Build A Purple Revolution: Transform the System

transformYou’re invited to help write Build A Purple Revolution: Transform the System, a forthcoming booklet that addresses the question: What is “the system” and how can the American people change national policies to transform it?

During a prime time speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Elizabeth Warren brought the crowd to its feet with electric excitement when she declared, “People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged.” During the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump built campaigns based on the same theme. Clearly, concern about “the system” is widespread.

But when people discuss the system, they usually only talk about the government and the economy and how those two institutions overlap. The premise of this booklet is that the System is more complicated than that. It involves all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. Gaining a clearer understanding of those realities will help us change the System fundamentally.

Our greatest division is top-versus-bottom, not left-versus-right. Most Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree on many proposed changes in national policy that would move us in the right direction. Despite that widespread agreement, the American people are fragmented and we have gridlock in Congress. If we unite, we can persuade Washington to respect the will of the people.

We need a strong focus on Washington because national policy is key. The federal government has available resources to facilitate dramatic improvements in the nation’s quality of life.

When a good first draft of that booklet is complete, my associates and I may convene a workshop with a panel of community leaders to discuss and evaluate it. At the  workshop, we may divide the audience into small groups and ask them to agree on written suggestions for changes to the booklet. The full workshop may then consider those suggestions. After incorporating that feedback, we may convene a larger public event with prominent speakers to further improve the booklet.

At some point, the workshop may also convene additional events to discuss and evaluate related work, such as:

If interest emerges, I would prefer to collaborate with others as co-equal authors, perhaps by using wiki software that would enable multiple authors to participate. That partnership could post online both supplementary resource material and documentation of points made in the booklet. Until then, with input from others, I’ll make the final edits.

Build A Purple Revolution: Transform the System is not presented as the final word or as a blueprint for action. Rather it offers a framework and some specific ideas that others may find useful. As more people become involved in the writing, hopefully it will be improved. Perhaps it will prompt someone or some team to start from scratch and compose an alternative proposal that is similar yet wiser, perhaps extracting ideas from Build A Purple Revolution: Transform the System.

Regardless, I’d love to share alternative proposals concerning that booklet’s focus: What is “the system” and how can the American people change national policies to transform it? Please bring any such proposals to my attention.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate your assistance with this project, which is being composed online as Google Docs. At present, the contents are:

  1. Preface
  2. A Purple Strategy
  3. A Scenario
  4. A Vision
  5. The System
  6. Principles
  7. Problems
  8. Steps
  9. Other Proposals
  10. Wade Hudson and Associates

The homepage for the set of documents is at, which includes links to content that has been written. Feel free to email me your feedback, comment directly on the documents, or download them and send me your comments as an attachment. Please bear in mind that we want the booklet to be as brief as possible, while including essential material.


How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul by Matt Stoller in The Atlantic complements The Unconnected with a spot-on analysis that includes considerable information that was new to me. It’s also very long, so I post some excerpts below. I italicize points that I found particularly interesting.

The subtitle is: “In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system.”

…The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump….

In fact, the central tenet of New Deal competition policy was not big or small government; it was distrust of concentrations of power and conflicts of interest in the economy. …

There are hints of this tradition today, on both sides of the aisle. Patman was the first congressman to propose auditing the Federal Reserve, which was an outgrowth of his investigation of Mellon. Auditing the Fed is now supported by conservatives like Ted Cruz and populists like Bernie Sanders. Senator Warren’s attempt to re-impose Glass-Steagall is a basic Brandeisian notion. New Dealers understood this not as regulation, but decentralization, a shrinking of the financial sector to prevent conflicts of interest. In the commercial sphere, Patman had a trust-busting agenda, not a big-government one….

Packaged together, these measures epitomized the idea that citizens must be able to govern themselves through their own community structures,…

The essence of populist politics is that political and economic freedom are deeply intertwined—that real democracy requires not just an opportunity to vote but an opportunity to compete in an open marketplace. This was the kind of politics that the Watergate Babies accidentally overthrew….

In 1968, there was a great debate about the future of the Democratic Party. Robert F. Kennedy sought to win the primary with a “black-blue” coalition of black “have-nots” and working-class whites. He sought continuity in the policies of protecting independent farmers, shopkeepers, and workers, all of which formed the heart of the New Deal—yet he also wanted to end the war in Vietnam and expand racial justice.

But Kennedy’s strategy to merge these ideas disappeared when he was assassinated. …

With the help of strategist Fred Dutton, Democrats forged a new coalition. By quietly cutting back the influence of unions, Dutton sought to eject the white working class from the Democratic Party, which he saw as “a major redoubt of traditional Americanism and of the antinegro, antiyouth vote.” The future, he argued, lay in a coalition of African Americans, feminists, and affluent, young, college-educated whites. In 1972, George McGovern would win the Democratic nomination with this very coalition, and many of the Watergate Babies entering office just three years later gleaned their first experiences in politics on his campaign….

This cynicism allowed the traditional Republican notion of overregulation to be introduced into a liberal-leaning group. …

On the Democratic Party’s left, a series of thinkers agreed with key elements of the arguments made by Jensen, Stigler, and Bork. The prominent left-wing economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued that big business—or “the planning system” as he called it—could in fact be a form of virtuous socialism. Their view of political economics was exactly the opposite of Patman’s and the other populists. Rather than distribute power, they actively sought to concentrate it. …His theory was called “countervailing power.” Big business was balanced by those subject to it: big government and big labor. …

In an influential book, The Zero-Sum Society, Thurow proposed that all government and business activities were simply zero-sum contests over resources and incomes, ignoring the arguments of New Dealers that concentration was a political problem and led to tyranny. In his analysis, anti-monopoly policy, especially in the face of corporate problems was anachronistic and harmful. Thurow essentially reframed Bork’s ideas for a Democratic audience….

Henceforth, the economic leadership of the two parties would increasingly argue not over whether concentrations of wealth were threats to democracy or to the economy, but over whether concentrations of wealth would be centrally directed through the public sector or managed through the private sector—a big-government redistributionist party versus a small-government libertarian party. … And in doing so, America’s fundamental political vision transformed: from protecting citizen sovereignty to maximizing consumer welfare….

In an early sign of where it would lead, President Jimmy Carter deregulated the trucking, banking, and airline industries, … Democrats then popularized supply-side economics in a Thurow-influenced and Democrat-authored 1980 Joint Economic Committee report, “Plugging in the Supply Side.”

In 1982, journalist Randall Rothenberg noted the emergence of this new statist viewpoint of economic power within the Democratic Party with an Esquire cover story, “The Neoliberal Club.”…

… the very idea of competition policy, of inserting democracy into the economy, made no sense to them. Previously, voters had expected politicians to do something about everything from the price of milk to mortgage rates. Now, neoliberals expressed public power through financial markets. …

They sought an “industrial policy”—a never-quite-defined planning mechanism—to direct resources in the economy through a cooperative three-way dialogue among labor, business, and government….

