Sunday, November 13, 2016

Responding To Oxo Beppo's Comments On Whether Progressives Listen To The White Working Class

In a previous post, I wrote:
". . . Trying to be positive, I was thinking that how I feel now is how many conservatives have felt since Obama was first elected.  I'd like to think that my feeling is more legitimate, but feelings are feelings. They may or may not be tied to a rational, realistic assessment.   But it's clear that progressives haven't really listened to the pain of the working class. . . "
Oxo Beppo took issue (third comment) with that part about not listening:
". . . wait, it's not at all true that anyone can say, 'progressives haven't listened to the pain of the working class'. 
That's not a true statement, progressives are the only people who have paid any attention to the pain of the working class. That hasn't changed.
What's changed is the propaganda from the right has 'trumped' that reality.
We know that unions are good, we know that healthcare for all is good, we know that minimum wage is good. Progressives have and still do champion the working class. The right never has and never will. . . "
I think that he's right and I'm right.  I've sat on this for several days trying to figure out how to articulate what I meant.  It seemed this was getting too long for the comment section, so I'm putting it in a new post.  But do go back and see the old one to see the full context.

Oxo, I think we’re talking past each other.  I agree with much of what you say.  I’ve been sitting on this while I thought out how to respond.
1.  I shouldn’t have used the term ‘working class.’  I don’t even know what that means any more and the issues I was talking about spread beyond economic class.
2.  Yes, right wing propaganda demonized Clinton.  And there were a lot of people who simply can’t deal with a strong woman, so the emails and all the other charges gave them a non-sexist ‘cover’ to hate her.  But the hate was all out of proportion to the ‘crimes’ she was charged with and how these people have responded to men who have much worse records, including Trump.
3.  Unions?  I agree and disagree.  Unions have done and still do a lot of good for workers.  Historically, they got workers to 40 hour weeks, they got sick leave, and vacation time.  They got health care and pensions.  (Though if health care hadn’t been tied to work, maybe we would have gotten national health care a long time ago and people wouldn’t have been tied to bad jobs just to keep the health care.)  And eventually businesses without unions began matching union benefits and pay to keep unions out.  And as the right has been successful in breaking union power, pay and benefits for workers has lost ground.  So yes, unions have done a lot of good.  But like any powerful institutions, unions also attracted the power hungry and the greedy who took advantage of the fact that most workers didn’t pay a lot of attention to their union politics, or rules that made it easy to keep workers uninformed.  Many people resented paying union dues and corrupt or callous union leaders.  And, most importantly, very few people are even members of unions.   Union membership was 20% of workers in 1983 and now it's 11%.  Today 32% of government employees are unionized and only 7% of private sector employees are unionized.

But the key difference between us is the notion of listening.  Yes, Democrats did all the traditional things that they have done for the working poor, if it was about jobs or health care - pushed for day care, minimum wage, health care, and on and on.  But those aren’t the pains I was talking about.    When the complaints were about blacks and other minorities getting treated better than they were being treated, progressives didn't listen.  And I understand why.  But they didn't even listen; they just dismissed them.

These are the people I was alluding.   People who had fallen out of the comfortable middle class, or had never been in it.  Mostly white people on the margins.  They’d bought into the American dream and when they had money they did what advertisers told them to do - they spent it.  And as they got older, they found themselves without enough money to maintain that life.  Liberals can make all the smug arguments they want - "where is your self-reliance and your belief in the free market?" but that's besides the point.

Many of them came from dysfunctional families where the father was the head of the household and everyone had to follow his rules. [See George Lakoff on this. Scroll down to Conservatism and Liberalism and the two models of family.]  And there may have been physical as well as verbal abuse.  The pain I was talking about is the pain of not being respected, of being condescended to, of not being taken seriously that often stems from parental belittling.   It’s the pain that Palin appealed to and won applause for when she talked about elites, about the college professors, the ‘experts,’ the people who thought they were ‘better’ than ‘us.’

