A Further Conversation with Joan C. Williams

I mentioned Dr. Williams' piece on the white working class, and the need to show them honor, a few posts below. Slate magazine has undertaken an interview to get her to expand on her ideas.

Here are two excerpts where the Slate author tried to push her off the idea that it's on their side not to be scornful.
But as for people like us, we should have some commitment to honesty. What attitude should we be taking toward people who voted for a racist buffoon that is scamming them?

Here’s the absolutely sobering truth. A lot of them saw those aspects of Trump, and yet they thought he was the best candidate. Democrats have given the Republicans the precious gift of being the party that’s out there talking about jobs for people who lack college education. Two-thirds of Americans aren’t college graduates. And sometimes the message that they have heard is, “if you want a future, graduate from college.” Two-thirds of Americans are not college graduates, and what Trump said was, “I am going to offer you good jobs even if you don’t have a college degree.” The policy solutions he proposed were supply-side economics, bringing back coal, and chitchatting with a few employers. Those are not effective policy solutions, but as long as Democrats don’t say anything but that you guys are racist, are voting for a racist, they’re going to keep on voting for Trump.


And if you tallied up the time that Hillary Clinton spent talking about jobs for the American people versus Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton spent way more time. And if you look at their websites Hillary Clinton has more plans, or had, for Americans without college degrees than Donald Trump does, and the more sensible plans, at least by my analysis and I think your analysis. Don’t “average people” have some responsibility to learn this.

No I think that’s completely unrealistic.

I agree it’s unrealistic, but I am not sure whose fault that is.

I am. I think the Democrats are—I’m damn sure they are at fault for that. The reason that Trump won was about 80,000 voters in Rust Belt states. Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and others were begging that Hillary Clinton campaign in those Rust Belt states and talk to those people about jobs and about other concerns that blue-collar Americans feel very, very strongly about, and they were told no. And they were told to adhere to a script of Donald Trump is unqualified, and Hillary Clinton is super qualified and wouldn’t it be awesome, and a progressive gesture to vote for a woman for president. Let’s break the glass ceiling. That is an incredibly well-designed message to alienate these voters.... The glass ceiling is a very ineffective message. Not only for the men, but also for the women, because what does glass ceiling mean? It means women like me, born with a silver spoon in my mouth, get to have jobs like the jobs my husband and father had. Why should working-class people care? You know, newsflash, they don’t care.
There's another challenge about how important it is to talk about race where she turns the charge around in an interesting way.


Gringo said...

Q.How could they vote for Trump? Don't they realize that Trump is @##$?
A. Many of them realized that Trump is just as you say he is, but their dislike of Democrats (Hillary, elitist, condescending...) is so strong that they concluded that voting for Trump was a better alternative.

(Shortly after the election there were polls that showed that a not insignificant proportion of those who had a negative opinion of Trump also voted for him.)

Shortly after the election, "Liza" appeared on a comment thread, basically asking,"How could you vote for him?" Like I told Liza,I would vote Democrat over my dead body- and I used to vote Democrat.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

If they think Trump is a racist, then they are the ones who aren't doing the basic research. The real question behind that one is "But don't they know who the cool kids are supporting?"

I'm not thrilled with the guy for a half-dozen reasons, but more than 50% of the accusations against him don't hold up.

Anonymous said...

That "racist buffoon" gave the speech I pleaded with BO to make. Obviously, somebody has not one clue about what this President is like.

This is the speech that I had hoped Obama would make. Speech and transcript at c-span


Transcript at Reddit


douglas said...

"I'm not thrilled with the guy for a half-dozen reasons, but more than 50% of the accusations against him don't hold up."

and the irony is that 50% acts as chaff for the other 50% of at least somewhat legitimate to legitimate complaints, and they still don't see it.

I can't decide if it was funny or sad how the interviewer didn't really seem to 'get' the whole thrust of the argument being presented her for her own good, right through to the end. Oh well.

Texan99 said...

The message I get is "But I have to be contemptuous and condescending; they're too stupid to rate any other treatment from me. I don't understand what you think is ineffective about that approach, which makes me feel so superior."

Elise said...

Yes, Dr. Williams' responses to the questions about Donald Trump being "a racist" and "a bigot" show more understanding of Trump voters than most progressives can muster. But to echo and extend what AVI said, I think she still doesn't quite get it. A lot of the comments from then-candidate Trump that progressives like Isaac Chotiner and Dr. Williams ("people like us") consider racist don't sound racist to Trump voters - or to people like me, who didn't vote for President Trump (or Mrs. Clinton).

