You won’t get a blue wave if you ignore 99% of the barriers

This is what I worry about, too.

Except I don’t think the conditions that led to Trump are all that complicated. I’d rank them this way:

  1. Racism. Trump appealed to nativist bigotry.
  2. Gerrymandering and voter suppression, Republican party specialties.

  3. A history of anti-government propaganda, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan.

  4. A complacent media sucking up to power.

  5. Russian meddling.

I’d say, though, that the Russian meddling was exploiting weaknesses already present in the country — they just fed the corrupt beast a few snacks. They would have gotten nowhere if the other four factors weren’t also present, and they are our problems.

Those aren’t complicated problems. They’re just intractable and serve the interests of the people in power, so they have no interest in correcting them.


  1. says

    You left out the one that acknowledges that neither major political party gives a damn about the average citizen.

    I’ve thought that one major reason Clinton did badly in the Rust Belt states was TPP. Older workers remembered what NAFTA did to them and their unions and saw TPP as more of the same (it was). So they didn’t vote for Trump, but they sat at home and just didn’t vote.

  2. imback says

    I agree with the five points. I would like to suggest the first point include other bigotry besides racism. There’s also bigotry against women, bigotry against people of different religions, bigotry against people speaking different languages, bigotry against people with different gender/sexual identifications, etc, all appealed to by the Trump cohort to create schisms.

  3. raven says

    PZ Myers causes for Trump’s win.
    1. Racism. Trump appealed to nativist bigotry.
    2. Gerrymandering and voter suppression, Republican party specialties.
    3. A history of anti-government propaganda, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan.
    4. A complacent media sucking up to power.
    5. Russian meddling.

    Trump is just a symptom.
    Without his voters, he would just be some weird guy doing dubious deals with dubious Russian oligarchies.

    As to why he won, the first on the list, Racism, is well documented.
    There has been a lot of polling and research and racism always comes up first.
    The US is on trend to become majority nonwhite in 2044.
    Four states including the two largest, Texas and California already are.
    The average public secondary school kid is nonwhite so this is already baked into the cake.
    And yeah, a huge segment of the white population is cared silly by this.
    As to the other 4 causes, I don’t know.
    I would base it on data and see what data is available.
    IMO, the second cause should be economic issues.
    Economic inequality has been growing my entire adult life since the 1970’s.
    It is putting huge pressure on our society, and it is starting to show.
    I would have to label this a guess right now, until I had the data to support this.

  4. mikehuben says

    I’m inclined to think that the causes that lead to Trump are even simpler: the war by corporate “citizens” against real people. It isn’t a class war: it is a species war because corporations are not people. Trump and the right wing are simply cats paws in the war, whose focus is to privatize power for corporations and the plutocrats/kleptocrats who are their owners.

  5. Ichthyic says

    so… the question is, in the time since Trump was elected, has ANY of these issues even been properly addressed, let alone lessened?

    oh, this is just rhetorical. any sane person knows then answer is “no”.

    thus… thinking you are going to fix the problems of the US government by voting is by definition, not sane.

    I’m not saying don’t vote, as surely the districts you live in will be affected by your vote.

    but overall, voting is not going to fix this problem.

    a revolution is what is needed at this point, and you all dithering and hemming and hawing about it is just gonna make it harder to accomplish when you finally realize there is no other way to fix this.

  6. raven says

    People Voted for Trump Because They Were Anxious, Not Poor
    A new study finds that Trump voters weren’t losing income or jobs. Instead, they were concerned about their place in the world.
    APR 23, 2018
    For the past 18 months, many political scientists have been seized by one question: Less-educated whites were President Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters. But why, exactly?

    Was their vote some sort of cri de coeur about a changing economy that had left them behind? Or was the motivating sentiment something more complex and, frankly, something harder for policy makers to address?

    After analyzing in-depth survey data from 2012 and 2016, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist Diana C. Mutz argues that it’s the latter. In a new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she added her conclusion to the growing body of evidence that the 2016 election was not about economic hardship.

    “Instead,” she writes, “it was about dominant groups that felt threatened by change and a candidate who took advantage of that trend.”

    “For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country,” Mutz notes, “white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race.” When members of a historically dominant group feel threatened, she explains, they go through some interesting psychological twists and turns to make themselves feel okay again. First, they get nostalgic and try to protect the status quo however they can. They defend their own group (“all lives matter”), they start behaving in more traditional ways, and they start to feel more negatively toward other groups. continues.

    ..1. Well, here is some of that polling data, from PNAS in 2018.