This mix of central planning and private monopoly may sound odd, but it is the intellectual underpinning of both the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act….

Faith in technocrats, the revolving door, and privatization all flowed from a belief in this basic structure to deliver social justice….

In their first five years, the 1975 class of Democrats categorically realigned American politics, ridding their party of its traditional commitments. They released monopoly power by relaxing antitrust laws, eliminating rules against financial concentration, and lifting price regulations….

The success of the Watergate Baby worldview over the old populists can be seen in what did not happen in response to this quiet yet extraordinarily radical revolution: There was no fight to block Reagan’s antitrust restructuring.

Clinton Democrats eventually came to reflect Dutton’s political formulation, more diverse and less reliant on the white working class. … Clinton stripped antitrust out of the Democratic platform; it was the first time a reference to monopoly power was not in the platform since 1880. Globalization, deregulation, and balanced budgets would animate Clinton’s political economy, with high-tech and finance leading the way….

At the end of his presidency, Clinton explained his success. … Bork and Thurow, in other words, were right.

In terms of concentrations of power in the private sector, however, it was more a completion of what Reagan did than a repudiation of it….

Corporate concentration also occurred in less-examined ways, like through the Supreme Court and defense procurement…. the administration restructured the defense industry, shrinking the number of prime defense contractors from 107 to five. The new defense-industrial base, now concentrated in the hands of a few executives, stopped subsidizing key industries. The electronics industry was soon offshored….

But who could argue? The concentration of media and telecommunications companies happened concurrent with an investment boom into the newest beacon of progress: the internet. …

Despite this prosperity, in 2000, the American people didn’t reward the Democrats with majorities in Congress or an Oval Office victory. In particular, the rural parts of the country in the South, which had been a traditional area of Democratic strength up until the 1970s, were strongly opposed to this new Democratic Party. And white working-class people, whom Dutton had dismissed, did not perceive the benefits of the “greatest economy ever.” …

And it turns out, according to a McKinsey study, that a disproportionately large amount of the productivity gains from the remarkable computerization of the economy were the result of just one company: Walmart…The gains of the 1990s, it turns out, were not structural, but illusory. …

By 2008, the ideas that took hold in the 1970s had been Democratic orthodoxy for two generations. “Left-wing” meant opposing war, supporting social tolerance, advocating environmentalism, and accepting corporatism and big finance while also seeking redistribution via taxes. The Obama administration has been ideologically consistent with the Watergate Babies’ rejection of populism…. Culturally, the United States is a far more tolerant and open society….

In the last seven years, another massive merger boom has occurred, with concentrations accruing in the hospital, airline, telecommunications, and technology industries. …

But what intellectuals like Thurow, Galbraith, Greenspan, Bork, and so forth didn’t foresee was political disillusionment on a vast scale…. Despite their best efforts, U.S. institutions seem as out-of-control and ungovernable as they did when the 1975 class came into office….

Trump’s emergence would not be a surprise to someone like Patman, or to most New Dealers….Americans feel a lack of control: They are at the mercy of distant forces, their livelihoods dependent on the arbitrary whims of power…. Having yielded to monopolies in business, the nation must now face the un-American threat to democracy Patman warned they would sow….

Americans, sullen and unmoored from community structures, are turning to rage, apathy, protest, and tribalism, like white supremacy….

Ending the threat of authoritarianism is not a left-wing or right-wing problem, and the solution does not reside in building a bigger or a smaller government. …

Fortunately, Americans are beginning to remember what was once lost. Senator Elizabeth Warren often sounds like she’s channeling Wright Patman. Senator Bernie Sanders stirred enormous enthusiasm in a younger generation more in touch with their populist souls. Republicans even debated putting antitrust back in their party platform. President Obama has begun talking about the problem of monopolies. Renata Hesse, the head of the government’s antitrust division, recently gave a blistering speech repudiating Bork’s corporatist ideas. And none other than Hillary Clinton, in an October 3, 2016, speech on renewing antitrust vigor, noted that Trump, while a unique figure, also represents the “broader trends” of big business picking on the little guy.

Restoring America’s anti-monopoly traditions does not mean rejecting what the Watergate Babies accomplished. It means merging their understanding of a multicultural democratic society with Brandeis’s vision of an “industrial democracy.” The United States must place democracy at the heart of its commercial sphere once again. That means competition policy, in force, all the time, at every level. The prevailing culture must be re-geared, so that the republic may be born anew.

The Unconnected

packerIn The New Yorker’sThe Unconnected: Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt,” George Packer presents an extremely important analysis of the Presidential campaign. It’s very long, so I present extensive excerpts here and make some comments at the end.

The subtitle is: “The Democrats lost the white working class. The Republicans exploited them. Can Hillary Clinton win them back?”


I think we Democrats have not provided as clear a message about how we see the economy as we need to….

We have come to heavily favor the financial markets over the otherwise productive markets….

But right now an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them, period. Democrats, we are the party of working people, but we haven’t done a good enough job showing we get what you’re going through….

“We have been fighting out elections in general on a lot of noneconomic issues over the past thirty years,” [Clinton] said—social issues, welfare, crime, war. “Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we haven’t had a coherent, compelling economic case that needs to be made in order to lay down a foundation on which to both conduct politics and do policy.”…

“Working class,” meanwhile, has become a euphemism. It once suggested productivity and sturdiness. Now it means downwardly mobile, poor, even pathological. A significant part of the W.W.C. [white working class] has succumbed to the ills that used to be associated with the black urban “underclass”….

Americans like Mark Frisbie have no foundation to stand on; they’re unorganized, unheard, unspoken for. They sink alone….

Most of his critics are too reasonable to fathom his fury-driven campaign. Many don’t know a single Trump supporter. But to fight Trump you have to understand his appeal….

Trump’s core voters are revealed by poll after poll to be members of the W.W.C. His campaign has made them a self-conscious identity group. They’re one among many factions in the country today—their mutual suspicions flaring, the boundaries between them hardening. A disaster on this scale belongs to no single set of Americans, and it will play out long after the November election, regardless of the outcome. Trump represents the whole country’s failure….

In Thomas Frank’s recent book, “Listen, Liberal,” he describes the result: “The McGovern Commission reforms seemed to be populist, but their effect was to replace one group of party insiders with another—in this case, to replace leaders of workers’ organizations with affluent professionals.”…

In 1971, Fred Dutton, a member of the McGovern Commission, published a book called “Changing Sources of Power,” which hailed young college-educated idealists as the future of the Party. Pocketbook issues would give way to concerns about quality of life. Called the New Politics, this set of priorities emphasized personal morality over class interest…. Instead of speaking for the working class, the Clintons spoke about equipping workers to rise into the professional class. Their presumption was that all Americans could be like them….

Many union members, feeling devalued by the Party, voted for Nixon, contributing to his landslide victory….

The McGovern rout left its young foot soldiers with two options: restore the Party’s working-class identity or move on to a future where educated professionals might compose a Democratic majority. Hart and Clinton followed the second path….