For example, I found this article with a quick search: Donald Trump Has Long History of Racist Remarks and Behavior

Are there comments and actions detailed in that article that I would consider racist? Yes. Do I agree that all those detailed are racist? Absolutely not. Mr. Trump's remarks about immigrants, his refusing to apologize to the Central Park 5 (really?), his questions about Mr. Obama's birth certificate and transcripts, and his remarks about China do not seem racist to me. Can they be interpreted as racist? In some cases, yes, if one is determined to do so but Trump voters and "people like me" are not that determined.

I think it would be interesting to ask "people like" Mr. Chotiner and Dr. Williams to provide examples of President Trump being "a racist" and "a bigot" and then ask Trump voters and/or "people like me" whether those examples show what progressives think they show. I suspect there's a huge disconnect there, one that Dr. Williams for all her insight, doesn't quite get.

Tom said...

Elise, I think you're right. I think a simpler test, though, would be to ask each side what they believed the definition of racism is. I think they would have rather different definitions.

Elise said...

That would be interesting, Tom. I wonder if the two sides would give the same formal definition but not apply it in the same way. I read a piece about Bret Weinstein (Evergreen College) and he said:

Many of the terms that are being used have been redefined, but they haven’t been fully redefined. So one of the things that I’ve seen in several places is that a term like racist has been redefined so that the bar for being a racist is so low that you couldn’t possibly help but trip over it. But then, once you’ve tripped over it and you have accepted that you are a racist, then the stigma goes back to the original definition.

jaed said...

And if you look at their websites Hillary Clinton has more plans, or had, for Americans without college degrees

This is so emblematic of the way in which some people just don't get it that it should be in the dictionary of English idioms, next to "Just Doesn't Get It". People do not want Hillary, or Trump for that matter, to plan their lives for them and place them neatly into a box in the master plan.

For God's sake. Have people like this ever even spoken to a Deplorable? Or if not that, are they utterly incapable of understanding that other people are like them in many ways, including the necessity of freedom? I doubt the person who asked this question would like the government taking that attitude toward his own life and plans and ambitions. And yet here he is, expressing puzzlement that people are so stupid as not to reach out with both hands for a life of being a dependent whose destiny is controlled by <choke> <wheeze> Hillary Clinton. "But she had made more detailed plans for them! How could they not have voted for her?" It's a mystery, truly.

Texan99 said...

What baffles me is how many people have come to assume that, if the government doesn't do something, it doesn't get done at all. Is that new, or just me?

douglas said...

You know Tex, I think it's certainly not new- people have always looked for something external to take the reins (I think Grim was just speaking of this recently. Reading your comment, it suddenly came to mind that the left, with their attitude of 'the government will do it', is in many ways like the pious Christians who want to leave it all to God- including their free will. It has always struck me wrong that God owuld give me free will and then want me to toss it aside- 'The Lord helps those who help themselves' has always rung more true to my ears.

Tom said...

Elise, I think leftists often add power to the definition. Maybe many don't do it consciously. But if you ask whether black people can be racist, they'll start talking about power as an element of racism. So, since we live in a society dominated by whites, only whites can really be racist.

I believe this goes back to the introduction of Marxism into race studies scholarship. They need an oppressor class and oppressed class, but now it's expressed in racial terms.

That said, I think it's less common the further you get from race & gender studies departments. Not every leftists follows that line of thought.

jaed said...

The formula "racism = prejudice + power" has been taught more or less universally for... well, a couple of decades now, I think. And "power" is defined as "systemic power"—IOW, "being white".

This is how a black person in a position of power, one who acts to oppress white people he or she has power over due to racial animus and/or a belief in their racial inferiority, is nonetheless not a racist. It's why you hear "black people can't be racist"—because they lack "systemic power".

Grim said...

I believe it might have been formulated in one of Barbara Love's later works, her 1994 piece perhaps. She was writing in that nexus of feminism, gay rights, and Marxist thought (having been greatly taken with Castro's revolution in her younger days).

But when you think of it, it follows naturally from adapting classical Marxism to these other theories of class oppression. The classes just aren't economic classes, they're 'classes' like [male/female] or [straight/gay] or [white/non-white].

Nor will it prove that having power is really the important part. This can be proven by applying the Marxist theory. The Proletariat wasn't oppressing the capitalists by overthrowing them (and no revolution happens without building 'structures of power'). They were liberating the capitalists, who were oppressed by the old system too.

So too are we being liberated, not oppressed, by these systems of power they are building over us -- systems designed to destroy our capacity to live out our lives according to traditions of faith, family, or freedom.