What Are We Trying to Figure Out?

Newspapers React to Trump Victory

By Nikil Saval

Since the election results of November 8, shock has compounded shock. The initial shock was the surprise victory of Donald Trump, and the Republican Party throughout the country. The second has been the immediate turnaround on the part of commentators from shock and surprise to confident analysis and prognostication. It took virtually no time for the intelligentsia—pseudo- and otherwise—to reheat an old dish and serve up the culprit to be feasted on: the white working class. Endlessly discovered and rediscovered, from the hardhats of 1972 through the Reagan Democrats of 1984 and the Angry White Men of 1994, professionals have also wasted little time in projecting fantasy after fantasy onto this impossibly vast and intellectually diverse group of people (around 42 percent of the country). Barbara Ehrenreich dissected the lurid imaginings of the middle classes about the working classes in Fear of Falling (1989) in the wake of the victories of Nixon and Reagan. Now, as then, writers have launched blithely into trivial essays on what the voters wanted, more often through modes of inquiry resembling divination than actual reporting or analysis.

Actually speaking to voters, turns them—like magic—into real people. One encounters, top to bottom, across race, class, and gender, a morass of inchoate opinion, at times difficult to square with electoral choices, often more eloquent than anything I could begin to say. People act on this mass of opinion, but it is no way immediately coherent or conclusive in its implications. Submitted to statistical reality, it crumbles—the social world does not fit, in these instances, the statistical world. The gap between statistics and social reality has somehow made licit every variety of professional projection, every empirically suspicious idea about working class life and opinions. A vote against the establishment, they say; a vote for white supremacy. This is despite the fact that votes—boxes ticked once every four years by a minority of the voting-age electorate—are not obviously legible. It hasn’t stopped otherwise perspicacious figures from reading into them nonetheless.

The writer Adam Shatz, in a rather hot take for the London Review of Books, tried gamely to correct the notion that the white working class was responsible—arguing that, based on income levels in exit polling, it was in fact “the lower middle class.” This is the class, he reminds us gravely, “traditionally most attracted by fascism.” But the reminder, like many other deep thoughts in hurried circulation, is false. It’s a holdover from Fifties sociology, whose wrongness is easily confirmed by the quickest consultation of scholarship (like Thomas Childers’s The Nazi Voter), which would show—again—that the ranks of fascist voters tended to come from elsewhere, and act in combination. The distinguished historian Joan Scott, commenting favorably on Shatz’s essay, opened up the dustiest can from way back on the Freudo-Marxist shelf. “Trump’s appeal to both men and women rested on his promise to impose a lost or threatened order of racial and gender hierarchies,” she writes. “The appeal was made not rationally or programmatically, but libidinally—it was the erotic call and response that won the day.” How many millions of people did Scott speak to such that she could discern the truth of the election through mass Freudian psychoanalysis?

Even to the extent that a particular group of voters turned, perfidiously, from Obama to Trump, to focus on the issue is to miss the point. We are describing the preferences of a marginal percentage of a group that barely votes expressed on two days separated by four years. In between, the number of this disparate group that actually votes plummets even further, and expresses itself in vastly different preferences. It might even have been different preferences for different candidates within the same ballot. In the rest of their lives, they will hardly be contacted by any campaign. At this very instant, they are being demobilized. And this is still a fraction of people: most “working-class” people still don’t vote. Why this is the case, in a country that blares its commitments to a democracy that apparently very few people care to participate in, seems not to be at issue.

The wisdom that it takes a “coalition” of varying groups to win the Presidency—to say nothing of the House, Senate, state legislatures, et cetera—remains antithetical to the demographic slicing being done to account for Trump’s election. No single group wins an election, a fact that writers have been slow to reacquaint themselves with. By now you may have heard about college-educated whites, who also voted in a majority for Trump; perhaps less about white college educated women, whom Hillary Clinton won—but only by a slim majority (45 percent voted for Trump). There are still percentages of other voters who may not, in a majority, have turned out for Trump, but who did partly turn out for him, all of which also contributes to his victory. If blame is to be cast, why not blame the supposedly 30-odd percent of Latinos who voted for Trump in Florida? Why not the rich Republicans? One does not win Presidential elections in the US on the strength of one sliver of the electorate. All are punished.

Compounding the mode of analysis is the fact that the problem is an international one. Far right parties are on the march across the countries of advanced capitalism. And lo, it happened right here, the richest and most powerful nation in world history. What’s more, this is the worst version of all of them. The farthest right administration in living memory, with nearly every branch of government in hand, helmed by a sociopath, a loon, a man with fascist tendencies (to put it generously)—who has promised, among many things, apartheid, deportation, pogroms, torture, expulsions. Even if nine-tenths of this turns out to be bluster, the emergence of this government is an existential threat to what many of us had planned and believe, and we will have to answer it with our lives.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 77 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

July 06, 2017
· 17 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

July 09, 2017
· 2 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

Running for the National Political Committee

July 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join this call to hear a presentation and ask questions about the role, duties and time commitment of a member of DSA's National Political Committee. In the meantime, check out the information already on our website about the NPC.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 11 rsvps


Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.