Clinton turned sharply toward deregulation, embracing the free-market ideas of his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and the chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan….

Economic conflict was obsolete. Education was the answer to all problems of social class….

In our conversation, Hillary Clinton spoke of the limits of an “educationalist” mind-set, which she called a “peculiar form of élitism.” Educationalists, she noted, say they “want to lift everybody up”—they “don’t want to tell anybody that they can’t go as high as their ambition will take them.” The problem was that “we’re going to have a lot of jobs in this economy” that require blue-collar skills, not B.A.s. “We need to do something that is really important, and this is to just go right after the denigration of jobs and skills that are not college-connected.”…

The phenomenal productivity of the New Economy was powered by the goods and services created by the rising young professional class—I.T. engineers, bankers, financial analysts, lawyers, designers, management consultants…. The spirit of the time was a heady concoction of high purpose and self-congratulation—a secular brand of Calvinism, with the state of inward grace revealed outwardly by an Ivy League degree, Silicon Valley stock options, and a White House invitation. Meritocracy had become the creed of Clinton’s party….

In 1999, Thomas Friedman published “The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization.”… The book’s heroes were entrepreneurs, financiers, and technologists, hopping airports between New York, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong. “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” was “Das Kapital” for meritocrats….

To Democratic policymakers, poverty was foreign or it was black. As for displaced white workers in the Rust Belt, Summers said, “their problems weren’t heavily on our radar screen, and they were mad that their problems weren’t.”…

In…2004, the political scientist Samuel Huntington published his final book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity.” He used the term “cosmopolitan élites” to describe Americans who are at home in the fluid world of transnational corporations, dual citizenship, blended identities, and multicultural education. Such people dominate our universities, tech companies, publishers, nonprofits, entertainment studios, and news media. They congregate in cities and on the coasts. Lately, they have become particularly obsessed with the food they eat…. The line between social consciousness and self-gratification disappears….

“The energy coming out of the new lower class really only needed a voice, because they are so pissed off at people like you and me,” he said. “We so obviously despise them, we so obviously condescend to them—‘flyover country.’ The only slur you can use at a dinner party and get away with is to call somebody a redneck—that won’t give you any problems in Manhattan. And you can also talk about evangelical Christians in the most disparaging terms—you will get no pushback from that. They’re aware of this kind of condescension. And they also haven’t been doing real well.”…

The moral superiority of élites comes cheap. Recently, Murray has done demographic research on “Super Zips”—the Zip Codes of the most privileged residents of New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. “Super Zips are integrated in only one way—Asians,” he said. “Blacks and Latinos are about as scarce in the Super Zips as they were in the nineteen-fifties.” Multiethnic America, with its tensions and resentments, poses no problem for élites, who can buy their way out….

The Hamilton who distrusted popular democracy is now overlooked or accepted—after all, today’s cosmopolitan élites similarly distrust the passions of their less educated compatriots….

“We have to talk about black folks,” [Nelini] Stamp told me. “Class will always be at the center of my politics, but if I’m not centering black folks at the same time then I’m not going to get free. We’re not going to change things. We can have this populist argument all we want, but if we don’t repair the sins of the past—we could have a bunch of reforms, but if we’re still being killed it’s going to become white economic populism if we don’t have the race stuff together.”

Her ideal, she said, would be to see “white working-class people standing beside black folks, saying, ‘Your struggle is my struggle.’ That’s my dream!”…

Coates’s writing in “Between the World and Me” has a stance and a rhetorical sweep that make the give-and-take of politics seem almost impossible. Somewhere between this jeremiad and the naïve idea of inevitable progress lies the complicated truth….

If racial injustice is considered to be monolithic and unchanging—omitting the context of individual actions, white and black—the political response tends to be equally rigid: genuflection or rejection. Clinton’s constituency surely includes many voters who would welcome a nuanced discussion of race—one that addresses, for example, both drug-sentencing reform and urban crime. But identity politics breaks down the distinction between an idea and the person articulating it, so that before speaking up one has to ask: Does my identity give me the right to say this? Could my identity be the focus of a Twitter backlash? This atmosphere makes honest conversation very hard, and gives a demagogue like Trump the aura of being a truthteller. The “authenticity” that his followers so admire is factually wrong and morally repulsive. But when people of good will are afraid to air legitimate arguments the illegitimate kind gains power….

For Democrats, the politics of race and class are fraught. If you focus insistently on class, as Bernie Sanders did at the start of the campaign, you risk seeming to be concerned only with whites. Focus insistently on race, and the Party risks being seen as a factional coalition without universal appeal—the fate of the Democratic Party in the seventies and eighties. The new racial politics puts Democrats like Clinton in the middle of this dilemma….

I recently spoke with the social scientist Glenn Loury, who teaches at Brown University. As he sees it, if race becomes an irreducible category in politics, rather than being incorporated into universal claims of justice, it’s a weapon that can be picked up and used by anyone. “Better watch out,” he said. “I don’t know how you live by the identity-politics sword and don’t die by it.” Its logic lumps everyone—including soon-to-be-minority whites—into an interest group. One person’s nationalism intensifies tribal feelings in others, in what feels like a zero-sum game. “I really don’t know how you ask white people not to be white in the world we’re creating,” Loury said. “How are there not white interests in a world where there are these other interests?” He continued, “My answer is that we not lose sight of the goal of racially transcendent humanism being the American bedrock. It’s the abandonment of this goal that I’m objecting to.”…

It was important to speak to people’s anxieties about identity, to address “systemic racism,” Clinton said. “But it’s also the case that a vast group of Americans have economic anxiety, and if they think we are only talking about issues that they are not personally connected to, then it’s understandable that they would say, ‘There’s nothing there for me.’ ”

Clinton pounced on Obama’s speech [about clinging to guns and religion], calling it “élitist.”

She was right. Obama was expressing a widespread liberal attitude toward Republican-voting workers—that is, he didn’t take them seriously….

It was a fateful marriage. The new conservative populism did not possess an “orderly heart.” It was riven with destructive impulses….

During the Great Recession, I visited many hard-hit small towns, exurbs, rural areas, and old industrial cities, and kept meeting Americans who didn’t match the red-blue scheme…. They believed that the game was rigged for the powerful and the connected, and that they and their children were screwed.

The left-versus-right division wasn’t entirely mistaken, but one could draw a new chart that explained things differently and perhaps more accurately: up versus down. Looked at this way, the élites on each side of the partisan divide have more in common with one another than they do with voters down below…. As Thomas Frank put it, “The leadership of the two parties represents two classes. The G.O.P. is a business élite; Democrats are a status élite, the professional class. They fight over sectors important for the national future—Wall Street, Big Pharma, energy, Silicon Valley. That is the contested terrain of American politics. What about the vast majority of people?”

The political upheaval of the past year has clarified that there are class divides in both parties. …

Indefatigable and protean, Clinton read the disaffected landscape and adapted in her characteristic style—with a policy agenda….