Liberals have supported every group that was outside the ideal American WASP image - blacks, Hispanics, Asians, LGBT, women, Native Americans, and on and on. Rightfully so.   In an attempt to encourage tolerance, liberals have made racial epithets and other derogatory terms against the rules - sometimes actual enforceable rules, sometimes just social rules of decency.  All the derogatory terms except for slurs for WASPS, particularly poor whites, words like trailer trash, poor white trash, and hillbillies.  It was still ok to use those.  And the people who no longer were allowed to use their traditional epithets in public, found themselves as the only people against whom epithets could be used with impunity.

It’s the anger over that double standard that I’m talking about.  Liberals have not heard those cries to be treated with respect, to not be called stupid and ignorant.

Admittedly, it’s hard for liberals to be accepting of people who make racist and sexist remarks. Rich and powerful racists get deference, but when they aren’t in positions of power that liberal intolerance comes out.

It's a dilemma.  I don’t find racial and sexual discrimination acceptable.  I don’t find treating others badly acceptable.  We have to separate the behavior from the human being.  We can condemn the behavior, but in a way that is respectful of the human being.  And that's strategically difficult.  When you deal with a bully, standing up to that bully is often the only successful strategy.  And after watching Democratic presidential candidates like Gore and Kerry get creamed by bully politics, the Clinton campaign did stand up to every Trump attack.  But for the Trump supporters it was about being respected not about rational arguments.

I’ve talked about being more sympathetic and understanding of people I disagree with on this blog from early on.  The first post that I remember, because I got flak for it, was when I complained about liberals trashing Vic Kohring after he’d been convicted and sentenced to prison.  He still was a human being, he was down and out, and I thought continuing to kick him was mean spirited.

There's the behavior.  But more interesting to me is what personal history deep inside causes someone to be mean and nasty to others based on their race or gender or sexuality or religion.   I'm of the belief that people regularly attack innocent others when they are unhappy about themselves. Being mean and angry and controlling isn't being happy and at peace with oneself. When people understand the source of that unhappiness they have a chance to start changing the behavior.  And parental modeling plays a big role in whether we lash out or talk quietly and rationally.  The quiet rationality, that liberal ideal, can also cause problems if one is suppressing great anger and pain.

What I was trying to say was that Trump heard  those people who felt they were looked down on as stupid, ignorant, bigoted white people.  And he told them they were ok.  He did it by defying liberal standards of acceptable speech.  The very things that alarmed liberals so much resonated with his supporters.  He was saying the things they were thinking but had been told were unacceptable to say out loud.  He said them on national television.  He said them unapologetically.  And he did it as a presidential candidate. He was saying with his behavior - you're ok!   I suspect for many of them who had authoritarian fathers, he had the additional appeal as a familiar father figure.

Liberals haven’t been able to get past the sexist and racist comments.  They generally overlook the sexism of rap, excusing it because of the context of racist oppression.  But the context of white racism is never treated with the same tolerance.  I’ve talked about listening and needing to talk, and that racists are humans too. (And let's not forget that in the US, everyone has been infected by racism.  For some the symptoms rarely show, but others become full blown racists.  But that's a discussion for another day.)

This post describes just one segment, probably a large segment, of Trump voters.  People voted for Trump for many reasons and Clinton's message and manner didn't swing enough people in enough key states to win the electoral college vote.  That's not blaming Clinton, it's just descriptive of what happened.

I've used the terms liberal and progressive and generally used the pronoun 'they' even though I fall in that category.  While I have advocated for treating conservatives as people and for listening to them on this blog,   I haven’t done a lot about it, so I’m not excusing myself here either.


  1. No, we aren't 'talking past each other'.

    You fell for and echoed a false meme. I confronted that falsity.

    You didn't invent the false meme but that didn't stop you from casually adopting it and repeating it as if it were not a blatant falsity.

    Again, the reality is that the right has never cared a whit for the working class, let alone the working poor. To even hint otherwise is totally false and inane. But doing so does serve to propagate the false meme. That's playing right into the hand of evil.

