The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

E-Mail to a Liberal Professor

Posted on | November 20, 2018 | 2 Comments

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2018 9:45 a.m. ET
From: Robert McCain ([email protected])
To: Joan C. Williams ([email protected])

Dear Professor Williams:
Your article in The Atlantic (“The Democrats’ White-People Problem”) has come to my attention. You make many interesting points, e.g.:

“Why not just wait for the white working class to die off?” asked an audience member at last year’s Berkeley Festival of Ideas. I get this question a lot, and I always reply: “Do you understand now why they voted for Trump? Your attitude is offensive, and Trump is their middle finger.”

This is in some sense accurate, although I think you (and liberals more generally) are guilty of over-interpreting the 2016 election. Isn’t it true that liberals would have been shocked and alarmed if any Republican had won the presidency? That is to say, after eight years of Obama, liberals seemed to assume that the Permanent Democrat Majority was now a fact of history and, with the massive hype of Hillary’s campaign as the next logical step of Progress-with-a-capital-P (the first female president succeeding the first black president), failure in 2016 would have been deeply disappointing to liberals, no matter who the GOP had nominated. Since the shocking result of Nov. 8, 2016, the professional analysts whose job it is to tell us What It Means have seized upon Trump as a symbol of racism and misogyny without considering the possibility that maybe those 63 million Trump voters just didn’t like Hillary.

If Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio had won the Republican nomination, perhaps the pain of liberals would not be so acute, but why did Trump destroy the GOP primary field like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo? Well, he had the celebrity factor working for him, and he was Not a Politician. Going back at least as far as the Ross Perot campaign of 1992, a sizable number of Americans have shown a willingness to elect non-politicians to high office. Remember pro wrestler Jesse Ventura getting elected governor of Minnesota? Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger getting elected governor of California? Remember Al Franken getting elected to the Senate? Indeed, if you will recall, businessman Herman [Cain] was the front-runner in the 2012 GOP presidential field until accusations of sexual impropriety wrecked his campaign. So the populist appeal of the “outsider” — the Not-a-Politician candidate — was demonstrable before Trump entered the 2016 campaign and, more than anything else, his success showed that a lot of voters are just sick and tired of the status quo. And while many liberals saw Hillary’s campaign as progressive (#ImWithHer), a lot of voters saw her as very much part of the status quo, seeking a dynastic succession to her husband’s presidency.

For a Democrat to lose Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan required something of a Perfect Storm convergence of factors, and perhaps if the Clintons had not rigged the nomination through their control of the DNC (thanks for that information, Wikileaks!), maybe she would have gotten all those Bernie voters who felt they got cheated in the primaries. This sense that “the fix was in” — that Hillary’s nomination was arranged, rather than fairly won — only reinforced Trump’s populist argument that our government had been captured by insiders (“the Deep State”) and was not responsive to We the People. Probably a university law professor would scoff at that argument, but it was persuasive to a lot of voters who aren’t law professors and who, quite frankly, don’t care much for the opinions of law professors. But I digress . . .

Your basic argument is that working-class white voters rejected Hillary Clinton because she failed to articulate a message that addressed the economic interests of those voters. But was that really it? Was Obama’s success due to his economic agenda? Was Bill Clinton elected because of economic issues? I don’t think so. Rather, both of the recent two-term Democrat presidents won mainly on the basis of personality. They were likeable in a way that Hillary Clinton (and Al Gore, and John Kerry) were not likeable. There is a notable tendency of intellectuals to believe that, because elections should be decided on matters of policy, that they actually are decided that way, but is this really true? If policy decides elections, what did the three consecutive Republican landslides of 1980, 1984 and 1988 signify? What did the Republican midterm victories of 1994 and 2010 signify? In other words, when Republicans win elections, isn’t it fair to assume this indicates voters have rejected Democrat policies? Why is it, however, that liberals always react to GOP victories as if some kind of terrible trick has been played on the electorate, that voters have been deceived by those crafty Republicans?

