Blow and Krugman

In “Donald Trump’s Bigotry” Mr. Blow says the candidate’s appeal to racial division is poorly masked.  Prof. Krugman, in “States of Cruelty,” says some ugly politics is local.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

According to recent polls, the image of Donald Trump as a bigot has begun to crystallize, and for good reason: Because it’s true!

A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that 59 percent of likely voters, and 29 percent of likely Republican voters in particular, think that the way Trump talks appeals to bigotry. Republicans were the only anomaly. A majority or plurality of every other demographic measured — Democrats, independents, men, women, white people with and without college degrees, every age group, whites and nonwhites alike — agreed that Trump’s words appeal to bigotry.

But there is one demographic that must be particularly concerning to Trump: college-educated whites.

I know that Trump has boasted that he loves the poorly educated, but there appears to be little love lost between him and those white people with degrees. In fact, as the blog FiveThirtyEight predicted in July, “Trump may become the first Republican in 60 years to lose white college graduates.”

This may in part be due to his particularly abysmal performance among college-educated white women.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll this month found: “Trump enjoys a roughly 40-point lead among white men without college degrees but only a high single-digit lead among college-educated white men. Among white women without college degrees, he leads by low double-digits but trails by nearly 20 points among college-educated white women.”

Not only are these college-educated white women likely to recoil from a man they view as biased toward others, they also probably realize their own place as a historically disadvantaged group and know how very harmful bias can be.

This is surely earth-shattering news for a struggling campaign, so Trump, in a fit of desperation, is throwing anything and everything against the wall to see if it sticks, to shake the bigotry label off of him and make it stick to Hillary Clinton.

He has engaged in fake outreach to African-American voters, feeding his nearly all-white crowds a healthy diet of the most pernicious stereotypes about the horror and unremitting bleakness of black life. He has waffled and grown more ambiguous on his hard line concerning immigrants who are in the country illegally.

His repeated refrain, supposedly to the black and Hispanic voters, is: “What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance.” But in fact, he’s talking past blacks and Hispanics, two groups he has previously shown little interest in. He is instead speaking directly to the educated white voters who recoil at the thought of supporting a bigot. Blacks and Hispanics are mere pawns in this appeal.

Furthermore, he wants to move the withering light of examination away from himself, his history, his disturbing coziness with white nationalists, and focus that light on the history of racial and ethnic alliances in the opposite political party.

This is all a rather clever distraction, but it is a distraction nonetheless.

The fact remains that there is a disturbing racial undertone to the Trump campaign that goes far beyond the tired narrative of economic anxiety and distress among white people in the flyover states who feel ignored by conventional politicians.

That may be one component, but so is this: One of the most effective narratives of Trump’s campaign has been driven by racial isolationism, and racial isolationists appear to be the very ones drawn to that message. This is not partisan theory, but empirical fact.

The draft of a major working paper published this month by the Gallup senior economist Jonathan Rothwell found: “His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue-collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support. There is stronger evidence that racial isolation and less strictly economic measures of social status, namely health and intergenerational mobility, are robustly predictive of more favorable views toward Trump, and these factors predict support for him but not other Republican presidential candidates.”

Specifically on this racial isolation point, Rothwell put it this way: “This analysis provides clear evidence that those who view Trump favorably are disproportionately living in racially and culturally isolated ZIP codes and commuting zones. Excluding other factors, constant support for Trump is highly elevated in areas with few college graduates, far from the Mexican border, and in neighborhoods that stand out within the commuting zone for being white, segregated enclaves, with little exposure to blacks, Asians, and Hispanics.”

He continued: “This is consistent with contact theory, which has already received considerable empirical support in the literature in a variety of analogous contexts. Limited interactions with racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and college graduates may contribute to prejudicial stereotypes, political and cultural misunderstandings, and a general fear of rejection and not-belonging.”

Racial isolation is the common thread here. It is what would allow his supporters to so uncritically accept the corrosive mythologies he creates about minorities. But it is this same racial isolation that will make minorities and college-educated white voters avoid Trump like the plague.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Something terrible has happened to pregnant women in Texas: their mortality rate has doubled in recent years, and is now comparable to rates in places like Russia or Ukraine. Although researchers into this disaster are careful to say that it can’t be attributed to any one cause, the death surge does coincide with the state’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which led to the closing of many clinics. And all of this should be seen against the general background of Texas policy, which is extremely hostile toward anything that helps low-income residents.

There’s an important civics lesson here. While many people are focused on national politics, with reason — one sociopath in the White House can ruin your whole day — many crucial decisions are taken at the state and local levels. If the people we elect to these offices are irresponsible, cruel, or both, they can do a lot of damage.

This is especially true when it comes to health care. Even before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, there was wide variation in state policies, especially toward the poor and near-poor. Medicaid has always been a joint federal-state program, in which states have considerable leeway about whom to cover. States with consistently conservative governments generally offered benefits to as few people as the law allowed, sometimes only to adults with children in truly dire poverty. States with more liberal governments extended benefits much more widely. These policy differences were one main reason for a huge divergence in the percentage of the population without insurance, with Texas consistently coming in first in that dismal ranking.

And the gaps have only grown wider since Obamacare went into effect, for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court made the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid, a crucial part of the reform, optional at the state level. This should be a no-brainer: If Washington is willing to provide health insurance to many of your state’s residents — and in so doing pump dollars into your state’s economy — why wouldn’t you say yes? But 19 states, Texas among them, are still refusing free money, denying health care to millions.

Beyond this is the question of whether states are trying to make health reform succeed. California — where Democrats are firmly in control, thanks to the GOP’s alienation of minority voters — shows how it’s supposed to work: The state established its own health exchange, carefully promoting and regulating competition, and engaged in outreach to inform the public and encourage enrollment. The result has been dramatic success in holding down costs and reducing the number of uninsured.

Needless to say, nothing like this has happened in red states. And while the number of uninsured has declined even in these states, thanks to the federal exchanges, the gap between red and blue states has widened.

But why are states like Texas so dead-set against helping the unfortunate, even if the feds are willing to pick up the tab?

You still hear claims that it’s all about economics, that small government and free markets are the key to prosperity. And it’s true that Texas has long led the nation in employment growth. But there are other reasons for that growth, especially energy and cheap housing.

And we’ve lately seen strong evidence from the states that refutes this small-government ideology. On one side, there’s the Kansas experiment— the governor’s own term for it — in which sharp tax cuts were supposed to cause dramatic job growth, but have in practice been a complete bust. On the other side there’s California’s turn to the left under Jerry Brown, which conservatives predicted would ruin the state but which has actually been accompanied by an employment boom.

So the economic case for being cruel to the unfortunate has lost whatever slight credibility it may once have had. Yet the cruelty goes on. Why?

A large part of the answer, surely, is the usual one: It’s about race. Medicaid expansion disproportionately benefits nonwhite Americans; so does spending on public health more generally. And opposition to these programs is concentrated in states where voters in local elections don’t like the idea of helping neighbors who don’t look like them.

In the specific case of Planned Parenthood, this usual answer is overlaid with other, equally nasty issues, including — or so I’d say — a substantial infusion of misogyny.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Most Americans are, I believe, far more generous than the politicians leading many of our states. The problem is that too many of us don’t vote in state and local elections, or realize how much cruelty is being carried out in our name. The point is that America would become a better place if more of us started paying attention to politics beyond the presidential race.

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One Response to “Blow and Krugman”

  1. Russian Sage Says:

    If you’re going to go after Texas start with the defense contractors.

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