The internal class divide is less severe on the Democratic side. Even Lawrence Summers embraces government activism to reverse inequality, including infrastructure spending and progressive reform of the tax code. But Democrats can no longer really claim to be the party of working people—not white ones, anyway. Those voters, especially men, have become the Republican base, and the Republican Party has experienced the 2016 election as an agonizing schism, a hostile takeover by its own rank and file….

The great truth was that large numbers of Republican voters,… actually wanted government to do more things that benefitted them (as opposed to benefitting people they saw as undeserving)….

The ebbing tide of the white working and middle classes in America joins its counterpart in [Europe, Russia, and India]….Even the radical nostalgia of Islamists around the Muslim world bears more than a passing resemblance to the longing of Trump supporters for an America purified and restored to an imagined glory. One way or another, they all represent a reaction against modernity, with its ceaseless anxiety and churn….

There’s an ongoing battle among Trump’s opponents to define his supporters. Are they having a hard time economically, or are they just racists? Do they need to be listened to, or should they be condemned and written off?… All three politicians thought that they were speaking among friends—that is, in front of wealthy donors, the only setting on the campaign trail where truth comes out….

The Gallup poll doesn’t indicate how many Trump supporters are racists. Of course, there’s no way to disentangle economic and cultural motives, to draw a clear map of the stresses and resentments that animate the psyches of tens of millions of people. Some Americans have shown themselves to be implacably bigoted, but bias is not a fixed quality in most of us; it’s subject to manipulation, and it can wax and wane with circumstances. A sense of isolation and siege is unlikely to make anyone more tolerant….

If nearly half of your compatriots feel deeply at odds with the drift of things, it’s a matter of self-interest to try to understand why…. people are not wrong to want to live in cohesive communities, to ask new arrivals to become part of the melting pot, and to crave a degree of stability in a moral order based on values other than just diversity and efficiency. A world of heirloom tomatoes and self-driving cars isn’t the true and only Heaven….

Obama told Keenan that, during his final year in office, he wanted to make an argument for American progress in the twenty-first century. He called it “an ode to reason, rationality, humility, and delayed gratification.” Throughout the year, in a kind of extended farewell address, Obama has been speaking around the country about tolerance, compromise, and our common humanity. He never states his theme directly, but it’s the values of liberal democracy….

He told the graduating class, “We must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling, not just black folks who are struggling—the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person, and, yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.”…

Obama is summoning Americans to a sense of national community based on values that run deeper than race, class, and ideology. He’s urging them to affirm the possibility of gradual change, and to resist the mind-set of all or nothing, which runs especially hot this year. These speeches are, in part, a confession of failure. “I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change,” he said in Dallas. “I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.” After all, Obama has been saying things like this ever since he first attracted national attention, at the Democratic Convention in 2004….

As she ended our conversation in the hotel basement—she had to get to the evening’s fund-raiser—I asked how she could hope to prevail as President. She talked about reminding voters of “results,” and of repeating a “consistent story.” Then, as if she found her own words inadequate, she leaned forward and her voice grew intense. “If we don’t get this right, what we’re seeing with Trump now will just be the beginning,” she said. “Because when people feel that their government has failed them and the economy isn’t working for them, they are ripe for the kind of populist nationalist appeals that we’re hearing from Trump.” She went on, “Look, there will always be the naysayers and virulent haters on one side. And there will be the tone-deaf, unaware people”—she seemed to mean élitists—“on the other side. I get all that. But it really is important. And the Congress, I hope, will understand this. Because the games they have played on the Republican side brought them Donald Trump….



I concur completely with Nelini Stamp, a New Yorker in her twenties, of black and Latino parentage, who was an organizer at Occupy when she affirmed that her ideal is to see “white working-class people standing beside black folks, saying, ‘Your struggle is my struggle.’ That’s my dream!”

I also agree with Obama when he says, “We must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling… and, yes, the middle-aged white guy… You got to get in his head, too.”

In recent months, spurred by the fact that Trump is getting twice as much support among non-college whites, I’ve been trying to do that with posts such as “Urban Liberals, Listen Up,” in which I tried to speak from the perspective of some of those angry Trump supporters.

Simply dismissing Trump’s supporters as racists is insufficient. We need to understand: Why are racists racist? I’ve recently asked some of my taxi passengers that question. The most common response has been: fear.

I agree with Steven Shults, who argues in “Calling Out Racism, “I won’t look for common ground with someone who actively seeks to oppress and harm those they deem to be inferior.” I don’t want to waste my time with rabid bigots. At the same time, however, I recall Samantha Bee’s correspondent who asked some probing questions to Republican Convention delegates who at first appeared to be racist because they insisted on saying, “All Lives Matter.” As it turned out, they seemed to be genuinely concerned about avoiding offensive speech. And I believe we can form alliances with people who occasionally make offensive comments, while commenting constructively about those comments.

And I do agree with the thrust of Packer’s article that “identity politics” as it has been practiced has been problematic. The wikipedia defines that terms as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.” I particularly relate to Packer’s:

Identity politics breaks down the distinction between an idea and the person articulating it, so that before speaking up one has to ask: Does my identity give me the right to say this? …This atmosphere makes honest conversation very hard,…

When society labels people based on arbitrary traits and then oppresses those people, they often need to meet separately to fight back in a unified manner — and often help each other overcome the “internalized oppression” that results. However, as many victims of that kind of oppression have said, there generally comes a time when those victims choose to ally with others based on other identities, including the universal reality of shared humanity. I cannot tell any one individual when to do that. It’s a personal decision. But I do say, with  Stamp, I would like to see more “white working-class people standing beside black folks, saying, ‘Your struggle is my struggle.’”

Beyond that, with Van Jones, I say, “The 99 Percent for the 100 Percent.”

The rub, however, will be: what kind of future economy will work? I was glad to hear Clinton criticize “educationalist” elitism. But her vision of more jobs “that require blue-collar skills” seems too limited.

Calling Out Racism (guest post)

By Steven Shults

With the rapid growth of hate groups, and their increasing volume (online and off) I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture. When we fail to call out racism for what it is, it emboldens hate groups and their members, and it makes life harder and more dangerous for the targets of racism (and other forms of hate) when those who promote hate are not called out for it.

Trump + racists playing the victim card + people on the left criticizing others on the left for calling out racism for what it is = ever-increasing growth of hate, in individuals and in groups.

I fully agree that saying “You are a racist” is not constructive, in any scenario. But saying “What you just said sounds racist to me, is that the way you intended it?” is vital. Laughing nervously and changing the subject emboldens racists. Telling someone they are wrong to point out racism not only emboldens racists, but also shames and suppresses people who want to counter racism, and can turn allies into apathetics.

White people calling out other white people for racist behavior and hate speech is the only way to keep racism in check. Same with homophobia: straight people calling out other straight people on homophobic behavior and hate speech is the only way to keep anti-gay hysteria in check. Same with sexism: men calling out other men for objectifying and/or misogynist behavior and speech is the only way to keep it in check.

