If only Hillary Clinton were more likable. If only she had gone to the right states. And on and on.
After the election, Democrats used Clinton as the scapegoat for losing the election and skipped over the antagonistic media, the James Comey illegal releases, the Russian hacking, the Trump lies, and a number of other issues beyond her control. Ignoring all these reasons, Democrats decided they lost the presidency because they didn’t try to “understand” the white working-class segment of the population.
Forsetti’s Justice presents his perspective of “understanding” rural Christian white America.
“The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe…. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.”
The white Christian god is king in deep-red states. Tribal belief systems are shaped by religious fundamentalism which prevents curiosity, change, learning, and criticism. Democrats who think that these fundamentalists need “understanding” are wrong: they only want agreement. All educated progressives are enemies to fundamentalists.
“Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts.”
Fundamentalists believe in teaching reading and writing but reject any disagreement to their doctrine. Women should marry and have children the minute that they graduate from high school, and college for young men is a waste of time. Even young people who attend college automatically reject whatever doesn’t fit into their fundamentalist belief systems.
Justice defines rural Christian white Americans as racists. They may deny this description because they’ve—mostly—stopped burning crosses and lynchings, but their belief system tells them that they are superior because they are white, all made in the image of their white god. Religion teaches them that a less-than-white skin comes from sins instead of their ancestors. Fundamentalist belief that blacks are curse, for good reason, means that they shouldn’t be treated as equals. Internal change is frightening to fundamentalists so they ignore evolution, genetics, and science. No “understanding” from Democrats will make them less racist and more open to facts.
Propaganda works exceptionally well with fundamentalists because they have no protection against it, no openness, willingness to re-evaluate, critical analysis, and self-reflection. Fundamentalists grant some people “expert status” and believe everything they say, treating it like gospel.
“Rural Christian white Americans have let anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted racists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, the Stepford wives of Fox, and every evangelical preacher on television into their systems because these people tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being like them.”
These people are like DT: they have nothing in common with these fundamentalists except for their color and language of white superiority. Yet fundamentalists treat them as authorities.
Bad information stays with fundamentalists because of their “closed-off” belief systems. Justice compares this to spinal fluid, “great as long as nothing infectious gets into it. If bacteria gets into your spinal fluid, it causes unbelievable damage because there are no white blood cells to fend off invaders and protect the system. Without the protective services of white blood cells in the spinal column, infection spreads like wildfire and does significant damage in a short period of time. Once inside the closed-off spinal system, bacteria are free to destroy whatever they want.”
Anything outside their belief system is a threat to fundamentalists who want the behavior be blocked for everyone. Same-gender couples marrying, blacks protesting police killings of unarmed friends and family, immigrants performing cheap labor, Muslims celebrating a non-Christian religion, women making a working wage, people getting a college education, scientists warning about climate change—all these are threats. A black president is a threat. The Chinese are threats. Fear makes them create or believe false information such as “President Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood who hates white Americans and is going to take away their guns.”
The solution isn’t “understanding” the irrational and unjustified fears based on the lies that come from their fundamentalist belief systems promoted by rural white Christians. Fundamentalists don’t trust Democrats and aren’t open to them. Finding “common ground” isn’t the answer. Justice wrote:
“When a 2,700-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, and edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, respect or evidence is going to change their minds and assuage their fears.”
One way fundamentalist belief changes is through personal occurrence. Acceptance of same-gender marriage switched from 68 percent of the people opposed 20 years ago to a 61-percent acceptance today. Even 40 percent of Republicans support marriage equality. Fundamentalists learned that their friends and family were part of the LGBT community, and the conflict between the belief system and personal experience more than reversed their opinions.
Changes in belief systems can come from catastrophes, especially if taken personally.Comedian Dennis Miller changed from using complex, left-leaning humor to right-wing anger and frustration after the 9/11 attacks. The reverse can also be true: the Great Depression and FDR’s progressive remedies moved GOP members into being Democrats who disagreed that the economy could be saved only by the free market but destroyed by the government.
George W. Bush’s disastrous recession didn’t have the same effect because Congress and the Obama administration saved people from the suffering in the 1930s. Without the shock of a devastating economic depression, conservatives stuck to their belief system of badly regulated markets, supply side economics, and ineffective ways to respond to financial crises. Instead they rewarded the political party causing the problem by voting them into a record number of state legislatures and House control.
Catastrophes also don’t always solve situations. A century and a half after the South lost the Civil War fundamentalists there think they were right and need to change the outcome.
The fundamentalist belief system supports lies that President Obama was in charge at the beginning of the financial crisis and that the mortgage crisis was because the government forced banks to lend to unqualified minorities. President Obama’s dark skin made their lies seem accurate.
Fundamentalists believe that only god can change the weather; that god thinks women should be subservient to men; and that god created whites superior to people of color, especially in an environment where white people interact with few people of color. The fundamentalist belief system requires fundamentalists to vote for massive tax cuts and cutting back government although it hurts their personal situation.
“’Rural white America needs to be better understood,’ is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as too upsetting, too mean, too arrogant, too elite, too snobbish. Pointing out that Aunt Bea’s view of Mexicans, blacks and gays is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about Aunt Bea’s views. It’s the classic, ‘You’re a racist for calling me a racist,’ ploy.”
Democrats are only avoiding the obvious—that the U.S. has always had a race problem. The divide will continue as long as rural Christian white Americans fail to accept such truths that their votes are responsible for the largest redistribution of wealth to the top in the history of the country, that white business owners are to blame for moving jobs overseas, that no one is going to block their buying guns if they are sane, that their churches won’t have to marry same-gender couples, that access to birth control won’t damage their lives, that they get more help from the government than people in the blue states, that health crises are not “moral failings,” that shopping at big-box stores destroys small businesses, and that most of their problems come from the Republicans who they elect. Economic policies that help rural Christians—increased minimum wage, unions, infrastructure assistance, renewable energy, closing climate change, healthcare reform, etc.—come from Democrats.
Until fundamentalist Christians quit voting against their personal interests just to hurt immigrants, they will continue to suffer—along with all the rest of the bottom 99 percent. Trying to “understand” the white voter isn’t going to change anything.