Sunday Commentary: A Political Transformation

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In a little over two weeks, the most tumultuous political year since 1968 may come to a conclusion—or perhaps not.  Will this be the end of Trump or does he have another rabbit to pull out of the hat?  That is the subject for another piece.

The right loves to make two polar opposite claims about Joe Biden.  One is that, they will point out, he is a career politician—47 years we continually see.  On the other hand, they are fearful that the “radical” left will control him.

Believe me, the so-called radical left is not happy with Biden—many will hold their nose and vote for him in order to get rid of Trump, but many others will not.  Biden has a long history of moderation that borders on conservatism, at least by the standards of his day.

And the radical left as they call it—not so powerful.  They were not able to elect their man, Bernie Sanders.  They have few seats in Congress.  There is little doubt that the right will try to make Biden into either an agent of or tool of the left just as they did with Obama, but the left will never be happy with the arrangement—and if Biden wins in November and takes the presidency in January, the battle will be on for 2024 under the assumption that, at 82, he would not run for second term.

But my bigger concern here is with the future of this nation.  Does electing a vanilla and sometimes boring career politician serve an appropriate antidote to what we saw in the previous four years?

I worry that what has been set in motion over the last four years will not turn back.  But perhaps that is a very pessimistic view.  After all, we have seen with Father Coughlin, the rise of the John Birch Society and even the rise of Southern Resistance on the right—and radical left movements (this time real) during the 1960s on the left—much higher levels of political violence than we are seeing today.

I was reading a book on the Weather Underground earlier this year, and it noted that, at the time of an explosion in a townhouse in New York, it was one of more than 2000 bombs that went off in the US in 1970—we don’t even approach that level of violence now.

On the other hand, the political realignment may well be permanent—if evolving.  We are seeing a movement of white, no-college voters, especially males, moving away from the Democrats and toward the Republicans.  We have seen a movement the other direction with regard to suburban women.

There was a fantastic article in the New York Times this week, that found, “The white suburban voters the president needs to carve a path to victory have turned away from him, for deeply personal reasons.”

The article points out that there is not a lot of movement in terms of political support, but “there is a demographic group that has changed its mind: white women in the suburbs.”

The Times notes that Trump carried suburban voters by four points in 2016, according to exit polls.  But they note that Biden right now leads among suburban women in battleground states by a whopping 23 points and, among men, they are tied.

More important is understanding why, and while the Times uses individual level data and anecdotes, it is rather interesting.

Writes the Times, “Not all of them voted for Mr. Trump, but all carry regret about 2016. For them, the president’s words and actions have forced an intimate re-examination of their deep-rooted, more conservative political identities — taught in church and school and inherited from their families — and some things that are even more personal: their sense of morality and the values they hope to impart to their children.”

What is even more interesting is “the women described how Mr. Trump had turned them off from a Republican Party they once supported, one that they now see as intertwined with the president’s divisive rhetoric.”

Don’t stop reading here, because you will miss the rest of the story that the Times doesn’t tell.

There is also a reverse trend happening, which seems to be happening mostly among men—white, older voters, but I have also talked to quite a few women who fall into this category as well.

I know a bunch of them very well and I have known some for a long time.  The people I know are mainly older, white males, and most of them were quite liberal and even progressive.  Now you talk to them and they sound like a poster child for QAnon.

I don’t know how many there are of this group, but the media has not done a great job of finding this group.  Unlike a lot of the core of Trump supporters, some of these people are very educated—we are talking about people with doctorates.

This past week, I received an email with something about Dr. Judy Mikovits—you know, Plandemic.

This is someone I have known for decades.  Talked to the emailer’s son, and yes, he’s become a full-on Trump supporter.  I know too many people like this—some I have seen transform before my eyes.  Something is happening here?  I have had lengthy discussions with a number of people, and their transformation is very radical and very complete.  I don’t see how they go back to what they used to be.

I reached out to some old friends, one with whom I go back to college days, so I have known him for almost 30 years now.  Educated, an Evangelical Pastor, tends to vote Republican, but most would consider a moderate.  Another friend of mine is also Evangelical Christian, most would consider him a conservative Republican—most of my friends, traditional Republicans, are voting for Biden.  In some cases, it will be their first vote ever for a Democrat.  Several of them refused to vote for Trump last time, but couldn’t vote for Hillary.

