Why is moving the Overton Window not mentioned in 2016 election autopsies?

So, there is another major essay trying to understand and explain Trump's victory. In case you haven't seen mention of it yet, I am referring to The Nationalist's Delusion, by The Atlantic's senior political editor, Adam Serwer. It is an excellent, though lengthy read, which reaches the usual conclusion: white Americans are bigoted. The subtitle captures the entire essay quite nicely: "Trump’s supporters backed a time-honored American political tradition, disavowing racism while promising to enact a broad agenda of discrimination."

I agree with much of what Serwer writes, though I am unhappy with how words such as "nationalist" are used in a pejorative sense. Much the same way most establishment media types use the word "populist." I consider myself a nationalist, but what I believe the word means is informed by my reading of Franklin, Washington, Hamilton, Adams, Carey, etc. When you can use the label "nationalist" for Benjamin Franklin, or Adolph Hitler, or Donald Trump, the word has lost most of its descriptive power. (Just to be clear, Serwer does not mention Franklin or Hitler in his article.)

Serwer's analysis of Trump' s victory is not the first excellent contribution to our post-2016 political discussion. And it will not be the last. I am not providing any excerpts here. Not yet, at least; I could easily violate "fair use" limits. What I want to focus on is what I consider a very worrisome characteristic of almost all the 2016 election autopsy reports I have read so far: None of them consider how the rich have shoved the Overton window so far right through their relentless funding of the conservative movement and the right wing noise machine.

To be sure there have been a steady trickle of books and stories about the role of the Kochs, the Mercers, and other conservative and libertarian money bags.

Serwer raises a crucial point: how much Obama's presidency worsened racial divisiveness in USA. But it is just as crucial to note that this was not caused by Obama or the Democrats. The racial polarization was caused entirely by conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans. I remember how people in deep red areas I visited discussed politics in 2008. There simply was not as much hate, intolerance, and outright bigotry as there is now. Something changed from 2008 to 2016, and I am certain it was the incessant demonizing of Obama and Democrats by the political apparatus wealthy reactionaries have created the past half century. Jeesh, doesn't anyone remember how we used to derisively condemn Republican politicians for "feeding red meat to their base"? Why does no one pause to consider what all that gorging on red meat has done to the polis?

Recall some of the outright lies that have been circulated by Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Ollie North, and Murdoch's Fox bestiary. Secret FEMA prison camps. Death panels. Obama is going to take your guns away. Obama is going to impose Sharia law. Democrats coddle criminals. Liberals hate America and want terrorists to win.

And now, after 50 years of tolerating the flow of this sewage, you're surprised to find yourself up to your chin in shit?

When has anybody been held to account for ANY of those lies? When has anybody been fined by the FCC? When has a radio or TV broadcast license ever been revoked? When was Murdoch ever investigated as an foreign agent of influence? Why was there never as much opprobrium heaped on Fox and Murdoch as there now is on Putin and RT?

In the classical republican theory that informed the creation of the American republic, it was held that concentrations of wealth are as great a danger to a republic as a standing army. In The Federalist Papers, Hamilton and Madison thoroughly examined the problem of demagogues misleading masses of the citizenry and whipping them into factions actuated by passions instead of reason. Not just these framers, but many of the fellow citizens, not called to high office, closely studied the Roman writers who had recorded the faults and ruin of the Roman republic. Among the most important of these Roman writers was Sallust. The Table of Contents of Thomas Gordon's 1744 translation, entitled, Discourses of Sallust--one of the most read books in colonial America--gives you a flavor what the framers were concerned about:

DISCOURSE I. Of Faction and Parties.
Sect I. How easily the People are led into Faction and kept in it by their own Heat and Prejudices and the Arts of their Leaders; how hard they are to be cured and with what Partiality and Injustice each Side treats the other.
Sect II. How apt Parties are to err in the Choice of their Leaders; How little they regard Truth and Morality when in Competition with Party; The terrible Consequences of all this; worthy Men decried and persecuted; worthless and wicked Men popular and preferred; Liberty oppressed and expiring.
Sect III. Party infers public Weakness; Its devilish Spirit and strange Blindness; What public Ruin it threatens; The People rarely interested in it; yet how eager and obstinate in it, and bewitched by it.

There has to be some way to limit the freedom of speech of the rich. It would be, I think, in much the same way as military officers have their freedom of speech limited. Not through any judicial imposition--though it would probably be useful to explore how to make it easier to bring and win libel suits--but by creating the same intensity of cultural suspicion and intolerance for the rich as there is for military officers saying whatever they want.