    ..2. I would still say that jobs and economic issues are the second leading cause even if it doesn’t show up in polling data.
    For my entire adult life, jobs and living expenses have just steadily gotten worse and worse.
    And yes, there is a lot of data on this.
    The middle class has been steadily shrinking, wages never go up much but expenses go up a lot.
    The stresses are such that several white demographics such as middle aged males have falling life spans.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Given the choices pictured, I for one don’t feel much motivation to go out and vote for a Brooks-Brothers’d Jared-Kushner-classmate oblivious schmuck either.

  8. Johnny Vector says

    Yeah, Russia’s part is basically Spike in “The Yoko Factor” from Buffy season 4. They didn’t make people racist or worried about changing demographics; they just played it up.

    It does seem that the recent surprise wins of progressives have happened without any reference to Trump or Russia, so at least there’s that.

  9. feministhomemaker says

    Everytime I hear someone say Trump won because of economic anxiety, I go mad with frustration. That simply has not been shown to be true. The poorest people, overly represented by people of color, went for Hillary. And as Coates demonstrated in his amazing essay The First White President, every white category polled went for Trump, including all the rich folks. This is demonstrated as well in my hubby’s work situation. He works in the Oil and Gas industry and all the professionals in positions of power are republican supporters of Trump, from head of company, heads in his industry, down to professionals in every department. All TV’s are kept on FOX News, all day long, and racism spews from the mouths of those in charge daily. My hubby is Mexican American and he, along with a few other people he knows of are quiet dissenters. It has been like this since he joined his profession, petroleum geologist, 45 years ago. These people have no realistic economic anxiety, not in any sense people mean who say we must listen to the people out of work and such. These people are super rich! (Of course my idea of rich has always been anyone who lives on a street with curbs and/or has brick on their house.) They make good money! They have the premier health insurance coverage. These people are racist and harbor sexism and all the other hatreds as well. Trump is their guy even when they acknowledge he is a “bozo!” And one last thing. The Russian element is super important. These people have shown they can turn on a dime if it is directed by appeals to their racism. They can love Russia just as quickly as they hated her if it means solidarity around hatred of certain peoples. Hillary lost by 80,000 votes in very specifically targeted places, helped by Russia’s attack. Russia is a big deal and should not be listed last.

  10. imback says

    @Chris Capoccia #3, we collided almost simultaneously with almost the same comment. :-)

    @mikehuben #5, indeed I might put that under point 3. Anti-government propaganda starting with Reagan featured trickle-down economics and the myth that pure capitalist corporations with minimal government interference will always give the best results for everyone.

  11. unclefrogy says

    indeed I might put that under point 3. Anti-government propaganda starting with Reagan featured trickle-down economics and the myth that pure capitalist corporations with minimal government interference will always give the best results for everyone.

    That the republicans have been running against the government since the 70’s is very significant.
    the economy and the fear of economic insecurity were and have been a major part of our politics for some time. For all that after all these years it is no better is it? It is wonder that they still keep running on those policies. The russian influence is important but the russians did not set up the conditions in which their influence would have much of an impact.
    The conservatives as a result of their de-facto racism have been establishing policies and practices that have done all they could do the stifle the votes of anyone other than their republican constituents. voter ID laws, not making voter registration easier in fact often making it needlessly difficult, restrictive rules on voter qualification and controlling how voting districts are drawn up are the set up that allowed russian, corporations and the pacs to have greater influence in getting out the “base”.
    one of the simpler improvements that could be done would be to reduce the political party influence out of drawing up districts,
    I will accept that it is now established that money is very important maybe even necessary I do not understand why the ultimate sources of it should be so easily hidden from view. full immediate discloser might be a helpful reform.
    one of the more significant aspects of democracy is its ability to instigate change without the need for violent upheavals and revolutions. It is my impression that it is very hard to control those kinds of chaotic events and determine before hand any outcome, often as not they have led undemocratic results which is the way we are heading now. I am in favor of more democracy not less.

    uncle frogy

  12. pinocchio says

    Gerrymandering very little effect on the presidential election.
    Most of the states with voter suppression laws are red states that Clinton would not have carried anyway.
    Important swing states like Nevada, Minnesota, or Florida are genearlly not considered to have particularly restrictive voting laws. If you know of any study that imdicates voter suppression had any effect on the outcome of the election please post a link.
    Racism. Again most of the swing states that were important for Clinton voted for Obama in previous elections so I am sceptical of racism being a significant factor (although this is more complex than I indicated)
    My opinion is that Trump’s win is mainly due to Comey. Clinton was an unpopular candidate and when Comey made his announcement about a week before the election I think a lot of voters said “Oh no, this again, maybe there is something to it” and just didn’t vote. When I say a lot of voters I mean 4% or 5%.

