Invitation to a Discussion: Anthropologists on the Trump Election

Invitation to a Discussion:  What Do American Anthropologists Say about Trump’s Election, and What Does Trump’s Election Say about American Anthropology?   

    In an OAC Forum begun last month, The polls got it wrong, again... The end of 'social science'? Time to stop predicting and start listening... Huon Wardle suggests that the colossal failures of pollsters aka quantitative analysts to predict Trump’s win and the Brexit result and of economists to foresee the financial crisis of 2008 spell the end of social science – at least of its unquestioned authority.  Huon argues that social thinkers should instead follow Malinowski’s classic precept of attending closely to what people do rather than what they say, particularly the guarded and offhand responses they may give to pollsters who bother them on the phone or waylay them at polling places. 

     Huon here champions anthropology’s singular contribution to social thought: the method and theory of ethnography.  Equipped with that tool, ethnographers are expected to function as trained observers and analysts, often among people very different from themselves and for relatively brief periods of one or two years, observers and analysts who then produce substantive, reliable accounts of the world’s societies.  What, then, should we expect of those ethnographers when the subject is a major phenomenon in a society most of them have known, if not from birth, at least for years and years?  Specifically, what should we have expected American anthropologists’ reaction to have been to the events of late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, November 8 and 9?  Like everyone else, they had been inundated by polls and pundits who gave Hillary an 80% chance of winning right into election night.  And like everyone else, they had witnessed the incredible spectacles of Trump’s mass rallies, where hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country, proudly wearing their red Trump baseball caps, stood in line for hours to take part.  But unlike everyone else, one would hope, they had weighed those disparate sources of information with their own personal experience of living and working in the U. S., weighted them all together in applying their unique ethnographic insight into their own society.  But that’s not what happened. 

    Here let me speak personally, as an anthropologist who has done all those things.  On balance going into election night, I felt the immense enthusiasm and numbers of Trump supporters outweighed what the pollsters were saying, particularly in view of the dismal record of earlier polls done during the presidential primary elections.  At the same time, the electoral hurdles Trump would have to overcome in turning all those “blue states” red – Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin – looked almost insurmountable.  Before the first vote was cast, Hillary could count on all the West Coast states and most of the East Coast states voting for her.  She only needed a handful of  additional electoral votes to clinch the victory.  At even money, I would not have bet on either candidate; given odds I would have wagered a modest amount on Hillary.  As election night turned into election morning the results were dramatic, with swing state after swing state going to Trump.  Not since the hanging chads of the Florida election in 2000 (Bush Jr. vs. Gore) had a presidential contest been so gripping.  From my perspective, Trump’s win was rather unexpected, but not an overwhelming surprise.  After all, there were those seas of red baseball caps surging across the entire country. 

    That was not, however, the reaction of American anthropology as a whole.   Prominent figures of our major institutions and publications – Cultural Anthropology, the American Anthropological Association, Savage Minds – spoke with one voice:  the election result was stunning, incomprehensible, a paralyzing blow to our sensibility and way of life.  A complete and total surprise.  A contributor to Savage Minds, Uzma Z. Rizvi narrates her sense of emotional paralysis as the election result became clear: 

 

The day after Leonard Cohen died.

November 12, 2016 Uzma Z. Rizvi

Suddenly the night has grown colder.

The god of love preparing to depart.*

 

The chill of the 2016 US elections is still in my bones. Glued to any and all forms of media, I watched what Van Jones and Judith Butler have called, “whitelash” unfold in graphs, charts, and all forms of measurable outcomes. I watched as the states of my country turned red one by one. This was not the first time I had seen this, but there was something unique about this time. This time, it was not just me and people who looked like me, who felt precarious, but rather I watched as the whitelash was aimed at and betrayed the white Left/Center Left. I watched and felt the hush over the newscasters in the newsroom as they realized the precarity of the first amendment, particularly of free speech and thus, their very existence.

Without intending to, I consumed/embodied that hush. I could not respond or say anything about the election. My inbox was flooded with messages of coping, my social media was a manifest of betrayal, blame, violence, fear, and ultimately action. I was still silent. 

 

    Rizvi was struck dumb.  Here we must confront a serious problem in the doing of American anthropology.  Any American, anthropologist or not, is fully entitled to feelings of outrage, disgust, fear at the result of November 8.  They may believe – and as time passes they may be proven right – that  Trump’s success is a harbinger of doom: markets will collapse (well, apparently not), civil liberties will erode to nothing, racism and religious intolerance will flourish, the long dark night of fascism will descend on American shores.  Those are legitimate concerns.  But anyone who professes a special insight into the workings of society, that is, any social thinker, is not entitled to the feelings Uzma Z. Rizvi pours out in her post, feelings of surprise, shock, betrayal to the point of being rendered helpless and mute.  Why not?  Because we should have seen it coming!  Or, at the least, the strong possibility of it coming.  American anthropologists, supposedly familiar with the workings of their own society, should not have been so grievously mistaken that they lapsed into emotional paralysis when things turned out differently from what they expected.  The election was a near thing; an objective assessment, as I’ve argued, would have seen the vote breaking either way.  It now appears that the charge Huon levelled at pollsters in his Forum applies to the very ethnographers he extolled.  As a body we were taken so unaware that we reacted as though an unforeseeable disaster had dealt a mortal blow to the way, the truth, and the light. 

    But why?  Why did American anthropology as a whole get it wrong?  I suggest this is an absolutely vital question that opens onto the contrapuntal questions I pose in the Forum title.  First, we need to know in some detail what American anthropologists have to say about Trump’s election.  There has to be more there, I hope, than the emotional outpourings of writers such as Rizvi.  A phenomenon involving more than 120 million Americans was played out over a year and a half.  We are, I think, duty bound to try to understand what they were thinking, at least the 60+ million who voted for Trump, what was going on in their lives, what vision of American society, past, present, and future they embraced.  Cultural anthropologists are supposed to do cultural analysis, that is, to go as deep as possible into the interconnected concepts, beliefs, and actions that together comprise a social group.  Anything less, I submit, is a form of professional irresponsibility and, yes, cowardice.  However ugly and dangerous we find a person, an event, a movement, we must be capable of looking it full in the face.  Second, the phenomenon of Trump cannot be approached as an already constituted object, sui generis, that simply awaits our analytic attention.  Rather, this major event in our history should be treated as an instrument or lens with which to interrogate its host society and the anthropological program which, like it or not, is part and parcel of its host society,, its style or culture of inquiry.  What does the event of the election teach us about the always precarious activity of doing anthropology?  As the second question asks:  What does Trump’s election say about American anthropology? 

