Up for Grabs: White Voters Without College Degrees

In 2016, Donald Trump seems to perform best among white voters without college degrees, a shrinking demographic. In 1996, the Washington Post reports, “Bill Clinton narrowly won white voters without college degrees, 44 percent to 43 percent for Republican nominee Robert Dole, but by 2012, President Obama received just 36 percent of those white non-college voters, according to presidential exit polls.”

Joe Biden offered this definition of the middle class: “The middle class is not a number; it’s a value set. It’s being able to own your house and not have to rent it; it’s being able to send your kid to the local park and know they’ll come home safely,” he said. “It’s about being able to send your kid to the local high school and if they do well they can get to college, and if they get to college, you can figure out how to [pay to] get them there, and when your mom or dad passes away, you can take care of the other who is in need and hope your kids never have to take care of you. That’s Joe Biden’s definition of the middle class, and the middle class has been clobbered.”

Teachable Moments About Misogyny and Other Prejudices

We have to give Donald Trump credit. He has offered so many teachable moments about misogyny and other prejudices in this campaign. His bigotry toward Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, and long history of objectifying women, have been exposed — we see him evaluating women as if they were livestock, making humiliating comments about their appearance, grabbing their private parts in public places for momentary sexual pleasure.

This has led to public revulsion, not unlike the revulsion to seeing fire hoses sprayed on peaceful African American demonstrators in Alabama in the early 1960s.

I heard a piece on NPR today about how Mexican women are now “blowing the whistle,” literally, on the men who grab them in public, which has been a pervasive problem in that country. We have Donald Trump to thank for this development.
I couldn’t believe he said in the debate that he hadn’t apologized to his wife, especially since she had just given a painful interview the day before in which she said he had apologized “deeply” for what he said and did. In the debate, she looked pained as if she had been struck. Who wants to take bets on how long that marriage lasts?

The exposure of misogyny is a long time coming. In historical terms, it’s remarkable that the highest glass ceiling for women is breaking only after the glass ceiling for African Americans was broken eight years ago.

With Hillary Clinton’s election, will the age of identity politics — which started in 1972 with quotas for women and African Americans at the Democratic National Convention (and great ridicule) be coming to an end?

Certainly there are other minorities that aspire to full acceptance in the American story — Latinos, gays, transgender individuals — and we’ve never actually had a Jewish or Muslim or even Mormon president. So there are other barriers to be broken.

But we seem on the verge of breaking a major, symbolic glass ceiling against women, and after breaking the glass ceiling against African Americans eight years ago, the other ceilings don’t seem as high. America is about to become a nation that once again demonstrates that, symbolically at least, it judges individuals not on the color of their skin, gender or ethnicity, but truly, on their qualifications for the job.


  • Feminists Thank Donald Trump: “For decades, feminists have tried to stir outrage about how women are routinely groped, belittled, and weight-shamed. Yet Mr. Trump’s words and boasts have shown millions of voters, including people who believe feminism is a dirty word, what women endure every day.”
  • Men Need Economic Help


Presidents Can’t Seem to Change Government Bureaucracies

National Security and Double Government,” a book by Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon, suggests presidents can’t change certain policies, particularly involving national security, no matter how hard they try. In the 2008 campaign, Obama promised to end the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, close Guantanamo Bay and scrap or reform the Patriot Act. Yet he could not do so, because of the “cult of the expert,” the national security bureaucrat who has more knowledge than the president and can protect his turf. Click for Boston Globe piece

Doubts About Political Science and Democracy in US

I minored in Political Science at university, but I’m confused. I’m no longer sure the principles I learned in poli sci apply to America in 2016. Sam Sanders at NPR reports on this phenomenon:

“Many political scientists have had to admit that some basic rules of American politics they used to hold dear have been challenged” this year, he reports.

Several professors told NPR about Donald Trump challenging the rule, onetime nearly iron-clad, that a political party has control over who gets its nomination — and that endorsements from political elites are a sign of that control and good predictors of who will be a party’s nominee.

Others pointed out how Trump has challenged the notion that party nominees will always move to the center once they’ve clinched the nomination.

Political scientists told us that the winner of the “money primary” — that would be Jeb Bush in 2015 — almost always become frontrunners. Didn’t happen. The supposed pattern was that the candidate who listened best to the voters, had the strongest command of the issues and articulated a positive vision for America would win the party nominations. Didn’t happen with the Republicans.

The candidate with the best ground game, using databases to identify their voter base and get them to the polls would have a big advantage in the race for the nomination. Nope, not true in the Republican primaries. Supposedly, a candidate who depended on television and a broadcast “air war” instead of grassroots activists would have a disadvantage in primary battles. These theories of electoral success did not hold when it came to Donald Trump.

