The Great Divide is a luxury for when times are good

The Great Divide is a luxury for when times are good

by digby

This piece by Peter Beinert on our great divide is interesting:

Once upon a time, when Democrats campaigned on economic security, Republicans countered with economic opportunity. Democrats promised protection by government; Republicans promised liberation from government. But the libertarian, anti-government rhetoric of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in 2012 is long gone. Despite a booming economy, Republicans didn’t even campaign heavily on tax cuts.

In the Trump era, Republicans counter economic security with cultural security. Trump promised to protect Americans from Latino murderers and women who destroy men’s lives by alleging sexual assault. And, to a significant extent, it worked. By mobilizing his white, rural base, Trump matched Democratic enthusiasm in purple states such as Florida and Ohio and overwhelmed Democratic incumbents in red states such as North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. It’s an old game: W. E. B. Du Bois famously called it the “psychological wage.” Instead of protecting white people from economic hardship, you protect them from the racial demons you’ve stirred up in their minds. And Trump is this era’s undisputed master of that game. He understood that as frightened as many Americans are of losing their health care, he—with the help of Fox News—could make them even more frightened of Honduran asylum-seekers. Now that the election is over, I suspect the caravan will disappear from Fox’s screens and Trump’s Twitter feed—until something like it is needed again.

Two years ago everyone was told by both parties that the economy was terrible. Today everyone says it's great. The fact is that it was the same in 2016 as it is today --- growing a bit faster actually. Unemployment is lower today but it was pretty low then. After the loss, the Democrats all became convinced that if they had just run more on the economy they would have won. Maybe. It seems to me that when the economy is doing well, people just overlay it onto other issues and in 2016, more Republicans felt conformtable enough to go back to voting for dumb Republican presidents on a tribal basis. And that spells "culture war."

The current economic expansion is the longest in history and it's getting stale. There's a good chance that the economy will be slowing substantially by the time we get to 2020, which changes the calculation. You can't count on that, of course. But I assume Democrats will be prepared to lay the fault at the feet of Donald Trump as they should. He takes credit on the upside, he will have to take the blame if it goes down.

As for the culture war --- it's always been with us. It's very hot and the parties have sorted themselves on to either side. As long as Trump is around it will be. So, the Dems can't avoid it even if they want to.

Beinert says the harsh truth is that racism works. It often does as we have seen. But not always. It's a luxury vote for times when things are going well. When they aren't many of those people decide their bottom line is more important than their bigotry.

Hey, somebody's got to clean up the mess and the Republicans sure aren't going to do it.