Outside of interpersonal behavior, it is important to be able to call out racist behaviors for what they are. For example: “The alt-right is peopled by virulent racists, xenophobes, anti-semites, homophobes, and misogynists” is an accurate statement. If we can’t say that, we can’t counter it and keep it in check. The statement hurts no one’s feelings, because the people it describes are proud to wear those labels. (If that sounds hard to believe, spend a little time reading posts on sites you can find by Googling for lists of alt-right / white nationalist websites. It won’t take long to see what I mean.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center would not be very effective if it called hate groups “Organizations with some members who occasionally say racist things or may hold some racist beliefs” instead of calling them what they are: Hate Groups.

I am much more concerned about the oppression, fears, and dangers experienced by the victims of hate than I am about the feelings of the perpetrators of hate. I won’t look for common ground with someone who actively seeks to oppress and harm those they deem to be inferior. I cannot be a good ally to those who are oppressed if I’m too concerned about the feelings of their oppressors. I am not powerful enough to convince bigots to be kind or to make them realize we are all equal, no matter how much common ground can be identified.

Trying to convince racists they are wrong only makes them dig in deeper. Only a racist can decide to try to change. The will to change cannot be forced on them, or coaxed from them. That’s their own responsibility. It is the responsibility of those of us who oppose hate and oppression to be allies in the continuing struggle against hate and oppression. Telling our allies to stop calling groups of racists “racist” only shames the ally, while emboldening the racists and strengthening the false narrative in which the racists claim themselves to be the victims.

You don’t have to read minds to know someone is a racist when you see the tweets like Jeffrey Goldberg described in his NPR interview ( ), or the similar vitriol on display on alt-right / white nationalist / neo-nazi websites, or the racial and misogynist slurs and chants shouted at Trump rallies, worn on their t-shirts and written on the signs they carry. That is not mind-reading, that’s just calling it what it is.

It isn’t wrong to call out hate for what it is. It’s wrong to stay silent in response to hate.

Fifteen Million Merits (Black Mirror)

blackmirrormerits2On Netflix, the second episode of the first season of Black Mirror, the brilliant “Fifteen Million Merits” still haunts me. The wikipedia synopsis is accurate and I agree with the excerpts from the reviews that are included. I take it as an allegory for how “the System” works by rewarding people with superficial satisfactions.

But those excerpts did not address what most disturbed me. When the protagonist cleverly manages to confront the game show judges who brutalized the woman he loved and, with the audience intrigued by whether he will kill himself on live television, rants at them about “how unfair the system is and how heartless people have become,” the judges co-opt him by offering him a slightly higher status and allowing him to rant on his own regularly scheduled 30-minute show, during which he repeats his clever threat to kill himself.

What disturbs me is the truth that the System, without making any fundamental changes, has proved quite able to absorb rebels by offering minimal rewards. And it takes great imagination to see an exit.



Labels, Blame, and the System

My wailing increased with the shock of the knowledge
That I often have needed something out there to blame.
…I’m nobody’s saviour, and nobody’s mine either
I hear the desert wind whisper “But neither are we alone.”


labelsWords matter. One of my taxi passengers recently said to his co-worker, “Tom is a terrible person. No. I shouldn’t put it that way. He’s a terrible team member because….” He then described specific behavior that hurts the team.

That distinction is important. Judging someone as a person — as Trump did when he called Clinton “a nasty woman” — is much different than judging their actions. One’s personhood is not defined by one’s behavior. When we label others, we don’t fully know their soul.

When I’ve asked my passengers what they think about Clinton calling one-half of Trump supporters irredeemable deplorables, most of them initially replied, “She was right.” But when I’ve commented on problems with labelling, they’re agreed with me.

This issue is not merely semantics. Unnecessary labelling hardens divisions, which makes unified grassroots action more difficult.

Labels are necessary. Calling a rock “a rock” is no problem. Describing the color of a person’s hair is rarely controversial. Objective reality is subject to scientific verification.

But subjective reality cannot be measured. The human spirit is not an object. Human behavior is not determined by simple cause-and-effect. Biological factors play a role, as does social conditioning, the unconscious mind, and other factors, such as free will. Countless factors “cause” our behavior. And over time, we evolve. We act differently.

Labeling personhood distorts reality by simplifying it. The human spirit can’t be described or confined by pigeonholes. But labels can be self-fulfilling prophecies that nurture the behavior they describe.

Another reason to be cautious about labels is the role they play in perpetuating social inequality and class domination (which persists from generation to generation, largely without resistance – or even much awareness of the advantages that certain people hold over others). Before we rank, we label.

Many sociologists have written extensively about “labelling theory,” which examines how the self-identity and behavior of individuals is influenced by the terms others use to describe or classify them. Émile Durkheim was the first to argue that labeling “deviants” helps to control behavior. People learn to conform in order to avoid being stigmatized and considered less reliable, even less human.

George Herbert Mead explored how our self-image, which is derived from what we think others think of us, is affected by how the group labels those who offend their norms.

Frank Tannenbaum studied how labelling juveniles “delinquents” leads to more “delinquency.”

Edwin Lemmert introduced the idea of “secondary deviance.” Labeling a deviant because of a deviant act can encourage more deviance by affecting self-image: “I do these things because I am this way.”

In his classic book, Outsiders, Howard Becker argued, “Instead of the deviant motives leading to the deviant behavior, it is the other way around, the deviant behavior in time produces the deviant motivation.”

In The Colonizer and the Colonized Albert Memmi described the deep psychological effects of social stigma:

The longer the oppression lasts, the more profoundly it affects him (the oppressed). It ends by becoming so familiar to him that he believes it is part of his own constitution, that he accepts it and could not imagine his recovery from it. This acceptance is the crowning point of oppression.
In Dominated Man, Memmi wrote:
Why does the accuser feel obliged to accuse in order to justify himself? Because he feels guilty toward his victim. Because he feels that his attitude and his behavior are essentially unjust and fraudulent….Proof? In almost every case, the punishment has already been inflicted. The victim of racism is already living under the weight of disgrace and oppression…. In order to justify such punishment and misfortune, a process of rationalization is set in motion, by which to explain the ghetto and colonial exploitation….Central to stigmatic labeling is the attribution of an inherent fault: It is as if one says, “There must be something wrong with these people. Otherwise, why would we treat them so badly?”
Erving Goffman, who served as President of the American Sociological Association, wrote several books on labelling. He lamented what he called society’s growing emphasis on the so-called “normal human being” and examined the complications that emerge when “normals” and “deviants” interact:
What are unthinking routines for normals can become management problems for the discreditable….The person with a secret failing, then, must be alive to the social situation as a scanner of possibilities, and is therefore likely to be alienated from the simpler world in which those around them apparently dwell….

[As] a resident alien who stands for his group,… it requires that the stigmatized individual cheerfully and unselfconsciously accept himself as essentially the same as normals, while at the same time he voluntarily withholds himself from those situations in which normals would find it difficult to give lip service to their similar acceptance of him…. A phantom acceptance is allowed to provide the base for a phantom normalcy.