    I submit that it is urgent to pursue both questions at this juncture in our political life and in the (d)evolution of the discipline of anthropology.  Fortunately, that effort is already underway.  Paul Stoller, perhaps American cultural anthropology’s pre-eminent public intellectual, has produced a set of perceptive articles in Huffington Post.  See in particular his “Revisiting the Anthropology of Trump: Ethnography and the Power of Culture.”

  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stoller/revisiting-the-anthropol... 

   

Also, it is remarkable that while American anthropologists were oblivious to the possibility that Trump might win, the Canadian anthropologist Maximilian Forte flat-out predicted it, and as early as January 2016, in his delightfully provocative website, Zero Anthropology. 

https://zeroanthropology.net/

In May 2016 Forte followed through with his prediction in a brilliant article in Zero Anthropology, “Why Donald J. Trump Will be the Next President of the United States.” 

https://zeroanthropology.net/2016/05/04/why-donald-j-trump-will-be-... 

Did the crews at Savage Minds and Cultural Anthropology not happen to see these before they reacted with utter surprise and horror at the election news? 

    My hope here is that these and forthcoming studies will encourage a thorough examination of what we might call, following Forte, Anthropology and Trump.  I invite all OACers and those soon to join to participate in this discussion.  However imperfectly I have rendered the issue before us, I am convinced it is of crucial importance for advancing the intellectual endeavor of anthropology as a foundational constituent of contemporary social thought.  Please note, also, that while the topic is American anthropology, thinkers from anywhere in the world are invited to contribute.  Thanks for considering my invitation.  

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Lee,  listening to J.Berger in 2015 we could see about the mistakes done by Hillary...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUCyxba08J0

Lee,

Spot on. But let's add a bit of historical perspective.

In a very good book titled The Power Game , reporter Hedrick Smith explains the impact of TV on American politics. Before TV, politics was local and controlled by political machines. Statewide or national campaigns required the approval and support of local machine bosses, labor union leaders and others who could deliver votes. TV made it possible for candidates to communicate directly with voters, by-passing the bosses, which was, initially seen as a good thing, a way for "reformers" to attack what was seen as a fundamentally corrupt system based on exchanges of personal favors. The problem was that to fund a TV campaign required a lot of money. The campaign became a marketing exercise, and a professional class of fundraisers, pollsters and strategists emerged. Candidates had to have deep pockets, indebt themselves to wealthy donors, and spend half of every day begging for money to pay off debts from previous campaigns and build war chests for the next one.

The Dean and Sanders campaigns exemplify a new possibility, online fundraising that targets thousands of small donations and constructs massages and imagery through crowd-sourcing from supporters. The Obama campaigns were, in effect, a combination of the TV marketing and Dean/Sanders online campaigns, supported by Big Data and microtargeting algorithms. From this perspective, the Clinton campaign was a dinosaur, a reversion to the TV-era marketing campaign. The pollsters, pundits, and strategists ran it into the ground because they only people they knew and cared about were those who lived where they did, in the cities, on the coasts. They ignored the hicks, the "deplorables" living in the middle of the country and paid the price when others saw in that neglect an opportunity to beat them, using a combination of net-based communication and "free media" coverage created by deliberately outrageous behavior.

What the Clintonites saw as outrageous was, of course, something else entirely to those who supported Trump, a license to express resentment fueled by neglect and condescension. And, no question about it, myth (the self-made man, the wicked witch) and folklore (A businessman knows how to run things properly) had a lot to do with shaping that resentment's expression.

Thanks for starting this, Lee. Where to begin? The polls. I think there was too much reliance on quantitative data, yes. But I also think there were some methodological issues with the polls themselves, since voters shift and the problem with polls is that they’re always working from past assumptions. But yes, this is also a qualitative issue, and the problem with short polls is that it’s so easy for them to get things wrong…depending on how they ask questions, when they ask questions, who asks those questions, and so many other factors. Polls are great and all, but the problem is that they only tell you so much. Anyone who has done survey work knows this. Yet in these massive elections too many people rely on them as if we don’t need anything else. Clearly, we do. But this is why someone like Michael Moore was able to predict this one—he’s put in the time on the ground, the kind of time that informs good anthropological analysis, which is able to move beyond the kind of momentary, snapshot-esque data that we get from most of these election polls.

Did US anthropologists completely fail on this one? Well, yes and no. The problem is that US anthropology still tends to focus most of its energies outside of the US. This is changing, but slowly. Laura Nader told us to “study up” long ago, but American Anthropology has been slow about doing this. I see your point here, Lee, but understanding the Trump win requires more than just stepping outside and looking around at all the red hats in your neighborhood; there has to be some sort of systematic analysis. Sure, there were all of those big Trump rallies, but then look at all the big rallies that Sanders was able to pull off as well (and he didn’t win). It’s a bigger picture and a more complicated task than just getting outside of our own little bubbles. In order to understand this thing, which included millions of people and a voting process with a specific structure, we need a larger view. For me it’s not surprising that so many anthropologists, who often work elsewhere, didn’t see this one coming.

Lee writes, “From my perspective, Trump’s win was rather unexpected, but not an overwhelming surprise.  After all, there were those seas of red baseball caps surging across the entire country.” 

Like I said above, this is all fine and good, but the seas of baseball caps only tell us so much about an election in which millions of people voted. I think too many people relied on the polls, which were way off. They do tend to be better predictors than this time around. One starting question here is how we can explain that discrepancy. Were the polls flawed? Did people lie? Did they change their minds? Were there some other factors at play here? I don’t want to get into the whole Russia thing here, but the point is that this whole election was pretty unwieldy, and any attempt to figure it out is going to require more than paying attention to TV images or taking note of the size of rallies. We’d need fieldwork, interviews, archival work to figure this out. Right?

Lee again: “Rizvi was struck dumb.  Here we must confront a serious problem in the doing of American anthropology.  Any American, anthropologist or not, is fully entitled to feelings of outrage, disgust, fear at the result of November 8.  They may believe – and as time passes they may be proven right – that  Trump’s success is a harbinger of doom: markets will collapse (well, apparently not), civil liberties will erode to nothing, racism and religious intolerance will flourish, the long dark night of fascism will descend on American shores.  Those are legitimate concerns.  But anyone who professes a special insight into the workings of society, that is, any social thinker, is not entitled to the feelings Uzma Z. Rizvi pours out in her post, feelings of surprise, shock, betrayal to the point of being rendered helpless and mute.  Why not?  Because we should have seen it coming!

