Thursday, August 02, 2018

Has Democracy Become Just Too Democratic for White America?

Ever since the election of Barack Obama, racism has made an astonishing comeback in the United States. Those who hoped that the election of a black president would usher in a "post racial" America quickly had their dreams shattered.

This is explored in a new research paper by Clemson poli-sci prof, Steven Miller (not that Steven Miller), and Texas A&M research scientist, Nicholas Davis. It's a fascinating paper and, at 22 pages, is not a burdensome read.

The authors were interviewed for in a piece entitled, "Are white people ready to bail on democracy? These researchers say the danger is real."

Trump's electoral win was the end result of a concerted effort to prime opposition to Obama and his policies through a racial filter that ultimately paid off for Republicans in a fairly short turnaround. They had to go four years without a House majority and eight years without control of the Senate or White House to get united government again.

I have conducted other research which shows that racial resentment may have had a stronger effect on Democrats than Republicans. In other words, Republicans who scored the lowest on racial resentment still voted for Trump, while Obama voters and registered Democrats who scored the highest started to break for Trump.

Why America's media flinched.
To be clear: Not all Trump voters are racist or xenophobic. However, Trump's racism and xenophobia were not enough to dissuade them from voting for him, and even bringing that up is going to alienate potential subscribers, readers and viewers.

It's easy to mollycoddle some of the more corrosive aspects of Trump's voting bloc by misdiagnosing the root of their behavior because the alternative would hit the corporate news media in the pocketbook.

The methodology.
We leverage three questions widely used in the World Values Survey on attitudes toward democracy that ask whether a particular form of government would be a good way of running the country. The prompts include 1) having a strong leader who does not have to bother with the legislature or regular elections, 2) having the army rule the government, or 3) having a democratic political system. The respondent can say if these are very good, good, bad or very bad ways of running their country. We code responses of "very good" and "good" on the first two as an anti-democratic sentiment and code the "bad" and "very bad" responses in the third item as an opposition to democracy.
... factors like relative status, the context of inter-group relations and other psychological forces shape prejudices to follow.

In the case of the United States, this would be the demographic shifts that will make the country a "minority-majority" country in the intermediate future, along with the election of the first black president. This constitutes a sense of threat to white Americans with a sufficiently high attachment to their white identity and who also fear what this change in relative status will do to their material well-being. 
This leads to a negative evaluation of democracy because democracy, by design, empowers the minority with the same opportunity of access to politics and power as the majority, even if the governance that follows is still some form of majority decision-making. Democracy is a compromise that empowers the minority beyond its actual numerical endowment. For the subset of white Americans we describe, democracy ultimately empowers their source of perceived threat. 
This leads them to abandon "the false dreams of equality and democracy" -- borrowing that expression from noted white supremacist Richard Spencer -- and makes them more open to autocratic alternatives for the country if it would lock in the relative status of whites over nonwhites in the United States.

The global drift to authoritarianism.
Trump successfully launched a minority-scapegoating campaign to win the White House. Marine Le Pen's National Front made it to the presidential runoff in France. The Tories [the British Conservative Party] and UKIP had a symbiotic relationship in which UKIP was able to coerce an in-or-out referendum on the EU from [former Prime Minister] David Cameron, resulting in a successful Brexit campaign animated largely by concerns over immigration. The AfD in Germany [a far-right party] is barely five years old and now has 13 percent of the seats in the Bundestag. Italy's populist parties just got the OK to form a government.

These movements share a similar theme. They have outsized views of past glory and target immigrants as responsible for real or perceived downturns in national status. They're targeting the same international governmental organizations and supranational institutions responsible for post-World War II peace and prosperity, to the extent that they coincide with perceived loss of status and increases in immigration. 
The American case strikes me as anomalous for two reasons. One, the immigration aspect in American populism is recent, at least as a Republican priority. Previous presidents have dog-whistled on the threatening presence of racial out-groups -- Nixon's "law and order" and the "Southern strategy," Reagan's "young bucks" and "welfare queens," George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton ad -- and I'd remiss if I didn't bring up Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" proposal because it's easy to forget how draconian that message was
...Second, and most curious: Other right-wing populist parties are trying to bundle anti-immigration measures with greater investments in social spending and welfare.
... Republicans in America kind of stand out by trafficking in the same anti-immigration hysteria while also proposing policies to dismantle social spending and the welfare state. These are incidentally policies that disproportionately benefit rural white Americans. Indeed, most Republican voters hate their party’s fiscal policies but will vote for them anyway when bundled with the white identity politics the Republican Party has been offering for the past few decades.