Thus, whether we interact with strangers or intimates, we will still find that the fingertips of society have reached bluntly into the contact, even here putting us in our place.

And that is key: persuading us to accept “our place” in the social hierarchy. The primary driving force in our society is the urge to climb the social ladder, which involves looking down on those who are below. Society divides us in countless ways. In particular, assuming an arrogant air of moral superiority, we throw around labels, become judgmental, and resolve to defeat our “enemies.” Misled by the American Dream, we ignore our advantages, assume we have earned what we have, and blame the designated-enemy-of-the-day for our troubles.

The main problem, however, is our self-perpetuating social system. Once we accept that reality, we can no longer justifiably direct our anger at any one individual, group of individuals, or nation. Having no scapegoat removes an easy mode of release. But it is also liberating, for it opens us to compassion.

And fortunately compassion is another, deeper driving force in our society, one that is rooted in our 200-million-year history as cooperative hunter-gatherers. Modern society has suppressed that countervailing force, which many sub-cultures have kept alive. Our challenge is to bring it to the fore and make that which is now secondary primary. To do so would be a revolution that turns the table upside down.

Racism, Racists, and Politics

Why are racists racist and how can we best respond to, and talk about, them?

Recent developments in European social democracies demonstrate that greater economic security does not guarantee against the rise of racism. In the United States, support for Trump correlates less with economic pessimism and income level than it does with racial resentment, which has increased with the election of a Black president. In the primaries, the median household income of Trump voters was $72,000 and they were less likely to be unemployed.

At least one-third of white Americans embrace racist opinions. One study found that 62 percent of white people gave black people a lower score on at least one of various attributes in 2012, compared to 45 percent in 2008 prior to Obama’s election, which inflamed racism. In 2012 Romney received 61 percent of those voters who expressed prejudicial attitudes. Only 42 percent of Trump supporters believe the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities is an important issue, while 79 percent of Clinton supporters do. Only half of Trump supporters seem to support him due to animus toward Clinton. The other half are enthusiastic, despite his repeated racist statements.

Given those facts, does it follow to say, as did Dylan Matthews on Vox, that “a large segment of the US population [that is] is motivated primarily by white nationalism [has been] large enough to capture one of the two major political parties”? Or that “Yes, half of Trump supporters are racist,” as did Dan Milbank on the Washington Post?

Labels are dangerous. We need to be careful about when and how we use them.

Our society is fueled by the drive to climb the social ladder. We learn to look down on those who are on a lower rung. Our identity is based on belonging to one group that stands in opposition to other groups. We relish defeating enemies.

Those deeply ingrained tendencies, often unconscious, afflict all of us. We need to examine ourselves constantly and minimize building ourselves up by tearing down others.

One way to do that is to avoid labels when possible. We can say, “When you did that, I felt you were being unfair,” rather than “You are an asshole.” Likewise, unless we know that someone believes a particular race is inherently inferior, which is the definition of a racist, we can say, “I consider that a racist opinion,” rather than, “You are a racist.” Besides being more precise, it leaves the door more open to dialog.

One correspondent disagrees. He said:

You cannot think that “black people are lazy” without also thinking they’re inherently inferior, regardless of what the cause is attributed to. You cannot logically separate these into two different belief systems. Both beliefs are inherently racist.

I agree that both beliefs are racist but I do not believe that beliefs about characteristics necessarily, logically, imply a particular belief about genetics. Consider another example. Thirty years ago many women believed that women were less assertive than men. That belief did not necessarily imply a belief that that difference was genetic. And over time, women have become more assertive.

No doubt many Trump supporters not only hold racist beliefs but actually are racists. How many is hard to say. I haven’t even found any evidence concerning how many Americans believe Blacks are genetically inferior, much less any such data for Trump supporters (though a majority do say they consider the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities is an important issue, which suggest they are not racists).

It does not necessarily follow, however, to say that Trump supporters who are truly racists are “motivated primarily” by racism — even if that is what their statements suggest. There may be other deeper, even unconscious, factors — not just economic factors, but also cultural and psychological factors. That’s what led me to look at what’s happening with whites who have no college degree, who are more likely to support Trump.

“Future shock” in general may be one reason. A sense that the ground is shifting too rapidly, not just in terms of demographics.

But I believe that a major factor is resentment at condescending urban elites who categorize opponents with judgmental labels — that is, unduly harsh judgments that condemn people (not their opinions) — such as, “deplorable” aad “irredeemable.”

I hope that at Wednesday’s debate, Hillary looks into the camera, speaks to Trump supporters, and says, “I apologize for my careless comments. In the heat of battle, it’s easy to get carried away and throw labels at opponents. But I want you to know that I hear you. I know that you feel you don’t have enough voice in Washington — because you don’t. That’s why we need to get Big Money out of politics. I know you feel that urban elites don’t respect you — because many of them don’t. That’s why all of us need to be more humble, listen to one another more closely, and appreciate others’ positive qualities, including the value of many principles that are labelled “conservative”. I promise that if I am elected President, I’ll do my best to admit my mistakes, be more respectful, and really listen to all of the American people.”

But I doubt that she or many of her supporters will say anything like that because she and too many of them are too deeply embedded in their arrogance and their determination to defeat “enemies.”

Credit, Blame, Bias, and Identity

bourdieuWith “Urban Elites, Listen Up”, I tried to channel the anger many non-college, white Trump supporters hold toward snobbish urban liberals. I addressed that piece to Clinton supporters who consider one-half of Trump supporters to be “irredeemable deplorables.” Clinton has not really apologized for, or disavowed, that description and many Clinton supporters decline to criticize her for those remarks. I believe that stance is wrong.

I too am guilty of the arrogance and implicit bias that I criticized. When I hear a Southern accent, for example, my gut reaction is usually disparaging, even though I was born in Arkansas and raised in Texas.

I used to dismiss Trump supporters as racists. One-third of white Americans embrace racist opinions and many of those people back Trump. Now, however, the situation seems more complicated.

Urban Elites, Listen Up” went overboard. I indulged in some name-calling and later that day, edited the post, added a note about the edit, and deleted the photo of a Duck Dynasty star after I learned who it was. Just now, I read it again, corrected two typos, and concluded it holds up well.

I do offer one clarification. To my mind, a racist is one who believes that “racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” However, those who, for example, believe that “Black people are lazy” may not believe that Black people are inherently inferior. They may attribute that alleged trait to social conditioning or some other factor.

Since it’s impossible to read others’ minds, unless someone explicitly states that they consider all members of a particular “race” to be inherently inferior, I believe, rather than label them “a racist,” it’s more accurate to criticize them for holding a racist belief. In addition to being more precise, that approach leaves room for more dialog. Calling someone “a racist” can help make them more racist.