So “social thinkers” are not entitled to these kinds of feelings and reactions because…we should have seen this coming? I don’t find that argument very compelling. Her post was a response to an event that has some pretty serious political and social implications, especially if the winning candidate actually does some of the things he promised to do. Using that post by Uzma as your takedown for US anthropology seems a bit like a cheap shot. Anthropologists are humans, it turns out. They aren’t data collecting analysis machines. They’re entitled to being surprised, even speechless at times. I don’t see this as evidence of a “serious problem” in American anthropology at all. All of that said, I do think that anthropologists in the US have taken their eye off the proverbial ball, but that’s been the case for most of the discipline’s history. Analysis of the home court, except for some notable exceptions (Powdermaker etc) has not been our Forte, so to speak. Maybe that’s why Max got things right—he stares directly at the US, and his analysis is often sharp, biting, and insightful.

Lee: “American anthropologists, supposedly familiar with the workings of their own society, should not have been so grievously mistaken that they lapsed into emotional paralysis when things turned out differently from what they expected.”

See, I actually don’t think we’re all that familiar with our own society. Not when we look at US anthro as a whole. Maybe we should call up the sociologists and see what they think, since they tend to work here more. Of course we do have some great anthropologists who work on the home front, like Setha Low, for example. Perhaps we should seek them out, look at their work, and go from there. By and large though, the dominant face of the discipline, as I see it, tends to focus on the kind of anthropology that happens out there, in other parts of the world.

Lee: “But why?  Why did American anthropology as a whole get it wrong?  I suggest this is an absolutely vital question that opens onto the contrapuntal questions I pose in the Forum title.  First, we need to know in some detail what American anthropologists have to say about Trump’s election.”

I like these questions, Lee. I’m still not sure if American Anthro got it wrong per se. I think you may be conflating the collective reaction to this political win with some sort of anthropological analysis of what happened. It’s not as if all anthropologists in the US were doing some sort of systematic analysis of the Trump phenomena. While they may be experts at social analysis, they would actually have to be doing the work to get things right, so to speak. There are people who do work here in the US, but we have to seek them out and look at their work to see what they were saying. I found some stuff here:

https://storify.com/AriannaHuhn/anthropologyoftrumplandia

Lee: “There has to be more there, I hope, than the emotional outpourings of writers such as Rizvi … Cultural anthropologists are supposed to do cultural analysis, that is, to go as deep as possible into the interconnected concepts, beliefs, and actions that together comprise a social group.  Anything less, I submit, is a form of professional irresponsibility and, yes, cowardice.”

You’re sort of piling on with Rizvi’s post, aren’t you? Of course cultural anthropologists do cultural analysis (never mind the fact that she’s an archaeologist). But a fair critique would actually be looking at anthropologists whose work is in the US. Your assumption here is that simply being an anthropologist gives us all some magical insight into the workings of culture and society in all times and places (hyperbole, yes). But again, we have to do the work to understand these kinds of social processes. Simply living in the US and being an anthropologist does not automatically give anyone special insight into the minds of 120 million people.

Lee: “What does the event of the election teach us about the always precarious activity of doing anthropology?  As the second question asks:  What does Trump’s election say about American anthropology?”

I do like these questions. We should start an anthropological institute of Trump studies. Reminds me of the main character in Don Delilo’s White Noise, who was the chair of the Hitler Studies department. In all seriousness, I do agree that anthros need to turn their gaze toward Trumplandia. 

Lee: “Did the crews at Savage Minds and Cultural Anthropology not happen to see these before they reacted with utter surprise and horror at the election news?”

I read Forte’s piece. It seemed pretty right on the mark. I read other stuff that made some similar arguments. The information was there, I guess. I’ll admit I put a little too much trust into those polls. In terms of my own “field” experiences, I was in California for most of this whole thing and saw more political mobilization for Sanders than anyone else. Although I did see some evidence of the Trump thing, it didn’t quite look as big from the Golden State as it turned out to be. But that’s not really a shocker. I actually did do some ethnographic work in what is largely Trump country last summer (near Temecula, CA), and the support was there. I followed the whole election, watched the polls, went outside, talked to people…but there was nothing systematic about what I was doing. So…it was hard to tell where things were going to end up. I actually watched the election here in Kentucky though, and it certainly was not a shocker when this state was the first one to end up in the Trump column. The rest of the night was a roller coaster though, and I won’t lie and say that I had some special insight into where it was all going. I had no idea. I’d read enough people who kept saying that Trump’s win was possible, but those poll predictions seemed to solidly beyond the margin of error. Again, I definitely gave those polls too much credibility, and that got in the way of my own personal assessment of the potential outcome. Big data fail, operator error.

One more for the road:

Lee: “At this point, however, I should air my concern with what I take to be an appropriation of a genuine anthropological approach:  the widespread conflating of the program of American anthropology with identity politics.  In thinking, viewing, and reading about the Trump phenomenon, neither the anthropologist nor the everyday American can escape the refrain of identity politics:  Trump won because he is a racist who appealed to a racist America anxious, in the face of immigration and shifting demographics, to preserve its ‘white privilege.’”

First of all, as the stats you cite show, Clinton won 66% of the Latino vote and 88% of the Black vote. White voters preferred Trump 58% TO 37%. So then we have to look at why some Whites voted for Trump, while also looking at why many Latinos and Blacks did not. Clearly, there’s something going on here with racial demographics. Why do you think that building the wall had so much purchase in Trump’s campaign? Because of the economics? Why do you think that his supporters cheered so loudly when Trump talked about the Muslim ban? Why do you think he appealed to white nationalist groups? Because of his hair? He clearly appealed to certain demographics with racist rhetoric; I don’t understand why you’d want to ignore or dismiss this.

But then there’s your argument about “identity politics,” which sounds like something I’d expect to hear from Pat Buchanan (with all of his ramblings about “Cultural Marxism” etc). What do you mean when you say that American anthropology is being conflated with identity politics? This seems to be one of your core arguments, and I’d like to dig into what exactly you’re getting at here. Are you saying that anthropology should not look at the social effects and implications of racism? Are you saying that racism doesn’t have effects? Are you denying the histories of racism in the US? Are you saying that it’s no longer a factor? Lots of people are really trying to deny that race/racism are part of the equation here, and I find that interesting in and of itself.

Trump deployed race as one part of his arsenal. It wasn’t the only part of his arsenal, but it was definitely part of it. Ironically, he recruited people like Steve Bannon, who often uses the tactic of accusing people who decry racism as being racists themselves. Funny. Not so much. Trump definitely pushed these buttons with all of his talk about Mexicans and Muslims and building a massive wall to keep all the brown people out. This rhetoric resonated with a segment of his supporters. The fact that he was able to use all of that bigoted, racist rhetoric—and still win—is a big part of this particular election. Any number of those statements would have ended many other campaigns, but Trump kept going.

