Instant Reflections of a quondam political scientist on the Midterms:
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” — Albert Alligator
“All right America, we are two nations.” — John Dos Passos
“Whatever happens in the midterms, Trump will get worse before anything gets better”–Tom Engelhardt
“This is an awful country.”–Anonymous
1. The two Nations look like this: Trump Nation takes in first, the ex-Confederacy, where race is the dominant issue, excluding Virginia (barely), including Oklahoma. Texas and Georgia might someday be questionable, but not yet; the former, with Oklahoma, is dominated by the racial issue of immigration, along with Arizona. Much of Appalachia is now included in that Nation: West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Indiana, southern Ohio, western New York: race one of the two most prominent issues, the other being loss of industry. Thus the rust belt states, though not Illinois, maybe not Michigan though it’s a toss-up, and not Minnesota. Migration patterns. Second, the plains states, some of which–Kansas, Missouri–leaned Confederate. Third, the Mountain States, where the issue is not so much race-except where Native Americans are concerned–as land. Land. Federal Government: keep your fucking hands off. The land, and the guns with which we protect the land. Alaska falls in that category too. Colorado somehow excluded, tilting blue, and New Mexico alone among the Border states outside Trumpland.
Trump Nation not coincidentally includes the energy-rich states, in which environmentalism is considered the enemy by a majority.
Second, what shall I call it? “Our Nation.” Bi-coastal Nation, though Minnesota is included, Nevada tilting toward California. Facing outward, toward Europe, Asia, the rest of the world–cosmopolitan.
2. The difference between political organization in the two nations is striking. for R-state Dems immigration is a losing issue, a trap. For D-state Dems, it’s a base issue, not compromisable. But R’s in D states have nothing to lose by following Trump, that they haven’t lost already, so that with some exceptions in New England (and Maryland) they toe the Red Line.
3. But the main point is this. Regardless of popular voting, the Electoral College and the 2-Senator per state rule favor the GOP extremely. Just look at a map. And we should not be deluded by the popular vote totals for President and House (gerrymandering aside). Excluding California and New York, Trump had a national landslide. Hugely, as he would say. They do carry over 80 e.v.’s for the Presidency, at least, but they have 4 Senators. Just like Wyoming + Idaho. We’ve got small states too–Rhode Island, Delaware, Vermont–but they’ve got the Dakotas, Alaska, Utah. That’s just a wash, but throw Cal and NY back into the mix, and D-states are just wasting millions of votes which accomplish nothing except in the House. So that has a chance of staying D, the Senate very little. Moreover, the one-Party control of state legislatures in Trump Nation, dedicated to autocracy and vote suppression, makes the picture even more bleak. As for the Presidency? In a country in which the Tufte Model (GDP growth + unemployment rate) in a formula I shrug my shoulders to, but which has almost always worked, especially for an incumbent President, and in which there may be major interference in the electoral process, there are not many reasons for optimism.
4. The Republicans are aware of all this: they throw their resources in on that basis; the D’s only just catching on. And unable to overcome the real division in their world, whereas the R’s have done that. Or trump has: 91% of them supporting him. Economy + race + sexual panic = the recipe for autocracy. Between now and 2020 we are going to find out just how much destruction a President supported by a political party that has turned its back on the idea of Democratic government (such as it has been), as well as a complaisant judiciary,–only going to get more so–can wreak on the Constitution and the Rule of Law, and how many votes his mass movement can suppress.
5. A last word on gender, which I didn’t quite cover adequately in my remarks on why White women vote Republican. Secularists, of which I am one and most of you probably are, invariably treat religion as a residual factor, not a constant and determining factor like race and class, and nowadays gender. As though it stems from some background conditions that are objective, and is thus merely ideological–a false consciousness, as in some of my own (unpublished) writing. I think we have been and are mistaken in this. The electoral behavior of White Evangelical Christians in the United States, who are demographically the decisive element in the Trump coalition, does not appear to them to have background causes, subject to psychoanalytic understandings, as in Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964), or Danny Bell’s The New American Right (1955). They vote Right because “God” and his representative on Earth command it, it is the “Godly” thing to do. Reasonable explanations about Trump’s broken promises or the shortfalls in apparent economic growth or the benefits of the Affordable Healthcare Act do not trump the wrongness of Abortion (except, of course, when you or someone in your family happens to need one), or the rightness of being Armed. If “God” and his rules are immanent, there’s nothing more to be said. Absent some kind of counter-revolution in the realm of religion, this divide will never disappear.
And whereas liberal Jews s or Protestants these days usually limit themselves to one or two children — starting after the Degree is obtained and the trip to Europe finalized — Evangelical Christians observe no such limitation. And unlike many religious sects, they don’t just want to be left alone: they want to tell us what we can and can’t do. Demography, unfortunately, takes no sides, nor does it trump religion when Trump incarnates religion. Only some environmental or other disaster may change this dominant assumption about what God wants.
I will reluctantly go on record here, unnecessarily I’m sure for many of my readers, that I think all this is insane, is false consciousness without remit. But it’s real consciousness just the same. I once said all that about religion being false consciousness in a presentation at U. of Toronto, and a friend, Frank Cunningham, said to me after the paper, “Phil, you don’t want to publish that.”