Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It’s About Feelings Not Facts

The Donald Trump constituency has obviously not been swayed by statistics and facts. That the United States is experiencing a very significant decline in violent crime from even a decade ago flies in the face of the feelings of too many Americans. Headlines scream of mass shootings, ISIS-inspired or perpetrated attacks and dangerous inner city streets (Chicago’s seemingly out-of-control gun violence). So people feel those words. Right wing conservative state legislatures are tripping all over themselves in passing doctrinaire right wing statutes in reaction to such press coverage.
Open carry and “stand your ground” laws are de rigueur in conservative states as are gerrymandered districts and voter ID laws clearly aimed at containing liberal voters, statutes making abortions well night impossible and laws pushing back against LBGT equality. The laws are passed, reconfigured, as quickly as federal (and even a few state) courts reject these flawed efforts as unconstitutional. The deluge of conservative backlash seems unstoppable.
What all this comes down to is the emotional set – the feelings if you will – of voters. They don’t trust the government anyway, so to the extent that there are hard, governmentally-developed statistics that contradict their beliefs, these numbers are simply rejected. Trump voters feel disenfranchised. They feel unsafe. They feel that their white rural traditional values are being replaced by irreligious liberal miscreants and they want to “take their country back” from those that do not reflect their conservative views.
These feelings may well dictate the results in the November election. Greg Sargent, writing for the July 25 Washington Post, looked at those feelings numbers behind Donald Trump’s adherents (and those that disagree with that vision): “Regardless of how you plan to vote, do you think Trump’s speech reflected the way you, personally, feel about things in the United States today or not:
“Reflected your feelings: 45
“Did not reflect your feelings: 48
“So nearly half of respondents share Trump’s vision of an America in which crime is skyrocketing, dark hordes are spilling over the border, terrorists lurk around every corner, the threat is mounting from a refugee crisis that menaces ‘the west,’ and most important, we’re hamstrung from dealing forcefully with all of these internal and external threats by ‘political correctness,’ i.e, too much racial sensitivity. Never mind that this vision of America is based on a series of egregious lies and distortions. Trump may have accurately captured how nearly half of Americans feel about the country.
“But the demographic breakdowns are even more interesting. Whites say his speech reflected their feelings about the country by 52-41. Non-college whites say this by an overwhelming 60-34. White evangelicals say this by 73-22. But white college graduates say Trump did not reflect their feelings about the country by 53-39. This shows once again that Trumpism is causing a real cultural split among white voters along educational lines, suggesting that college educated whites are much more accepting of the cultural, social and demographic changes sweeping the country than blue collar whites are…
“Now obviously these voters have many legitimate grievances: Elites really have let them down; trade deals really may have killed a lot of blue collar jobs in the industrial Midwest. Wages really have flatted. But all of those legitimate grievances may be leading many of these voters to embrace Trump’s full, apocalyptic vision of America, one framed around xenophobic and ethno-nationalist sentiments of the most wretched kind.”
As much as the Democrat convention speakers are focusing on uplifting visions of the America that is – we are already great, such rhetoric doesn’t even move the needle for most Trump supporters. The GOP constituency has large groups that react based on a compelling zeal to reverse social liberalism or those who are not sufficiently educated/sophisticated to see through the slogans-without-solutions. 4 out of 5 Evangelical voters say they will vote for Trump, and the other one probably just won’t vote at all. “In six polls conducted this month, Mr. Trump leads among white registered voters without a degree by a margin of 58 percent to 30 percent…
“In some new polls that are showing Mr. Trump with an overall lead, he has even larger leads among white working-class voters. A [July 25th] CNN poll, for instance, had him ahead by three percentage points nationwide with a 66-to-29 edge among this group. The last live interview poll to show Mr. Trump ahead before the convention, an ABC/Washington Post poll, showed Mr. Trump with a 65-to-29 lead among the group. Conversely, Mrs. Clinton leads when she holds down her losses among these voters.” Washington Post, July 25th. Logic may never have been in the building, but feelings – from massive distrust/hatred of Hillary Clinton to a complete disenchantment with contemporary America – are thick in the GOP air.