But, and this is important, these racial tensions aren’t some new reality in the US. Romney got similar numbers for a reason. This stuff has been ongoing for quite some time now; racism has a deep history in the US. Some Americans, including many progressives, like to pretend that racism somehow magically disappeared in the 60s, or maybe when Obama was elected. Well, it didn’t. Racism and discrimination are quite entrenched, even if much of it went underground for a while.

Trump just brought that bigotry and racism back into the light of day. That’s why you had people like David Duke and Richard Spencer (whose ideas about genetics and human difference are stuck somewhere in the 19th century) were so excited about Trump’s candidacy and eventual win. Trump made "safe spaces" for people like Richard Spencer to bring back arguments about IQ and racial inferiority that come from The Bell Curve. This is exactly the kind of crap that the Boasians like Ashley Montagu were battling last century. And here we are in 2017, once again reminding white nationalists and white supremacists that race is not a valid biological category.

All in all, I think this particular critique of about American Anthro and identity politics that you have going is off the mark, strangely so. I understand your interest in cultural analysis, but I don’t understand this aversion to accounting for questions of race and racism in that analysis. Here I think it’s important to revisit the work of old Papa Boas, and especially his use of the concept of culture, which was explicitly deployed to work against the scientific racism of the early 20th century. Trouillot reminds us of this in his 2003 book. Funny how so many American cultural anthropologists drifted away from that particular deployment of culture as the 20th century progressed.

Lee: “It was these shortfalls among black and Hispanic voters, coupled with the lower voter turnout by blacks and Hispanics unenthusiastic about Hillary, that cost her the election in the critical swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  Trump’s support among whites remained constant with that of Romney and McCain; what changed was Hillary’s lesser appeal to blacks and Hispanics.  Thus Van Jones’ “whitelash” is a racist fabrication; there was no swollen tide of white racists who propelled Trump to victory.  Rather than “whitelash” what we witnessed on election night was black and Hispanic brown-out.”

Not really. It doesn’t quite work like that. There’s a bit of a stats problem going on here. Comparisons of voters from year to year are nice and all, but as Forte pointed out, the changes in voting demographics are not necessarily one-to-one with previous voting stats. It’s fun to compare the votes in 2012 with the votes in 2016, but those are two different events, and we’d have to dig in deeper (read: qualitative) to figure out some of those actual differences. It’s not as if all the same people, with the same views, voted in both elections. Some sat out. Some voted for the first time. Numbers are great, but let’s not make the mistake of reifying them beyond what they are. Also, as John points out in another comment, this election was actually determined by a pretty slim margin. And then there’s the whole Electoral College thing, which should make us think carefully about what it all really means. Not to mention the fact that Hillary got about 3 million more votes.

Lee: “With that unprecedented support among non-college educated whites, why was the overall white vote essentially unchanged from 2012 to 2016?  That is a critical question, whose answer reveals the true nature of Van’s “whitelash.”  The most one-sided voting in the nation occurred, not in the rust belt supposedly teeming with angry white racists, but in the bastions of “white privilege” which identity politics takes as its boogeyman.”

Ok, here you have more than one thing going on. In your quest to debunk “identity politics,” which I see as an attempt to dismiss race/racism as a factor, you bring up the fact that cities like DC and SF went overwhelmingly for Clinton. These places are typically seen as bastions of liberal elites, even though plenty of not-so-elite people live in these places (and liberal places like Los Angeles). But here we’re getting into class and culture, and some of the divides that exist between rural and urban places. We have more than one factor going on here, yes, but that doesn’t mean that race is not part of the equation. A strong analysis would have to look at all of these factors, and see how and why they’re linked (or why they’re not). In short, I don’t understand why I see so many people trying to sweep aside race and say that some other factor is the *real* issue (class, culture, etc).

Ugh. I forgot to close a quote from Lee up there in my first comment. Paragraph 5, which quotes Lee, should end like this:

"...But anyone who professes a special insight into the workings of society, that is, any social thinker, is not entitled to the feelings Uzma Z. Rizvi pours out in her post, feelings of surprise, shock, betrayal to the point of being rendered helpless and mute.  Why not?  Because we should have seen it coming!" [close quote]

Too bad we can't edit comments after 15 min!

Ryan, do you seriously believe that anyone involved in this conversation denies that racism is real or does not take for granted that racism is one and, not only one but important, factor in Trump's victory?

To me, at least, "identity politics" seems like a bad idea, since everywhere and always, is grounded in asserting radical difference between some "us" and and some "theme" as if we are good and beleagured while they are evil and the cause of our afflictions. The logic of the argument that all whites are responsible for the sins of their ancestors is as fundamentally racist as the counterargument that Iroquois are dangerous people because their ancestors tortured captives taken in their wars, or the Japanese right-wing argument that all Japanese should "naturally" revere the Emperor. The anthropological defense of Native American rights to preserve and demand respect for their traditional cultures is deeply hypocritical if the same rights are not accorded to polygamous Mormon survivalists hold up in small towns in Idaho, coal miners in Kentucky, or residents of small midwestern towns whose economies were decimated when the factory moved to Mexico or Shen Zhen.

Does this mean that we should ignore the history of slavery or the gross disproportion in wages, wealth, and opportunities whose origins can be traced to it? Does this mean that we should ignore the massacres, the Trail of Tears, the reservations and violated treaties that are unavoidable facts of Native American history? Or the exclusion laws once directed at Chinese and Japanese immigrants? No. If, however, their primary, sometimes it seems their only use is to inflame differences where common ground is needed, I will join Lee in saying, "Enough already."

The central problem in today's world is not the historical record of imperialism, colonialism, and racism. It is, instead, why so many people remain stuck in hatred of those who seem different from themselves, while others, still unfortunately a minority, are comfortable with interactions like the one Ruth and I experienced flying Delta from Minneapolis to Haneda day before yesterday. We were in a three seat row in Comfort Economy. I was in the aisle seat, Ruth in the middle, and our companion was a younger African-American man, I would guess about half our age. When we weren't asleep or watching movies we enjoyed some casual conversation. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that he works for Microsoft and was traveling to Tokyo to meet up with some other participants in his executive MBA program and see a bit of Japan before flying on to Hong Kong, where as part of their program, they will visit Chinese companies.