  13. anchor says

    Addendum to #3: sponsored by your friendly reliable 4th Estate obese-with-ad-revenue jaded jackass journalism delivering “what you need to know” with nauseatingly breathless inflection. SOLD!!!

    What a lousy stinking racket.

  14. KG says


    I agree that Comey’s intervention was critical, although I’d express it somewhat differently. People rarely change their mind on issues during the last few weeks of a campaign. What changes is salience – what is uppermost in their thoughts. This is why it made no difference that Comey announced that there was in fact no new evidence before the vote.

    I don’t agree with your contention that racism wasn’t important: all the evidence shows that it was a major factor in determining who voted for Trump and who for Clinton. It’s wrong to think that people with racist views could not have voted for Obama, hence that Obama-voting states voting for Trump could not result from racism. People are not dichotomously divided into racist/anti-racist, and by 2016 there had been eight solid years of propaganda aimed at making racism an acceptable ground on which to vote: many people who would have been ashamed to “vote racist” in 2008 or 2012 were probably no longer so in 2016. Trump then made racism the centrepiece of his campaign. With regard to voter suppression, I don’t know the details of voter laws in the different states, but given the preponderance of laws against not only felons but ex-felons voting, and the huge proportion of black men swept into the prison system at some point in their lives, I’d say voter suppression on racial grounds is very widespread indeed in the USA.

  15. chrislawson says


    Clinton won the primary vote 66M:63M but lost the electoral colleges 227:304.

    And although you mentioned the Presidential election only, the gerrymandering is an even greater problem in the other houses, where from memory the Dems have to win 5% more of the vote than the Reps to hold a majority.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    pinocchio @ # 14: … swing states like Nevada, Minnesota, or Florida are genearlly not considered to have particularly restrictive voting laws.

    As a Floridian for >30 years, let me tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    What you know, ain’t so.

    See, f’rinstance: State Clemency Official to Black Applicant: How Many Kids Do You Have? By How Many Different Mothers? and
    Study: Voter Purges Spiked In States Previously Covered By Law Gutted By SCOTUS

  17. anat says

    A big factor is the people who didn’t vote (as well as those who voted non-major party). A state can easily shift from majority by one party to another without anyone in the state changing their general lean, simply by having one party reduce its turnout while turnout for the other increases. So a lot depends on how outraged the Deomcratic-leaning voters that stayed home in 2016 are about Trump, and how enthusiastic they will be for whoever the Democratic candidate ends up being.

  18. chrislawson says

    See also this Cracked article (conveniently released today, just in time for this comment thread!) about the GOP’s plan to rig the 2020 Census in order to make the electoral college system even more unrepresentative.

  19. says

    Trump isn’t a racist, he has never made a racist comment. Plus, he married an eastern European…

    Obummer was a Super Racist !!! He couldn’t let racism die, he could barely utter a sentence without including race, he made his living all his life from racism, he certainly didn’t want racism to end.

    Some NGO Russians supplied us with truths about Crooked Hillary… we appreciated the info… Those NGO Russians are similar to NGO Soros-funded Americans…

    Forcing perversions on us and embracing criminals/crime is mainly what turned voters off to the failed perverted corrupt DumAss Party !!! … Obummer even famously referred to criminals as his ‘sons’ !!! … And, of course, the numerous crimes of Crooked Hillary were exposed !!!

  20. KG says

    Buzz Waldron@21,

    Nice try, and the absurd overuse of ellipses is a realistic touch, but you needed more exclamation marks and some random capitalization for a really convincing imitaiton of a far right racist fuckwit.

  21. pinocchio says

    Regarding racism as the major cause: I have read some studies claiming this but I have two problems with these. 1. The studies show that racist attitudes are strongly correlated with voting for Trump, but racist attitudes are also correlated with lower education levels and with lower incomes. The methodology of the studies I looked at didn’t convince me that they really separated these related factors. 2. The studies I looked at were all based on national data. I would be more interested in state based studies. In particular the swing states.
    I am not saying that racism was not a factor, but I think there were other factors that were more important. For me Comey is number 1.

    Regarding voter suppression laws: Pierce was right to call me out on Florida. What I was thinking about were states that introduced new hurdles to voting since 2012, in the wake of Shelby Holder. From what I have read the percentage of blacks voting in these states (that introduced new restrictions) was down from 2012, but this pecentage was down by basically the same amount
    in pretty much all states. I know that this example is not the full story regarding voter suppression but it makes me skeptical that these laws played a huge role in the election. (For the record I think such laws are an abomination and in future elections they could play a key role)

    Finally, I’m not dogmatic about any of these things. If you know of some study contradicting my views please post a link and I would be glad to look at it.

