Thursday, March 3, 2016

Donald Trump and "What's the Matter With Kansas"

I introduced Thomas Frank before:
Thomas Frank wrote the famously clueless book, What's The Matter With Kansas, mewing doe-eyed* about why the voters of Kansas kept voting for Republicans when it was "clearly in their economic interest" to vote for Democrats.  He didn't understand that the people of Kansas knew what he didn't, which is that this is nonsense on stilts.  The Democrats are terrible to the working class, speaking in economic terms.
In reality, the Republican Party hasn't been so hot for the working class' economic interests lately, either.  I'm pretty surprised that you really don't hear much about this when the Talking Heads and Usual Suspects blather on about how horrible Trump is and how it's incomprehensible how those stupid proles keep supporting him when he says the trumpism du jour.

It's actually entirely understandable.  Trump is running a strongly populist campaign, the strongest I've seen in my lifetime.  The working class have felt shut out and put down by the establishment - both parties - for a long, long time.  Trump is tapping into that.

The establishment (both parties) has free trade on the brain.  They push it in increasingly secretive agreements (The Trans Pacific Partnership is the most glaring example of this).  The Guy On The Street wonders when he'll see the benefits of these agreements; after all, the factory closed down four years ago and he's been in and out of part time jobs ever since.  The Talking Heads spout a lot of economic theory about rising tide floating boats, but he sees his kids wearing clothes from Goodwill.

Trump talks to this guy, who sees Trump's policies as being in his own economic interest.  If fewer illegal aliens (trigger alert!) come into this country - or if some of the ones already here go back home  (trigger alert!) - then Joe Everyman might think that he could land some construction work.

In fact, Joe Everyman is entirely rational when he thinks this.  It's really quite astonishing that the Talking Heads simply don't get this.  But it's worse (for the establishment): so far this has all been about economic interest.  What about Joe Everyman's interest?  Economists like to say that everything is about economics, but c'mon.  Joe quite frankly finds himself on the wrong end of social pressure, where political correctness is used as a club against Joe and his friends by calculating political interest groups.  Because he's white, he's racist; because he's male, he's sexist; because he didn't go to an Ivy League school, he's an ignoramus.  Everything about him is wrong, wrong, wrong, and he needs to change, to get right with Society RIGHT DAMN NOW.

And along comes Donald Trump with his anti-PC hammer, blowing away nonsensical establishment PC groupthink time and time again.

How could Joe possibly not think that The Donald was the guy for him?  And Joe is entirely rational in thinking that a vote for Trump is a vote for his own interest.  If Trump follows through on even a little of what he says, Joe absolutely will be better off.

The whole thing is the simplest calculation anyone could make.  And so of course it has the Talking Heads flummoxed.

I don't know whether Trump will make a good President or not, but we're sure fixin' to find out.


burt said...

I don't know whether Trump would make a good President either.

But, in his business dealings, he cheats to win. I'd sure like that kind of attitude in the White House, especially where the US is involved: cheat to win.

He may be a bloviating blowhard, but he's correct when he talks about the US on the losing end of every d*mn "free trade" treaty the US has made in the past 30 years. Those treaties have defined "free trade" as "US jobs are 'free' to leave the US, and we're fine with billions of dollars of 'trade' deficit." And part of the "free trade" crap is US policy on H1B workers -- which sucks.

*I* am "Joe Everyman". I was displaced by a H1B programmer years ago. Nowadays, the voice on the phone screen has a distinct accent - and it's harder and harder to get work in my industry regardless of your salary requirements.

(I found out from an insider at one company that rejected me that the H1B manager/intervier exclusively hires other H1Bs, whether qualified or not, and always rejects non-H1Bs, whether qualified or not. And 'cuz it's "racist" to say anything, nothing is said.)

LSP said...

Nice post -- well said.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"he cheats to win. I'd sure like that kind of attitude in the White House, especially where the US is involved: cheat to win."

I don't know. I think it might depend on who he's cheating, and who he wants to win.

burt said...

Jake, one can hope that he's cheating for "our side" and not for "their side".

Do I want his finger on the "button"? Nope. No way. Not at all.

But given the difficult choice of going to Trump or Hell(ary), I'll reluctantly "emblacken the spot" for Trump.

The interesting question will be who he chooses as his VP.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"one can hope that he's cheating for "our side" and not for "their side"."

One can hope, sure. But I bet it will end up that he's cheating for "Trump's side", and whether that helps or hinders "our side" or "their side" will be entirely irrelevant to him.

Archer said...

The whole thing is the simplest calculation anyone could make. And so of course it has the Talking Heads flummoxed.

Of course it does. The Talking Heads have NOT been out of work. Their kids are NOT wearing clothes from Goodwill. They are NOT being forced to swallow their pride and go on food stamps to feed their families, to their tremendous inner shame.

Of course they don't "get it". They've never been there. They have the luxury of talking about macro-economic benefits, because their personal micro-economic needs are already met.

The rest of us? Let's just say, unemployment doesn't seem like a big issue, until you're the one unemployed.

But the Talking Heads won't "get" that, either.

Ted said...

Sometime in September, all the talking heads will begin to see the Trump is not going to implode, they still won't know why, and they still won't believe their own polls, but mostly they will be very busy trying to keep Hilary out of jail.

They won't understand why the more Romney and McCain and all the others try to torpedo Trump the bigger his numbers will get.

In April they'll try to make a big deal about Trumps Tax returns ... which should boost Trumps number another 5%.

..... but at least I'm still writing code, even if I have a poorly written "ticket" in marginal English to attempt to figure out what needs to be done, although the "team leader" speaks with a heavy Asian accent and most of my co-workers are Russian or Indian. It's amazing anything gets done. At least Dilbert is still in "American".

Divemedic said...

I see all of the talk about Trump possibly cheating for Trump's benefit to the exclusion of the nation, and I ask myself how that is any different from any other politician in the country.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Because other politicians at least have some level of loyalty to their party, gain some benefit from supporting their party (election funding, if nothing else), and stand to lose if they stray too far from the party line. So their cheating is generally fairly predictable.

Trump owes the Republican party nothing. He bought his way into the race. He has switched parties on several occasions. Once the election is over he would lose very little by going back over to the Democrat side, and not much more by going totally independent - especially if he doesn't care about a second term. His cheating is unpredictable.