A serious anthropology might have something to say about why racism is so virulent in Ferguson, MO and so muted or simply irrelevant in the Fairfax, VA suburb where my daughter lives. Confronted with this kind of question, recalling the history of slavery, etc., is clearly only one part and perhaps a small part of the answer. To see nothing else and to harp on it constantly is not only bad politics. It doesn't count as what I, old curmudgeon that I am, would consider serious scholarship.

 

    Ryan delivers a lengthy, detailed, and highly critical response to remarks I’ve made in beginning a discussion of Trump and Anthropology.  In those remarks I indeed voice my own opinion about at least one approach to the subject.  Before taking up Ryan’s criticisms, though, I must urge that much of what I’ve written here is by way of establishing a basis for discussion.  To that end, I outline what I take to be three principal approaches or perspectives to/on Trump’s election:

--- Identity Politics: Trump’s win was a consequence of white racism (what the CNN commentator Van Jones calls “whitelash”);

--- Income Inequality and Poverty in America:  Widespread poverty and joblessness, particularly in the important “rust belt” states, decided many voters in favor of Trump and his refrain of “jobs, jobs, jobs” in making America great again. 

--- Cultural Themes, Myth, Stereotypes, Folklore: Mythic or folkloric aspects of the public personae of Trump and Clinton were critical to voters’ decisions. 

    Again, these are not mutually exclusive paths for analysis, in fact, I think a good treatment of the subject requires elements of all three.  I would hope that contributors to the discussion can draw on and elaborate those in fleshing out an interpretation of the important subject before us. 

   Please keep in mind the double-edged question I’ve posed for the Forum:

--- What have American anthropologists said about Trump’s election?;

---  What does Trump’s election say about American anthropology? 

I think both are important, since we need to assess how our training as students of society served us in the weeks leading up to and following the election.  As I’ve suggested, in more polite terms, when it comes to our understanding of how the election might unfold, our collective performance has been piss-poor.  I’m never one for a scholarly “review of the literature,” but from what I’ve seen only three prominent anthropologists predicted, more or less, Trump’s win:  Max Forte, Paul Stoller, Sarah Kendzior.  The great majority of American anthropologists seem to have experienced, shock, horror, near catatonia as the swing states turned red one by one.  Whatever the reason, not a great showing.  Ryan’s excuse here does not do much to reassure us about the value of anthropology’s participation in any important public forum.  He suggests that most American anthropologists are so involved in foreign studies that they haven’t paid close attention to really important stuff happening under their noses.  Perhaps, he writes, we should consult the sociologists on matters American.  Oh, I hope things haven’t come to that.  A daunting question looms here:  American anthropologists live here most of the time, watch the same cable TV programs, surf many of the same Web sites, walk among their fellow Americans on a daily basis – they breathe the same social-cultural air – and yet they were stunned by Trump’s win.  Why, then, should we pay attention to what they write, often in incomprehensible jargon, about their experiences with people very different from themselves, whom they’ve lived around for just a couple of years?  Their shock and catatonia over an event right here at home can’t inspire much confidence in their professional activity. 

   There is much more in Ryan’s comments to address, but I’ll leave that for later.  

Lee.you ask important questions. That said, I detect a questionable premise that an anthropologist's reaction to the election of Donald Trump calls into question the anthropologist's professional expertise. Given that most of us, if we are experts at all, are experts on topics as varied as West African folklore, Chinese ancestor worship, the Hindu caste system, Brazilian or Korean martial arts, Japanese manga, anime or advertising, Mayan cosmology and other arcana, the notion that what we know as anthropologists should have put us in a position to predict Trump's election seems to me highly dubious. In retrospect, we may recognize that the Clinton campaign made a strategic blunder by neglecting the facts that globalization has produced both winners and losers and that many of the losers are concentrated in traditionally Democrat-leaning midwestern States, creating an opportunity for a demagogue who articulateed, and thus legitimated, working class white voters' fears and resentments. The proposition that we should, qua anthropologists, have anticipated the result suggests an omniscience and knowledge of American voters that few anthropologists actually possess, given that we have devoted our professional lives to topics other than American voting behavior. That we were, in part because of professional training that emphasizes conventional liberal/socialist values, and, more importantly, focused on other esoteric topics, Candomble world views, Daoist magic, East Asian martial arts,Pokémon Go, or the values and social organization of Norwegian oil rig workers, for example, and thus oblivious to the concerns of Trump voters is certainly something to think about. Whether our surprise is somehow qualitatively different form that of, say, politically progressive ichthyologists is open to question.]

 

    Different as our approaches / interpretations of Trump’s win are, Ryan and I apparently went into election night with similar mind-sets.  Our experiences of simply living in the U. S., coupled with reading pieces by writers such as Michael Moore, Max Forte, and Sarah Kendzior led us to think that a Trump win was a real possibility.  On the other hand, as trained sort-of-social-scientists we could not discount the stack of polls that had Hillary at 80% to win right up to election night.  So, as I confessed at the beginning of this discussion, I lacked Forte’s clear vision; I thought the election could go either way and would not have bet even money on either candidate.  Ryan evidently experienced a similarly uncertainty.  The question each of us had to ask ourselves was “Which do you believe?  The polls or your lying eyes?”  We both waffled on that one. 

    However, our honest puzzlement is, I’ve argued, a far cry from the utter shock and near-catatonia induced in many American anthropologists by the election results.  I characterize their reaction in that way based on the only information available to me, that is, on Savage Minds and on reports of the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s doings at the AAA meetings in Minneapolis.  It would be an interesting and valuable contribution here for participants in either or both to provide an ethnographic sketch of the post-election emotional tenor at both venues. 

    Ryan and I find different messages in the demographics of the election which I assembled from Pew Research.    

 

  

Here Ryan becomes uncharacteristically strident:

    First of all, as the stats you cite show, Clinton won 66% of the Latino vote and 88% of the Black vote. White voters preferred Trump 58% TO 37%. So then we have to look at why some Whites voted for Trump, while also looking at why many Latinos and Blacks did not. Clearly, there’s something going on here with racial demographics. Why do you think that building the wall had so much purchase in Trump’s campaign? Because of the economics? Why do you think that his supporters cheered so loudly when Trump talked about the Muslim ban? Why do you think he appealed to white nationalist groups? Because of his hair? He clearly appealed to certain demographics with racist rhetoric; I don’t understand why you’d want to ignore or dismiss this.