On Fridays, KALW’s “Your Call” talk show conducts a “media roundtable” with reporters and asks their guests to identify what they consider the most interesting story of the week. Yesterday, the Pulitzer-winning David Cay Johnston cited “We’re All a Little Biased, Even if We Don’t Know It” by Emily Badger. That article touches on another reason to be careful before calling someone “a racist” — we all have racist tendencies.

In that piece, Badger argues that “implicit bias” is not code for “racist,” but rather is “the mind’s way of making uncontrolled and automatic associations between two concepts very quickly.” Implicit bias, which is often unconscious, may affect actions, but it doesn’t always.

Badger reports:

Because this bias is a function of universal human psychology, researchers say, we all experience it — and you can’t exactly get “rid” of it…. To broach implicit bias isn’t to impugn someone’s values; it’s to recognize that our values compete on an unconscious level with all the stereotypes we absorb from the world around us.

Addressing implicit bias “allows us to confront racial disparities without focusing on the character of individual people.” Phillip Atiba Goff, who conducts training sessions with police departments, commented, “Someone will say, ‘I’m tired of being called a racist,’ ” he said. To which [Goff] explains that racism and implicit bias aren’t interchangeable.”

Unfortunately, researchers have not devised reliable methods to “interrupt” biases “so we can act more often in ways that line up with our values.”

Badger’s article suggests I was on the right track when I proposed criticizing racist actions rather than calling people “a racist” — unless they say, “Yes, I think all those people are inherently inferior.”

The article also touches on a related issue that’s been on my mind recently: identity. According to Badger, Goff “now talks more broadly about ‘identity traps’ that encompass implicit biases and much more.” I’m not sure how Goff uses “identify trap” and found little on the Internet about it. But I suspect his concept relates to a conversation I had during a 40-minute ride to the Oakland Airport with a passenger who’s an award-winning investigative journalist for Swedish television.

After discussing the “Swedish model” (it’s still strong) and Trump (he’s a “buffoon), we discussed how our social divisions seem to be rooted in a sense of identity that involves us believing that “my people” are better than “those people.” I suggested an alternative: that we see ourselves primarily as a human being, a member of the human family. He resonated with that idea, and said the problem is that we need “a sense of belonging.” I replied, “Yes, but must we exaggerate that identity?” He then talked about how in Sweden, there’s much discussion about what it means to be “a Swede.”

Climbing the social ladder fuels the System. From an early age, society tells us:

  • You can be whatever you want to be.
  • If you work hard enough, you can “get ahead” of the competition.
  • Winning is everything.
  • “What’s In It For Me” is key.
  • The “winners” earn what they have.
  • The “losers” are responsible for their condition.
  • You can rightly look down on those who are “below” you.

A recent article in the Atlantic, “America Is Even Less Socially Mobile Than Most Economists Thought” reported, “The amount of money one makes can be roughly predicted by how much money one’s parents made….”

We replaced the biological inheritance of wealth and power with social inheritance.

In “Urban Elites, Listen Up,” I confronted that issue when I wrote, “You haven’t earned your privilege. You got lucky. Sure. You worked hard. But we work hard too and don’t forget the advantages you’ve had….,” and elaborated on some of those advantages.

While discussing that issue with a semi-regular passenger (a former teacher who’s now a paralegal and is writing a book on Hegel), he referred me to a French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, and recommended Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu by David Swartz as an introduction. Later that day, I researched Bourdieu and learned that Bourdieu was, for many, the leading intellectual of present-day France, with several classics that have been translated into two dozen languages and have affected the social sciences and the humanities. The International Sociological Association names his  Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste one of the 20th century’s ten most important works of sociology. That night I ordered Swartz’s book.

The wikipedia entry on Bourbieu and the powercube overview were helpful. But the clearest summation of his thinking was on the History Learning site. That article includes:

Pierre Bourdieu developed the cultural deprivation theory. This theory implies that higher class cultures are better when compared to working class cultures. Because of this perceived superiority, people from upper and middle classes believe people who are working class are themselves to blame for the failure of their children in education….

The major role of the education system, according to Bourdieu, is cultural reproduction. This is the reproduction of the culture of the dominant classes. These groups have the power to impose meanings and to impose them as legitimate. They are able to define their own culture as worthy of being sought and possessed and to establish it as the basis for knowledge in the education system….

Bourdieu refers to possession of the dominant culture as cultural capital because with the education system it can be translated into wealth and power. Cultural capital is not evenly distributed throughout the class structure, and this largely accounts for class differences in educational attainment. People who have upper class backgrounds have a built in advantage because they have been socialised in that dominant culture…. Thus middle-class students have higher success rates than working-class students because middle class subculture [is] closer to the dominant culture….

He suggested that the way a student presents him/herself counts for more than the actual scholastic content of their work. He argues that “in rewarding grades, teachers are strongly influenced by the intangible nuances of manners and styles”….

The lifestyle, the values, the dispositions and the expectations of particular social groups [are] developed through experience….

Bourdieu uses a survey for his study; he claims that taste is related both to upbringing and to education. The taste could include art, films, music and food.  He claims to show that there is a very close relationship linking cultural practices to educational capital and to social origin. Different tastes are associated with different classes, and class factions have different levels of prestige. …According to Bourdieu, the education system attaches the highest value to legitimate taste and [upper-class and middle-class] people find it easier to succeed in the education system and are likely to stay in it for longer….

Bourdieu says that a major role of the educational system is the social function of elimination. This involves the elimination of members of the working class from higher levels of education. It is accomplished in two ways: by examination failure and by self-elimination…. Social inequality is reproduced in the educational system…..

The System divides us in countless ways and sets one group against another. We learn to credit ourselves for our success and our wisdom, and to scapegoat our designated enemy, whom we aim to defeat. But neither any one individual nor any one group is the enemy. Increasingly, I’ve come to de-emphasize society’s pigeonholes, including “progressive” and “Democrat.”

The primary problem is the self-perpetuating System, which consists of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. Yes we need to hold people accountable for specific acts. But we can do so without condemning them as human beings — whether with capital punishment or with moral condemnation. We can hate the sin without hating the sinner. We can reverse humanity’s downward spiral and reinforce the upward spiral that is already underway.

Yesterday, while communing with Mother Nature on Ocean Beach, those reflections led me to conclude:

Citizens of the world, unite!
Throw off your identity traps.
Serve the Earth Community.

Call me unpatriotic if you wish, but the human family is my primary community.

I seek connection with others who share my passion for the pursuit of truth, justice, and beauty. To my mind, that effort requires a holistic perspective that incorporates personal, spiritual, political, economic, cultural, playful, creative, and other aspects of our reality. I want to better understand how those elements inter-relate and overlap, so we can better nurture growth in each of those arenas and eventually transform the System.

That is the “deep community” I seek.

Michael Moore and Glenn Beck Agree

Today, on Meet the Press, both Michael Moore and Glenn Beck made some of the same points that I tried to make earlier today, before I saw their comments, in my “Urban Liberals, Listen Up.” You can scroll down the transcript to read their comments. I thought Beck was particularly compelling.