The problem, of course, comes down to the role of money in politics. The corrupting power of money is why we have come to detest Democratic Party elites almost as much as denizens of the Republican Party. Mass communications makes it extraordinarily expensive to run modern political campaigns. On the other hand, we have seen in the past few election cycles a number of examples where the financial superiority of a campaign failed to move that campaign into the win column. I like to think this is proof of the resiliency of American citizens clinging to the last vestiges of the founding principle of classical republican public virtue.

Or, more simply stated, more and more voters these days are less accepting of bovine excrement.

Unfortunately, it is now probably too late: it is now likely that it is the bigots and rich reactionaries who will be the pioneers in figuring out how to limit Americans' freedoms of speech and expression. And their targets are not going to be the rich.

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Tony Wikrent's picture

@gjohnsit Yeah, it's dem damn bolshevists again.

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- Tony Wikrent
Nation Builder Books(nbbooks)
Mebane, NC 27302
2nbbooks@gmail.com

Raggedy Ann's picture

revolution is the only way out. I'm in. We'll see what happens.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

detroitmechworks's picture

As did the DNC and their ilk.

During the entire tenure of the president, if you didn't believe everything he did, you were a "Racist" and needed to be shouted down by the Democrats.

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You can't expect to wield Supreme Military power, just cause some corporate tosser lobbed a contract at you!

Wink's picture

The Atlantic... https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/the-nationalists-de...

Long read. Turns out whites of all stripes voted for the Trumpster - Not just the uneducated working class; and points to just how racist this country is, top to bottom.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Meteor Man's picture

@Wink

Tuesday’s exit poll results have not yet been finalized but so far they show Trump outmatching Romney by two points in each voting bloc.

Trump claimed 29 percent of the Hispanic vote on Tuesday compared to Romney’s 27 percent in 2012. With blacks, exit polls show Trump claimed 8 percent of the vote to the previous Republican nominee’s 6 percent.

Hillary votes compared to Obama votes:

Instead Clinton underperformed in efforts to match the historic levels of support that Obama achieved.

The first African American president carried 93 percent of the black vote against Romney. Clinton came in five points below him against Trump. With Hispanics, Obama garnered 71 percent support in 2012. Clinton on Tuesday claimed 65 percent.

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/trump-did-better-bla...

Let's not forget that racism is an incomplete explanation that was complemented by the failure of Obama, the DLC and Hillary to address working class issues.

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Cali Kush: a bowl a day keeps the doctor away.

@Meteor Man What I don't understand is, the numbers on all the separate groups, whites, POC, women, latino, that voted were down, when it came to HER compared to Obamas 2 elections. With only about half the eligible voters actually voting why couldn't it have been a case of some whites that voted for Obama didn't vote at all, and were replaced by the rabid FOXer's that heard the dog whistle, and had sat out the previous elections. Seems if the dems had done a massive GOTV, like they used to (before all they needed was donors), they would have won.

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Steven D's picture

@Snode and her team thought they could beat Trump by just showing up. She ignored advice to send money for traditional GOTV efforts to rely on more TV ads and "analytics" by Mook. Refused to campaign in the very states she lost while chasing the dream of winning in AZ!

She got her hand-picked candidate and still lost.

Millions stayed home because she did nothing to make them want to vote for her or Democrats.

Worst Candidate Ever!

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

@Snode It wasn't that whites came out to vote for Trump en masse, but that the democratic base in key areas did not come out to vote for Hillary. Hillary still did win the popular vote by a large margin which to me goes against the narrative that racist whites came out in mass to vote for Trump. It was the Constitutional system of the Electoral College which made Trump's victory possible--not a massive influx of newly minted racist white voters.

In some sense, every post-election analysis is suspect as the political system offered up two wildly unpopular candidates.

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Fionnsboy's picture

@MrWebster re: lousy candidates. Exactly! Or as I like to say, "Don't build it and they won't come." 2016 (especially in the Upper MidWest, where the election swung) wasn't so much an embrace of Trump as it was a rejection of HER in particular and Let Them Eat Cake Dems/Neoliberals in general. Lots of trees could be saved if the pundit class simply swallowed this rather large and bitter (to them) pill. It still just doesn't seem possible that their candidate lost! It was her turn!