    But then there’s your argument about “identity politics,” which sounds like something I’d expect to hear from Pat Buchanan (with all of his ramblings about “Cultural Marxism” etc). What do you mean when you say that American anthropology is being conflated with identity politics? This seems to be one of your core arguments, and I’d like to dig into what exactly you’re getting at here. Are you saying that anthropology should not look at the social effects and implications of racism? Are you saying that racism doesn’t have effects? Are you denying the histories of racism in the US? Are you saying that it’s no longer a factor? Lots of people are really trying to deny that race/racism are part of the equation here, and I find that interesting in and of itself.

   

Oh, my.  As a failed revolutionary and self-exile I’ve been called lots of things, but being like Pat Buchanan is not among them.  Let me take up the “identity politics” business in a bit; for now let’s take another look at those statistics.   

    There’s no question that, as Ryan writes, “there’s something going on here with racial demographics.”  But that “something” was a crucial loss of support among blacks and Hispanics (see chart) for a liberal Democratic candidate – the very person who could continue to provide the social programs many of those voters depended on – in favor of a billionaire Republican likely to eviscerate the entire system.  And a Republican to boot who had made the most flagrant remarks about minorities in his campaign speeches.  To me, that’s noteworthy.  The results are counterintuitive, grounds for puzzlement – hopefully an edifying puzzlement, following Fernandez (Persuasions and Performances), who followed Lévi-Strauss, who followed, I think, the Rg Veda.  I don’t know if Pat spent much time on those guys.  My first thought in puzzling over those stats is that “race” – specifically white racism, and let’s be clear, that’s what Ryan means – was not the determining factor in the election.  [Just an aside: Could the crucial fall-off of support among black voters just possibly have been due to black racism, of not having a black candidate to vote for?  Better try not even to think that.]   “Race” was one factor, to be sure, but perhaps a secondary or tertiary one.  What was the determining factor or, realistically, combination of factors?  Well, that’s what this discussion hopes to discover. 

    White racism?  Let’s examine that, as a demographic and as an ideological charge.  To me one of the most offensive examples of racism in the election, in addition to Trump’s own use of stereotypes, was Van Jones, CNN Afro-American political commentator, railing about “whitelash” as he struggled to comprehend the awful truth beginning to emerge in the early hours of November 9.  That, and yes, from a quarter which should have been more knowledgeable: Rizvi’s echoing the term in her post on Savage Minds – which, I note, from a recent SM post, she regards as one of her two best contributions to the blog for the year.  “Suddenly the night has grown colder; The god of love preparing to depart.”  Give me a break.  Not a cheap shot, Ryan, but a well-deserved one.  Van Jones, and Rizvi indirectly, deliberately promote an image of white know-nothings – possum eatin’, cousin marryin’, dirt bike racin’, moonshine swillin’ yabos – a (lynch?) mob of racists who swung the election to their fellow racist, Trump.  That’s their ideological charge.  But as a demographic it falls flat, even leads into a more troubling thought for them to consider.  Although Trump received six per cent more of the non-college educated white vote than Romney in 2012, he still won among whites as a whole by only twenty-one per cent as opposed to Romney’s twenty per cent.  Whitelash? 

    As I noted in an earlier post, the really dramatic one-sided voting came, not from white hillbillies, but from Van Jones’ own crowd: the urban and urbane elite. 

 

Washington D. C. election results:     Clinton 91%                Trump 4% 

 

Manhattan election results:                 Clinton 90%                Trump 10% 

 

San Francisco election results:            Clinton 85%                Trump 9% 

 

Note to Van:  Black skins, white masks.  Ring a bell?  These are staggering figures.  As a body those I’ve described as the Very Comfortable and Well-Connected voted for Hillary, seemingly against one of their own, a successful Manhattanite businessman.  And their vote was underscored by their billion-plus dollars in campaign contributions and by their derisive laughter at Hillary’s notorious “basket of deplorables” fundraiser (which alone may have cost her the election). 

    “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.  Right?  The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it.  And unfortunately there are people like that. . .

     Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

There are people like that.  Irredeemable. 

 What is racism?  Isn’t it declaring the superiority of one’s own group over that of another whose inherent deficiencies render them inferior?  “Irredeemably” inferior?  There are people like that.  And Hillary and Van Jones are among them. 

    Ryan asks about my conflating identity politics and current trends in American anthropology.  Briefly, as for its program I would again quote the anthropologist Robin Oberg: “identity politics discourse, where the value of research is not based on its contents but by the identity of the author.”  For an example of identity politics in action, its obsession with a single ill-defined yet extremely complex topic (“racism”) and its shrill, accusatory tone, I would again quote Ryan from earlier: 

But then there’s your argument about “identity politics,” which sounds like something I’d expect to hear from Pat Buchanan (with all of his ramblings about “Cultural Marxism” etc). What do you mean when you say that American anthropology is being conflated with identity politics? This seems to be one of your core arguments, and I’d like to dig into what exactly you’re getting at here. Are you saying that anthropology should not look at the social effects and implications of racism? Are you saying that racism doesn’t have effects? Are you denying the histories of racism in the US? Are you saying that it’s no longer a factor? Lots of people are really trying to deny that race/racism are part of the equation here, and I find that interesting in and of itself.

 

    “Race” is indeed a factor in assembling an Anthropology of Trump here, but it is not the only factor, nor one that lends itself to facile interpretation.  

John: “Ryan, do you seriously believe that anyone involved in this conversation denies that racism is real or does not take for granted that racism is one and, not only one but important, factor in Trump's victory?”

Well, I see an awful lot of dismissal and avoidance of the issue. And a curious amount of the tactic in which one person calls another a racist for calling out racism. It’s sort of mind-numbing, but I see this kind of thing elsewhere.

John: “To me, at least, "identity politics" seems like a bad idea, since everywhere and always, is grounded in asserting radical difference between some "us" and and some "theme" as if we are good and beleagured while they are evil and the cause of our afflictions.”

Neither of you have really explained what you mean when you deploy the term identity politics, so I’ll go ahead and give it a stab here. I do understand that there are various common uses of the term, but when it gets deployed in various political debates things can get…messy. So, from what I see you’re using the term to denote people/groups who organize themselves based upon shared identities (ethnicity, race, whatever) in order to address certain political causes and issues. Is that close? Ok. So here you’re saying that’s a bad, and placing the blame of this creation of difference on the groups themselves. This is not an uncommon argument—Black Lives Matter is accused of “identity politics” because they advocate for the rights of black people. Some commentators and pundits critique them for doing this, arguing that BLM activists are creating and perpetuating race-based social categories etc etc. Some even call BLM activists racists. I find this kind of argument completely backward and out of touch with the historical and political realities of race and racism in the US. These categories were not created by black people; they were, instead, implemented upon them by a largely “white” society that has, for decades, maintained a considerable amount of social, economic, cultural, and political power. So, again, I think your argument is backwards and not well attuned to US history. This relates to your first question about whether or not I think anyone here denies that racism is a key component here. Honestly, I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but the analysis of race/racism that I have seen so far is not very well considered.