What fuels this?  Deep distrust for authority?  Partly.  But also anti-government and the media itself.

My friend’s view: “The media keeps fueling it by showing an obvious bias towards Trump. All they have to do is be fair and he loses his power.”

Unlike previous movements, social media, cable news and the internet give people ready access to spoon-fed conspiracies and fake news that are easily believed and hard to discredit.

In his view, “Trump took advantage of this and saw an opening before anyone else realized what was happening.”

Is this permanent?  He is more optimistic than I am because I am not sure how you go back.  But if you look at history, even Germany was able to walk back, once they removed the messenger that was able to focus and channel these feelings.

My friend has a warning: “Biden’s role is key in this. If he is a unity President, he could help us all reestablish ‘Normal.’ If he is a revenge President, it will only intensify.”  He also believes: “There will be quite the battle in the Republican Party if Biden wins. I believe we have some strong people on the bench that can step forward and help us.”

That’s even assuming Biden wins.  We shall see what the next 17 days bring us.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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24 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: A Political Transformation”

  1. Tia Will

    David,

    Thanks for the smile. Throughout the article, you refer repeatedly to the changes that got us to this point, and then say “I don’t know how we go back”. I would say, we don’t. We go forward. 10 years ago would you have believed Trump would be taken seriously enough by enough people to be seated in the WH? I scoffed at the idea, but I was wrong. I did not see any way to this outcome, but I was wrong. But life is change, and just as we were able to move further than I would ever have thought towards an authoritarian state, I see it as completely possible that we will move through it just as Italy and Germany did after WWII. Whether we achieve that in November, or four years from now, or eight, I do not believe this is our ultimate fate.

  2. John Hobbs

    ” ‘Biden’s role is key in this. If he is a unity President, he could help us all reestablish ‘Normal.’ If he is a revenge President, it will only intensify.'”

    Justice is not revenge. Impeachment proved that Trump has no shame. He became more treasonous afterward. His crime family still operates with impunity. William Barr still runs the justice department as Trump’s goon squad. Mitch McConnell takes untold millions from Russian investors. If we don’t aggressively prosecute and severely punish these traitors we have failed our founders and our posterity.

    ” Whether we achieve that in November, or four years from now, or eight, I do not believe this is our ultimate fate.”

    The cancer is stage IIB, right now. how much longer do we wait to excise it?

    1. Eric Gelber

      If we don’t aggressively prosecute and severely punish these traitors we have failed our founders and our posterity.

      I doubt that will be the approach of a Biden administration. It will focus on undoing the harm of the preceding 4 years, which may include increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Criminal prosecutions, if any, will have to come from the states.

  3. Alan Miller

    Don’t stop reading here, because you will miss the rest of the story that the Times doesn’t tell.

    I’m on pins and needles . . .

    There is also a reverse trend happening, which seems to be happening mostly among men—white, older voters, but I have also talked to quite a few women who fall into this category as well.

    As Davis (and DG’s older white male friends) go, so goes the nation.

    I know a bunch of them very well and I have known some for a long time.  The people I know are mainly older, white males, and most of them were quite liberal and even progressive.  Now you talk to them and they sound like a poster child for QAnon.

    Stupid is as stupid does, sir.

    I don’t know how many there are of this group, but the media has not done a great job of finding this group.

    Unlike DG, who found them.

    Unlike a lot of the core of Trump supporters, some of these people are very educated—we are talking about people with doctorates.

    You are talking about people with doctorates.

    This past week, I received an email with something about Dr. Judy Mikovits—you know, Plandemic.

    Actually, I’ve never heard of Plandemic.

    This is someone I have known for decades.  Talked to the emailer’s son, and yes, he’s become a full-on Trump supporter.

    That’s how to investigate someone’s politics: ask their family members.

    I know too many people like this—some I have seen transform before my eyes.

    Was there smoke and a white flash of light?

    Something is happening here?

    Was that a questions?

    I have had lengthy discussions with a number of people, and their transformation is very radical and very complete.

    Like a zombie?

    I don’t see how they go back to what they used to be.