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Semper ubi sub ubi

@MrWebster
It performed exactly as the founders designed it to. preventing a relatively small minority of voters (3 million out of an electorate of something like 220million) relegated to a small geographical area (if LA and NYC had not been counted Trump would have won the popular vote) overruling the rest of the country. Democrats (and by perception progressives) have to admit that they are a party of big city minorities or they're going down the toilet of history. Progressives can avoid being dragged down with Democrats only by disavowing identity politics and replacing it with a universal appeal. Rural and working class whites are people too.

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A PROUD Hillary hater since 1993

Wink's picture

@Snode
comment on those of us voters that left the top line blank, unable to vote for either one.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Meteor Man's picture

because the Democratic Party likes it right where it is. Occupy, Berniecrats, DSA and lots of other left wing grass roots groups are pushing like Sysiphus. The DLC Centrists push back, with lots of help from the M$M.

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Cali Kush: a bowl a day keeps the doctor away.

Steven D's picture

@Meteor Man Bingo as wink would say

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

All those words to call rust belt voters racist. People forget, in the rust belt and the plains states Obama ran as a populist. The people on the coast think they are the farthest left you can get in this country, but Obama knew his history. Sure the south flipped to republican but the north east and west coast flipped dem. A bunch of rockafella republicans decided to call themselves democrats. Truth is since the beginning of this country it has always been the rural regions vs the banks. Obama spent all of his time in Iowa talking about busting up the monopolies that were beating the shit out of the farmers pockets, and he also ran on beating the shit out of the banks. In the rust belt he ran against union busting trade deals, and ending these god dam stupid wars. Hillary meanwhile got paid 500 Gs a pop for speeches, "pivoted to the center" on trade, and wanted to put a no fly zone in a country that is covered in Russian S -400s. Your average joe / jane in the rust belt doesn't want to send their jobs over seas and their kids off to war go figure.

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Solidarity forever

I find that most post election analysis asks the wrong question. The question, "Why did Hillary not win" leads one to answers that solve the riddle of 10-30,000 votes the she didn't get in three key swing states. Answers like, "she didn't campaign hard enough/at all in Wisconsin", or "she ran the wrong type of campaign".
I think the real question, considering that she went up against one of the most horrid candidates in U.S. history, and that that candidate was a political rookie having never ever before run a campaign,especially one of a national scale, then the question has to be, "why did Hillary not win in an epic landslide?"
That question leads to answers that are more useful going forward. For me the answer to that question is that Hillary and the DNC were completely out of touch with the concerns of most Americans. She/they were out of touch about how hard it is to eke by in this current economy, out of touch about how sick and tired Americans are about our current military incursions, out of touch about how most Americans want their elected officials to take bold strong stands on issues. And I would say out of touch about how much Americans worry about access to healthcare for themselves and their loved ones.
Seriously, a good candidate with the full backing of a national party and years of experience around campaigns, should have been able to beat Trump in a landslide of just EPIC proportions. An opponent of Trump should have been able to build their party ranks, raise money, and create coattails for a majority win in both houses of Congress. Young people should have been swept into the party to remain there loyally for years to come.
What an amazing opportunity the Dems squandered.

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Meteor Man's picture

@wouldsman

An opponent of Trump should have been able to build their party ranks, raise money, and create coattails for a majority win in both houses of Congress. Young people should have been swept into the party to remain there loyally for years to come.

Exactly what would have happened if Sanders had been the nominee.

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Cali Kush: a bowl a day keeps the doctor away.

Fionnsboy's picture

@Meteor Man YES X 1000!

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Semper ubi sub ubi

divineorder's picture

@wouldsman

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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

@wouldsman
Agree up to a point with your interesting comment, except that it strikes me more that it's not a question of the Dems being 'out of touch' with the 'austerity' and 'legalized' loss of basic rights for all Non-Billionaire-Americans (which has been inflicted and enlarged upon every step of the way over recent decades by both wings of the Two-Party Trade-Off Trap) but it finally having been made evident to a lot more Americans that the Dems, as well as the Repubs, were eager to sacrifice their people and country to any profiteer willing to give them a kick-back.

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Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

Fionnsboy's picture

...is that the wrong people are writing them. The chattering class on both sides of the (more and more illusory) Great Divide have health care; have decent jobs; have retirements and pensions and 401k's; own homes; have kids in or through (in many cases legacy) colleges without those annoying hundred thousand dollar debt albatrosses hanging from their necks. Food shopping, appliance shopping, housing shopping is done at leisure with lots of nice choices, without robbing from Peter to pay Paul, as more and more Americans must do.