  22. says

    As a political scientist, might I say that there are data-based reasons to predict several Dem victories in November:

    Mid-term elections historically result in the governing party losing seats.
    Dems HAVE WON with local messages tailored to fit their districts:

    Dems are getting more support than GOPs

    Independent voters are not happy with Trump.
    (For the longer term) The SCOTUS is open to the idea that partisan gerrymandering in targeted districts can be unconstitutional – that case is still ongoing tho, but long term it could defend against a lot of GOP racism:

  23. John Morales says


    (For the longer term) The SCOTUS is open to the idea that partisan gerrymandering in targeted districts can be unconstitutional

    Interesting phrasing, suggesting that it generally is not unconstitutional nor seen to be so.

    Checking your citation:
    “The Supreme Court ruled on its big partisan gerrymandering case — and the justices decided, essentially, to give the plaintiffs a do-over.

    The justices unanimously agreed that the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford — 12 Wisconsin Democratic voters who sued to strike down the state legislature map, arguing it was gerrymandered against the party — failed to establish standing to bring their lawsuit. You can read the whole decision at this link.

    The problem, the justices concluded, was that plaintiffs focused on proving the entire state map was gerrymandered against Democrats. Instead, they should have focused on proving whether their particular districts were gerrymandered.

    But rather simply dismissing the case, as is the norm when the Court finds a lack of standing, seven of the nine justices ruled that it should be sent back for reargument before the district court — essentially, giving plaintiffs another shot at establishing standing, now that the Court has laid out more guidance on how to do so.”

    Even more interesting, that the issue at hand is this “standing” rather than the substantive issue itself.

    Quaint, but pernicious, IMO. Such obstacles!

  24. says

    PZ, by “conditions which led to Trump” do you mean his selection as the Republican candidate, or his win in the general election? I’d certainly agree with you if you meant the former, but as an explanation of the general election, your list basically makes the Republicans out to be the only active participant, with the Democrats as a totally passive default state, and that really doesn’t work.

    You neglect to mention that the Democrats have, in the last 12 years, repeatedly betrayed their base on their major campaign promises. In 2006, they promised to end the Iraq war, then took Congress and funded Bush’s “surge” and refused to hold any investigations, let alone impeachment. In 2008, they ran on a platform of fixing our melted-down financial system and, yes, once again ending the war, and refused to take action on either one. Then there is, as already mentioned, the way both Obama and Clinton championed the TPP, which was really obviously going to be another NAFTA-style gift to the rich at the expense of everybody else. Obama was being advised through his first few years by Rahm Emmanuel, who famously told him to “fuck the UAW” when dealing with bailing out the auto industry. The party has demonstrated very thoroughly that they are just as anti-citizen as the Republicans, just less willing to take bad PR for their actions.

    The era of being able to win an election on being “the lesser of two evils”, if it ever really happened (if it did, why did outsider campaigns always work better and why did they bother making campaign promises?), is over. Those progressive candidates who are winning primaries are doing so by presenting at least a semi-credible case that they will actually try to work for the public rather than being a pro-war corporate suckup which has been the Democratic default now for a couple of decades. Personally, I am not optimistic at all that this will work, because the idiot pro-corporate-donor wing of the party now controls the entire party structure, and is notorious for preferring to cede power to the Republicans rather than deal with actual progressives. (IIRC, Schumer actually came out and said, about a Congressional race in some western state, that he would rather the Republicans take that seat than have to deal with a progressive win.) To win, the Democrats need to GOTV, but to GOTV they need to actually take stands which their base desire, and the party has no intention of doing so. And yes, this is the fault of the “New Democrats” and the DLC, and the Clintons are the most-culpable people in the party.

  25. consciousness razor says

    John Morales:

    The problem, the justices concluded, was that plaintiffs focused on proving the entire state map was gerrymandered against Democrats. Instead, they should have focused on proving whether their particular districts were gerrymandered.

    My understanding is that they supposedly need show how specific individuals (not districts) were directly and concretely harmed. The majority in the court didn’t appreciate (or comprehend) the statistical or other analyses on offer, and they’d feel better about it all somehow if they were presented with the proverbial poster child, who will no doubt appear in the next round since there is clearly no lack of individuals who fit the description. Of course it’s a bullshit time-wasting decision, but unfortunately that’s often how it goes.

    For those interested, it was discussed at length recently on this episode from the Amicus podcast (link to MP3, 41:59).