Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What a putz.

Isaac Chotiner is an alum of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. It is ironic that the school motto is mens conscia recti, "a mind aware of what is right," a condition not apparent in Isaac Chotiner.

Ben Rhodes infamously described the mainstream media journalist:
"The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing."
Chotiner is slightly older than that but otherwise he fits the mold.

Slate has a current article, “I’m Hearing You’re Really Angry” by Isaac Chotiner. Chotiner is interviewing Joan C. Williams.
In a new book, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America, Joan C. Williams argues that much of the analysis of this class has been misguided and condescending. So too is the general cultural attitude toward the white working class from society’s more fortunate members. The result, Williams says, is a white working class increasingly isolated from the Democratic Party, with dangerous consequences for our politics.
Williams is a professor of law at University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Williams sounds like she is on the right path. The white working class demographic is about half the electorate (70% of Americans are white and about 70% do not have a college degree = 49%). They have not been well-served by either establishment party. They first came to Republican attention with the Tea Party protests and insurgency. Establishment scalps were taken but the Party seemed only marginally responsive. Indeed, Republicans still seems only marginally aware of America's dissatisfaction with its political class.

The establishment Republican Party has remained sufficiently inattentive to the needs and interests of half the electorate that a novice, former Democrat, was not only able to seize the Republican nomination but to win the election on his own platform.

The establishment Democratic Party, with its labor and working class roots, seemed to believe that it was immune to the discord and disgruntlement. While they focused ever more energy on the most marginalized - African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBT, and big dollops of money for the elite constituencies in academia, entertainment and Wall Street, they didn't notice that they had become not just inattentive to the needs of the working class but unaware of them.

I think Obama's talent as a campaigner masked the problem. He spoke to at least some aspects of the white working class concerns but never delivered to them. The fact that the quintessential insider establishment candidate (Hillary Clinton) lost badly in 2008 to a novice outsider doesn't seem to have registered. The fact that she nearly lost the party nomination to a septuagenarian Socialist (and might have done so had the DNC not inappropriately put their thumb on the scale) doesn't seem to have registered. And the fact that she lost the election badly again in 2016, this time again to a political novice, also seems not to have registered yet.

Democrats are captive to their postmodernist critical theory wing, seeing everything in terms of race, gender, orientation, etc. Oddly, Republicans have fallen into the same nomenclature and lens. They don't believe in postmodern critical theory but they use its language. And both parties are wrong. Critical theory is wrong.

This is not an issue of whites and blacks and Hispanics. An agenda of policies that addresses the needs of the white working class will deliver just as good results for blacks and Hispanics. Whichever party ends up focusing on and delivering beneficial policies to the working class will have interracial support and will be winning elections for a while. It is not clear which party that will be.

Williams is one of the voices on the progressive left (as opposed to the postmodernist left) who has noticed and is calling for Democrats to pay attention to the gulf between the party and the half electorate of the electorate represented by white working class voters.

What is startling in this interview is the gulf between the intelligence of Williams and the ignorance and lack of self-awareness of her interviewer, Chotiner. They are nominally of the same party but she is coming at the problem from a Classical Liberal mindset, one which intersects nicely with a good chunk of those who view themselves as conservative. She wants the data, she wants to recognize patterns in the data, she wants to figure out how to make things better.

For Chotiner, ad hominem bluster is the communication vehicle of choice. In an interview about how to treat the white working class with respect and dignity, his disdain and unwarranted arrogance are front and center. He can't seem to hear his own words. For example (Chotiner is in bold):
Why is it that when the condescension comes from someone like Donald Trump, who gets up at his rallies and says things like, “I don’t have to be here, I have better things to do,” who brags about how rich he is, who has his own products made overseas, none of that sticks? Trump embodies everything people claim to hate about the elite as much as anybody I can imagine.

I disagree.

He just completely bald-facedly lies to them as if they’re morons.
Chotiner sees things one way and is unable to acknowledge that there might be another way of seeing it. It isn't that he thinks the white working class is wrong. He thinks they are stupid.
Where Chotiner sees condescension, others see acknowledgement.

Where Chotiner sees bragging, others see accomplishment.

Where Chotiner sees hypocrisy, others see pragmatism.

Where Chotiner sees Trump as elite, other see Trump as an outsider.

Where Chotiner sees Trump as lying, others see Trump as telling truths others will not.

Where Chotiner sees the white working class as stupid, other see Trump as respecting them by speaking to them and their concerns.
The dissonance is deafening. After Chotiner posits that the white working class are morons for voting for Trump, he then has this exchange.
I think you and I both agree that the role of politicians is not to get up and call half the country stupid.

Yeah probably not a great idea.
If it is not a good idea, then don't do it. But Chotiner is already on record calling 49% of the electorate morons for having voted for Trump. Chotiner may not see his own inconsistency but others do.

Entering Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations territory, (see The Righteous Mind), Chotiner claims not only to be smarter than half the electorate but also more virtuous than them as well.
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?
No need to beat this horse to death. Chotiner, in his unwarranted arrogance, his ignorance, his preening, his virtue signaling, his moral posturing, his bigotry, and his condescension to others with whom he disagrees represents everything that Williams is trying to bring to light. And he doesn't even realize this as he interviews her. What a putz.

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