In many cases it's not that these scribes are necessarily willfully ignorant, or stubborn (though of course like the man said there are none so blind as those who will not see); but these life, purchasing, health care experiences, performed daily over years and then decades, in a social milieu with people having those same kinds of experiences and pleasant choices, inoculate them to the larger picture: that both parties have failed the vast numbers of Americans (63% of whom, a recent study shows, are one $500 emergency away from being dead broke!) to a scandalous, shameful, immoral and possibly illegal degree. They live and work and socialize for the most part in the Pretty Cities, NYC, Boston, San Fran, etc, and know none of the people beyond these veritable Sanctuary Cities, where the only industries remaining are the building of prisons and the selling of, and dying from, opioids. It's the same with the wars, and those who fight them, and those who have fought them and kill themselves to the tune of 22 a day. An embedded media and gated communities now keep the classes further apart then they've ever been. People know what they experience. And as is the case with many professions, journalists tend to write articles for other journalists, seeking recognition, status, and promotion. It's only human.

There are a few exceptions. I'm thinking of that excellent, horrifying exposure done perhaps a little over a year ago by reporters at a West Virginia newspaper about the reality of life in that shattered state. In other words, those journalists moved beyond their world to write what they saw. I suppose we could call that quality to move beyond one's purview compassion, or empathy, an ingredient more necessary in a democracy than one might at first think. The way I look at it, each of us is born into a different class, race, region, etc-- it's like we're launched satellites, and we reach a certain innate level where we see and experience what those of our class, region, race, etc, see and experience. And most of us stay stuck at that particular level of altitude, and therefore we see and experience and know the same view, perpetually, and mistake that for reality, for the whole picture. But if one deploys one's innate 'booster rocket,' as it were, we rise above (literally) our own altitude and see things so differently. Patrician-born FDR had that ability, as did his wife. Edward R. Murrow, Henry Wallace, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and of course Bernie, just to name a few. That ability fueled the New Deal; there is no room for that ability on Neoliberalism, and I think what irks so about the Clintons in particular is they see absolutely no value whatsoever in that ability. It has no meaning to them.

In summary then, I'll probably glance at this piece; but I'd be much more inclined to devote my time to someone analyzing the election without health care, or a job, or a roof over their heads, or someone $100,000 in college debt working three retail McJobs trying to pay it off. Knowing people like this, my inclination is that their analysis on why Trump won would be something much more simple, something maybe like this: If the system isn't working for us, let's smash it up.

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Semper ubi sub ubi

@Fionnsboy Exactly, and the other side of the divide go to the same schools, socialize with each other, vie for the same college spots for their kids. I could see John Kerry and Dick Cheny belonging to the same shooting club, with the finest engraved shotguns, sipping the best whisky telling those thigh slapping good jokes, about us.

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2 points:
1. Trump held the traditional Republican $100k+ demographic. It was not just poor white racists. It was traditional Republicans ignoring racism.
2. Obama and Hillary share a considerable amount of the blame. Obama was afraid of looking like "an angry black man" so he failed to stand up to racists when they cropped up. (like by shooting black men in the back) He proved himself weak and compounded it by appearing condescending and smug. And Hillary! If I were hispanic I would never vote for Abuela Muerte, especially when she assumed that she would be saved by her "magic Mexicans". Talk about delusional; she's lucky she got 35% of the hispanic vote. Hell, she was lucky anyone voted for her.

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A PROUD Hillary hater since 1993

We hear/see very few analyses explaining that independents flipped the election to Trump.
I don't think calling independents "racists" is a good strategy for the Democratic Party.
I have said this before.
We have a multinational corporate sponsored MSM and political establishment that will NEVER admit they were beat by populists and nationalists.
They will blame ANYTHING but populism and nationalism.
Instead they will blame
The Russians.
Vladimir Putin.
Comey.
Racism
Sexism.
White women.
Misogyny.
WikiLeaks.
Facebook.
Twitter.
Macedonian content farmers.
ANYTHING except populism and nationalism, because admitting that goes against the interests of their multinational corporate donors (not to mention the multinational corporate sponsors of the MSM).
A serious (non-corporate sponsored) post-mortem would reveal the antiestablishment fervor in favor of populism and nationalism within the general electorate.
They are 'misreading' the election results on purpose. We will NEVER hear the MSM give any serious acknowledgement concerning the antiestablishment populism and nationalism within the electorate. Doing that does goes against the interests of their multinational corporate sponsors.
And whether anyone agrees or not, calling independents (who decided the election) "racists" is a poor strategy for the Democratic Party.

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Mike Taylor

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Betty Clermont