    The false meme was more than likely purposely formed in order to demonize the left in the eyes of the gullible. That false meme is casually threaded through any number of 'pundit' generated analysis and editorials meant to paper over the fact that a whole lot of folks got played for suckers again.

    In this new post you posit that decency and respect for others can be attributed to some turn of phrase, another false meme, 'liberal standards'.

    Another false meme. But again, by adopting the false meme and going on to propagate the utterly false idea, (again playing into the hand of evil), that which is and has always been a universal standard is now something that can be dismissively referred to as a 'liberal standard'. What nonsense. As if by attaching the 'liberal' tag, decency and respect for others can be pushed aside in order to justify racism, bigotry and hate.

    You also then go on to state that racists are human too. Is what defines being human supposed to now include racist behavior?

    Not being careful with the use of words is dangerous. Attempting to give new and opposing definition to words is extremely dangerous folly. By echoing false memes, those false means gain traction in the minds of the gullible.

    By subverting the definition of words, by furthering the echoing false memes, a wholly false narrative can be created.

    By normalizing the unacceptable, by creating false equivalences, what is right, just and honorable is left by the wayside in favor of abominable horrors.

    Be careful what you casually banter about, what you yourself may normalize, the result can lead to monstrous barbarity.

    1. My old English instructor would have called that vomiting into a typewriter.

    2. ...which clearly demonstrates your inability to speak to the issue.

  2. And I have to add, by tempering your admission that unions are constructive and positive institutions with some reference that it might be okay to dismiss them because of some small percentage of misuse or abuse could be blown out of proportion to the overall good is just more folly.

    That's like saying we should scrap any program providing assistance to those who cannot provide for themselves because some small percentage may take advantage of that program.

    I'll leave it to you to identify who would justify the demonization of whole classes of people because some small fraction can be found wanting.

    Casually and regularly reinforcing false memes never leads to any good.

  3. To make it simple, what some folks wanted, Trump provided.

    But it wasn't anything other than what it was. Some wanted their unwarranted sense of entitlement championed. Some wanted to be allowed their bias and hate. Some wanted an authority figure to comfort them in their fears.

    Some wanted false memes made real. Too many got what they wanted.

  4. Replies
    1. I could care less about your irrelevant and puerile proclamation that you're in any position to confer or endow some 'grade' on my speech, and to tell you plainly, appeasing your ego holds no attraction.

      If you're unable to 'perceive' my beliefs from what I've said, as you so disingenuously claim, I've no time to waste on what must be your personal problem.

      As with the previous anon, you haven't addressed the issue at hand.

      (…and the 'cheers' sign off fails to serve as evidence of your wit)

  5. Replies
    1. I'm aware of your expatriate residency, and popping up to call more attention to yourself is all you've accomplished.

      If you can't address the context of the issue, address someone else who wants to hear you preen, I have no interest.

      As if you were unaware, I wasn't addressing you to begin with, so your ad hominem blather doesn't interest me in the least. It is naught but tiresome and boorish.

  6. Oxo, I wrote a more detailed response to your comments, but it’s not going up. I suspect it’s because it’s too long. Let’s just cut to the chase. First, read the comments guidelines. Your responses to Anonymous and to Jacob were personal and insulting. They were critical and didn't have any backup, but it seems they wanted to register an opinion about your response, but didn't have the time to do it properly. They focused on what you said, not on you.

    I did have a commenter a few years ago that you remind me of. He/she touched on important issues, but the criticisms weren't quite on the mark.

    I try to respond to comments carefully and with respect. But my time is limited. If you do want to post another comment and don’t want me to delete it or ignore it, then please try to:

    1. Keep your comments about the content (which you’ve done about my comments, but not about other commenters.)
    2. Answer the following questions:
    A. What exactly are the false memes you see in here? Quote them and explain why they are false memes. (The sentences you’ve quoted didn’t match the things you wrote about false memes.)
    B. What false equivalences have you spotted? Again, quote it exactly and say why it’s false.

