What these figures suggest is that the 2016 election will represent a complete inversion of the New Deal order among white voters. From the 1930s into the 1980s and early 1990s, majorities of downscale whites voted Democratic and upscale whites voted Republican. Now, looking at combined male and female vote totals, the opposite is true. (Thomas Edsall in the NYT)
“It’s not what I’m going to do, but I’m scared that the country is going to go into a riot,” said Roger Pillath, 75, a retired teacher from Coleman, Wis. “I’ve never seen the country so divided, just black and white — there’s no compromise whatsoever. The Clinton campaign says together we are stronger, but there’s no together. The country has never been so divided. I’m looking at revolution right now.” (NYT)
“I think Trump is speaking to a certain population in our country that hasn’t had a place to belong for a long time,” he said. “I think it’s the depressed population that focusses on Trump, because it gives them a sense of purpose. But what happens when this purpose is in the White House?” The young veteran said that, originally, he had planned to support Trump, until the comments about women became public, and now he didn’t plan to vote at all.
He declined to give his name, because he didn’t want to be publicly attached to this election. He felt that most of his classmates would vote for Trump, but their commitment was shallow, in his opinion. After his time in the Middle East, he had concluded that Americans don’t really understand what an uprising is. “They’re talking about a revolution,” he said, of Trump supporters. “But they’re too lazy. Americans are too lazy. They’re fine with a rally. But they’re not up for a real revolution.”(Peter Hessler in The New Yorker)
Back in 2009, a month after Obama's first inaugural, I wrote what I thought then was a parodic treatment for a first episode in a bad TV miniseries entitled The Second Civil War. It imagined a Seven Days in May scenario where rogue military units in concert with militias all around the country take over federal buildings in the hopes of triggering a broad insurrection. I don't believe anything like that will happen; it was meant as a kind of spoof, but at the time I was surprised that the post got some play in the right-wing blogosphere.
The guy quoted in the Hessler excerpt above who said Americans are too lazy to actually foment an insurrection is probably right--at least in the short term. But it's hard to imagine that the current red/blue impasse can just continue indefinitely. If it isn't resolved through political compromise, something more violent will increasingly become a possibility. HRC seems the least likely person to find a way to break this impasse. I do truly hope she will surprise us. But I don't think elite Dems feel any urgency. They seem to believe that time is on their side, that browning demographics favor Democrats in the long run, that the angry, white male at the center of Trumpism or the Tea Party is going to die out or exhaust himself in the next decade or so. Even if that happens, and I don't think it will, can we afford to wait before things spin out of control? Maybe we'll find a way to muddle through. Maybe there are forces at work that are invisible to us now that will change the game in unanticipated ways. But I just don't see how an HRC victory is going to change the game at all.
I think there are two things at work that make me pessimistic about a muddling-through scenario: the first is tribal, and the second is structural. First is the tribal cosmopolitian vs. rural component. We're all familiar with the image below:
This isn't going away because it plays to a basic archetype in the American psyche explained colorfully here:
There's this universal shorthand that epic adventure movies use to tell the good guys from the bad. The good guys are simple folk from the countryside ... while the bad guys are decadent assholes who live in the city and wear stupid clothes. In Star Wars, Luke is a farm boy ...while the bad guys live in a shiny space station. In Braveheart, the main character (Dennis Braveheart) is a simple farmer ... and the dastardly Prince Shithead lives in a luxurious castle and wears fancy, foppish clothes. The theme expresses itself in several ways -- primitive vs. advanced, tough vs. delicate, masculine vs. feminine, poor vs. rich, pure vs. decadent, traditional vs. weird. All of it is code for rural vs. urban. That tense divide between the two doesn't exist because of these movies, obviously. These movies used it as shorthand because the divide already existed.
We country folk are programmed to hate the prissy elites. That brings us to Trump. I was born and raised in Trump country. My family are Trump people. If I hadn't moved away and gotten this ridiculous job, I'd be voting for him. I know I would. (Source)
Whose side do you want to be on--the side of the aggrieved simple fold or the side of the decadent elites? In tribal terms, the Democrats have become the party of the cosmopolitan, urban, coastal elites, i.e., the decadent movie bad guys. Tom Frank has already already made the historical case that the blues don't represent ordinary, non-college educated folks anymore, and the Edsall article quoted above ratifies it. Black and Brown Americans, for the time being, align with these elites now because at least don't say awful, racist things about them, but in the long run the real interests of black, brown, and white non-elites do not align with the interests of Democratic elites--be they white, black or brown. This is where the structural factors come into play, and I believe that it will force a realignment of colors over the next decades .
The Blues in this cycle can justify to themselves that they are the good guys only because the Reds don't care that they have put up such a bizarrely unattractive bad guy. There are lots of sensible Trump supporters who have no illusions about Trump's inadequacies, but they don't care about anything except throwing a grenade into a system they see as profoundly corrupt, and they see "candidate chaos" as their grenade. Dem elites don't understand how justifiably they are perceived as the corrupt bad guys, that they are more Caesar Flickerman than Katniss Everdeen. That's why the Democrats' smugness about demographics being on their side is largely illusory. While the political divide now is largely along tribal (i.e., cultrual values) lines, in the future it will start forming along structural lines.
There's a color realignment coming. Red has always been out of place as the color of upper case "R" convenntional, country-club Republicans. In epic movie terms, Blue has become the color of a morally decadent, anything-goes, cosmopolitan elite, and red is becoming the color of the down-to-earth, aggrieved, simple folk, be they white, black, or brown. It's the color of populist insurrection. Red is the color around which mostly whites rally now, but in the future, as the old racists die out, more blacks and browns will rally to it.
As race- and ethnic-based tribal lines become less important in coming decades, structural lines will become more important. In every action movie we see, especially the futuristic ones, the good guys are a band of multi-ethnic, multi-racial, band of brothers and sisters. This is a normative social imaginary for most millennials. So as the old racists die out, that will makeroom for Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, and aggrieved Whites to find common cause together. Theirs will be the coalition of the virtuous simple folk against the corrupt elites. That, I would argue, is the real demographic future. The flag they fly will be red not blue.
IMO, the Blues missed their chance for redemption when they rejected Bernie's bid. The underlying structural forces are against Blue redemption in the future. Bernie understood better than anybody that in the long run it's the structural issues, not the cultural (including racial) issues, that matter most. Again, HRC might surprise us, but she is the embodiment of elite Blue tribal values. The structural issues are simply not central to her understanding of the crisis we face. Even if she has seen the Bernie light to some extent, she is still perceived by the Reds to be someone they cannot trust and cannot work with. Better her than Trump, but if Trump would make things worse, it's hard to see how a Clinton will make things better. Some kind of re-alignment seems inevitable, if not in the next ten years, then soon after.