Gaffes and scandals that have destroyed other candidates for decades have not destroyed Trump. It almost seems Republicans this year, or at least Trump, are denying logic, and certainly logical strategy:

  • You don’t deliberately insult constituencies (such as Latinos and women) you need to get elected;
  • You don’t deliberately narrow your base (to whites) and strike an exclusive rather than inclusive pose.

Students have traditionally learned in politics class that America has strong democratic institutions that make powerful politicians accountable to the people and the law through a system of checks and balances. And yet, in 2016, the Republican nominee promises, if elected, to jail his Democratic opponent, as mobs of his supporters at rallies shout “Lock her up!” With his election, democracy could be endangered.

Political science professors now report, shockingly, that for the first time, students are coming to class “with a surging antipathy for democracy,” Sanders reports. The 2016 campaign is like an irrational circus, a carnival, an appeal to prejudices, rather than an elevated discussion over political truths and the future direction of the country.

And some students increasingly see the US as an oligarchy, not a democracy. These views are backed up by a study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities, which concluded that “the US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful.”

This is disturbing, but I understand the sentiments of these students, because I am feeling some of the same sentiments myself.

And my students here in the UAE, who don’t live under democracy but have in the past expressed admiration for American-style democracy, also express new skepticism towards it.

And like the poli sci professors in the U.S., I am introducing texts about democracy as it was supposed to work in its ideal, in ancient Greece, with excerpts from General Pericles’ funeral oration and Sophocles’ Ajax.

I will leave study of Plato’s Apology and Republic and Aristotle’s Politics, texts full of reservations about Athenian democracy, to the more advanced students who have time to appreciate nuance.


A Miracle That A Demagogue Wasn’t Elected President Before 2016


Given that nearly 73 percent of Americans in 2016 do not have college degrees, it is amazing that a Trump-like demagogue has not won the presidency before, and that our democracy has not degraded long before now.

Most voters in the past never took a college-level course in history, politics, persuasion, argumentation, sociology, economics, or any of the other courses that are important to an informed citizenry. Many did not even take college-bound high school classes in those subjects.

To be snobbish about it, many voters don’t know how to think. Imagine the back-of-the-row students in your high school who didn’t go to college. That could be the average voter in America. Low-information, shallow-thinking, easily manipulated.

Some of their political views blow with the wind. After eight years of Republican president Bush, in 2008 they thought Obama would be a “magic negro,” the second coming, and are disappointed he didn’t wave a wand and bring back manufacturing jobs lost to globalization and automation. So this year a number of them are angry and voting for Donald Trump.

Others vote blindly for one political party or another, loyalty to party above everything else. It’s easy to demonize those we disagree with. Mitt Romney wrote off 47 percent of voters because, he said, they are on the dole, in one form or another, and choose Democrats because they think they’ll get “free stuff.” Hillary Clinton wrote off half of Trump supporters — about 20 percent of the electorate — asserting that they are racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or “you name it.”

Both positions are pretty elitist, and do not seek to understand the opposition.

I used to think American voters had innate common sense; they might not be highly educated, but they were salt-of-the-earth people with good instincts and were good judges of character, and that’s what has always saved America.

This year has sewn some doubts in that premise. But I remain reasonably confident it will be true in 2016 as well.

Certainly, I realize my wife and I live in a bubble. We have few friends without college degrees. We don’t really know the experiences of most Americans. I find this challenging. I need to get out more, listen to the experiences of REAL Americans more.
Perhaps my perceptions this year are skewed. The percent of Americans with college degrees has increased greatly since 1940, when only five percent of the population was college educated. College grads grew to 10 percent in 1960; 20 percent in 1980; and close to 30 percent by 2009, but has flattened or dropped down slightly since then, due largely to the Great Recession and high cost of college. Too many students can’t afford to go to college. That might explain, at least partly, the frustration and anger expressed in politics in 2016.
Actually, while nearly three-quarters of adults do not have college degrees, about HALF of voters are projected to have college degrees in 2016. And that’s the largest proportion of educated voters EVER. “As a country we are more highly educated than we’ve ever been,” reports Asma Khalid on National Public Radio. In 1980, for example, about two-thirds of all voters were white working class. By 2012, only about a third of voters were white folks without a college degree.
There is a strong correlation between lack of education and not voting. That’s not necessarily healthy for society that half of eligible voters don’t actually vote, and that the uneducated feel so disengaged and disempowered in a democracy.
And college isn’t for everyone. But vocational training after high school is essential to building a strong middle class in America that shouldn’t have to settle for minimum wage jobs. America will never win economically by trying to compete with China, Mexico, India and developing countries in Asia to fill the lowest-wage jobs.
Bruce Johnson responds: “Margaret Thatcher, for once, put it well. In a parliamentary debate, the other side complained that an issue was too complex for the people to understand. She replied, ‘The people can understand it if we can explain it.’ “
He then recalled an experience speaking to a vocational class in high school about the 1968 election between Republican Richard Nixon, Democrat Hubert Humphrey and American Party candidate George Wallace. When Bruce entered the class, not a single student was for Humphrey, or willing to speak up for him. But clearly the class was open to persuasion. After Bruce spoke on Humphrey’s behalf, half the class raised their hand to “vote” for Humphrey.
“FDR communicated with voters in a way that enabled them to understand big issues and to rally behind him,” Bruce writes. “Harry Truman did the same.  But Adlai Stevenson talked over their heads so he failed to convince them. Bill Clinton is good at that.
“I think part of the problem is that in the old days even people without a lot of education read the papers and watched the network news. Now most people if they follow the news at all get it from cable or the Internet off sites that reinforce their prejudices and fail to challenge them.”