The collapse of the "Common Good."
Citizens don’t pay attention to politics. They possess unconstrained policy preferences that only weakly approximate “ideology,” and they fail to think probabilistically and, by extension, rationally. 
When coupled with the raw fact that social and political identities drive behavior, it seems highly unlikely that our current set of electoral and political institutions are well-suited to produce anything that approximates “the common good.”
It is hard to divorce the concept of American exceptionalism from Herrenvolk democracy, so I think it [is] good to consider them together. The colonies prospered as a direct function of chattel slavery, and beyond the brutality of the antebellum South, we know that legacy has a great many economic and social ramifications today. The “settlement” of the western United States was made possible by a brutal combination of the displacement of native peoples and immigrant laborers cutting paths for railroad barons. The agricultural industry, the “backbone” of the American economy, would likely collapse without migrant labor. 
When the average citizen thinks about the sustainability of American democracy, they do not grapple with the country’s historical exploitation of nonwhites. It’s why many whites balk at the term “privilege.” It undercuts the very individualism that weaves the strands of the mythos of American exceptionalism together.

The dysfunctional nature and strength of democracy in America.
In some real sense, democracy’s practical expression in the United States works as intended, insofar as it provides a veneer of popular inputs while isolating power among the wealthy. That is, quite literally, the story of the founding. If democracy is “in crisis,” then I think it’s a crisis of prevailing institutions being ill-suited to quietly maintain the status quo. 
The question you’ve posed is this: Will democracy persist when it runs headlong into demographic changes that make it improbable that a party can win by solely relying on the sort of aggrieved white voters who elected Donald Trump to the White House? I don’t know. Probably, yes. Americans don’t really have a good grasp on the terror and pain involved in actual regime change. The burgeoning “crisis-of-democracy” literature may oversell the problem but only in the sense that the “problem” seems to be that the Trump administration has simply removed the veneer and revealed that American democracy, by design, is sincerely dysfunctional.


Jay Farquharson said...

The US was never a democracy.

It's always been a Republic designed to ensure White Supremacy.

Voter supression, gerrymandering, voter purges, uncounted votes, vote rigging, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the Electoral College,

While I have seen studies that the Browning of America creates even White Liberal pushback,

( Researchers surveyed public transport commuters in dominantly white areas on racial percreptions, then "seeded" public transport with as little as 3 POC commuters, for as little as 3 days, then recorded the changes),

I look at my experience with race through the years, and how most kids and millenials don't "see" race.

There's a voter map out there showing votes by people/population by district in the 2016 US Elections.

Has votes in pins. All the empty white welfare places went for The Insane Clown Potus, all of the economically important and urban places went for Hillary Clinton,

Kinda like a map of Fords electoral win.

Then, you look at that "Browning of America" report again and note that the coming majority is "Mixed" race.

A large amount of that there "economic anxiety" goes away when the Son in Law, or Daughter in Law is "not white". Even more goes away when the grandkids are born, and grow.

Anonymous said...

The United States of America is a type of Democracy, not a pure direct democracy, as is the classical meaning of the term, but a mixed-Republic with a representative democracy and democratic my American friends tell me. Anyong

Jay Farquharson said...

The Electoral College was created to preserve Slavery, now it just preserves White Supremacy,

Senate Seats are distributed by State, not population. California has 39.54 million people and 2 Senators, Wyoming has 0.57 million people and 2 Senators.

California's the 5th largest economy in the world, 13.3% of the US Economy,

Combined, Wyoming, Alaska, Both Dakota's, Montanna, Maine and Rhode Island are less than 0.3% of the US Economy.

Jay Farquharson said...

From NYC, this:

"There’s this 24-hour sandwich kiosk near my job run by a Muslim guy and during prayers, the Central American dude working at the pretzel cart next to him will step in and take over for a bit to help him out. When the pretzel guy can’t, regular customers respectfully wait in line until they can be attended.

This morning some tourists wearing fanny packs and crucifixes were bitching about having to wait three minutes (he was almost done) and a freaking nun in the queue turned around and said “my brother is praying, show some respect” and before the mouthiest of the tourists could respond, this ENORMOUS Armenian construction worker who is the absolute nicest man and says good morning to everyone every single day turns around and says “Are you gonna fuckin’ argue with a fuckin’ nun? Fuck outta here! Yo, Sister, ‘scuse my language, but Christ. Oh shit, I didn’t mean that. I’ll stop tawkin’ now.”

AND the Sister gave him a very sly fist bump and now I have coffee in my nasal passages.

I. Seriously. Love. This. City. Sometimes."

I love how real American's are becoming "woke" and are all out of fucks to give.

Trailblazer said...

@ Jay; and yet there are Brits that freak out at this..


Jay Farquharson said...

Thus Brexit which will fuck them in the ass for 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Democracy is an over-rated popularity contest. Multiculturalism has failed. We need a leader who cares about his people like Putin or Orban.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thank you, Comrade anonymouse. And, up yours.