    Are zombies able to reverse back to humans in those movies?  I’ve never watched one.  But there might be a clue there.

    “The media keeps fueling it by showing an obvious bias towards Trump.”

    You didn’t mention what your friend was smoking — powdered Fox News?

    Unlike previous movements, social media, cable news and the internet give people ready access to spoon-fed conspiracies and fake news that are easily believed and hard to discredit.

    Twitter thought they found a way:  suppression of information.  That went well for them.

    But if you look at history, even Germany was able to walk back, once they removed the messenger that was able to focus and channel these feelings.

    China and Saudi Arabia, not so much.

  4. John Hobbs

    “It will focus on undoing the harm of the preceding 4 years,…”

    I worked on a golf course that was riddled with ground squirrel holes and tunnels. I tried “humane” traps of all kind, to no avail, they reproduced faster than I could catch them. A tough old Scotsman that worked for me solved the problem while I was on vacation one spring. “Ah fludded thir halls wi’ water and bashed ’em wi’ a spade when they ran oot t’ holes. Then Ah left the dead uns in the holes for a few days until the rest moved on.”

    They have not returned in the ensuing thirty years.

    1. Alan Miller

      Is the old Scot still around?  I’d like to hire him to deal with my ground squirrel problem.  Literally.  No political message in there.  I have ground squirrels.  Really.

  5. Alan Miller

    That’s even assuming Biden wins.  We shall see what the next 17 days bring us.

    Did you watch Trump’s rally in Michigan yesterday?  He was on fire.  I mean really on fire — like exactly the Trump that won in 2016.  OK, I realize I may be the only person within five square miles who has ever watched more than an out-of-context clip of Trump talking — don’t take that as support, I can’t stand the man, most especially his selfish bungling of the pandemic.  He ended the rally by playing “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People and sort of bounced to the beat while waving to supporters.

    Young man, there’s no need to feel down

    I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground

    I said, young man, ’cause you’re in a new town

    There’s no need to be unhappy

    Most terrifying to me is the manifestation of exactly what I predicted — Trump beats the Covid-19 and supporters take this as a sign that Covid-19 really isn’t that bad:  after all our overweight, fast-food-eating, 70’s-ish President beat it in a few days and is out campaigning and giving two-hour speeches with full vigor.  The whole thing must be overblown, and Trump has just “proven” the health scientists wrong.

    This isn’t going to end well.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Has he used the word “hoax” in conjunction with that, yet?  😉

      Regardless of his level of medical care, he has made a remarkable recovery – given his risk factors.

      I’d say that the way this worked out is to his advantage, but it’s apparently not sufficient to increase his support enough to win again.

  6. John Hobbs

    Alan: My friend and co-worker, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne and scratch golfer passed away after a lifetime of service to others. My advice is to get a hose and a shovel and since you’re in Davis, do it in the wee hours of the morning before neighbors can call the wildlife rescue.

  7. Eric Gelber

    There is also a reverse trend happening, … The people I know are mainly older, white males, and most of them were quite liberal and even progressive. … I don’t know how many there are of this group, but the media has not done a great job of finding this group.  Unlike a lot of the core of Trump supporters, some of these people are very educated—we are talking about people with doctorates.

    I’m not sure how many anecdotal examples qualify as a “trend,” but, as an older white male with a doctorate who has maintained his “quite liberal even progressive” values, I wouldn’t make too much of this. Perhaps the media hasn’t done a great job in finding this group because they remain a relatively small group that hasn’t significantly changed as a percentage of voters over time.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Eric: There is some polling to back up by observations.

      This is analysis from 538: “Trump is also making inroads with college-educated white voters. Trump lost this group by more than 10 points in 2016, and Republican House and Senate candidates lost it by a similar margin in 2018, but Trump may be running closer to even among them now. ”

      This despite the fact that Biden has closed the gap on non-college whites.

  8. Keith Olsen

    My friend’s view: “The media keeps fueling it by showing an obvious bias towards Trump. All they have to do is be fair and he loses his power.”

    You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.  The media is so anti Trump it’s not even close.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      That’s actually my friend’s point – he meant a bias with respect to Trump against Trump – he argues that the anti-Trump nature of the media is driving some of the counter-response.

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