Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trump's Ambiguous Racism

1. Language Inclusive of Nutjobs

I was talking with someone about how Trump phrases things to include the right wing nutjobs. For example, when someone asks whether he's a birther, Trump will say that he doesn't know, which leaves the option that Obama isn't a citizen. In contrast John Mccain cut the right wing nutjobs out by saying that Obama was a family man who he respects, but just has different views from him.

One can see why Trump would want to phrase things in a way to include the right wing nutjobs, these nutjobs are often voters. But one can also see how cutting the connection to those people would attract votes as well. I'd like to believe that there aren't enough of these kinds of right wingers for Trump to care for their support. But maybe there are. On the flip side, I'd like to believe that there aren't enough leftists (and independents) who are so ingrained in their anti-right ideology that they wouldn't change their mind about Trump even if he did phrase things in a narrower way. If leftist will think he's racist anyway, then Trump might as well get the racist vote.

2. Liberals Mocking the Wrong Trump

It gives me little hope when leftists interpret quotes like this as a racial slur:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
I'm sorry, that's not racist. It's a factual claim open to analysis. And honestly, since social science has proven that poverty is correlated to things like drug use, rape, and other crime, it's not a bad inference that poor immigrants would have the same connections. Unfortunately for trump, hard data on immigrant crime doesn't turn out that way.

Trump doesn't say that he believes this because of anything racist. Any reasonable person should interpret a statement like that as based on Trump's impression of who tends to cross the boarder, which is the same impression that a lot of people are getting. Whether Trump's impressions comes from his talking to border guards or watching the tv series Cops is an open question, but either way that's not racism.

I think that if a conservative says something that could possibly be explained by racism, liberals automatically interpret it as racism, even if there are more reasonable explanations out there. Racism is one reason why Trump might say some of the things he says, but it isn't the only one and it certainly isn't the best one. If liberals treated each other that way, there would be almost as much talk about liberal racism as conservative racism.

You can also read Trump's keeping Muslims out of the country as racism. Or you can read it as a catastrophic overreaction though admittedly a valid partial solution. Not allowing Muslim immigrants will reduce slightly the already abysmal chance of a terrorist attack, but the means are horrible and the effect is slight. This is a more complicated explanation than, "that's racist", but it's a much better one.

I'm tempted to skip the part about liberals treating Islam like it's a race and whether or not that's racism. Google "Trump Racism", and you'll get a ton of leftist examples of Trump talking about Muslims. If the right made such an error, leftists would scoff with superiority and accuse them of being the real racists. Again, for leftists if racism can explain conservative behavior, then it must be racism regardless of more reasonable explanations.

3. Haidt Explains it all and conclusion

I can't help but think of Jonathan Haidt's research that shows liberals can't empathize as well with conservatives compared to the other way around. A part of me is skeptical, but sometimes I see how liberals read conservatives and think, "what world are you living in?"

Really I wish Trump would directly and definitively cut the cord to the fringe fraction of right wing nutjobs even if it cost him some votes. I think he's more likely to do that in the general election than in the primaries because those people matter less because they're diluted by a larger population of voters.

And it always bares repeating, although to a large extent this post is in defense of Trump, I am not a Trump voter or anything remotely close to it.