    Try to keep it short. Just focus on those items. Otherwise these get too long and confusing for anyone to follow.

    1. A.
      You claimed:

      But it's clear that progressives haven't really listened to the pain of the working class. . . "

      I countered:

      ". . . wait, it's not at all true that anyone can say, 'progressives haven't listened to the pain of the working class'. 
      That's not a true statement, progressives are the only people who have paid any attention to the pain of the working class.

      What is the false meme, progressive haven't listened to the pain of the working class.

      You claim that it is a viable argument to both agree and disagree on the value of unions.

      The institution is either on the whole, valuable or it is not. No one can claim a measure of value cuts equally both ways.

      Value is either positive or negative. If positive values outweigh negative values, institutions are judged by their overall merits or a consensus about their lack thereof. It's an either or matter. The verdict on unions isn't questionable, on the main, their positive values vastly outscore all the known criticisms.

      Ever hear of the phrase throwing the baby out with the bath water?

      Your claim, or anyone's claim that 'liberals' should entertain the notion of 'getting over' sexist or racist comments is extremely misguided.

      I"ll entertain a discussion of your 'opinion' of how much curry to add to any certain dish.

      I won't entertain any discussion of your 'opinion' on whether another person or entire class of people is worthy of equal treatment.

      Those whose wish it is to eliminate 'political correctness' are those who wish a free hand to return to open racism and other forms of bigotry and hate.

      I'm not going to 'tolerate' anything that is fundamentally anathema to granting equality and basic human rights to all.

      No, I most emphatically should not entertain any notion of 'getting over any hint of sexism or racism. And no one else should either. Quit repeating such nonsense.

      Sorry, I'm not the only one who draws a distinction over what may or may not be 'gotten over'.

      You claim that 'liberals' never are intolerant of white racism.

      That's simply painting with too wide a brush. If you wish to claim some position of ascendance over 'liberals', the attempt to attribute all the exact same characteristics and ethic to a whole class of people might help to create an illusion, that doesn't mean the misguided conjecture is the reality.

      It's as false as the attempts to smear every member of a worldwide religion as having the exact same feelings and attitudes as any one of them. I assume you reject that premise, why would you turn around and attempt to apply the same to 'liberals'?

      You posit the claim that having no basic respect for others can be excused by somehow allowing such respect to be simply redefined as one not meeting a 'liberal standard'. Say what?

      Labeling respect for human beings 'liberal standards' may appear to some to justify ignoring those standards through their desire to reject all things liberal, but basic respect for others isn't a 'liberal' standard, respect for other's basic human right is an accepted and supported standard which enjoys favorable status the world over. That can't be negated through attempts by some small minority to redefine it or demean it through the disingenuous attachment of an arbitrary adjective.

      To endorse or adopt such devious machinations is reprehensible.

      Encouraging the defense of the indefensible is not now a path to pursue, nor is it, or will it ever.

      As Trump said, just stop it.

    2. I'm not sure it's productive to pursue this, but let me respond to your comment about unions. You say I have to either be for or against unions. You wrote:

      “Value is either positive or negative. If positive values outweigh negative values, institutions are judged by their overall merits or a consensus about their lack thereof. It's an either or matter. The verdict on unions isn't questionable, on the main, their positive values vastly outscore all the known criticisms.”

      I’m guessing that’s why you wrote “We know that unions are good.” Because, if I understand you correctly, that you are saying that one may not say, “They do some good things, but they also have problems.” You seem to be saying I have to pick - either good or bad.

      Is that also because if I mention something negative about unions, then the right will jump on that as proof unions are bad?
      I get the idea that if I point out problems with unions, people on the right will run with it and use it. But they already know the problems with unions. And they can make up stuff without me having to write anything. It’s people on the left who idealize the idea of unions and have no experience with the actual problems of unions that are the problem. It’s like people on the right who like the idea of the market, but never acknowledge the market’s problems.