Holding One’s Nose and Voting Against the Party That Was Your Political Home

I try to be empathetic to the dilemma of thoughtful Republicans who are agonizing over voting for Donald Trump and pondering a vote for Hillary Clinton.

I respect the principles of those who seek smaller or more decentralized government, low taxes, fewer regulations, smaller deficits, and/or are religiously devout and oppose abortion. I often disagree with them on the details.  Yet Donald Trump abandons many of these principles.

He clearly advocates for a stronger, more authoritarian and more intrusive, even abusive federal government; irresponsibly lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans who can afford to pay their fair share — he thinks it’s ok that billionaires like himself pay nothing in taxes; he most definitely does not favor smaller deficits, since his proposals would explode the debt. For decades he showed no interest in religion, embraced a narcissistic playboy lifestyle, brazenly cheated on two wives before he divorced them, and was outspoken in favor of abortion. We are supposed to believe him now when he is running for president that he has become pro-life, and has advocated punishment for women who have abortions?

If Democrats nominated such a volatile, impulsive, egocentric personality, or a celebrity (Alec Baldwin or Michael Moore come to mind), I would judge them unfit to be president, hold my nose and choose George W. Bush or Mitt Romney instead.

If Democrat nominated some notorious leftists like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, I would rush into the camps of a Bush or a Romney because at least with them, we share certain values. I could not support a Democratic candidate who expressed admiration for Chavez or Duterte.

Trump’s expressed admiration for foreign dictators like Vladimir Putin, Benito Mussolini, and Saddam Hussein places him well outside the American political tradition.

It’s unfathomable that some Republicans this year seem to prefer Vladimir Putin’s professed ally, Donald Trump, to Hillary Clinton.

Certainly there were generally good Democrats who voted for Reagan against Carter and Mondale, and Nixon against McGovern. And there were generally good Republicans who voted for Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964. Johnson and Nixon each won 60 percent of the vote; Reagan won 58 percent of the vote against Mondale in 1984, and 50% against Carter’s 41% in 1980. Johnson, Nixon and Reagan all won electoral landslides.

The same should be true of Hillary this year — she should do as well as Reagan in 1980 — unless Americans have become blindly, irrationally partisan.

In Praise of Abandoning Your Party (Politico takes a historical look at rising above faction)

It is true that “swing voters” declined from 15 percent of the electorate in 1960 to about five percent of voters in 2012.  This means that if past patterns hold, both the Democratic and Republican Party nominees are almost guaranteed to garner at least 45 percent of the vote in a two-person race, no matter who they nominate.

But past patterns should not hold, because Trump is an exceptionally bad Republican nominee.

If I were a loyal Labour Party voter in the UK, I could not vote for its current leader Jeremy Corbyn. I would have to hold my nose and vote either for the Tories (Conservatives) or the almost fringe party, Liberal Democrats. Probably I would vote for the Tories to send a message to my party, Labour, to punish it for selecting such an awful leader.

Corbyn has been a disaster. He could have worked to defeat Brexit. A different Labour Party leader would have done so. But he gave into the reactionary forces opposing Brexit and actually led the march against it.

Jeremy Corbyn could heal Labour’s immigration divide. Sadly, he’s doing the opposite | Jonathan FreedlandThe Guardian

Labour is irrelevant under Jeremy Corbyn and his poisonous comradesTelegraph.co.uk

Rebel Labour MPs: We’ll rejoin Corbyn if he gets rid of McDonnellMirror.co.uk

Tories call for snap general election as polls show Theresa May would nearly quadruple Commons majorityTelegraph.co.uk

Republicans who believe Trump is a disaster, like the traditional Labour Party voters turning Tory, should consider putting principle above party and send an emphatic message to Republicans this year.