John: “The central problem in today's world is not the historical record of imperialism, colonialism, and racism. It is, instead, why so many people remain stuck in hatred of those who seem different from themselves, while others, still unfortunately a minority, are comfortable with interactions like the one Ruth and I experienced flying Delta from Minneapolis to Haneda day before yesterday…”

The effects of imperialism, colonialism, and racism are surely key factors that have shaped today’s world and all of the problems in it. Your example about people being stuck in hatred of others is exactly that—an artifact of racism, past and present. Or maybe it’s just general bigotry or ethnocentrism, of which explicit racism is a specific form. For me your example about the Delta flight sort of derails the first point you made.

John: “A serious anthropology might have something to say about why racism is so virulent in Ferguson, MO and so muted or simply irrelevant in the Fairfax, VA suburb where my daughter lives.”

That’s an interesting assertion. So you’re saying that race/racism simply is not an issue in Fairfax, VA? What do you base this on? I hear this kind of thing a lot from certain liberals here in the US, and I used to sort of believe this kind of thing myself: “Ya, racism exists and it’s really bad in certain parts of the country, but certainly not here in this nice suburb where I live.” Well, it turns out that racism takes various forms, and sometimes the people who yell the loudest about “not being racist” may have to take a close look in the mirror. Setha Low’s work on gated communities and the notion of “whiteness” gets into some of this. Anyway, I find this argument about Ferguson vs Fairfax to be questionable. Or, at least, something we should look into rather than assume. I’ve never been to Fairfax, so I don’t know. But I have spent a lot of time in largely white suburban towns, and the “I’m no racist” refrain is not uncommon. I know. I grew up with it all around me.

John: “To see nothing else and to harp on it constantly is not only bad politics.”

Well, I agree with you that one-sided analyses are problematic. But…who’s harping?? Just wondering.

And Lee writes: “As I’ve suggested, in more polite terms, when it comes to our understanding of how the election might unfold, our collective performance has been piss-poor.  I’m never one for a scholarly “review of the literature,” but from what I’ve seen only three prominent anthropologists predicted, more or less, Trump’s win:  Max Forte, Paul Stoller, Sarah Kendzior.”

I’m not as impressed with those who actually made the prediction in advance as you are Lee. The real margin here (70k people) was so slim that, given a few changes here and there, the election could easily have gone to Clinton. What interests me more is how the campaign was run, what kinds of rhetoric, methods, and symbols it used, and what groups found these messages appealing.

Lee: “The great majority of American anthropologists seem to have experienced, shock, horror, near catatonia as the swing states turned red one by one.  Whatever the reason, not a great showing.”

Ok, I guess so. I really think you’re overplaying this line a bit. But I’ll move on.

Lee: “Ryan’s excuse here does not do much to reassure us about the value of anthropology’s participation in any important public forum.  He suggests that most American anthropologists are so involved in foreign studies that they haven’t paid close attention to really important stuff happening under their noses.  Perhaps, he writes, we should consult the sociologists on matters American.  Oh, I hope things haven’t come to that.”

Well, that’s my actual argument about US anthropology. It’s not an excuse. I don’t think we’re all that well attuned to the home front. And I think this is a problem, and that we should encourage more anthropologist to turn their analytical lenses on the US. It’s about time we do. There are some anthropologists who do great work here in the US (Kendzior, Low, Catherine Lutz, etc) but we need more. We obviously need more, and could take some inspiration from Hortense Powdermaker, for starters. All of that said, I don’t have a problem with seeing what the sociologists have to say. But that’s just me.

Lee: “American anthropologists live here most of the time, watch the same cable TV programs, surf many of the same Web sites, walk among their fellow Americans on a daily basis – they breathe the same social-cultural air – and yet they were stunned by Trump’s win.”

As John says below, I think you’re making a highly dubious argument here. I don’t buy it. There’s no reason why simply being an anthropologist who lives in the US automatically gives one some magical insight or purchase into understanding mass events like a major election. Unless we’re out there doing systematic research, it’s really easy to mistake parts for the whole and miss the bigger picture. The “election” itself certain looks different depending on where people are, who they associate with, what kinds of media bubbles they exist in, and what belief systems they adhere to. I think it’s ridiculous to assume that an anthropologist can watch a bunch of TV, poke around outside a bit, and somehow decode what happened here. The assumption that anthropologists—or anyone—should have been able to PREDICT this thing beforehand is also pretty questionable. Like I said earlier, trying to assess something like this means we’d actually have to be out there doing the work (fieldwork, interviews, stats, archival, historical, participant obs) in a systematic way in order to “get” what’s going on. In short, it would require research beyond just going to the grocery store and poking our heads outside every once in a while.

Lee: “Their shock and catatonia over an event right here at home can’t inspire much confidence in their professional activity.”

That’s another dubious argument IMO.

John puts it well when he writes: “Given that most of us, if we are experts at all, are experts on topics as varied as West African folklore, Chinese ancestor worship, the Hindu caste system, Brazilian or Korean martial arts, Japanese manga, anime or advertising, Mayan cosmology and other arcana, the notion that what we know as anthropologists should have put us in a position to predict Trump's election seems to me highly dubious.”

I agree. 

“Ryan evidently experienced a similarly uncertainty.  The question each of us had to ask ourselves was ‘Which do you believe?  The polls or your lying eyes?’  We both waffled on that one.”

But there’s part of the problem with your argument. It’s not about what you or I see, or believe. Again, this wasn’t just about stepping outside and checking the political temperature and then making a prediction. Forte and Kendzior were onto something, in part, because they have been out here doing the work and paying close attention. Same goes with Michael Moore. I’m sure there are more anthropologists who have been working here at home, and it would be interesting to learn more about what they were thinking. I have a good friend whose fieldwork is in Detroit, and her take is pretty interesting.

Lee: “However, our honest puzzlement is, I’ve argued, a far cry from the utter shock and near-catatonia induced in many American anthropologists by the election results.”

Again, I think you’re drawing on this particular rhetorical well a bit much (the whole catatonia line).

Lee: “Oh, my.  As a failed revolutionary and self-exile I’ve been called lots of things, but being like Pat Buchanan is not among them.”

I said that your argument looks like something I’d hear from Pat Buchanan, not that you are like Pat Buchanan. I’m saying this because some of the arguments I’m seeing here look similar to the arguments that I’ve seen elsewhere.