I actually don’t know Glenn Beck very well. But several years ago he did bring to my attention something very important that my fellow activists never had: Dr. King began the Montgomery movement with a comprehensive nonviolence pledge for this supporters. Maybe I should check him out more.



Urban Liberals, Listen Up

Hey, you white college-educated city slicker  liberal, you aren’t so smart. If you were, you’d have seen Trump and Sanders coming.

So long as you look down on us “white trash” who have no college degree, the System will continue to divide-and-conquer and we’ll never build a grassroots movement strong enough to make a real difference. Us non-college people are one-third of the population. You need us and we need you. To help build unity, please acknowledge your arrogance and set it aside.

You haven’t earned your privilege. You got lucky. Sure. You worked hard. But we work hard too and don’t forget the advantages you’ve had.

Odds are, according to conventional standards, you’re “good looking.” Ever notice that most poor people are less attractive  than you are?  Ever notice that most couples and most groups of friends who go out together are more or less equally “beautiful”? Ever wonder why?

It’s because our society discriminates based on physical appearance and those who rank lower suffer. And they know it, which affects their self-confidence.

Odds are you grew up in a nice neighborhood, lived with two parents who made decent money, and went to a well-funded school financed by local property taxes, which gives higher income neighborhoods a big edge. Do you have any idea what my school was like? Or what it’s like to be raised by parents who are stressed financially and troubled emotionally? Sure, some single parents do well, but on average it’s isn’t harder for them.

Odds are your parents were healthy emotionally. Do you realize how much more difficult it is for poor people to raise healthy children in a society that constantly assaults them with images of affluence — which makes it harder for those children when they mature and have children? Until my job exposed me to a wider range of people, I believed the idea of a “healthy family” was a myth because I never knew any. Again, sure, some poor families rise above their circumstances. But by and large, families with money do better. They’re healthier, happier, and better parents. And they pass on their advantages to their children. So most children end up in the same class where they started.

And don’t forget you’re white. That gives you a big benefit. If you don’t think so, google “implicit bias” and read the top results. Or research “why is housing so segregated” and learn about how racist discrimination still helps to keep neighborhoods segregated, as federal policies did after World War Two. Or look into why people of color earn less and are more likely to be incarcerated, which makes it harder to get a job after being released.

Look at people when they go out with others at night. How many of those couples and groups are mixed race? Not many. How many good friends do you have who are people of color? How many friends do you have who don’t have a college degree? You like to call me and my people prejudiced. Well, I don’t think you are so pure yourself.

Sure, you did well in school. You’re good with numbers. You think like a lawyer. You speak like a debate coach. But what about your street smarts? What about your emotional intelligence? And most importantly, what about your moral character?

Climbing the social ladder is not the be all and end all. Living the good life requires more than “making it.” The good life requires being a good person, doing the right thing, caring about others. “What’s in it for me” is the driving force in your white, middle class world. The “yuppies” — young upwardly mobile professionals have won. So much for “the Sixties” and  “peace, love, and happiness.” The Jerry Seinfelds, the techies, the traders, and all those “experts” with their degrees and credentials are taking over. They wear their nice clothes, drink their fancy martinis, go to upscale restaurants, travel the world, and act like their shit don’t stink. They carry on polite conversations at cocktail parties, telling stories about themselves, being witty and charming, gossiping, and lecturing. But what about talking from the heart? Like they say, you can gain the world and lose your soul.

You think you’re a better person because you live in the hip, sophisticated concrete jungle with all that cutting-edge  “culture.” You don’t consider people like me to be of equal value as a human being. Sure. You say everyone should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. But down deep, you think you’re superior to me. But watch out. On your way down, you may pass the people you stepped over on the way up.

I like peace and quiet. I like to see the stars. I’d rather not see homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. I like to know my neighbors and feel safe when I walk to their house. I like to live near my parents. I’m not “middle class” and I don’t want to be. I’m working class and proud of it. You can have your wine tasting parties and fancy cars. I’ll do fine with my beer and old Ford.

I constantly hear from you and your people about how stupid me and my people are. Well, as far as I’m concerned, a typical bartender or grandmother knows more than your typical psychiatrist. If you and your experts know so much, why are they fucking things up?

You say we’re ignorant because we support Trump. But what do we have to lose?

You guys ignore us and when you don’t, you disrespect us. The politicians only talk about helping the middle class. Middle class. Middle class. Middle class. I’m sick of it. That’s supposed to be the solution for my kids? Go to college and jump into your rat race?

College can help individuals who get lucky, but it’s no solution for everyone. The economy is like a game of musical chairs. There are only so many seats for the fortunate ones. Lots of folks are always going to lose out. Why don’t the politicians talk about guaranteeing a living-wage job for everyone who wants to work? We have more than enough money in this country to do it.

The Democrats talk about infrastructure jobs. But those jobs are for union workers and most of my people don’t belong to those unions. What about us?

What about long-term loans to help us start worker-owned businesses in our hometown? What about federal funding so we can hire former addicts as peer counselors in drug treatment programs to deal with our opioid and heroin epidemic? What helping family farms with those federal subsidies that go to corporate agriculture?

But you, the Democrats, and Hillary at last week’s debate don’t even talk about our problems, much less propose solutions that will benefit us immediately. Instead Hillary calls us an irredeemable basket of deplorables and most liberal commentators rush to her defense when her comments cause a controversy.

Sure, we have some “old-fashioned opinions.” We know the world is changing and we’re becoming more tolerant. But attitudes change slowly and when people throw labels around, it doesn’t help. Especially when those people aren’t so pure after all. We’re all sinners and saints, sweetheart.

Yes, some of us have deplorable opinions. But that does not necessarily make us a deplorable person. Some of us have racist beliefs. But that does not necessarily make us a racist. That’s not a terribly complicated distinction. If you’re so smart, why do you have so much trouble understanding it? Why do you keep throwing around labels? We can make judgments without being judgmental. As Gandhi said, we can hate the sin without hating the sinner.

So yeah, some of us support Trump. He’s our baseball bat. Maybe if we hit you hard enough, you’ll wake up.

Chances are, however, you’ll continue to go for the System’s bait and hate me and my people.

Oh well, at least it’ll be good for ratings. Folks love to scapegoat when some handy “enemy” is placed in front on them. Attacking a visible pinata is easier than taking on the System, which is invisible.

You didn’t really believe the mainstream media would let Trump win, did you? If you feared Trump would win, you’re even less intelligent that I thought.

It’s all another manufactured crisis. Another application of the Shock Doctrine. Another mass diversion. More divide-and-conquer. More reality television.

Sure, it’s good entertainment. But fixing the rigged System will require a much different strategy. Soon I hope to sum up my thinking about how we might do that, share those written thoughts, and encourage others to do the same. Perhaps together we can find a more productive way forward.

NOTE: This piece is an attempt to channel the anger of non-college whites who support Trump. Myself, I do not. The original post included a photo of a Duck Dynasty star. After learning who it was, I deleted the photo. I also deleted two pejorative labels.