racial animus behind Jim Crow was not created by political leadership; it was often reinforced by law, but it was a culture-wide systematic bias that caused, rather than reflected, Jim Crow, and which outlived the demise of its legal manifestation. You can argue that Republicans should simply have declined to have those voters in their coalition but … how? The rest of the party really did want small-government policies for a variety of ideological and personal reasons. Were they supposed to abandon the policy positions because racists also liked them? Better shut down Planned Parenthood, then, because Margaret Sanger had some incredibly unappealing views on eugenics. (Hint: She was for it.)
It's not about racism, it's about ethics in small government policy.
I don’t like the fact that there are virulent racists and anti-Semites in our electorate. I don’t know how big a percentage they compose of Trump’s support, but they are obviously some portion, because I, like other right-leaning columnists, have been enjoying a bile fountain from those folks for months. I would rather those people let go of their vile hatreds and embraced better, kinder ideas about the world and the people in it. But they’re still my fellow Americans, and they have exactly as much right as I do to have their votes count. And there’s no way to keep their preferences out of the policy process unless you’re prepared to advocate that both parties should systematically collude to disenfranchise these folks, and split the remaining vote between them. That’s both impractical and more than a little creepy.
And there's nothing one can do if small government voters are racist, what are the right to do, renounce them and chase them out? That would be fascist.
So whose fault is Trump then, if not the leadership of the Republican Party and the conservative movement?
McArdle actually thinks she's provided a winning argument.
I tend to think that’s a bad question. It is politics-as-novel, rather than politics-as-system. We are a large, fractious nation full of clashing interest groups and wildly differing opinions, as well as differing levels of engagement with politics. That system will often spit out results that most of us don’t like very much. Trying to ascribe those results to a person, or even a small group, is like blaming the weatherman because it’s raining, or an economist for a recession. You have selected the most visible target, not the most likely one. And, in the case of Democrats who fault Republicans for Trump, a very convenient target as well.
There are no villains, the people who voted for Trump are not responsible for Trump, and the right is a party of small government, not-really-racists, and fluffy kittens.


mike from oak park said...

Anyone know what point she's trying to make? Time to fire her editors. They seem to be lazier than she is.


Kathy said...

Strawmen Gladiators battle it out in a Faux Coliseum while thousands cheer! But where are the lions? There are no lions, only little yappy-dogs darting around the edge of the fight nipping and peeing on ankles, and humping a leg here and there. Argle-bargle is one of the little yappy-dogs.

Susan of Texas said...

Katy: heh!

Mike, I think her point is that while she is rubber, you are glue. And nobody can do anything ever.

Tengrain said...

How is it that McArdle has a media gig, and top-tier bloggers (like you) do not?

Not to put too fine a point on it, that was not just masterful vivisection, I think that was like dropping The Big Boy on Bloomberg and then bayoneting any survivors.




Anonymous said...

"I have a somewhat more nuanced view of the Southern strategy"

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks very much, Tengrain.

I would like to get paid instead of working for free but I didn't graduate from the Ivy League, my father did unimportant stuff like fight wars, fires, and crime, and I very rarely lie.

I'm just not qualified.

gromet said...

This entry was a national service. Thank you.

I want to highlight what a terrible writer McArdle is. Even if you think she's right about stuff (which is impossible to think -- you can *feel* it, but you can't think it), she's just objectively terrible at writing. Lookit:

"...which would have, at the very least [but possibly there's more than what I'm about to tell you!], involved both government censorship and flagrant violation [differs from violation insofar as is flagrant] of our nation’s campaign finance laws [as opposed to Canada's]. And of course, it suggests that climbing further up the moral high ground would have somehow instilled a sense of shame in Trump or the folks who enjoy his outrages [this doesn't follow but let's stick to her words, not her reasoning skills], a theory which has been thoroughly [sure, but what about conclusively?] and conclusively [whew!] disproved [arguably she doesn't know what disproved means, and has never heard the term 'can't prove a negative'] by the events of the last six months [specific events that she has in mind shall remain nameless]."

This is such a high school B+ level of prose, it breaks my heart to think of all the people who actually *can* write and never get a dime for it.

mccamj said...

Another Megan column demonstrating that nothing can be done about anything. She infuriates me.

Susan of Texas said...

Not that she's saying, but she's saying....

Yastreblyansky said...

"There are plenty of exceptions, which can be roughly inferred from finding out which conservative talk radio shows I have appeared on."

She likes the ones that have invited her over. Isn't that loyal!

Anonymous said...

Wonkette did a takedown on this one, too. Especially McArdle's racism. wish I knew how to link .

Anonymous said...

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks, anonymous!

MJ said...

grommet - Megan's high school B+ level of prose (I think you're being generous, but that's beside the point) would benefit from a lot of pruning, BUT I'm almost sure she gets paid by the word More words, more dollars, why would she care if it reads clearly or is accurate in any way?

Susan of Texas said...

I think I saw a mention somewhere that McArdle won a prize for writing (fiction?) while she was in school and thinks she is a great writer. Once she said she was a better writer than 90% of the rest of the country. Lots of her readers praise her writing style, telling her it's elegant, intelligent, and witty. She probably has no idea how poorly she writes.

Susan of Texas said...

I should have said "so she thinks she's a great writer."