      My purpose here is not to propagandize for the left. It’s to seek better understandings of things. That means I have to look at all aspects of something.

      Let me stop there. If this makes sense to you, then we can go on to another issue you raised, say, the idea that I’m normalizing racism when I say that racists are human beings. But let’s not start another topic until we can come to agreement on this one. I’m not saying we have to agree, but we should at least understand each other’s arguments. So, if you still think I’m wildly off the mark as you have suggested, I don’t think further debate here is going to help. But if you really want to pursue this with me, then my email is on the right side above the blog archive and we can do this off the blog.

  7. Depicting my writing and language skills as vomit is somehow or in someway deemed to be merely polite criticism?

    Somehow not in any way to be personal and insulting.

    By some tortuous path of illogic, calling my writing and language vomit is somehow not (focused) on me?

    That's intriguing.

    Additionally, somehow or other, on the one hand calling my writing vomit, while on the other hand, not addressing any context whatsoever is not somehow a clear case of that rhetorical device known simply as an ad hominem attack? Interesting.

    Daring to point that out that it is nothing more than an ad hominem attack is to be deemed insulting and personal.

    Concern trolling without addressing any context or the issue at hand while simultaneously discrediting and devaluing another by doling out sup-par 'grades' of another's language and writing skills is not personal and insulting?

    Not 'focused' on the person being subjectively debased, a person whose writing has been proclaimed to be inferior and whose language has been deemed to be of no use whatsoever?


    Not merely an ad hominem attack despite the total absence of any mention of the subject at hand? Hmm.

    More and more bizarre and unconventional. Or is it?

    They say the human brain selects for determining or identifying patterns.

    Perhaps, though, evidently in the face of my singular distinction of being prone to 'insult' and me being similarly apt to shamefully 'get personal', my brain is in some way not able to correctly perceive any pattern.

    My perception of the appearance of pattern here must be faulty, right?

    What would I know ?

    1. Basically, the two commenters gave you opinions about your work without examples. But their comments weren’t about you. They were reactions to what you wrote.
      In response, you made comments not only about what they wrote but about who they are as people. You said anon’s comment “clearly demonstrates your inability to speak to the issue.” Perhaps he/she simply chose not to take the time to respond in detail. It would have been a more useful comment had anon at least given an example or two. The vomit image was unfortunate, but it was about the writing, not about the writer.
      The same is true about Jacob. His comment was an expression of opinion about what you wrote, not about you. Again, it didn’t offer examples. But your response was personal - you talked about his ego, his personal problems, and you implied you had knowledge of his intentions when you said it was ‘disingenuous.’

      All you had to do was say, “I see you didn’t like what I wrote. A few explanations would be helpful so I can be clearer in the future.”

    2. That perception of pattern appears constant.

      Neither of them simply said they didn't like what I wrote.

      Both took the initiative to be entirely subjective in their choice of descriptives wielded in their attempts to demean and debase.

      I most certainly feel as if my person was insulted, and no amount of your attempting to redefine what is objectively evident will alter that.

      Lowering the bar for one side of a debate leads to nothing good.

      I would have thought from recent events that particular lesson was undeniably clear.

  8. This is how civil conversation is derailed, sadly. Your method of engaging others has been flagged and you deny there is a problem -- in fact, you throw the problem onto us.

    We could hold forth on our differences, the way we write all day and tomorrow, but first you expect we must become combatants on some sort of field of honour. That's how it feels talking with you, Anon Oxo.

    We may find we even might like each other, find real value in one another's ideas; but the way you treat we readers won't let me do that. I got angry at your anger, I guess. My bad.

    It's all an oblject lesson in being aware of our words. I mess up daily. I read here that you do, too.


  9. It never fails to astonish me that some continue to think adopting the PeeWee Herman defense is practicable.

  10. OK, I give up hoping that we can talk about the issues here instead of insulting the commenters. I'm closing comments on this post. And I will delete quickly posts that in my judgment that don't follow the guidelines for commenting here.