While there will probably be a “convention bump” adding poll points to Clinton following the Philadelphia convention, ask yourself if all those being polled are being honest when they deny that they support Trump. How many secret voters are there, simply voting for change out of utter frustration?
Think also about pinning the fact that most Americans believe America is moving in the wrong direction solely on the incumbent President… when both Houses of Congress are controlled by the Republican Party. It is a rallying cry for Republicans, but we have gone through years of Congressional gridlock, watched as presidential appointees languish, bills that cannot pass get reintroduced to constant defeat and legislation with a majority of popular support die under the crush of the de facto Evangelical/Tea Party veto.
Underlying these powerful conservatively fundamentalist feelings are visions of people basking under Ohio’s “open carry” laws (see above picture) outside the Cleveland event. Too many sincerely believe that they have a constitutional right to deploy those weapons to overthrow any government that does not toe the line within their white-directed, traditional rural Protestant value system. But did our Founding Fathers intend that result when they passed the Bill of Rights (which includes the Second Amendment) in 1789?
You’ll also notice that conservative discussions about the Second Amendment, from the National Rifle Association to the state legislatures that sponsor greater rights for gun owners, never talk about that “well regulated militia” opening phrase in that Constitutional provision. MarketWatch.com (June 18th) columnist, Brett Arends, provides us with the historical context for that section of the Bill of Rights:
“The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t just say Congress shall not infringe the right to ‘keep and bear arms.’ It specifically says that right exists in order to maintain ‘a well-regulated militia’; Even the late conservative Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia admitted those words weren’t in there by accident. Oh, and the Constitution doesn’t just say a ‘militia.’ It says a ‘well-regulated’ militia.
“What did the Founding Fathers mean by that? We don’t have to guess because they told us. In Federalist No. 29 of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton explained at great length precisely what a ‘well-regulated militia’ was, why the Founding Fathers thought we needed one, and why they wanted to protect it from being disarmed by the federal government…
“A ‘well-regulated militia’ didn’t mean guys who read Soldier of Fortune magazine running around in the woods with AK-47s and warpaint on their faces. It basically meant what today we call the National Guard .
“It should be a properly constituted, ordered and drilled (‘well-regulated’) military force, organized state by state, explained Hamilton. Each state militia should be a ‘select corps,’ ‘well-trained’ and able to perform all the ‘operations of an army.’ The militia needed ‘uniformity in … organization and discipline,’ wrote Hamilton, so that it could operate like a proper army ‘in camp and field,’ and so that it could gain the ‘essential … degree of proficiency in military functions.’ And although it was organized state by state, it needed to be under the explicit control of the national government. The ‘well-regulated militia’ was under the command of the president. It was ‘the military arm’ of the government…
“The one big difference between this militia and a professional army? It shouldn’t be made up of full-time professional soldiers, said the Founding Fathers. Such soldiers could be used against the people as King George had used his mercenary Redcoats. Instead, the American republic should make up its military force from part-time volunteers drawn from regular citizens. Such men would be less likely to turn on the population.
“And the creation of this ‘well-regulated militia,’ aka the National Guard, would help safeguard the freedom of the new republic because it would make the creation of a professional, mercenary army “unnecessary,” wrote Hamilton. ‘This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it,’ he wrote…
“Today we have a professional army, anyway. Military matters have become so complex that no part-time soldiers could do it all. So you could argue that makes the Second Amendment null and void, like the parts in the Constitution about slaves and Indians being counted as “three-fifths” of a person in the Census.
“But even if you still want to defend the Second Amendment, it should apply only to those who volunteer to join the ‘select corps’ of their National Guard, undergo rigorous training to attain ‘proficiency in military functions’ and perform the ‘operations of an army,’ serve as ordered under the ultimate command of the president and be subject to military discipline.” The November election may not be about reality or facts, but the extreme depth of the feelings we see in the electorate could work an emotional result that has the rest of the free world shuddering. Time will tell.
I’m Peter Dekom, and attempting to explain this extreme wave of fear and perceived disenfranchisement to my friends overseas is a constant but necessary challenge to me.

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