Isn’t it a fact that liberals always consider Republican victories to be illegitimate in some sense? Don’t you, as a liberal, believe that the Democrat Party is the sole repository of political virtue in America, and that Republicans are the party of “hate”? Your particular field of academic expertise is focused on feminism. Would I be incorrect in presuming that you see male-female relations as a zero-sum-game, so that you oppose anything which advances the general interests of males, e.g., efforts to protect the kind of industrial jobs that provide a decent wage for men without college educations? This suggestion may shock you, but if working-class men believe that academic feminists are generally hostile to their interests, are they wrong? And isn’t it true that academic feminists almost universally support the Democrat Party? Indeed, wasn’t Yale Law alumna Hillary Clinton a representative of this alliance between elite academia and the Democrat Party?

What I am driving at here, Professor Williams, is that while working-class white people may not always be articulate in expressing their grievances, it is wrong to suppose that they are incapable of identifying their own interests, and voting accordingly. For more than 20 years, working-class voters have expressed their opposition to trade deals like NAFTA, and also their opposition to an “open borders” immigration policy. Rejecting the standard-issue Chamber of Commerce “country club Republican” line on these issues, Trump gave voice to the grievances of these voters — “Build the wall!” — and won their votes. Insofar as policy issues determine election results, then, Trump’s election was not only a rejection of Clinton and the Democrats, but also a rebuke to the Republican establishment. If racism and misogyny were factors, well, are working-class white men wrong to believe that the Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party are against them? If they are incorrect in this assessment, certainly Democrats have done little since 2016 to persuade them otherwise. And it would appear, based on 2018 exit-poll data, that many white women share the belief that Democrats are the anti-white party (e.g., 75% of white women in Georgia voted for Brian Kemp).

Personalities matter in politics. As I have said for many years, good candidates win and bad candidates lose. It is a mistake, generally, to read too much into election results as a ratification of one set of policies or a rejection of another set of policies. In a two-party system, presidential elections are decided by “swing” voters who have no strong partisan loyalty and who are often so-called “low-information voters.” Such people are apt to declare, “I vote for the man, not the party,” and form their judgments on a general impression of the two candidates’ character. One reason liberals (and many Republicans) were so shocked by Trump’s success was that he speaks in a rude, crude, bullying way. Why did his obnoxious manner appeal to so many voters? Isn’t it because Trump was addressing grievances that many Americans have long felt, but which no one in public life could express because of political correctness?

Attempting to predict future election results based on recent events is a fool’s errand, because future elections can be influenced by events that political pundits do not anticipate. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 were such an event, and so was the economic crisis of 2008. In both of those cases, errors of interpretation led to reversals. Karl Rove and other Republican strategists believed the “War on Terror” would serve to unite a center-right majority for the GOP, but the backlash against Bush’s policy in Iraq led eventually to Democrats winning a congressional majority in 2006, and taking back the White House in 2008. President Obama saw his election as a mandate for “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” which included ramming ObamaCare through Congress on a party-line vote. His hubris was rebuked in 2010 when Republicans gained more than 60 congressional seats to recapture the House. This seesaw battle has recently seen Democrats win a House majority, but not with the kind of landslide “wave” numbers Republicans posted in 2010.

As a conservative Republican, of course, I always want Democrats to lose, and therefore hope they ignore your advice about the way they have alienated white working-class voters, e.g.:

“I want them to talk about racism every day,” Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former strategist, told The American Prospect last year. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Steve Bannon is a friend of mine, whom I first interviewed in 2011 when he was promoting his Sarah Palin documentary. Whatever his faults and errors, Bannon is correct that Democrats will keep losing if they continue pointing the accusatory finger at white people: “Raaaaacist!”

How did that work out for Democrats in Florida this year? Wasn’t the nomination of Andrew Gillum for governor yet another example of how “the left is focused on race and identity,” as Bannon said? Was the mayor of crime-plagued Tallahassee the best candidate Florida Democrats had? And wasn’t this also the case with Stacey Abrams in Georgia? Liberals have a habit of blaming Republicans for political “polarization,” but who is actually responsible for polarizing elections this way?

The fact that liberals in Berkeley openly avow their desire “for the white working class to die off” demonstrates quite clearly the problem the Democrat Party has created for itself. Trying to blame the GOP for “polarization” is psychological projection, given how widespread this hostility toward the white working class is on the Left. And isn’t it possible for you, Professor Williams, to look around the campus in Berkeley, and the Bay Area generally, and discern the possibility that the current policies of the Democrat Party are not just anti-white, or anti-male, or anti-working class, but also generally bad for America?