Lee: “There’s no question that, as Ryan writes, “there’s something going on here with racial demographics.”  But that “something” was a crucial loss of support among blacks and Hispanics…”

That demographic shift (12 points among Latinos, 7 among Black voters) is certainly part of the story here. But to pretend that’s THE big game changer is a little much.

Lee: “…in favor of a billionaire Republican likely to eviscerate the entire system.”

This is also a problematic assertion, since we can’t automatically assume that the percentage of Latino and Black voters who DID NOT vote for Clinton DID vote for Trump. Some simply did not show up, along with 50 million or so other Americans.

Lee: “My first thought in puzzling over those stats is that “race” – specifically white racism, and let’s be clear, that’s what Ryan means – was not the determining factor in the election … ‘Race’ was one factor, to be sure, but perhaps a secondary or tertiary one.  What was the determining factor or, realistically, combination of factors?  Well, that’s what this discussion hopes to discover.”

It’s interesting that you make a claim that race is a secondary or tertiary factor here, but you haven’t actually proved that. It’s as if that’s what you want to be the case, and you’re just going to go with it. What of all of the racist rhetoric coming from Trump? Not relevant? What about the excitement of David Duke and Richard Spencer? Or Steve Bannon? Why did 87% of Black people and 66% of Latinos vote for Clinton? What about the demographics of Trump rallies? Again, it’s very interesting that you’re working so hard to argue that race/racism (in material and symbolic terms) was not a key factor in all of this. Why are you so hard pressed to seek out some other “determining” factor? 

Lee: “To me one of the most offensive examples of racism in the election, in addition to Trump’s own use of stereotypes, was Van Jones, CNN Afro-American political commentator, railing about “whitelash” as he struggled to comprehend the awful truth beginning to emerge in the early hours of November 9.”

Hmm, this is interesting. So you were offended when Van Jones used that term? Does it also offend you that Judith Butler used the term as well?

Lee: “Van Jones, and Rizvi indirectly, deliberately promote an image of white know-nothings – possum eatin’, cousin marryin’, dirt bike racin’, moonshine swillin’ yabos – a (lynch?) mob of racists who swung the election to their fellow racist, Trump.  That’s their ideological charge.”

Well, I think you’re conflating two things here—racism and classism. But yes, I think you’re right in saying that Jones, Rizvi, Judith Butler—not to mention Sarah Kendzior—have argued that white racism was a key factor in electing Trump. It’s interesting that you characterize this as if they’re all saying that it was poor whites who are responsible for this, when in fact Trump’s supporters were not necessarily in economically dire straits. But poor whites have been the scapegoats for systematic racism for quite a long time, conveniently so. The US has tremendous problems with its criminal justice system, and has for decades, but many want to somehow pretend that it’s the poor people in Kentucky who are responsible. Hardly. I’m not saying that’s your argument here, but I do think you’ve muddied the waters by conflating race and class.

Lee: “What is racism?  Isn’t it declaring the superiority of one’s own group over that of another whose inherent deficiencies render them inferior?  “Irredeemably” inferior?  There are people like that.  And Hillary and Van Jones are among them.”

More problems. First of all, Clinton’s statement calls out racists in that blanket statement about Trump’s supposed deplorables. And Trump’s cadre DOES include people who are pretty openly racist, so there’s that. Turning around and calling her a racist for calling out racists is going into a maze of argumentation that I don’t find very useful. Again though, this is a common tactic that I see used (mostly by white people) against people who call out racism. Beyond that, I think you’re muddying the waters again when you highlight Clinton’s “deplorables” claim and chalk it up as “racism.” And you seem to be working hard to want to call Van Jones a racist for his arguments about and against racism. For all of your claims about seeking some sort of conceptual clarity here, I find some of these continued lines of argumentation to be highly problematic. That’s a nice way of putting it.

Lee: “Ryan asks about my conflating identity politics and current trends in American anthropology.  Briefly, as for its program I would again quote the anthropologist Robin Oberg: ‘identity politics discourse, where the value of research is not based on its contents but by the identity of the author.’” 

That statement from Oberg actually doesn’t tell me anything about what you mean when you’re talking about “identity politics.” It’s not even an argument, but rather sounds like a shitty response or comment someone would make about another (non-white) scholar. Trust me, I've heard that argument before, and I don't find it compelling. Do you really want to go down THAT road? Are you saying that the work of non-white scholars is only valued because of the identity of the authors? Is that what you’re trying to put on the table here? I'd rather hear, instead, EXACTLY what you mean when you deploy the term "identity politics." If you're using it in the general sense that many political pundits do, I don't find it very useful or interesting. But if you think it's really adding something to the analysis you want to make, then I'd like to see you spell it out. Right now it just appears to be a shade away from name-calling.

Lee: “For an example of identity politics in action, its obsession with a single ill-defined yet extremely complex topic (“racism”) and its shrill, accusatory tone, I would again quote Ryan from earlier…”

Hahaha, you’ve called me “strident”, “shrill”,  and “accusatory” now. I guess that’s what I get for the Pat Buchanan line! So it goes. I think it’s interesting that you’re now saying that there’s some sort of “obsession” with racism going on here. Lee, I’m not sure how best to say this but I think your argument here is bunk.

Lee: ““Race” is indeed a factor in assembling an Anthropology of Trump here, but it is not the only factor, nor one that lends itself to facile interpretation.”

 I agree with you that it’s not the only factor, and that facile interpretation does us no good. But ignoring it isn’t going to help either. Ironically, for all of the kudos you give to the work of Sarah Kendzior, it certainly does not seem as if you have read much of her work, since race and racism are central components of her analyses of our current dilemma. She’s one of the anthropologists, FYI, who has pushed me to look deeper into those very questions. So here we are.

 

Ryan, let's tackle this from a slightly different angle.

1. The evidence you yourself offer suggests that there was no major shift in the white racist vote from Romney to Trump. But if the white racist vote did not increase in Trump's favor, what was going on?
2. There is evidence suggesting that black, Hispanic, and college-educated young whites who formed a substantial part of the Obama coalition didn't turn out for Clinton. Thus,
3.Trump's victory was not due to an increase in white racism, a constant in the equation. It was due, instead, to the failure of the Clinton campaign to energize enough black, Hispanic, and young college-educated votes to overcome the slim margins by which Trump carried Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan.

In short, racism was a constant, and black, hispanic and young college-educated turnout the variable that produced the result.

Note that in this hypothesis there is no need to imagine that large numbers of key Democrat constituencies switched to Trump. Their staying home was enough to lose the election.

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