The streets of San Francisco are plagued by homelessness, and the middle class is now fleeing California, a state where liberal Democrats exercise hegemonic control of the government at every level. (Nancy Pelosi: “San Francisco values, that’s what we’re about.”) What would it mean for America to follow California’s path? The non-Hispanic white population of California has decreased by nearly 3 million during the past 40 years. Whereas in 1970, California’s population was almost 90% white, by 2010 the majority population of the state was either Hispanic (37.6%) or Asian (13%) and the non-Hispanic population had declined to 40%. Cui bono? This demographic transition has benefited Democrats politically, but has it enhanced the quality of life in California?

Kate Steinle could not be reached for comment.

To congratulate Democrats for their “success” in taking power in California is rather like praising Democrats for their control of St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit — the three U.S. cities with the highest per-capita murder rates. If you turn an entire community into a “no-go zone” for white people, well, yes, this is good for Democrats in terms of winning elections, but is electing Democrats the summum bonum? Are the residents of St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit better off for having elected Democrats whose policies had the effect of making their communities off-limits to white people? Isn’t this the general direction of current policy in California? What should we expect, then, if Democrat capture control of the federal government? Wouldn’t this likely produce the “Californication” of America? And is anyone surprised that working-class white voters in, e.g., Wisconsin voted against such an agenda?

My point, Professor Williams, is that your concern about the perception of Democrat policies ignores the reality of Democrat policies, which are demonstrably anti-white in their effect, and perhaps also in their intent. If Democrats have chosen to become the anti-white party, then nothing Democrats say can ultimately obscure this reality. Trying to conceal the party’s anti-white policy agenda behind rhetoric aimed at exploiting class divisions among white voters will, I suspect, only increase the hostility of working-class white voters toward Democrats. What could be more insulting to the working-class white voter, really, than a bunch of college-educated liberals trying to persuade him to elect Democrats because he allegedly needs help from these “enlightened” superiors?

Probably your Atlantic article will generate a far more hostile reaction from Democrats than from conservatives, Professor Williams, and you should seriously contemplate what this reaction means. There has been a lot of talk from liberals that Trump’s election represents “hate,” but who is hating whom? In the blowback from the Left that you are getting in reaction to your Atlantic article, aren’t there a lot of expressions of hatred for white people, and for white men in particular?

The phrase “white heterosexual male” has become a popular term of demonization in the rhetoric of the Left, and you cannot expect white men to enjoy being assigned the role of Emmanuel Goldstein in this 21st-century version of Orwell’s dystopia. If the reaction of white men to being scapegoated is sometimes irrational and violent, this is to be lamented, but the irrationality of their reaction doesn’t mean that they are incorrect in their perception, or that they are wrong to be angry about being unfairly demonized as “privileged” by the college-educated Left.

How is the ordinary working-class white man, toiling in a low-status job to support himself and his family, “privileged” in any meaningful way? And how is it that the people accusing him of “privilege” are almost exclusively members of the college-educated elite? The average salary of a law professor at the University of California is over $270,000, whereas the median household income in Wisconsin is $66,432. Is the working man in Sheboygan more “privileged” than you, Professor Williams?

Well, I’ve now gone past the 2,000-word mark and rather than continue extending my argument, it is better to conclude briefly by mentioning that I was born and raised a Democrat, and didn’t vote Republican until I was in my mid-30s. Almost as soon as I changed my partisan allegiance, I found myself being accused of racism by liberals, and guess what? This only increased my contempt for Democrats. Insults and name-calling (which is what such accusations of racism usually are) are not persuasive arguments, and exactly why was it racist to vote against Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry anyway? Long before Democrats nominated Obama, this tactic of accusing Republicans of racism was already a cliché of liberal rhetoric, and repetition has not made it less insulting.

Robert Stacy McCain

Correspondent, The American Spectator



2 Responses to “E-Mail to a Liberal Professor”

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    […] E-Mail to a Liberal Professor Dear Professor Williams: Your article in The Atlantic (“The Democrats’ White-People Problem”) has come to my attention. […]